Traditions run deep, and history spans millennia in Italy. Few places compare on any scale, and Italian culture and cuisine have a unilateral draw, making it a bucket-list destination for travelers of all backgrounds. Perhaps the most appealing thing about the Boot, though, is that its offerings change region by region. Northern Italy's mountains and rich meals give way to the farm-fresh ingredients and fantastic history of the central part of the country. Southern Italy's glittering coasts and Mediterranean atmosphere call attention to freshly caught seafood and colorful coastal towns.
Focusing your travels on just one destination can seem impossible - and you do not have to. Connect multiple Italian regions and discover the country's best on a rail vacation. These journeys allow you to dive head-first into the elements that make this country so enchanting and put traditional cities and incredible scenery within reach. Perhaps no itineraries shine a light on the offerings as much as our Culture and Cuisine series; here's why:
Italian Cuisine is Incomparable
When considering world-renowned gastronomy, there are always a few front runners in the conversation - one of which is Italy. History is told through Italian food culture, and each dish helps write the story. Generations of home cooks and chefs have seamlessly paired simple ingredients to create the flavorful cuisine we have grown to know and love. From pasta dishes to cured meats and cheeses, pizza, and seafood dishes, each morsel is meant to be savored.
Throughout the country, famous culinary epicenters open your eyes to Italy's vast offerings. Connecting these places by train gives you a comprehensive taste of the country's flavors and, therefore, its heritage.
- Rome - Pasta lovers unite in atmospheric Rome. Cacio e Pepe, Pasta alla Carbonara, and Bucatini Amatriciana are just the beginning. The Eternal City is eternally delicious foodies, offering additional specialties, including pizza, stewed oxtail, and tripe dishes.
- Tuscany - Idyllic olive groves produce the highest yield of olive oil globally. Farms raise cows, goats, and sheep to create incredible cheese varieties and the cured meats that make ideal antipasti. Fresh produce reigns supreme and lends a farm-to-table taste to each dish served in Florence and Tuscany as a whole.
- Northern Italy - The cities of this part of the nation focus their culinary pursuits on a mixture of meat or fish, rice, and potatoes. In particular, with its seaside location, Venice has provided the northeast coast with ocean offerings for centuries. Finishing your Venetian meal with a Buranelli - a traditional biscuit cookie - is the perfect ending.
Traditional Processing and Modern Innovation Create Superior Products
Amazingly, some of the processes that were born out of necessity in the early days of Italy have stood the test of time, and you get to bear witness to their impact on the modern world while on an Italian cuisine and culture vacation. Take wine, for example. The Romans set up vineyards in fertile regions of the country and were tasked with figuring out the best way to transport their products. Oakwood was readily available and an easy medium to mold into barrels. A happy accident came during transport when the wood altered the flavor of the wine. Today's vintners continue to use this methodology on their modern, disease-resistant grapes to create incredible, complex varietals.
The same can be said of products like olive oil, which some Tuscan farms still press with traditional stone mills, yet bottle more efficiently. The salamis and prosciuttos that are staples of Italian cuisine? Those, too, were created due to the need to preserve meat before it spoiled. Today, traditional recipes and processing methods combine with 21st-century machinery to make the job easier - and more delicious - than ever.
As a common theme throughout Italy, this marriage of old and new is evident as you travel. You will see it in the ancient cities where classic architecture and art are restored and preserved using the latest in preservation technology. Customary goods, like leather, have continued to find a place on shelves in modern shapes. Italy's well-connected train network allows you to experience this juxtaposition of old and new from top to toe of the Boot.
Rail Journeys Are a Showcase of Intangible Cultural Heritage
There is one singular place that can lay claim as the birthplace of the Roman Empire and the Renaissance: Italy. Thousands of years of history are written on its landscape and shown in its ancient cities and stunning buildings. Experience authentic Italian culture while looking at famous artwork, including Michelangelo's David and the intricate fresco work that covers the Sistine Chapel's ceilings. Culture is the country's fantastic fashion scene and dedication to Catholicism.
Heritage and tradition have been woven into the very fabric of Italy and are also visible in its history - preserved and otherwise. Experience remnants of cultures long past in places like Rome, where the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Pantheon remain as reminders of the first civilizations. Florence's deep connection to art is evident in its museums and galleries. In Venice, the Floating City, cultural heritage looks like gondola rides through narrow canals and intricately painted masks. It sounds like classical music, produced in Venice for over 500 years. Perhaps you have heard of Vivaldi? He called this city his home and inspiration.
Traveling between destinations by train plunges you into each city's distinct heritage. Sample local specialties, and discover timeless sites that provide a window to years long past. Our rail tours, including Cuisine & Culture: Rome, Florence & Venice, provide an attention-grabbing mixture of guided touring and independent sightseeing time to allow you to experience the very best of this dynamic country. For other Italian tour options, or to book your trip, contact a Rail Specialist. Our expertise leads the way to experiences that will forever shape your image of beautiful Italy.