Italy if any is my favorite destination and I go there almost every year. Last year we made a one-week trip round Italy by train and car: Rome, Florence, Tuscany.
Yes, you can really see these fantastic destinations in a week, just travel the long distances by train and then rent a car. I will show you how.
Italy by train and car: driving along Tuscan country roads
Book flights to Rome and enjoy the eternal city. Then take a train to Florence, it only takes one and a half hours.
When you’ve seen capital of Tuscany rent a car and see the Tuscan countryside. Drive to Val d’Orcia that has places like Pienza, Montepulciano, Montalcino – and stay in an agriturismo!
So why not combine many things in one trip – and enjoy the best parts of Italy!
Italy by Train and Car will Contain:
Rome, Florence, Florence hills, train and car travel, the best parts of the Tuscan countryside – and the stunning natural baths of San Filippo:
Italy by train and car: one-week trip in photos
Italy by Train and Car: Route Map
Our trip to Rome, Florence and the Tuscan countryside on the map
Here is our Italy travel itinerary on the map: Rome to Florence by train and down the Tuscan countryside.
We took and returned the car in Florence and took a rapid train back to Rome. If you prefer you can drive all the way to Rome once you have a car and return your car there, but most companies charge an extra fee for that.
Starting from Rome
Exploring Rome on foot: take good shoes and walk!
Rome is Italy’s number one sight that offers a huge amount to see. Historic treasures, old quarters, city life, art and culture – so much beauty. Rome offers so much that in a couple of days your senses might get overloaded and you want something else.
The postcard-pretty Florence is the solution – throw a coin to the fountain of Trevi to make sure you will return to Rome another time. And walk to Termini station to find your train to Florence.
Rome statues, Piazza Navona and Piazza di Montecitorio
Rome in Photos:
The sights of Rome in brief: Pantheon and Piazza della Rotonda, the ancient quarters of the old town of Rome, Ponte Sant’Angelo, Forum Romanum seen from Capitol Hill – and a refreshing glass of Aperol.
Some of the top sights of Rome, Italy
So this was just a short introduction to Rome. To learn more about this fantastic city check out my other post Top 10 Sights in Rome: a Walking Itinerary. That post will explain Rome more in detail and I will tell you exactly where to go to find the best sights.
Below is sunset view over Tiber, the famous river Tevere that divides Rome in two. For views after sunset check out my other Rome post Rome Centro Storico in 25 Evening Photos.
The Vatican seen from Ponte San’Angelo
Now: arrivederci Roma!
Rome to Florence by Train
Italy by train and car, train to Florence
To take a rapid train from Rome to Florence you need to book in advance and preferably well in advance to get a cheaper price. It’s easiest to buy the tickets online even if you already are in Rome. I use these two websites for Italian train tickets:
I normally check train times and buy tickets on the Trenitalia website. It’s the national railways and you can get tickets to all their own trains, including local trains where the tickets only cost a euro or two. The website works well on phone.
Then there is the international Trainline website. In this case you should choose this one since Trainline also shows competitors’ trains that might be cheaper and it also shows buses if there are any.
The ticket fare Rome to Florence varies a lot but it might be something beginning from 20 euros if you book early enough.
Frecciarossa from Rome to Florence
Italy by train and car: Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Buy a ticket to Firenze Santa Maria Novella station and in just 1,5 hours you will be walking in the capital of Tuscany. Like Rome, Florence is a world class sight, it’s on the UNESCO list. The old town is much smaller than in Rome but at least as beautiful.
Florence too has a river dividing the city, the river Arno. There are many decorative bridges across the river the most famous of which is Ponte Vecchio, old bridge. The main part of the city is north of Arno but don’t miss the other part beyond Arno, Oltrano. Like Trastevere is Rome, Oltrano is a jewel.
Florence in Photos
My photo gallery shows what’s typical of Florence: the many piazzas, palazzos and statues in the historic old town. The market hall with a lot of noise and great dining options, and the many bars, cafes and gelaterias…
Florence, Italy in photos
The main sight however is the Duomo, Florence’s striped marble cathedral. It’s an amazing construction, packed between houses in the middle of the city.
There are many other fantastic churches as well, and the impressive town hall Palazzo Vecchio that also is a museum. Just buy a ticket and go in.
Maria del Fiore, il Duomo di Firenze
This was just a short introduction to Florence and the city offers a lot more. For more information on Florence check out my post Florence in One Day: Explore the UNESCO Listed City.
Staying in an Italian Villa
Villa Le Rondini on the hills of Florence
Florence is an excellent year round travel destination, in fact the whole Italy by train and car trip can be made at any time of the year. But we were visiting at the end of August which normally still is the hottest summer. Day temperatures were around 34 and we decided to stay out from the city.
We booked a room in an Italian villa on the hills of Florence, 5 km from Santa Maria Novella station. So there were no trains to our villa but there were frequent buses and getting to the villa was not a problem. Italian villas are just beautiful and in this place the views from the hill were as fantastic as the place itself.
Our Florence villa in photos
As our trip was partly a business trip we had to work. Clas went down to the city to his meetings and the best place for me to work was by the pool. The better the views the more inspiration and productivity!
Our Florence office and the office window
Now you know what Italian villas can be like, this was just an example. I warmly recommend villas for accommodation when you travel in Italy.
As far as I know this villa stopped taking guests at the end of 2018 but there are many others to choose from.
Walking to Fiesole
Road to Fiesole, Tuscany
Our villa was located in the same direction as the little hilltop town Fiesole, a popular day trip destination from Florence where many tourists go by bus. We however didn’t have any buses from where we stayed so we walked.
It was a five km walk one way, a beautiful one! As Fiesole itself is postcard pretty we had a great last day in Florence. We were going to rent a Fiat 500! Not the one in the photo but a modern model.
Fiesole, a pretty hilltop town on Florence hills
So we left Florence and the hills, and these views from our bus stop:
Italy by train and car, Tuscan hills north of Florence
Touring Tuscany by Car
Touring Tuscan country roads by rental car
We took the road south from Florence and went to a place we had been to years ago. We wanted to the real Tuscany and to the countryside. Val d’Orcia was the place. It’s south of Siena and west of Arezzo and Cortona. For me this is the best part of Tuscany and I always want to return.
Val d’Orcia is a valley, the valley of the Orcia river. It’s mostly open farming landscape surrounded by hills all of which have a town on the top. Pienza, Montichiello, Montalcino, Montepulciano, just to name some of them.
Last time we were visiting in May and it was all green. Now in early September it looked very different, the fields were brown and dry and harvest time was gone. Hard to say which time is more beautiful, the green or brown, I like them both. Maybe we should make a winter trip next time?
Val d’Orcia, the Heart of Tuscany in Photos:
Early September in Val d’Orcia, Tuscany
September weather is perfect in Tuscany, it was not hot any more and occasional dark clouds gave the landscape a dramatic frame. I love Tuscany!
I made a blog post on our previous trip to the same place. We stayed in an agriturismo, hiked and biked in the valley and made car trips to more distant places.
You can find my post here: Italian Farmstay: Agriturismo Holiday in Tuscany
Rolling hills of Tuscany after harvest
Everything was not brown however, vineyards were still green. And it was the grape time!
We went to many vineyards and walked on their fields. We also bought and tasted their wines. They make super good wines in Tuscany and Tuscan wines taste taste best when consumed locally.
A Tuscan vineyard gate
So we went to Montalcino, Montepulciano, Chianti…
Italy by Train and Car: Touring Tuscan Vineyards:
Our self-drive Tuscany wine tour
Vines were still green and so were the cypresses that are ever-green. And this kind of Cypress-lined roads are the real symbol of Tuscany:
Tuscan cypress-lined road
Bathing at Bagni San Filippo
The white rocks of Bagni San Filippo, Val d’Orcia
Less known than the cypresses are the hot baths. Tuscany has natural thermal baths, known since Roman and Etruscan times. The hot water that flows over rocks is said to have healing effects, at least bathing in a place like this is very relaxing and makes you feel good.
Last time we visited we went to Bagno Vignoni – and this time we found Bagni San Filippo! Hidden in a forest outside a little village you can find this magic place, free for anyone to use, day or night, summer or winter.
The thermal baths of Bagni San Filippo, a hidden treasure of Tuscany
The steamy hot water has been flowing down for maybe thousands of years and made the rock surface white. Below the rocks are carved mud pools where you can sit and relax and you can also climb the rocky slope and sit.
When you are driving around Tuscany, take your swimsuit and a towel and try Bagni di San Filippo!
On the rocks of Bagni San Filippo
More about Tuscany’s natural hot springs: Visittuscany.com: Free natural hot springs in Tuscany
Italy by train and car: driving in Tuscany
Staying in an Italian Agriturismo
As in Florence we tried an Italian villa, in Tuscany you just have to choose an agriturismo. We did that last time and we did it now. We have found our agriturismos at booking.com, there’s a lot to choose from. And again we found a fantastic place to stay.
Agriturismo La Casa Nuova is in a hidden location on a high hill but has nice views to the valley. It’s close to a village which is practical: you can dine in a very good village restaurant at just a short walking-distance.
Our agriturismo was a very enjoyable place and the hosting couple were nice and super friendly, even if they only spoke Italian and with their hands. Here they are, Agriturismo La Casa Nuova on booking.com.
Agriturismo La Casa Nuova in Photos:
Views of our Tuscan agriturismo courtyard
The village where this was is Castelmuzio, a bit north of Pienza. It’s a good drive from Pienza but we don’t mind driving when the scenery is like this. I just love those cypresses we pass each time driving back from the valley before evening.
Castelmuzio main square
Cypress-lined country roads of Tuscany
Driving Back to Florence via Crete Senesi
Italy by train and car: cypress-lined road and Crete Senesi
The region north of Val d’Orcia is called Crete Senesi. Here the landscape is maybe still more open and hills still higher. A very nice area to drive through and the road is much more beautiful than the Chiana Valley motorway.
Crete Senesi is a real cypress and sunflower region:
Views from the road , Val d’Orcia to Florence
Along this route there are the famous towns of Siena, San Gimignano and Colle Val d’Elsa, all of them worth a side trip. As we had to catch our train in Florence we only stopped at the last of the three and had a nice walk in the hilltop town. The other two we had already been to.
You can read about San Gimignano, Siena, Volterra, Lucca, Pisa and more Tuscan towns in my post Tuscany Scenic Drive.
But those sunflowers! This time of the year they look very different from what you are used to:
Italy by train and car: sunflowers of Tuscany
Taking the Train to Rome
Firenze Santa Maria Novella departing trains
We left our car and took a taxi to Santa Maria Novella, and waited for our train back to Rome where we stayed one more night before returning to our home country. So this was our Italy by train and car tour, hope I gave you an idea what Italy is like, and hope this helps you plan your own trip.