Italy by train with Sawday’s & Byway (10 days)

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

5 min read

We love the languid romance of rail travel, its gentle rhythms and the sense of true journeying it brings. If there’s one tiny drawback, it’s the occasional stress of organising everything, so imagine how delighted we were to discover Byway, an ethical travel company who build bespoke, sustainable travel itineraries that take you off the tourist trail and deep into the place you visit. They take care of everything and all you have to do, is enjoy the ride.

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London, Paris, Nice, Rome, Florence, Venice

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We’ve teamed up with Byway to create three special Sawday’s routes, one in France, one in Cornwall, and this beautiful ramble all the way from London down to Florence and Venice. All of the routes can be tailored to you and we've picked out some of our local experts' insider tips to help you discover some extra-special experiences along the way. If you like the sound of the below, book your trip with Byway and you could be rolling south to Italy in a matter of days.  

London to Paris

There’s no better way to start a trip that’s packed with romance than a night in Paris. Once the Eurostar has whisked you to France, you’ll have plenty of time to wander the boulevard Montparnasse or the banks of the Canal St Martin, stop for a coffee and maybe throw in a little shopping in the chic boutiques of the Marais quarter. Your accommodation for the night is Hôtel Sainte Beuve, an elegant escape on the Left Bank that feels like a well-kept secret. It’s only two minutes from the Jardin du Luxembourg too, a perfect place to take a quiet moment after a day’s travel and sightseeing.   View places to stay in Paris >
Hôtel Sainte Beuve is one of those little jewels that can make a trip to Paris special.”Sheila, Sawday’s inspector

Paris to Nice

After morning coffee and a buttery croissant with just the right hint of salt, it’s all aboard the TGV for a reminder of how bad British trains are and a whistling ride down to the capital of the Côte d’Azur. After checking in to the bizarre and beautiful Hôtel Windsor, run by the Redolfi family for over 80 years, you can take a dip in the pool or explore the town, checking out the lobby’s yearly art exhibition as you go. Owner Odile can point you towards numerous museums and restaurants to pass your day and night, as well as the stunning local flower market in the old town.   

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“The tropical garden with huge rubber tree, parakeets in the aviary and the pool is a stunning surprise.” – Jon, Sawday’s inspector 

Nice to Rome, via Milan

Next, it’s time to hop across the border and change in Milan for the fast train south to Rome, watching as the deep green hills of Tuscany slide by and the rows of vines march past the window. With two nights in Rome, you could just about make the tiniest scratch on the surface. After breakfast on the roof terrace of the Hotel Modigliani, you’ll find yourself well placed to jump on the metro and visit the colosseum or St Peter’s, but Rome veterans and anyone seeking a (comparatively) quiet outing can try the gardens of Villa Borghese or the climb up one of Rome’s seven hills to Palazzo Quirinale, for incredible views of the city. 

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“An unusual, delightful place, hidden down a side street five minutes’ walk from the Spanish Steps.” – Nicola, Sawday’s inspector 


Rome to Florence

If any place can make Rome feel an appetiser for a main course of architectural beauty, it’s Florence. It’s a place to make your neck and jaw ache with looking up and marvelling. A two-night stay at Casa Howard means a chance to bounce out of bed early and see the city in a rare pre-dawn hush, as the light creeps over the terracotta tiles and down the cobbled side streets. Then it’s a visit to any one of hundreds of world-renowned sites before you retire to Casa Howard to make use of the Turkish steam bath. 

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“Treat yourselves with a relaxing Turkish bath after an entire day of cultural activity.” – Bonifacio, owner 

Florence to Venice

From Paris, to Rome, to Florence and then Venice. If it gets any more romantic, you’ll have to wear a whalebone corset. This final stop takes you right to the heart of the floating city, with waterside accommodation on the banks of the Giudecca canal at La Calcina. While you could spend a couple of lovely days bobbing in gondolas and wandering the streets between galleries, consider venturing a bit further up or down the lagoon to the mud flats that teem with incredible bird life or the beach at Cavallino. 

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“A beautiful oasis of a hotel in a peaceful and picturesque part of this magical city.” – Jo, guest from Shrewsbury 

The journey home

Slow travel goes both ways, and you wouldn’t want to finish such a fantastic trip with a mad dash back, so Byway’s itinerary rolls you gently home on a couple of stunning train trips. First, from Venice to Innsbruck, with the Alps towering above as you cross the Brenner Pass. Then it’s the Nightjet sleeper to Amsterdam, bringing you refreshed into the Dutch capital before you jump on the Eurostar and head for London. With a few hours to sit back, you can review all the memories on ten days of superb and stress-free travel.

Browse all our places to stay in Italy >

Information & Booking

The helpful, knowledgeable Byway team are on hand via Whatsapp before and during your trip to help with anything that might arise. See a detailed schedule, discuss the trip with them and book it on the Byway website.

Book your trip with Byway >

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Christopher Wilson-Elmes

Sawday's Expert

Chris is our in-house copywriter, with a flair for turning rough notes and travel tales into enticing articles. Raised in a tiny Wiltshire village, he was desperate to travel and has backpacked all over the world. Closer to home, he finds himself happiest in the most remote and rural places he can find, preferably with a host of animals to speak to, some waves to be smashed about in and the promise of a good pint somewhere in his future.
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