Italian cities have been shortlisted as the best destination in the world for retirees. And the best way to visit? By train, of course, says Paul McDonald
For anyone who has dreamed of retreating to Italy, travelling by rail might be an ideal way of doing it. Starting with a trip around the South of Italy, the northern and central sections of the luxury train Conte Nero link cities such as Bologna, Turin, Florence, Palermo and Naples, with the excellent meals, wine tastings and serene landscape of the Spee Valley filling the void between.
During the 13-day South Classic+ trip (£3,889, including accommodation, car hire, sightseeing, use of the excursions and services, luggage transfer) you will return in time for Christmas on which, if you are so inclined, to do some shopping.
For those who want to spend their own holiday time in a faraway place, the Saga Explorer Venice Express (3,899, from £948, including travel and hotel in Venice, cabins in the train and breakfast daily) returns to the Italian city of one thousand signs, complete with its famous Palazzo Vecchio clock. Guests spend three nights sleeping in a deluxe residence and meeting author Christopher Lloyd, who has written a guide to the city.
The classic launch stop in Verona
For a more active cruise, the Romantica Explorer One (3,707, from £811, including food, accommodation, entrance fees and guides) returns to Venice, where you’ll spend two days sightseeing and two nights sailing to stunning destinations such as Verona, San Gimignano and Brindisi. The ship re-enters the Adriatic from Slovenia, and returns to Venice, complete with bridge tour and Spanish Steps tour, with a full day to explore the Arno and Cervina rivers.
The Conte Nero serves a wide variety of meals
There are also domestic trains in Italy, many of which boast carriages designed with one in mind for local holidaymakers, perfect for, say, holidaying with friends or relatives. The Debussy Astravella (until 22 June, from €77.75, excluding taxes) returns from Naples to the pretty scenic lakeside town of San Giorgio where, in the lounge car, you can enjoy cheese and pasta or just sleep by the pool.