When it comes to pairing Austria and Italy, the normal criss-cross of travel exists between Austria’s Tirol region and Italy’s South Tirol region – an autonomous region of northern Italy that nestles just below it, with a majority German-speaking population.
With travel in Europe being accessible via overland options, there’s no reason not to travel further than the regions of Austria and Italy that border one other.
In the summer, I combined the northern Italian region of Emilia Romagna with the Achensee region of Tirol in Austria – connected by a very scenic train journey of less than seven hours that weaved north through Italy and western Austria.
In just under two weeks I moved from a cultural city focus to a nature adventure haven, providing me with the best of both worlds as I sampled distinctly different destinations, cuisines and activities within a small and accessible space.
Stop 1. Bologna, Emilia Romagna, Italy
I flew into Bologna to start my trip, jumping headfirst into the historical and cultural overload of this medieval city of multi-pantone orange, and scattered with big piazzas, churches and inviting streets lined with arched arcade walkways. It’s a beautiful place to leisurely stroll and live the Italian life, especially since Bologna is the foodie capital of the Emila Romagna – home to world-renowned specialities like Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, Parma ham and Bolognese sauce.
Read more: Is Bologna’s Italy’s best kept secret?
Stop 2. Forlimpopoli, Emilia Romagna, Italy
After Bologna (and a day trip by train to Torrechiara castles in the ‘Food Valley’ region of Parma, and Rivalta castle in Piacenza), I continued on rail to the small town of Forlimpopoli.
Every year, for nine nights, the town comes alive with an estimated 15,000 people who enjoy “Festa Artusiana”. This food festival pays homage to the legacy of Pellegrino Artusi – an Italian businessman and writer born in this town, who travelled the country and compiled Italy’s very first cookbook in 1891: “La scienza in cucina e l’arte di mangiar bene”(“Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well”). To this day, most Italians own a copy, which contains over 700 recipes and their stories. It’s well worth planning the timing of your trip in July to coincide with this very special event.
Read more: Celebrating Festa Artusiana
Stop 3. San Marino, The World’s Oldest Republic (located within Emilia Romagna)
An adventure in San Marino – the “world’s oldest republic” that sits atop a mountain, snuggled within Italy’s Emilia Romagna region – beckons. It’s a Microstate that draws in the day-trippers to tick off another country and experience the spectacle of another medieval masterpiece.
It’s fairytale and sucks you in faster than you can spit yourself out in 24 hours. Yet for those curious to stay at the UNESCO World Heritage Site a bit longer, you can not only live locally in the historical centre, but also experience a whole other world waiting below it – one full of forests, caves and old abandoned water mills.
Stop 4. Achensee, Tirol, Austria
The Achensee region of Tirol is a real adventure week filled with hikes, climbing, biking and water sports. Nature is king in Austria, and Tirol is Narnia. For five days, I took up an active activity; mostly sports I had never tried properly before, or ones where I could improve my existing skills.
First up was a C-grade Via Ferrata that started with a one-hour hike on the Haidachstellwand trail, before clambering up the hundreds of metres of varying peaks. It was one of my hardest challenges to date, but the adrenalin high was incredible.
I bike almost everywhere I go as a way of seeing more of a destination, the outskirts of a city or village, or as an alternative to hiking and to increase my mountain bike skills on more challenging terrains. Here, I took to an e-mountain bike to get out into the mountainous valleys, and wind up (and down) the peaks for the glorious views of the lake, waterfalls and caverns. In this region of Tirol, the five hours of bike touring with local pros, Busslehner Sports was a great idea in having someone help me reach the hidden spots.
Achensee is home to Tirol’s largest lake encased by mountain ranges, rock climbing spots are in abundance, where you can get an elevated view of the land as an alternative to hiking. It was most certainly worth the muscle power and the effort to see this unparalleled Tyrolean beauty differently.
My time there ended with an introduction to kite surfing lessons, getting to grips with the wind while standing in the aqua hues of the famous lake I had previously been looking down upon from higher altitudes.
Read more: Rock climbing in Achensee’s Rofan Mountains
With the travel trend moving to seeing more than one destination in one block of holiday time, why not combine Italy’s famous food valley and lesser-known cultural hotspots of Emilia Romagna, with one of Austria’s most adventurous playgrounds in Tirol?
Things to Know
Getting from Italy to Austria
- I took the train from Rimini (Emilia Romagna, Italy) to Jenbach in (Tirol, Austria) – accessible hubs within their respective regions and central stations from which to travel on further. This was via the DB (Deutsche Bahn) service, at just under seven hours, eliminating the downside of traffic is travelling by car, whilst providing picture perfect views of the Italian and Austrian countryside landscapes.
Trains in Italy
- Timetables and ticket bookings can be found on the Italia Rail website, although it is easy to buy tickets for shorter journeys directly at the station. It is important to ALWAYS remember to validate your ticket (via the ‘stamp’ machines) before boarding, otherwise you will be asked to leave the train or fined.
Trains in Austria
- Austria is well-connected by the ÖBB rail network which also provides extensive services to neighbouring European countries.
Finding and Booing the Best Train Routes
- When researching the best train routes, whether by price or distance, by preferred sites to use are the very comprehensive Seat 61 and the easy to use journey planner, Rome to Rio.
This trip was a part of the #Blogville Europe campaign showcasing the Emilia Romagna region of Italy and two regions of Tirol (one being Achensee), all via an overland journey, which was a beautiful adventure in itself. All opinions remain my own.