Midwest High Speed Rail Association Study Tour to Italy

9-Day Escorted Tour


The Tour

Midwest High Speed Rail Association Study Tour to Italy offers the best in high-speed trains, unique rail station and behind-the-scenes visits, and meetings with important players in the Italian high speed rail world. But it will also offer unique cultural visits to the famous spots in Italy from the Vatican to Florence, Pompeii to Milan. Rick Harnish, executive director the MHSRA, will welcome you in Rome and accompany the entire journey plus the extension. He and our professional English-speaking guide will manage the journey — offering our guests the best of both worlds: the expertise and personal connections of Rick Harnish and the wonderful points of local culture, history and art  of our Italian guide. The Society of International Railway Travelers is honored to organize this 7th Midwest High Speed Rail Association study tour.  What a great way to celebrate 25 years of this amazing organization. The Society of IRT has organized many study tours for Mr. Harnish and the association to Germany, France, Japan, China, Spain and more to study the best in high-speed trains. They have visited so many behind-the-scenes rail facilities, met the movers and shakers for high speed rail around the world. Now it’s your chance to head to Italy to discover what is new — and amazing — in Italy. Every journey has received high acclaim: In 2018, it’s your turn!

The Itinerary

Day 1 – Nov. 3: Rome
On arrival at Rome Airport (group transfer at set time), you will be met by the English-speaking guide and transfer by fast train to the central train station, Rome Termini.  You’ll walk with your luggage from the railway station to your hotel.  Here you will meet your host, Rick Harnish, Executive Director of the Midwest High Speed Rail Association.

This afternoon is at your leisure.  Get to know your fellow travelers and host at a welcome dinner tonight at a local restaurant.

Overnight at Starhotel Metropole, Rome

Day 2 – Nov. 4: Rome
After breakfast at the hotel, we will meet our local expert and set out on our discovery of Rome, the Eternal City.  First we will explore The Baths of Caracalla (terme di Caracalla), some of the best preserved ancient buildings of the Roman times, when they accommodated some 1600 bathers.  First completed in the year 216 AD, they exhibit a rectangular plan typical of Imperial spa centers. The spa itself was not simply a place for bathing, sport and health, it was also a place of study relaxation.

We then proceed to the labyrinth of narrow streets and beautiful, wide open piazzas of central Rome. The stunning oval-shaped Piazza Navona maintains the form of its original purpose as a Roman athletics track. Today, the piazza is flanked by cafés and restaurants with al fresco terraces; its centerpiece is Bernini’s famous Quattro Fiumi fountain. A short stroll away is the Pantheon, arguably Rome’s most inspiring site – the best-preserved of all Roman monuments in the city. A short walk through narrow cobblestone streets with your guide brings you past the ministries of the Italian Government, across the Via del Corso to the world-famous Trevi Fountain. Be sure to toss in a coin to ensure you will return to Rome one day! Finally, your guide shows you the elegant Piazza di Spagna, with the Spanish Steps rising to the Trinita di Monti.  Enjoy free time and lunch at your leisure.

In the afternoon, we will travel by metro from Spanish Steps to the Colosseum, the heart of the Roman Empire.  Marvel at the imposing structure, which was commissioned by Emperor Vespasian. The Colosseum accommodated up to 50,000 spectators who came to view the gladiatorial battles that lasted up to 100 days!

Adjacent is the Arc of Constantine; dating from AD 315, it is a forerunner to many other Triumphal Arches around the world. Possibly even more impressive are the excavations of the vast Roman Forum, where the remains of temples, streetscapes and palaces can now be visited up close.  Return to our hotel will be by streetcar.  Dinner is at your leisure.

Overnight at Starhotel Metropole, Rome

Day 3 – Nov. 5: Rome
Breakfast at the hotel.  Today will be dedicated to meetings with Italian train company (NTV-Italferr) and exploring Tiburtina station (reached by metro or local train).

Lunch will be included in a local restaurant.

Overnight at Starhotel Metropole, Rome

Day 4 – Nov. 6: Rome-Florence
Please pack an overnight bag for Florence; large luggage will be sent ahead to Milan.

After breakfast, we will walk to Roma Termini station and board on the high-speed train to Florence.  Upon arrival, we will meet with the local public transport agency and enjoy a light rail tour.

This afternoon we’ll set out for a walking tour of Florence with local guide. See the 11th-century Baptistery and its famous “Gates of Paradise.”  Also in Cathedral Square, see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (il Duomo), with its famous dome raised by Filippo Brunelleschi, and Giotto’s 14th-century bell tower (il Campanile). Cross the medieval city-center to Piazza della Signoria, where we’ll find the medieval town hall, known appropriately as the “old building” (Palazzo Vecchio). The square appears to be an open-air museum, as it is adorned with statues:  the Neptune Fountain at the base of the Town Hall, the paternal equestrian statue of Cosimo I, and the many statues under the Loggia della Signoria.

Dinner will be in a local trattoria near the hotel.

Overnight at Hotel Diplomat, Florence

Day 5 – Nov. 7: Florence / Milan, with stop in Bologna
After breakfast at the hotel, we’ll walk to the train station (near the hotel) and board the Frecciarossa train to Bologna.

Upon arrival, a motorcoach will take us to Reggio Emilia to see the AV Mediopadana, the HRS bridge and other interesting stops along the way to Milan.

We will check into our hotel, the Starhotel Anderson, located just beside Milan Centrale Station. Tonight, enjoy dinner in a local restaurant near the hotel.

Overnight at Starhotel Anderson, Milan

Day 6 – Nov. 8: Milan
This morning we will enjoy a technical visit, with details to be advised.

In the afternoon, we tour Milan with a local guide.  First, we explore Milano Centrale Station; then we transfer by metro to the heart of the city to take in the colossal and flamboyant Duomo, or cathedral. Begun by the Visconti family in 1386, the cathedral was finished by Napoleon in 1805 and is the third largest church in the world.

Walk through the nearby and architecturally impressive Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, a 19th-century glass vaulted shopping arcade and one of the world’s first examples of Art Nouveau. In Milan, the Galleria is still called “the living room of the Milanese.”   Dinner will be on your own.

Overnight at Starhotel Anderson, Milan

Day 7 – Nov. 9: Milan – Turin
After breakfast we will walk to the railway station and board our train to Turin, where we will explore Porto Nuova railway station, Italy’s third busiest, and the new Porta Susa station, taking the local tram between stations.

Later we will enjoy a walking tour of the city with a local guide, featuring Castle Square, Palazzo Carignano, Piazza Carlo Alberto, Galleria Subalpina, the Church of St. Lawrence – where a picture of the holy shroud is on display – and Piazza St. Carlo.

Stop in a historical downtown café to taste the Turin specialty drink Bicerin (espresso based hot beverage) and the famous chocolate. You will also see the Royal Palace (outside only).

After a tasty lunch we will have some free time downtown prior to returning to Milan.

Overnight at Starhotel Anderson, Milan

Day 8 – Nov. 10: Milan – Rome
This morning we’ll board a high-speed train from Milan Central station to Rome Termini station.  On arrival, we will transfer by coach to our hotel.  There will be time for lunch on your own.

The afternoon is dedicated to discovering Vatican City and its museums.

The independent state of Vatican City was established by the Lateran Treaty in 1929, and is the smallest in the world.  Visit the Vatican Museums, part of the Papal Residence, estimated to contain 1,400 rooms, chapels and galleries. The Museums contain an extraordinarily rich collection of precious art, maps, sculptures and antiquities; the most breathtaking masterpiece of course being Michelangelo’s frescoed ceiling in the Sistine Chapel.

At the center of the Vatican lies the vast Basilica of St. Peter; pass by the colorfully dressed Swiss Guard into the world’s largest church. The present Cathedral is a beautiful mix of Renaissance and Baroque architecture, designed at the hands of masters such as Michelangelo. The stunning interior is an elaborate and detailed display of marble, mosaic, gilt and bronze.  Note: Visitors must cover upper arms and legs to below the knee.

Tonight we’ll toast to our journey at a farewell dinner in a local restaurant.

Overnight at the Starhotel Metropole, Rome

Day 9 – Nov. 11: Rome
Breakfast included at the hotel this morning.  Travel to Rome Fiumicino Airport by train to meet your departure flight.   Or join our optional extension to the coast.

End of Main Tour

Optional Extension to Naples and Bari
Day 9 – Nov. 11: Rome – Naples
Breakfast included at the hotel this morning.  Travel to Naples by high-speed train.  On arrival, we’ll drop our luggage at the hotel (located across from the station), then catch the Circumvesuviana local train to reach the Pompeii excavation.

Enjoy a walking tour of this once opulent town. The extensive and varied ruins of Pompeii provide a rich history of life at the time of the Roman Empire. Destroyed by the Mt. Vesuvius eruption in 79 BC, this dugout treasure offers an unparalleled window into the everyday life of ancient times. After your visit you will be transferred back to your hotel in Naples.  Lunch and dinner will be on own.

Overnight at Starhotel Terminus, in Naples

Day 10 – Nov. 12: Naples – Bari
Transfer to Caserta Station and board a train to Bari.  Transfer to the Hotel delle Nazioni for check-in and time at leisure.  In the afternoon, tour Bari’s highlights.

Visit the bustling historical center of Puglia’s capital city, a crossroads of civilizations. The city’s typical medieval maritime quarter begins along a small peninsula: a series of winding streets, arches, pedestrian squares, palaces and churches.  Discover the traces of Puglia’s rich artistic and historic heritage, as well as the celebrated personalities who swept across Puglia’s shores on their way to conquest and glory. Meanwhile, Bari still retains its strong genuine flair: one can still find locals making and selling homemade pasta and garden-grown vegetables right from their doorways.

Overnight at Hotel delle Nazioni, Bari

Day 11 – Nov. 13: Bari – Rome
After breakfast, check out of the hotel and travel by high-speed train to Rome, and check into the Starhotel Metropole for the night.  Remainder of the day is at your leisure.

Overnight at Starhotel Metropole, Rome

Day 12 – Nov. 14: Rome
Breakfast included at the hotel this morning.  Travel to Rome Fiumicino Airport by train to meet your departure flight.

End of Naples and Bari Extension

2018 Dates:

November 3-11 (Optional Extension: November 11-14)

The Prices

Main Tour Per Person 


Naples & Bari Extension
Per Person


Deposit is 30%, and payable by major credit card. All payments are nonrefundable. Medical & evacuation insurance required.


Tour Costs include:
• English-speaking local guides
• Accommodation in four-star hotels as outlined in the itinerary
• Entrance fees for stated museums and monuments
• Tickets for trains and local transport (trams, metro, etc.) as outlined in the itinerary
• Gratuities to your guide, drivers and for included meals
• Breakfast daily
• Lunches and dinners as outlined in the itinerary
• Local taxes
• Transportation by motorcoach, van or car (depending on group size) where noted

Note minimum of 10 participants required for this journey. Maximum of 20.

Tour Costs exclude:
• All air travel and associated costs
• Meals not outlined in the itinerary
• All items of a personal nature (e.g. beverages, telephone calls, laundry, personal insurance)
• Anything not specifically mentioned in the “included” list above

to top

The Highlights

Rome metro and streetcars
Meetings with Trenitalia and NTV, Tiburtina station exploration
Rome-Florence train ride
ATAF meeting and light rail tour
Florence-Bologna train ride, Bologna Centrale railway station tour
AV Mediopadana high speed station and Bologna-Milan high-speed line viewing
Milano Centrale Station tour
Milan-Turin train ride, Porto Nuova station tour
Milan-Rome high-speed train ride
The Baths of Caracalla, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Colosseum, Arc of Constantine, and Roman Forum (Rome)
Tour of the Baptistery, the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, and the medieval city center (Florence)
Tour of the cathedral and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II (Milan)
Walking tour, featuring Castle Square, Palazzo
Carignano, Piazza Carlo Alberto, Galleria Subalpina, the Church of St. Lawrence and Piazza St. Carlo (Turin)
Tour of Vatican Museums (including the Sistine Chapel) and St. Peter’s Basilica (Vatican City)
Tour of Pompeii (Optional Extension)
Tour of Bari (Optional Extension)


NTV-Italferr at Tiburtina Station. Photo by Rick Harnish
NTV-Italferr at Tiburtina Station. Photo by Rick Harnish
The Trevi Fountain. Photo by Rick Harnish
The Trevi Fountain. Photo by Rick Harnish
Photo by Rick Harnish
Photo by Rick Harnish