You’ll find it hard to take a wrong turn on the path between the UK capital and Italy’s first city if you follow travel writer Kerry Heaney’s guidance.
As the masters of ancient road building, the Romans knew many ways to travel the 1500 kilometres between London and Rome.
It’s a path that opens a world of European possibilities for the traveller to indulge and explore.
Here are five great cities you could weave into your journey that will show you some of continental Europe’s many icons.
With a history dating back to Roman times, London is one of the world’s most visited cities.
Whether you are a royalist hoping for a brush with fame, a theatre lover heading to West End for a musical, or a Harry Potter fan, London has something to delight. So, jump on the London Eye, take tea at the
Ritz, watch the changing of the guard at Buckingham Palace and check the time on Big Ben.
For travel between London and Paris, the next major stop on the way to Rome, choose an easy, high-speed two-hour ride on the Eurostar. Take a book to read for when you are in the tunnel but check out
the window view for the rest of the journey.
The train takes you from St Pancras Station in the heart of London to Gare du Nord in Paris.
Trevi Fountain, Rome
Relatively small in comparison to other capitals, Paris is a city of contrasts. Expect vast perspectives and intimate streets, formal gardens and quiet squares. You will find many of the major sights and museums are within walking distance of each other. On your must-do list should be a stroll down the Champs-Elysees for the chic grand boulevard experience and Rue Cler for a more intimate snapshot of Parisian living, along with Notre Dame Cathedral, the Louvre, River Seine, and the Arc de Triomphe.
For a taste of daily Parisian life, slow down and venture into the patisserie, boulangerie, fromagerie and chocolatier to purchase a few treats. Make sure you bite into a freshly baked baguette because it’s an experience you won’t forget!
Add another country to the journey with a stop in the Swiss city of Lucerne, which is known for its medieval architecture. Edged by a lake and surrounded by snow-capped mountains, Lucerne is a picturesque town filled with historic houses, town squares and churches. The old town is car-free, which makes it perfect for wandering.
For an extra thrill, take the cable car to the top of the 1900m Mount Stanserhorn. Sit on the upper deck and expect the wind in your hair and plenty of blue skies above as you take in the 360-degree views.
Ben Ben & The London Eye
The Louvre Museum
Start your Italian experience with a few days in Venice. No matter how many times you have seen Venice in the movies, the real thing is more stunning than you could have imagined. It’s a city of sumptuous palaces and romantic waterways that look like the background in an 18th-century painting. This is a city to walk, and where you can’t walk, boat it!
The list of must-sees includes St Mark's Square, where everyone comes to see and be seen; the Rialto Bridge, which is the oldest of the four bridges spanning the Grand Canal; the Italo-Byzantine architecture of Basilica of San Marco; and the Doge`s Palace, a masterpiece of Gothic architecture, and the Bridge of Sighs. Few visit the skilled glassblowers on the island of Murano and leave without making a purchase.
Ah, Tuscany! Plenty to see in the Tuscan capital of Florence, including the glory of Michelangelo’s David, the terracottatiled dome and bell tower of the Duomo, and Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus and da Vinci’s Annunciation at the Uffizi Gallery.
This Renaissance city is famous for the economic and political power it wielded during the Medici dynasty.
After you have strolled along the Arno River, stopped at Ponte Vecchio and enjoyed an artisan gelato, it’s time to browse the quality gold and leather market stalls around Santa Croce Basilica.
It’s all here in Italy’s capital, the sprawling city of Rome. This is where you’ll find the icons of the Roman Empire: the Forum and the Colosseum.
It is home to the Vatican City, headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church, where you’ll see Michelangelo’s frescos in the Sistine Chapel and St Peter’s Basilica.
It is big, busy and filled with sights – such as the Trevi Fountain and St Peter’s Square – that you have seen in movies since you were a child.
While the ancient ruins will keep you occupied during the day, in the evening Rome turns on another show with a vibrant dolce vita lifestyle.
Make sure you allow time here for people watching while sitting at a streetside café lingering over a memorable shot of coffee and feasting on thin, crisp pizzas.
Whatever route leads you to Rome, your journey will be filled with the wondrous discovery of new cultures and destinations and memories to cherish.
Travel the road to Rome from London, and add in once-in-adecade, world-famous Passion Play in the tiny village of Oberammergau, in Germany’s Bavarian Alps. With exclusive National Seniors member savings for the 2020 event, don't miss out!
This article by Kerry Heaney originally appeared in the Summer edition of 50 Something magazine (December 2018).