Fall is in the air, which means the leaves start exuding golden and red hues, beckoning one of the most enchanting seasons in Italy. This is the perfect time to visit the Bel Paese, as the summer crowds dissipate, making way for a tranquil transition away from the scorching Mediterranean heat towards the mild embrace of autumn. For those seeking an authentic Italian experience away from the usual tourist hubs, a journey on the Ferrovia Vigezzina-Centovalli, otherwise known as Italy’s fall foliage train, is an absolute must!
The Vigezzina-Centovalli line is 52 kilometers in total and runs from the Northern region of Piedmont, Italy all the way to the Swiss-Italian canton of Ticino in southern Switzerland. Inaugurated in 1923, this historic train ride truly is a “limited edition” experience, only running for a few weeks each year from October 14th to November 11th, when the fall foliage is most vibrant. The Vigezzina-Centovalli line comes highly recommended and has even been described by Lonely Planet as being one of the most scenic train rides in Italy, with its large panoramic windows offering passengers an extraordinary view of the region's natural beauty. This train ride is so popular that tickets for the weekends are already sold out, therefore Vigezzina-Centovalli emphasizes on their website to plan your journey on a weekday.
Some of the highlights of the trip include the medieval town of Domodossola, the alpine village of Re, which is home to the famous Madonna del Sangue church that many frequent for pilgrimages, and the tiny hamlet of Santa Maria Maggiore, which captivates visitors with its Grimm-fairytale charm and Germanic architectural influence. There are plenty of hidden gems tucked between the region’s rolling valleys and luckily in between the panoramic views of autumn hues and lush forests, you’re able to stop to explore the historic villages that the train passes through.
Another highlight you can’t miss is Lago Maggiore, a large alpine lake spanning both Italy and Switzerland. Many picturesque towns dot the perimeter of Lago Maggiore, including Ascona and Locarno, which fuse Mediterranean culture and architecture with breathtaking views of the Alps.
For those having trouble deciding where exactly they would like to stop on their fall foliage journey, the Vigezzina-Centovalli’s website suggests a plethora of itineraries to choose from along the route catering to different interests. Whether you're an art and culture enthusiast or an adventurous nature lover, this autumnal route through vibrant foliage has something for everyone.
Tickets for this scenic train ride start at 36 euros for adults and can be purchased in advance on the Vigezzina-Centovalli’s website.
Header Image Credit: vigezzinacentovalli.com
Emily Rascon is from San Diego, California and is currently in the process of completing her Masters in Human Geography through the Johannes Gutenberg University of Mainz. She has always had a passion for traveling and learning new languages, having lived in Germany and now Italy. Emily loves reading books, going hiking, and of course, practicing her Italian! In addition, Emily enjoys creating content on TikTok, where she documents her life abroad and encourages people to find the confidence to pursue their inner wanderlust.