Italy is famous for pizza, pasta, and red wine. Who wouldn’t want to visit?
Italy is a wonderful, beautiful country with lots of history. The Roman Empire, the Roman Gods, the Colosseum, Vatican City, the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa, Milan is one of the fashion capitals of the world, Venice is a floating city, Florence is the home of many famous artists, and of course the beauty you see everywhere you look. The Italian people have a reputation for being warm, friendly, and kind; I definitely felt like any Italian person I met was a long lost friend that I just happened to bump into.
So how can you decide where to go if you’re on a time or spending budget? After visiting 6 cities in 8 days, I will try to help you plan a quick trip to Italy and see everything you “must see” while in town.
If you have a week in Italy, here would be my suggested itinerary:
Fly into Milan, because it’s a hub of air traffic and has one airport specially dedicated to “discount” airlines. Obviously they know what they’re doing.
Right from Milan, take a train to Venice. Milan is an average city and can be skipped; you will go into the city to the train station and that’s good enough for a visit to Milan.
Venice is a must-see. It can be frustrating at first because without roads, it’s difficult to navigate. You will need about 2 nights in Venice. In one whole day, you should be able to see and do everything Venice has to offer. Start at San Marco Square, where you can see San Marco Cathedral Bell Tower. Walk to the port area to see the Doge’s Palace and Bridge of Sighs. Then, take a shuttle to San Giorgio for some great Bell Tower photos, take a water bus down the Grand Canal to see the Santa Maria della Salute church at the entrance to the Grand Canal, and get off at Rialto Bridge. From here, walk about 5 minutes to see the Scala Contarini del Bovolo (snail shell staircase). Then, walk back into the city center to and catch a gondola ride for a tour by water. You should be able to accomplish this in 1 day and 2 nights.
As early as possible the next day, head out to the Cinque Terre. Riomaggiore is the most beautiful in my opinion, but Manarola has the most to do. It’s easy to hop from one town to another, about 4 minutes apart by bus. However, you only need 1 day here, so choose your town and stick with it. There are beautiful sights and a cliff walk in Riomaggiore, but you will get the most out of the town by posting up on one of the rocks jutting out into the sea and enjoying the peace and sun. The town shuts down around 10pm, so after a day it’s off to another city. Definitely worth a pit stop for a day.
As early as possible the next day, head out to Florence with a pit stop in Pisa. The main attraction in Pisa is the famous Leaning Tower, which you can get in about an hour. If you want to grab lunch, leave 2-3 hours, but otherwise just get back on the train to Florence.
In Florence, try to schedule at least 2 days and 3 nights. On your first day, cross the river and head to the Piazzale Michelangelo for a birds-eye view of the entire city, including the beautiful bridges. Then, catch a bus to the Porta Romana and Boboli Gardens. Walk through the gardens and come out right at the Ponte Vecchio. From there, head to the Piazza della Signoria and Piazza Vecchio. If you’re interested in art, you can find the Uffizi Gallery here. Then, go straight to the Piazza del Duomo and buy a 4-pass ticket for the cathedral, bell tower, baptistery, and crypts. These are the must sees, and there are plenty of small churches and art galleries to see on day 2. Enjoy some restaurants and gelati while you’re here too!
Finally, head to Rome for as many days as you have left. Rome is an enormous city with more history than you’ll ever have time for, but make the most of it. Start at the Santa Maria Della Vittoria to see Bernini’s famous sculpture The Ecstasy of Saint Teresa. Then, take a metro to the Colosseum (a guided tour is well worth it) and the Roman Forum, which will take you about 3 hours. Head to the historic center via the Piazza Venezia. In the historic center, visit the Pantheon (ancient temple of the gods) and see Raphael’s tomb. Also visit the Piazza Navona and the Fountain of the Four Rivers. Walk up to the famous Trevi Fountain and throw a penny in for good luck. Keep heading north to the Spanish Steps. Still going north, find the Piazza del Popolo with the Santa Maria del Popolo and Chigi Chapel. From here, head across the river to Castle Sant’ Angelo, which is beautiful at sunset. Try to see the Pasetto, a secret passageway connecting it to the Vatican. Moving to the Vatican, a guided tour is well worth the money and will gain you access to the Sistine Chapel, Raphael’s Rooms, Tapestry Rooms, Map Rooms, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the necropolis. Also in Rome, go inside any church you pass because it will definitely be beautiful. All of this will take at least two days.
If there’s still time, you can head further south to Naples and Calabria or east to the East Coast. There are plenty of unique places in Italy to visit, from grotto hotels built out of stone to cave restaurants built into the side of a mountain over the ocean. There’s so much to see and do, but if it’s your first trip, I recommend trying to visit every city possible! On subsequent trips, get more detailed and unique with out-of-the-way spots in Italy.
There’s never enough time! Go explore this beautiful country!