Coming up with an Italy itinerary is no easy task.
Smaller than many other countries in terms of size, Italy is ranked as one of the best countries for tourists and it probably is the biggest country in the world in terms of what it has to offer to its visitors. Gorgeous cities and quaint villages; archeological sites and an abundance of art; natural sites that go from the Alps in the North of the country to the volcanoes of Sicily and the marvelous beaches of Sardinia; an incredible cultural heritage; food traditions like nowhere else – you name it. The reasons to visit Italy are many.
Having doubts? Make sure to read my post “17 Reasons To Visit Italy As Soon As Possible.”
With so much to offer, it’s easy to see why many travelers, and especially Italy’s first timers, fall for the mistake of packing too much in their Italy itinerary, in a desperate attempt to see as much of the country as possible in the short time they have available, fearful that they may never be able to return after that trip because there are so many more places to visit in the world.
But you see, Italy is a country that deserves no rush. We Italians are masters at the art of enjoying life, and we wish you’d do the same when you visit our beautiful country. This is to say: we are confident that once you visit for the first time, you will keep coming back.
Plan an Italy itinerary that will make you enjoy the country rather than just see it, and chances are you will be holding a new ticket to fly to Italy within a few days of returning from your trip.
With the intent of helping you, I have decided to create 5 easy to follow itineraries. Whether you want to go for the classic sights or to the north or the south; whether you want to visit the Italian islands or stuff your face with the best food in the world, here you are bound to find an Italy itinerary to suit your needs.
Each of these itineraries is intended for a trip that lasts a minimum of 10 days (which implies a trip of 11 or 12 days including your flights). You can easily add a night in the places I suggest if you have more time, but by all means do not add random far away destinations (again, the biggest mistake when visiting Italy for the first time would be to pack your itinerary too much).
If you have less than 10 days, you will have to strike off a destination from the itinerary or – if you want – just get in touch with me and we can work on a perfect custom made Italy itinerary for you.
Continue reading to find your perfect Italy itinerary.
The Best Italy Itinerary
Classic Italy Itinerary #1: Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre, Venice
10 Days in Italy itinerary
I always say that if you are visiting a place for the first time, you should get the most popular attractions out of the way. Pick this Italy itinerary if it is your first time in the country. If you have 10 days, stick to it religiously and don’t add any more places to it – do so, and you’d end up seeing more, but from the train! If you have more than 10 days in Italy, you can add more destinations at the end (see my recommendations below).
For this itinerary, I recommend flying into Rome Fiumicino airport and flying out of Venice Marco Polo airport, which is well connected to the rest of Italy, Europe and the world via a series of direct and connecting flights.
In short, this is what your Italy itinerary will look like:
3 nights in Rome
2 nights in Florence
1 night in Pisa
2 nights in Cinque Terre
2 nights in Venice
If you are landing in Rome from the other side of the world, chances are you will be exhausted and in need of a shower. Head to your hotel and take a power nap, and venture out later in the day.
Check out my post “How To Get From Fiumicino Airport To Rome City Center.”
I recommend picking an easy activity for your arrival day, such as a food tour. The following ones are all good options with an afternoon or evening starting time:
- 4 hour food and wine tasting tour
- 4 hour food tour by night
- Food tour of Roman neighborhoods
- Street food tour with a local guide
For the other 2 days you have in town, make sure to follow the itinerary highlighted in my post “The Perfect Itinerary To See Rome In 2 Days.” It will take you to all the main highlights of the city, including the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the best squares of Rome, and the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
For more about Rome, read my post “30 Unmissable, Fun And Cheap Things To Do In Rome.”
Remember you will need to get skip the line tickets ahead of time to visit most attractions.
Make sure to take a look at these posts for guidance on how to skip the lines:
- Seven Smart Ways To Get Tickets To The Colosseum And Skip The Lines
- How To Get Tickets To The Sistine Chapel And The Vatican Museums And Skip The Line
- 7 Ways To Get A St. Peter’s Basilica Ticket And Skip The Line
- A Complete Guide To Visiting St. Peter’s Basilica Dome
- Seven Smart Ways To Get Galleria Borghese Tickets And Skip The Lines
Make sure to read my post “A Complete Guide To Where To Stay In Rome.”CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN ROME HERE
The second leg of this classic Italy itinerary will take you to Tuscany.
You can travel to Florence by train. The journey takes around 1.5 hours, and if you take an early train you can drop your bags at your hotel and have the entire afternoon available to explore. Get your train tickets in advance here. Alternatively, you can rent a car to be even more flexible and independent. Check out the prices of car rental here.
You have a day and a half in Florence to roam the city and visit its most important attractions. The ones you really should not miss are the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and Piazza Duomo, the Baptistery of St. John; Uffizi Palace and Gallery; Ponte Vecchio; Piazza della Signoria and Palazzo Vecchio, Academy Gallery; Santa Croce church; Pitti Palace and Boboli Gardens and Santa Maria Novella church.
Remember you will need to get skip the line tickets ahead of time to visit most attractions. These are some tickets you may want to get:
- Uffizi Gallery timed entrance ticket
- Leonardo interactive museum skip the line ticket
- Palazzo Vecchio entrance ticket and audio-guide
- Uffizi priority entrance
- Florence Dome climb priority entrance
- Michelangelo’s David Gallery Academia guided tour
I must admit I am more of a Siena fan than Pisa, but for the purpose of this Italy itinerary it makes way more sense to see Pisa as it is on the way to Cinque Terre.
If you are traveling around Italy by train, get an early train to Pisa. Get your train tickets in advance here. You will be spending just a night there on your way to Cinque Terre. The city is small enough that you can see its main attractions in a day.
The center of Pisa is small. Its main attractions are the Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower and you obviously should not skip the Campo Santo and a walk along the river and the old historical center. You can easily visit Pisa independently, but you may want to join a guided tour to see its highlights (you can book it here).CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN PISA HERE
It will take you around 1 hour and 10 minutes to get from Pisa Central Station to Riomaggiore (you need to change in La Spezia), the first of the 5 villages of Cinque Terre. Check out the train timetable and get tickets in advance here.
This is one of the most scenic parts of Italy, and you are bound to fall in love with it. Once there, you can enjoy several activities. Most people go there to hike from one village to the other (the most famous trail is Sentiero Azzurro); but you can also enjoy a day at the beach; go wine tasting; and gorge on all the local food.
Check out my post “5 Excellent Reasons To Visit Cinque Terre.”CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN CINQUE TERRE HERE
The last leg of your classic Italy itinerary will take you to Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Brace yourself as it is quite a trip from Cinque Terre – it will take you between 4 and 6 hours by train, with several changes, or 4 by car. If you are traveling by train, make sure to book the earliest train possible so that you can have at least a few hours to explore Venice on the same day – check out the train timetable and get tickets in advance here.CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN VENICE HERE
Venice has no shortage of incredible sights and you will enjoy getting lost in its narrow alleys and breathing through its history. St. Mark’s Square is an unmissable place, and you will want to visit St. Mark’s Basilica and climb the tower. You should also check out Doge’s Palace and the Bridge of Sights, and then head to Rialto Bridge and go on a boat ride along the Grand Canal. If you find that you have some extra time, head out to Burano for half a day too.
Make sure to read my post “17 Incredible Things To Do In Venice” for more inspiration.
In Venice, you are better off getting some skip the line tickets in advance to visit its most popular attractions. Here are some you may want to consider:
- St. Mark’s Basilica guided tour with skip the line ticket
- St. Mark’s Bell Tower ticket
- Doge’s Palace priority admission ticket
- Private gondola ride
Do you have more time?
Continue your journey across the North of Italy and head to Verona, an easy train ride from Venice, a charming small town where you should visit the fabulous Arena, Castle Vecchio, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza Bra and Juliet’s House.
From Verona, hop on the train again or rent a car and drive all the way to Trentino to visit the charming mountain villages and enjoy the marvelous landscape of the Dolomites.
Make sure to check out these posts for more inspiration:
- A Great Itinerary For A Summer Week In Trentino
- 5 Short But Rewarding Hikes In The Dolomites Of Trentino
Classic Italy Itinerary #2: Rome, Florence and Tuscany, Naples and the Amalfi Coast
10 Days in Italy itinerary
This first part of this Italy itinerary is similar to the one above. It doesn’t include Cinque Terre (though you could in theory go there on a day trip from Florence such as this one) and Venice, but you will get to see Naples, Sorrento and the breathtaking Amalfi Coast instead.
For the purpose of this itinerary, you should fly into Rome Fiumicino Airport on your way in. To fly back, you have the option to fly from Naples Capodichino airport and get a connecting flight to your final destination, or drive back to Rome Fiumicino airport from Sorrento (about 3 hours drive, depending on traffic, and you are better off getting a private transfer in this case).
Here is what your 10 days in Italy will look like:
3 nights in Rome
3 nights in Florence and Tuscany
1 night in Naples
3 nights on the Amalfi Coast
Much like in the previous itinerary, for this itinerary you will have 3 nights in Rome. Check out my indications above for tips on how to get to the city from the airport, where to stay, and the best places to visit and don’t forget to get skip-the-line tickets for the various tourist attractions.GET YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKETS HERE
Florence and Tuscany
From Rome, take an early train to Florence. This time you will have 3 nights there (and 3 full days) and since you are not going to Cinque Terre, you should definitely enjoy a bit more of Tuscany, taking a day trip to Siena and the lovely hills of Tuscany.
These are the best day guided day trips you can take from Florence:
- From Florence: Tuscany day trip with lunch and wine – a GetYourGuide originals tour that will take you to Siena, the Chianti Hills, San Gimignano and Pisa.
- Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano with lunch and wine in Chianti – another great guided tour that takes you to the most popular places to visit in the region.
- Siena, San Gimignano and Monteriggioni tour – the most budget friendly option and great value for money considering it is all inclusive.
The third part of this Italy itinerary will take you to one of the most unique and beautiful parts of Italy.
From Florence Santa Maria Novella Station, the trail will take you to Naples in just about 3 hours. Opt for an early train (Check out the train timetable and get tickets in advance here), so that as soon as you arrive you can drop your bags at your hotel, have lunch, and then set off to explore.
Naples is a fun place to visit, and you will absolutely love the food there. This is where pizza was invented – you simply cannot leave without having tried it and I promise you it will be like nothing you have tried before. If you want to get properly acquainted with all the local flavors, join a guided food tour. This one starts at 11:00 am and 6:00 pm so fits perfectly in your itinerary.
Among the places to visit in Naples, make sure to not to skip Castel Ovo, Cappella San Severo, Catacombs of San Gennaro, Capodimonte Palace. Visit the Cathedral and browse around the Presepi shops (this is something truly unique to Naples!).CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN NAPLES HERE
From Naples, take an early Circumvesuviana train (this is a regional train and you don’t need to get tickets in advance) and get off at Pompeii Scavi station – the journey takes little over 30 minutes. Once at the station, drop off your bags at the luggage storage facility (BAGBNB storage costs just €5 per day per bag) and head to Pompeii Archeological site. I recommend getting fast track entrance tickets before visiting – you can get them here.
Factor in about 3 hours for your visit, after which you can head back to the station, pick up your bags and get back on the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. I recommend using Sorrento as your base for the next 3 nights, as it is the easiest starting point to explore the Amalfi Coast.
Depending on which time you arrive in Sorrento, you have enough time for a walk along the waterfront and you can even embark on a Limoncello tasting tour.
From Sorrento, you can visit Capri on a boat tour or go there independently (it’s an easy 20 minutes boat ride) and go to the Amalfi Coast. These are some good tour options:CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN SORRENTO HERE
Do you have more time?
If you have more than 10 days in Italy, you may want to add a day in Rome and one in Tuscany or, quite simply, add another (southern) leg to your trip.
Make sure to check my post “The Perfect Itinerary For 3 Days In Rome.”
If you’d rather continue your journey south, I recommend spending a day in Matera, one of the most scenic cities in southern Italy famous for its Sassi, and then continue on to Lecce, in Puglia, which you can use as a base to explore the marvelous Salento where you can spend a day basking in the sun in one of the pretty beach of Polignano a Mare and explore – among others – small towns such as Ostuni, Gallipoli, Alberobello and Locorotondo.
The Islands of Italy Itinerary: Catania, Aeolian Islands, Cagliari and South Sardinia
10 Days in the best Italian Islands
This itinerary is perfect if you have already been to all the main places to visit in Italy want to visit two regions that get significantly less visitors compared to others, and care to see some truly unique places. It’s an itinerary you can follow in any season but which – if you are a fan of the beach – you should definitely consider for your summer holidays.
For the purpose of this itinerary, you will have to fly into Catania – there are connecting flights via Rome Fiumicino; get a flight from Catania to Cagliari (there usually are direct flights) and fly back from Cagliari via Rome Fiumicino.
Here is what your itinerary will look like:
3 nights in Catania
2 nights in the Aeolian Islands
2 nights in Cagliari
3 nights in the south of Sardinia
Catania is one of the most interesting cities in the south of Italy. At the base of Mount Etna, the center of the city is packed with interesting historical sights – the Cathedral, the Roman Amphitheater, the Benedectine Monastery among others.
Make sure to read my post “A Great Guide To The Things To Do In Catania, Italy” for more inspiration on the city’s attractions.
Once you are done visiting Catania, you can take day trips from the city to explore the incredible surroundings. I recommend visiting Mount Etna – read my post “Everything You Need To Know To Visit Mount Etna” for practical tips to plan your visit. Another great day trip from Catania is the one to the lovely Noto and Syracuse.
Here is a selection of good day trips from Catania:
- Etna in the morning – half day excursion from Catania
- Mount Etna Summit and Crater Trek
- Sunset Hike for Mount Etna
- Full day Mount Etna and Taormina tour
- Syracuse, Ortigia and Noto full day tour from Catania
If you’d rather move around independently, make sure to rent a car directly at the airport. Check out the prices of car rental here.CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN CATANIA HERE
From Catania, hop on a train to Messina and from there to Milazzo. I recommend going as early as possible as between the train and the hydrofoil ride it may end up being quite a long journey. You can consult the train timetable and buy train tickets here. Once in Milazzo, take a ferry to one of the Aeolian Islands.
The island you should pick to stay will depend on your taste. Vulcano will give you a nice combination of easy hikes, nice beaches and mud baths. But for a truly unique experience, go to Stromboli where you can hike the active volcano (if you want to do that, you may want to book this Volcano Stromboli summit crater guided hike).
You may want to check out my posts “Everything You Need To Know To Visit Vulcano Island, Sicily” and “Everything You Need To Know To Hike Stromboli Volcano” for a better idea on what to expect and which island to pick.FIND A ROOM IN THE AEOLIAN ISLANDS HERE
From the Aeolian Islands, make your way back to Catania from where you can catch a flight to Cagliari. You won’t need a car much when you are in Cagliari, but I wholeheartedly recommend it for the remainder of your visit as it is the best way to reach the beaches and other places that aren’t in the city. The easiest thing is to pick it up directly at the airport. Check out the prices of car rental here.
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and a place where you will truly be able to breathe the local atmosphere. A truly lovely city (and I am not just saying this because I live there), it has yet to be discovered by mass tourism. For as small as it is, the Sardinian capital has a lot to offer to its visitors: a well kept historical center with gorgeous churches and well curated museums; a few incredible beaches and easily reached hiking trails for stunning views; a nature reserve with pink flamingoes; a thriving nightlife and much more.
Make sure to read my post “15 Great Things To Do In Cagliari” for more inspiration. For ideas on places to stay, check out my post “A Guide To Hotels In Cagliari: Where To Stay In Sardinia’s Capital.”CHECK OUT THE BEST HOTEL DEALS IN CAGLIARI HERE
You could explore the south of Sardinia directly from Cagliari if you wanted, and take a series of day trips to places such as Barumini – a great archeological site; to one of the many wineries; or to one or more of the incredible beaches.
Make sure to read my posts “A Guide To The Beaches In Cagliari And Its Surroundings” and “An Excellent Guide To The Best Beaches In Sardinia.”
Yet, I believe that you may well want to finish off your holiday with a proper beach vacation, since after all you are in Sardinia. Not far from Cagliari you will find a number of small sea-side resort town and villages where you can base yourself for a few days to explore the nearby beaches. Places like Costa Rei and Villasimius, on the south-eastern coast, or Chia on the south-west, offer a good combination of excellent beaches that are much loved by the locals; good accommodation options (you may be better off renting a small apartment); a few good restaurants and – quite importantly – that much needed holiday atmosphere.
Of all of them, my favorite is Costa Rei – my family owns a property there and it is my favorite place to escape from the stress of city life.
Check out my post “A Local’s Guide To Costa Rei, Sardinia.”FIND A ROOM IN COSTA REI HERE
Do you have more time?
If you have more than 10 days, you can simply add a night in each destination or decide to include places such as Corfu and Palermo in your Sicily itinerary, and/ or Alghero, Bosa, Asinara Island to your Sardinia itinerary. If you need more inspiration to decide, make sure to read my posts:
- A Complete Guide To Alghero Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To Bosa Sardinia
- A Complete Guide To The Island Of Asinara, Sardinia
A Few Extra Tips To Plan Your Perfect Trip To Italy
If you need more help in planning your Italy itinerary, head over to my post “What To Do And What To Avoid When Planning A Trip To Italy.”
I also recommend reading my post “67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy” for other useful travel tips – both for planning or for when you are already in the country.
I won’t ever tire to repeat that you need to buy skip-the-line tickets for most attractions you intend to visit well ahead of time – especially if your itinerary doesn’t allow much of a leeway. For Rome, I have compiled a number of posts that give you exact guidelines on how to find the ticket that is most suitable to your needs.
If you are unsure about which third party site to use to buy attraction tickets or guided tours, make sure to read my post “A Completely Honest GetYourGuide Review.”GET YOUR SKIP-THE-LINE TICKETS HERE
Guided tours of Italy
I know, part of the fun of traveling to Italy is planning your Italy itinerary yourself. But really guy – I promise you that even the most experienced travelers find the planning bits hard at times.
There really is nothing wrong in booking a guided tour of Italy – even more so if it is your first time in the country. G Adventures has great tours of Italy that are suitable for travelers of all ages, styles and budgets. You can check them out here.CHECK OUT THESE GUIDED TOURS OF ITALY
Best time to visit Italy
This is the trickiest question of all! Let me start by saying that any time is a good time to visit Italy and that my country is gorgeous year round. Having said that, your decision on when to visit depends on the kind of trip you want to do – if you are hoping to hit the beach, definitely visit between June and September – and on when you actually have time off.
What I can tell you though is that Italy tends to be significantly more crowded between May and September, and that in Italians usually go on holidays in August and that’s when cities will empty of locals and be packed with tourists.
A guide book is definitely a good add on to any Italy itinerary. Bring it with you for quick tips on places to visit, attractions, restaurants and local food and even local information and useful numbers.
These are the guide books I recommend the most:
Italy guarantees medical assistance to anybody on its soil, regardless of their legal status as residents, migrants or tourists. Either way, I still recommend getting a good insurance for your trip.