Coming up with an Italy itinerary is no easy task.
Smaller than many other countries in size, with all that it has to offer Italy is ranked as one of the best countries for tourists. Gorgeous cities and quaint villages; archeological sites and an abundance of art; the Alps, the volcanoes and the gorgeous beaches of Sardinia; an incredible cultural heritage; food traditions like nowhere else – you name it. The reasons to visit Italy are many.
People traveling to Italy for the first time often fall for the mistake of packing too much in their itinerary, in a desperate attempt to see as much as possible in a short time. But Italy is a country that deserves no rush. You should try to enjoy the country rather than just see it! And we Italians know that once you visit for the first time, you will keep coming back.
If you are stuck for ideas on where to start exploring, don’t worry. I am a certified travel designer and thought I’d create 3 easy to follow itineraries for you to pick from.
Each of them is intended for a 10-day trip (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!
If you have less than 10 days, strike off a destination from the itinerary or send me an email and we can work on a perfect custom made Italy itinerary for you.
Continue reading to find your perfect itinerary.
Make sure to also read my post 25 Most Interesting Facts About Italy.
The Best Italy Itinerary
Classic Italy Itinerary #1: Rome, Florence and Cinque Terre, Venice
10 Days in Italy itinerary
Pick this Italy itinerary if it is your first time in the country. If you have just 10 days don’t add any more places to it. If you have more than 10 days in Italy, you can add more destinations at the end.
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.
OVERVIEW OF THE ITINERARY:
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, you will be exhausted and in need of a shower. Make your way from Fiumicino Airport to Rome City Center, find your hotel and take a power nap, and venture out later in the day.
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, the Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, the best squares of Rome such as Piazza Navona and Piazza di Spagna, Trevi Fountain and the Vatican and St. Peter’s Basilica.
Make sure to get skip-the-line-tickets ahead of time – they are needed for most attractions in Rome. Get tickets to the Colosseum and the Roman Forum here; tickets to the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel here; and tickets to Borghese Gallery here.
Where to Stay in Rome
There is no shortage of excellent places to stay in Rome. Opt to stay in the Centro Storico for easy access to all the best tourist attractions. here is a selection of good places to stay:
The second leg of this classic Italy itinerary will take you to Tuscany.
You have a day and a half in Florence to roam the city and visit its most important attractions. Don’t miss 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.
You will need to get skip the line tickets for most attractions. For tickets to the Uffizi Gallery click here. For Palazzo Vecchio tickets click here. For tickets to Brunelleschi’s Dome click here. For tickets to Michelangelo’s David Gallery Academia click here.
HOW TO GET THERE: Trains to Florence depart from Roma Termini Station. 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.
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Florence.
Where to Stay in Florence
Florence is equipped with excellent accommodation options for all budgets – you won’t have troubles finding something that suits your needs. I have selected a few places for you:
You can see Pisa on your way to Cinque Terre and spend just a night there, but that’s enough to appreciate its main sights.
The center of Pisa is small. Its main attractions are the Baptistery, the Cathedral and the Leaning Tower, all located in Campo de’ Miracolo. Take 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).
HOW TO GET THERE: Trains to Pisa depart from Santa Maria Novella Station in Florence. If you are traveling around Italy by train, get an early train to Pisa. Get your train tickets in advance here.
Where to Stay in Pisa
Pisa is a small town. Staying in the historic center is the best way to have access to restaurants, bars and the local nightlife. Here are some good places to stay:
This is one of the most scenic parts of Italy, and you are bound to fall in love with it. The villages of Cinque Terre – Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore – are a sight to behold! 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.
HOW TO GET THERE: Cinque Terre is best reached by train. 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. There are direct trains to Monterosso. Check out the train timetable and get tickets in advance here.
Where to Stay in Cinque Terre
Corniglia is a bit difficult to get to, so you may want to avoid staying there. Other than that, all other villages have a good selection of places to stay. I have selected some places in Riomaggiore.
The last leg of your trip will take you to Venice, one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
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.
Skip the line tickets are a good idea to visit the most popular attractions. For tickets to St. Mark’s Basilica and Doge Palace, click here. To book a gondola ride, click here. For information on day trips to Murano and Burano, click here.
HOW TO GET THERE: Venice 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, 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.
Where to Stay in Venice
Venice is incredibly expensive, so you’ll have to look extensively to find something that is a bit cheaper. I have selected a few places for you:
Do you have more time?
Continue your journey across the North of Italy and head to Verona, an easy train ride from Venice. It’s a charming small town where you should visit the fabulous Arena, Castle Vecchio, Piazza delle Erbe and Piazza Bra and Juliet’s House.
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).
OVERVIEW OF THE ITINERARY:
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.
Florence and Tuscany
If you follow this itinerary, you will have 3 nights in Florence (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.
To make the most of Tuscany, you may be better off joining a guided tour. Here are my recommendations:
- Pisa, Siena, San Gimignano with lunch and wine in Chianti – a 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.
Naples is a fun place to visit – you have many reasons to go, but let me give you one you’ll definitely understand: the food! 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 there are Castel Ovo, Cappella San Severo, the Catacombs of San Gennaro, Capodimonte Palace. Visit the Cathedral and browse around the Presepi shops (this is something truly unique to Naples!).
To make the most of Naples, you may want to check out a guided tour such as this one.
HOW TO GET THERE: Take the train from Florence Santa Maria Novella Station. You will be in 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.
Make sure to read my post The Best Things To Do In Naples.
Where to Stay in Naples
Naples has a great selection of places to stay. It’s more budget friendly than many other cities too! Here is a useful selection.
Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast
You can visit Pompeii on your way to the Amalfi Coast. Famous for having been completely abandoned after the 79 AD eruption of Mount Vesuvius that killed more than 2,000 people, Pompeii is one of the most famous archeological sites in Italy and you should not miss a chance to go.
HOW TO GET TO POMPEII: 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.
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 the rest of the Amalfi Coast – Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Praiano but not only. You can also visit Capri on a boat tour or go there independently (it’s an easy 20 minutes boat ride).
HOW TO GET TO SORRENTO: From Pompeii, take the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento.
Where to Stay in 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. These are some good places to stay:
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.
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 Valle d’Itria, in Puglia, which you can use as a base to explore the small towns such as Ostuni, Polignano a Mare, Gallipoli, Alberobello and Locorotondo. You can even stretch all the way to Lecce and Salento.
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. It’s the perfect itinerary for your summer holidays.
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.
OVERVIEW OF THE ITINERARY:
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.
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. You could also go to Taormina, Ortigia, Noto and Syracuse.
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.
Where to Stay in Catania
Catania is a fairly large city but if you stay in the center you will have easy access to all attractions and the magnificent restaurants. Here are the best places to stay.
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 hike Mount Stromboli, you need a guided tour. For more information, click here.
HOW TO GET THERE: From Catania, hop on a train to Messina and from there to Milazzo. Take an early train 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.
Where to Stay in the Aeolian Islands
Vulcano has a larger selection of accommodation options compared to Stromboli, but I will recommned places in the two.
- BUDGET – Casa Carlotta, Stromboli
- MID-RANGE – Les Sables Noirs & Spa, Vulcano
- SPLURGE – Therasia Resort & Spa, Vulcano
Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and a place where you will truly be able to breathe the local atmosphere. It’s a place that has yet to be discovered by mass tourism.
For as small as it is, Cagliari has a lot to offer to its visitors: a well kept center made up of the historic districts of Castello, Stampace, Villanova and La Marina, with gorgeous churches and well curated museums; archeological sites such as the Roman Amphitheater and Tuvixeddu, a Punic necropolis; a few incredible beaches (Poetto is the main urban beach) and easily reached hiking trails for stunning views such as that of Sella del Diavolo; Molentargius Nature Reserve with pink flamingoes; a thriving nightlife and much more.
HOW TO GET THERE: From the Aeolian Islands, travel back to Catania from where you can catch a flight to Cagliari. You’ll find regular trains from the airport to the city center. You won’t need a car much in Cagliari, but you’ll be better off with one for the rest of your trip. The easiest thing is to pick it up directly at the airport. Check out the prices of car rental here.
Where to Stay in Cagliari
Look for places in Stampace or La Marina for access to all the restaurants and bars, and closeness to the best attractions. Here is a good selection.
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.
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.
Where to Stay in Southern Sardinia
You have the option of staying in either Costa Rei or Villasimius. I have selected some places in each.
- BUDGET – Aras Hotel Boutique, Villasimius
- MID-RANGE – La Corte Rosada, Villasimius
- SPLURGE – Villas Resort, Costa Rei
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, or Asinara Island to your Sardinia itinerary.
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 posts A Guide To The Best Places To Visit In Italy and 67 Extremely Useful Travel Tips For Italy for other useful travel tips – both for planning or for when you are already in the country.
Getting around Italy
For the most part, you can follow the itineraries in this post by public transportation – let’s admit it, driving in Italy can be a bit of a hassle, and we aren’t exactly the most respectful drivers. Having said that, you definitely need a car to move around Sardinia, as public transport is somehow lacking, especially if you want to visit the beaches.
Here are the main modes of transport you can count on when traveling around Italy.
Unless you are driving, this is the best way of getting around Italy. Trains in Italy are for the most part punctual (unless there is a strike) and comfortable, and connect even the smallest towns. You are better off booking your train tickets in advance, especially if you are traveling with your family, so you can get the best seats close to each other.
You can consult the train timetable on Trenitalia website and buy train tickets here.
Remember that train tickets need to be validated before getting on board: there are machines along the platform where you can do that.
Places like Tuscany and Sardinia call for a road trip. However, driving through Italian towns can be tricky if you are not accustomed to it.
Historical centers are often closed to non-residents and implement a ZTL (Zona Traffico Limitato – limited circulation area). These areas are usually well marked, but if you for some reason miss the signs you can end up getting a fine – and the car rental company will chase you to pay it!
Parking in Italian cities can be a real hassle – it can be expensive, not to mention looking for a suitable parking spot can be time consuming.
Another thing to remember is that you will need a valid international drivers’s license, and a good insurance.
Check out the prices of car rental in Italy here.
Bus travel is certainly an option in Italy, more often in the south where the railway system can be at times lacking (that’s definitely the case for Sardinia). Buses are definitely a great option to reach the most remote villages – for example if you decide to visit Trentino.
For the purpose of the itineraries in this post, you’ll only need domestic flights if you are visiting Sicily and Sardinia. Budget flights operated by Ryanair, Vueling, Volotea and many other airlines are available to many cities in Italy, including Rome, Pisa, Milan, Venice, Naples, Catania and Cagliari.
To look for flights or buses, including prices and schedule you can use Omio – it’s a reliable app that’s super easy to use.
Guided tours of Italy
I know, part of the fun of traveling to Italy is planning your Italy itinerary yourself. But 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.
Best time to visit Italy
Any time is a good time to visit Italy: 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, but expect larger crowds as that’s when most people in Europe go on vacation. Italians usually go on holidays in August and that’s when cities will empty of locals and be packed with tourists.
With this in mind, I think that the best time to enjoy the classic itineraries in this post is the early fall – October. That is shoulder season, so prices will be a bit lower than usual and the crowds won’t be as bad. Spring can be a bit of a hit and miss, with days that can be pleasantly sunny but also higher chances of rain, especially in March and April.
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. I recommend this one.
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.
These other posts may be useful:
- 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