Italy is one of the world’s top tourist destinations, and from the minute you set foot there, you’ll understand why.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy, and don’t know how to fit it all in, this guide and itinerary will help. I traveled to Italy in late 2012 and put together this itinerary to help you see everything I did – and more!
Read on to learn some basic travel information about Italy, plus an in-depth guide to visiting Italy for 10 days. In this itinerary, I provide recommendations on visiting Rome, Naples, Pompeii, Florence, Pisa, and Venice.
Italy Travel Planning
Why Visit Italy? A Million Reasons
Everyone has a reason (or twenty) to visit Italy; yours are probably different from mine. If you need a little nudge to get you to book the tickets, here are the reasons that motivated me.
I have Italian ancestry, and I was drawn to see the fatherland with my own eyes. I actually found that visiting Italy (especially Naples) made me feel more connected to my heritage. Even if you don’t have Italian family members, so much of Western culture is impacted by Italian (specifically Roman) history, it’s easy to become interested in Italian history and culture by visiting.
In the U.S., Italian food has for the most part gotten a reputation as cheap, carb-heavy food that you can find in every major city. All this does is show how many Italian immigrants came to America and how far they spread.
What you don’t get in the U.S. is how dynamic Italian food is from city to city and region to region. By visiting, you can experience the differences in “common” foods like pizza and pasta; you can also try the wide variety of Italian wines!
Like Greece, Italy is one of the primary roots in the tree of Western culture. Many of the world’s greatest works of art and architecture are Italian; this lives on today through Italy’s preeminence in design and fashion as well.
It’s hard to step anywhere in Italy without realizing that there are centuries (if not more) history beneath your feet. By taking the time to explore the relics and preserved parts of each place you visit, you’ll come to appreciate how much Italy has influenced the rest of the world.
The Best Months to Visit Italy
Being in the Mediterranean region of the world, the weather in Italy is quite temperate even through winter. Summers can be blistering though, so plan ahead with layers and sunscreen if the forecast calls for it.
I visited Italy in December; it was a perfect time from my perspective because I was able to experience the holidays in Rome, but it was neither too cold or too hot.
The Cost of Traveling in Italy
Italy has been experiencing an economic downturn for the past 10 years, and you might think it will be cheaper as a result. For the most part, Italy is an affordable place to travel – especially if you make smart choices for accommodation and restaurants.
That said, Italy is still part of mainland Europe, and you’re going to see prices that are well within the range of what you’ll pay at the major cities elsewhere in Western Europe.
Do You Need to Speak Italian?
Italian is the primary language of Italy, but most drivers, policemen, salespeople, and those in the tourism industry speak at least a little English.
It’s always polite to learn some common phrases when visiting a foreign country:
- “Buongiorno” (pronounced bu-on gee-orno) means Good Morning
- “Grazie” (pronounced grat-zee) means Thank You.
- “Per favore” (pronounced per fav-or-eh) means Please
Also, when booking this itinerary, you might find websites which don’t have English translations. It helps to know the names of each city in Italian: Rome is Roma, Naples is Napoli, Florence is Firenze, and Venice is Venezia. Train is tren. Most other Italian words you might need to use (duomo, panini, vino (wine), or piazza, for example) are pronounced phonetically.
The Perfect Itinerary for 10 Days in Italy
Here’s the quick version of an itinerary for a 10-day trip to Italy. You can read below for greater detail.
|2-4||Rome & Vatican|
|5-6||Naples & Pompeii|
|7-8||Florence & Pisa|
|9-10||Venice / Departure|
Day 1: Arrive in Italy
You can arrive through several cities in Italy, but I recommend arriving to base yourself in Rome. Whether you choose to take a train from another city in Europe or fly from your home city, Rome is the biggest city with the best airport and train services so you’ll have the most options to keep your cost down.
If you choose to fly to Rome Leonardo da Vinci Fiumicino Airport, there are flights daily from hundreds of destinations including on low-cost carriers. From there, it’s a 32-minute express train ride into the city itself via Trenitalia.
Depending on how far you’ve flown, you may either be jetlagged or arrive late in the day, so take it easy this first day. You’ll need your energy for the rest of this 10-day itinerary throughout Italy!
Resources for Day 1:
- Tickets on the Trenitalia train from Fiumicino to Roma Termini are €14 (~$16.50).
- Book your accommodations near the center of Rome. Book a three-night stay, since you won’t leave Rome until Day 4.
- If you’re looking for inspiration on where to stay in Rome, here are a couple of hotel/B&B options under $100 per night (my personal limit):
- Alternatively, here are a few Airbnbs that caught my eye. The one I stayed at is no longer available, unfortunately, or I would add that to the list. Don’t forget you can get $40 off your first Airbnb booking if you click this link first!
- Here’s a cute little loft from $82/night.
- This vintage apartment (appartamento d’epoca) is good for a group, from $102/night.
- I’m obsessed with the bathroom at the Residenza Micci, from $116/night.
- Depending on where you stay, you can simply pop out to a local restaurant for dinner. Ask about the daily pasta special and pair with a house wine. In my experience, waiters were happy to suggest food/wine options, and even the simplest ravioli a pomodoro with red wine was stunningly good.
Day 2: Rome
Buongiorno! A day of exploring the Roman capital city awaits! On your first full day in Rome, it’s good to hit all of the major sightseeing spots on your list (so you can come back again if you really love them!).
Depending on where you choose to stay in the city, you can walk everywhere. Otherwise, the Metropolitana (Rome Metro) has three lines that connect the major parts of the city.
Start your day at the Roman Forum and Colosseum. These are two of Rome’s most popular attractions, and there are always crowds; if you can get in before the day is too hot or crowded, you’ll enjoy them more.
Pro-tip: Buy a S.U.P.E.R. ticket at the Forum, and start there. The S.U.P.E.R. ticket (€18/$21) gets you access to the Roman Forum, Colosseum, and seven other attractions around the city (which I recommend visiting on another day). Also, lines at the Colosseum are always long, but the Roman Forum typically has shorter lines, so let’s cut down time wasted! Another option is to snag a Roma Pass – it helps you skip lines and cut admission costs at historic attractions across the city.
Spend 1-2 hours exploring the stunning ruins of the Roman Forum. Be sure to visit the Tempio di Romolo (Temple of Romulus, admission included in your S.U.P.E.R. ticket). Rome is named after Romulus, one of two brothers who Roman mythology states founded the city.
When you’ve seen enough, cross the Piazza di Santa Francesca Romana to the Colosseum. You can easily spend 1-2 hours here as well, so these two will take up the whole morning, depending on how long you choose to explore.
After lunch, you can explore the rest of the city.
Other sights I recommend on Day 2 include:
- The Pantheon, a stunning work of architecture that provides a cool respite from toasty days in Rome.
- The Piazza Navona, where you can enjoy lunch or dinner at one of the restaurants that line the piazza.
- The Trevi Fountain, one of Rome’s most photographed spots. Make sure to toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain if you want to come back to Rome someday!
- The Spanish Steps, located in the northern part of the city. It’s a great spot to do some people-watching and to rest your legs after a day of exploring.
Whatever you choose to do with the day, you’ll see some amazing history, art, and architecture.
Resources for Day 2:
- Book your S.U.P.E.R. ticket here for €18 ($21).
- Stay in your Rome accommodation for the night.
Day 3: Vatican City
I know you just arrived, but let’s get the heck out of Italy, am I right?! What I mean is: let’s go to the Vatican.
Within the city limits of Rome is an entire sovereign nation: Vatican City. Whether you’re religious or not, it’s hard to fail to admire the beautiful architecture, and the Vatican Museums are a must-see for any art lovers.
I recommend starting the day with a tour of the Vatican Museums. The earlier you can get into the museum, the fewer crowds you’ll encounter as you work through the seemingly endless halls and galleries and eventually in the stunning Sistine Chapel. The Museums can easily take 3-4 hours depending on how quickly you walk through.
After the Vatican Museum, you may want to step out of the Vatican to grab lunch – and then head back inside to St. Peter’s Basilica. Admission is free, but you can expect to stand in long lines to get in. There are also crowds at various points throughout the massive cathedral. If you have time and want to climb, you can also visit the dome of the Basilica and get an amazing view!
Expect to spend 1-2 hours in St. Peter’s, depending on your interest in the subject. This is a long day on your feet, so I don’t suggest anything else other than dinner at your own discretion.
Resources for Day 3:
- Admission to the Vatican Museums is €17 ($20). Another option is to book your ticket online and get the ‘skip the line’ ticket, for an additional €4 (€21 total, $24.50).
- The Vatican Museums are open every day, and St. Peter’s Basilica is open every day except for mass times.
- There is a strict dress code for St. Peter’s Basilica: no shorts, no bare shoulders, and no miniskirts. Plan ahead if the day is hot so you can change into appropriate clothing before queueing up.
- I attended Christmas Eve mass with the Pope at St. Peter’s; if you want to attend a mass with the pope, tickets are free but need to be reserved between 1 week and 3 months in advance. Here’s a helpful resource.
- Stay in your Rome accommodation for a final night.
Day 4: Rome + Travel Day – Rome to Naples
By day 4, you might be feeling a bit worn out after two days of hard touring and sightseeing. I like to plan down-ish days in my itineraries, and that’s what this day is for. Now that you’re beginning to feel a bit more like a local, you can choose to wander at will through some of Rome’s lesser-known spots.
Here are a few sightseeing spots to consider visiting today:
- The Roman Catacombs of St. Callisto – This is the one sight I most want to see on my next trip to Rome. These 40+ catacombs are an ancient burial place in Rome, and similar to the Catacombs in Paris, are fascinating to explore.
- The Criptoportico Neroniano – The Neorian Crypt is where Emperor Caligula was thought to be murdered, and the pathway Emperor Nero used to connect his grand palace (the Domus Aurea) to Palatine Hill. Access to this site is included in your S.U.P.E.R. ticket.
- Palatine Hill – The centermost of Rome’s seven hills, Palatine Hill has a long historical legacy, and it’s possible to spend an entire day here, exploring the sights. These include the Museo Palatino, Casa di Augusto, and Casa di Livia. Admission to all three of these is included on your S.U.P.E.R. ticket too.
- The Trastevere neighborhood – This neighborhood on the western side of the River Tiber is a hot spot in Rome. Explore the cobbled streets and alleyways, enjoy a bite or some gelato.
End the day by catching a high-speed train south to Naples, where you’ll be staying the next few days.
Resources for Day 4:
- If you aren’t yet sold on the S.U.P.E.R. ticket, now’s the time! Book here for €18 ($21)
- It is a 75-minute high-speed train ride from Rome to Naples. Tickets start from €21.25 ($25).
- For accommodation in Naples, book two nights.
- Here are some hotel recommendations:
- The Napolit’amo Hotel offers a standard hotel experience at a good price (from $70/night, book on Booking.com)
- Hotel Art Resort Galleria Umberto has gorgeous headboards in each room and fascinating art throughout (from $95/night, book on Booking.com)
- The Hotel Santa Brigida is funky, modern, and luxurious – and on-budget (from $96/night, book on Booking.com)
- And some Airbnb options:
- The casa fauno can host up to four guests, but it’s probably more comfortable for just two, from $58/night.
- Most four-person Airbnbs in Naples include a pull-out couch, but this one is spacious enough that it seems comfortable, from $52/night.
- This apartment has access to the Morisani Garden, from $81/night.
Day 5: Naples
Rise early to explore Naples; you might be surprised at how different it feels in this part of Italy. Naples is considered part of southern Italy and has a bit more rough-and-tumble straight-out-of-The Godfather feel, at least based on my experience (I also loved it for that!).
Start the day in Naples with a Sfogliatelle – a crumbly pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese and famous in this part of the country. Pair with an espresso, and you’ll begin to feel like a real Italian!
Since you’re primarily here for seeing the sights, here are some to add to your list:
- The Castel Nuovo and Castel Dell’Ovo, both located on the shores of the Gulf of Naples, are prime examples of Medieval Architecture and give you a sense for the dynamic history of the city.
- The massive Basilica Reale Pontificia San Francesco da Paola is another church worth visiting.
- The Royal Palace of Naples is also interesting, highlighting 18th-century history.
- If you’re really interested in history, the Naples National Archaeological Museum is a must-see, with artifacts dating back to the Greek and Roman empires. They also have an impressive Egyptian collection.
Personally, I was quite under the weather (read: the sickest I’ve been while traveling) when I visited Naples, so I broke all my travel rules and booked a seat on a hop-on/hop-off tour bus. It was a quick way to get around the city – including up the hills – to see the sights. No matter which activities you choose, opt for lunch at any local restaurant. Don’t forget to enjoy gelato at some point too!
For dinner, line up at La Pizzeria da Michele. This tiny pizzeria is famous both for its appearance in Eat. Pray. Love., and for its authentic Neapolitan pizza. If you’re traveling solo, you may be seated with another solo diner, but that’s part of the fun!
Resources for Day 5:
- The Hop-On/Hop-Off tour in Naples has three routes; tickets start from $27 and can be used to access any of the 33 sites on those stops for a whole day.
- Stay a final night in your Naples accommodation.
Day 6: Pompeii & Naples, Travel Day – Naples to Florence
Part of the reason I wanted to visit Naples was to see Pompeii; perhaps you do too!
The easiest way to see Pompeii is by booking a guided tour. Since you’ll need to take a long train ride in the afternoon, opt for a half-day tour instead of the full day options. I found one on Viator that looked good and was affordably priced at about $70. The guide took us through the sites and city of Pompeii, explaining the history, geology, and current archaeological work in the area. Having a guide is a great way to make sure you get the full experience and understanding of Pompeii.
Tours to Pompeii typically depart from and return to Naples, so enjoy lunch in Naples after your tour, then catch a northbound train to Florence. The three-hour train ride is perfect for a nap or watching the Italian countryside flash by. Either way, it makes this a half-resting day before you arrive in Florence for the evening.
For dinner, seek out delicious Tuscan food such as Florentine steak to share with the table over red wine. Some good suggestions include Mamma Gina near the Ponte Vecchio and Trattoria Marione in the center of town. ?+?=??
Resources for Day 6:
- Book a direct high-speed train from Naples to Florence. Tickets can be found as low as €29.90 ($35).
- For accommodation in Florence, book two nights.
- Here are some hotel options within walking distance of the major sights:
- And some delightful Airbnb options:
Day 7: Florence
After a few days in Rome, it’s a welcome pace to wake up in Florence – the center jewel in the crown of Tuscany.
For the next few days in this itinerary, I’m recommending something different than exactly what I did. When I visited Florence, I spent less than one day there (I was also very sick) and didn’t get a good sense of the city. Don’t repeat my mistake: take advantage of the two-day itinerary I’m suggesting to really experience all Florence has to offer.
Start the day by climbing Giotto’s Campanile (Bell Tower), attached to the Duomo. You can watch the mists burn off looking out over the Tuscan countryside and take some amazing pictures from this vantage point. Then, line up and enter the Duomo itself; the stunning art and architecture are worth it even if you are not a religious person. Expect to spend 1-3 hours at the Duomo.
As lunch approaches, make your way to the famous Ponti Vecchio. It’s hard to get a good view of the bridge while crossing, but cross the bridge and admire the shops that line the street. For lunch, seek out Il Panino del Chianti, a hole-in-the-wall sandwich and wine shop recommended by my Italian friend Stefano. You can order a panini made and get a glass or bottle of wine, then sit down to rest your feet. (Ignore that nasty TripAdvisor review that shows up first in Google; the sandwiches are delicious and hygiene standards are different in Italy. The wine will kill any bacteria anyway! ?)
After lunch, make your way to the Ponte Santa Trinita (St. Trinity Bridge) where you can get a good view of the Ponte Vecchio and snap all the pics your heart desires.
Spend the afternoon in Florence’s art museums:
- The Uffizi Gallery is home to works by Raphael, Giotto, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and Caravaggio
- The Galleria dell’Accademia is home to Michaelangelo’s David among other famous works.
Both of these could take a full day if you let them, so choose one for today (you can visit the other tomorrow) and research in advance to figure out exactly which works you want to see.
In the early evening afternoon, make your way to the Boboli Gardens across the River Arno. These sprawling gardens offer a beautiful view of Florence as the sun starts to go down.
Resources for Day 7:
- You can purchase a single ticket which gets you access to Giotto’s Campanile and the Duomo for €18 ($21).
- Admission to the Uffizi is €12-€20 ($14-$23.50) depending on the time of year you visit. If you choose to visit the Boboli Gardens too (which I recommend on Day 6), purchase the combined ticket for €18-€38 ($21-$44.50).
- Tickets for the Galleria dell’Acadameia start from €18.50 ($21.50).
- As you may have learned so far, dinner is usually eaten later than by U.S. standards; Florentines are known for eating between 7:30-8:30. If you want to avoid the dinner rush, consider eating at 6-6:30.
- Stay another night in your Florence accommodations.
Day 8: Florence & Pisa
Start the day early by catching a bus from Florence to Pisa; you’ll spend the morning briefly exploring this other Tuscan city’s most famous site.
From the Pisa bus stop, you’ll need to catch a city bus to the Piazza del Duomo. From there you can see the Leaning Tower of Pisa with your own eyes! Yes, it leans. Yes, everyone takes funny photos with it.
At the Piazza del Duomo, you can also tour the Cattedrale di Pisa (Cathedral) and
Battistero di San Giovanni (Baptistry). It’s easy to spend 2-3 hours here, and you can grab lunch at a nearby restaurant before catching the busses back to Florence (note: restaurants on the Piazza del Duomo will be touristy, so consider going a bit off the plaza. Restaurants like the Osteria dei Cavalieri and Trattoria Da Stelio are a 10-15 minute walk, but you can pass the Museums of Pathology and Anatomy and the University of Pisa Botanical Gardens on the way.
Back in Florence, spend the afternoon exploring the museum you didn’t visit yesterday. Catch a late afternoon or evening train from Florence to Venice.
Resources for Day 8:
- Buses from Florence to Pisa can be found as low as $5.99 on Flixbus. I rode Flixbus throughout Germany and their coach service is pretty good.
- You can climb the Leaning Tower of Pisa for €18 ($21)
- The train ride from Florence to Venice is a two-hour ride. Tickets start as low as €24.90 ($29)
- For accommodation in Venice, book two nights.
- Here are some hotel options in Venice proper:
- Here are some Airbnb options too:
- This Rialto Bridge apartment can sleep three guests, but if you’re traveling with small children and speak to the host, you can probably make it fit four, from $52/night.
- The Grand Terrace Apartment is nicely modern and has a small terrace for enjoying your morning espresso, from $69/night.
- The Suite Tower Rialto is funky but has a modern bathroom and is well-located, from $98/night.
Day 9: Venice
Venice is the final stop on this tour of our “greatest hits of Italy.” With the realities of over-tourism and rising sea levels, Venice is also at risk: more than anywhere else in this itinerary, you need to be a responsible, respectful traveler when you visit.
Pro tip: I have not visited Venice personally (still on the bucket list, literally), so I’m providing suggestions for what I would see and do, plus tips from friends who’ve been.
Venice is comprised of 117 small islands and isles, connected by bridges and canals. The city has increasingly complicated and expensive tourism rules, and it’s important to understand them before you arrive. In particular, no rolling bags are allowed on Venice’s cobbled streets, and many tourist attractions have strict limits on visitors each day.
Some of the top attractions in Venice include:
- Can I admit that one of my life dreams is to chase pigeons in the Piazza San Marco? I don’t know why – it just sounds hilarious!
- Round out your tour of beautiful Catholic churches in Italy by visiting Saint Mark’s Basilica.
- The Riva Degli Schiavoni is a popular waterfront that’s worth walking down – if you’re willing to brave the crowds.
- For free, you can watch boats and gondoliers on The Grand Canal.
- Rent a gondola and float under Venice’s most popular bridge, The Bridge of Sighs.
- If you want to explore the outer islands (which I recommend), Burano is one of the most picturesque and popular.
Here are some travel tips for Venice, too:
- Rise early to beat the crowds. Check sunrise times and rise 30 minutes before that to catch golden hour light, sunrise over the city, and empty streets, alleys, and canals.
- Explore beyond the tourist sights, but don’t skip them entirely. Plan to spend part of your time in Venice seeing the must-sees, then escape the crowds in the outer islands by catching a ferry.
- If you book accommodation outside of central Venice, be sure to book near a water taxi stop. That will make getting around much easier and more pleasant.
- Don’t be afraid to get lost. Even return travelers report how easy it is to get turned around while exploring Venice.
- Buy local. Venice struggles to support its local economy, despite how much tourism there is. Don’t be afraid to ask where that beautiful handmade lace was actually made, or where that Italian glass piece was blown.
In terms of how to spend your time, I recommend spending the morning at the sights, then escape the crowds after lunch. Take a mid-afternoon gelato break, and tuck into dinner at a local (read: NOT an international chain) restaurant.
Resources for Day 9:
- Stay a final night in Venice (and in Italy!) at your booked accommodations.
Day 10: Venice, (Back to Rome?,) Depart for Home
On your last day in Italy, you can spend the morning exploring before heading to the airport. You may want to fly from Venice directly home or back to Rome if your round-trip ticket is based in Rome. Be aware that it’s a 3 hour, 45-minute train ride from Venice to Rome, so plan that into your timing to get to the airport for your flight.
Resources for Day 10:
- Train tickets from Venice to Rome start from €35.90 ($42).
- No other suggestions; have a great trip home!
Adjusting This Itinerary: 3 Days in Rome or 7 Days in Italy
Only have a weekend or week for your trip to Italy? I’ve got you covered.
If you can only make it a three-day trip, plan a city break in one city. For example, it’s easy to do a three-day city break in Rome. You can hit the ground running on Day 1, squeeze the Vatican into a half-day, and complete everything I recommend on Days 1-4 into a 3-day plan.
If you only have seven days in Italy, you can choose to drop Naples from this itinerary, or skip Venice. This will cut three days off the itinerary. I chose to “only” visit Rome, Florence, and Naples on my first trip to Italy. (Three cities is still a lot!)
What About Milan?
Milan is the one other city you might want to visit on your first trip to Italy. I recommend adding 2-3 days to the itinerary if you want to visit Milan too, because it’ll be hard to really see any of the cities if you try to visit five cities in 10 days. You can either add in Milan between visiting Florence and Venice or tack Milan onto the end of this itinerary after Venice.
What About Other Italian Cities?
To be honest, the more cities you want to visit, the more time you need to have in Italy. I don’t recommend trying to fit more than four cities into every 10 days you have to travel in Italy. Add on 2-3 days (including a half-day of travel) for every additional city you want to visit.
Any other questions? Contact me and I’ll answer you as quickly as I can!