This 12-day trip perfectly combines the cultural and historic aspects of Italy's most notable cities with laidback relaxation on the Mediterranean sea. Admire the stunning Duomo in Florence and sip wine amongst the hills of Chianti before heading to the Cinque Terre coast to sail along the turquoise waters. Travel back in time in Rome's Colosseum and Vatican City, before finishing off your adventure strolling along the sunny streets of the Amalfi Coast villages. 

Highlights

  • Tour Florence's beautiful medieval piazzas & cathedrals
  • Discover the rugged nature and medieval villages of the Cinque Terre
  • Soak in the tradition and culture as you see Rome's top cultural sites
  • Spend time enjoying sunshine, fresh seafood, and medieval villages on the Amalfi Coast
  • Escape to the island of Capri, playground for ancient Romans

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Rome, Travel to Florence Florence
Day 2 Florence Self-Guided City Tour Florence
Day 3 Tuscany Day Trip: Siena & San Gimignano Florence
Day 4 From Florence to Cinque Terre Cinque Terre
Day 5 Sunset Cruise on the Cinque Terre Coast Cinque Terre
Day 6 From Cinque Terre to Rome Rome
Day 7 Visit the Colosseum & Roman Forum Rome
Day 8 Self-Guided Vatican City Visit Rome
Day 9 Rome to the Amalfi Coast - Pompeii en Route Amalfi Coast
Day 10 Capri Day Trip Amalfi Coast
Day 11 Free Day on the Amalfi Coast Amalfi Coast
Day 12 Depart Naples  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Rome, Travel to Florence

Florence Duomo
Florence Duomo

Welcome to Italy! Arrive in one of Rome's two international airports, then transfer to the train station for a 1.5-hour ride on the high-speed train en route to Florence. Once in the city, transfer to the city center to check in to your hotel. If there's time after you arrive, head out to explore the city on your own. 

Florence is home to many masterpieces of Renaissance art and architecture, including the iconic Duomo, a terracotta-tiled dome, and the Galleria dell'Accademia, which displays Michelangelo's 'David' sculpture. Make the most of this first day at some of these spots:

  • Head to Studio Artemisia, located steps away from the Ponte Vecchio, for a class in ancient fresco painting techniques.
  • Take a walk through the peaceful Boboli Gardens to see the oval-shaped Isolotto, a small island surrounded by various sculptures and lots of greenery. 

In the evening, stroll around the historic L-shaped Piazza della Signoria, located in front of the Palazzo Vecchio, for some people watching, dinner, and drinks in the hip Sant'Ambrogio neighborhood.

Day 2: Florence Self-Guided City Tour

Piazza della Signoria, a UNESCO site
Piazza della Signoria, a UNESCO site

Spend the day strolling the streets of Florence and exploring this incredible city with a self-guided itinerary. All together, the route is just a couple of miles, but if you take your time to enjoy the sites along the way, you'll find it to be a full-day experience.

Start your day at the iconic Duomo, the earlier the better! Also known as the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, Florence’s Duomo is the third-largest church in the world. Entrance into the main sanctuary is free, but keep in mind there is a modesty dress code. There is often a line to get in, so give yourself an hour to properly visit this iconic spot. 

From there, make the 5-minute walk over to the Mercato Centrale, on the second floor of the San Lorenzo market. There, you'll be able to stroll through the stalls of local goods and grab a morning coffee to start your day.  Give yourself an hour or two to soak in the sights and smells, and to buy some traditional leather goods as souvenirs. After, the nearby Piazza della Republica is the perfect place to soak in the atmosphere and architecture of Florence's city center. 

Take a moment to pass through the Piazza della Signoria, where replicas of famous statues, including that of Michelangelo's David, line the square. These works of art give the piazza an incomparable air of elegance- soak it in before stopping for lunch nearby.

Across this same piazza, you'll find the entrance to the Uffizi Gallery. Even if you decide not to peruse the expansive art collection, you can cross through its famed courtyard, Piazzale degli Uffizi, to make your way to the Ponte Vecchio. This famed bridge is now dotted with jewelry shops and is an iconic sight in Florence's cityscape. Cross the bridge, stopping to admire the views along the Arno River that passes quietly underneath. 

End your day with a visit to Piazzale Michelangelo. It's a bit of an uphill climb or a quick taxi ride away. This spectacular viewpoint offers an incredible view of all of Florence and is the perfect place to watch the sunset before you head over to Piazza Santo Spirito for some pre-dinner aperitivos. 

Day 3: Tuscany Day Trip: Siena & San Gimignano

Cathedral and Historic Center of Siena
Cathedral and Historic Center of Siena

In the morning, you'll head to the countryside to explore Tuscany. Your first stop will be the medieval village of San Gimignano, a UNESCO World Heritage Site an hour away from Florence. San Gimignano is known for its unique towers that dominate the village skyline. In the Middle Ages, noble families built these as a refuge when battling neighboring villages. While most of these across Tuscany were torn down when the villages came under Florentine control, San Gimignano's were left standing. Explore the beautiful squares, palaces, and churches of the city before taking a break with a coffee in a terraced cafe. 

In the afternoon, you'll visit nearby Siena, a medieval city brimming with historic sites. You can't miss the incredible main square, Piazza del Campo, which is surrounded by the Gothic Pubblico Palace, the Tower of Mangia, and the Gaia Fountain. From here, walk over to the 13th-century cathedral, Duomo di Siena, which dominates the skyline of the city. In summer months, the town comes alive with festivities, as the Palio takes place in July and August. This exciting horse race, held twice a year in the main square of Siena, ignites the town in a fervor. 

Finish the day with a visit to the medieval fortress town of Monteriggioni. The intact castle walls surround this town perched on a hillside, and are a sight to behold. Continue on to the Chianti Classico wine region to visit a typical Tuscan winery before returning to Florence for the evening.

Day 4: From Florence to Cinque Terre

Today, you'll leave Florence behind and travel to Cinque Terre. Upon arrival, check into your hotel and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring your new surroundings. 

Cinque Terre is a rugged strip of the Liguria coastline made up of five old fishing villages—Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. The coast, villages, and surrounding hillsides are all part of the Cinque Terre National Park and are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The region is renowned for its beautiful natural surroundings and its abundance of Mediterranean plants, covering the scrubby hillsides that tumble down to the turquoise water. The historic villages and breathtaking beauty of the region make it a popular choice for travelers. The well-preserved towns prohibit vehicles so as not to destroy the traditional charm, and most travelers arrive by the train that runs along the coast or by tour boat. 

The area's coastline hiking trails are some of the world's best, linking the small villages together on a beautiful footpath. The path from Riomaggiore to Manarola is called the Via Dell'Amore (Italian for Lover's Walk) and its midpoint—The Lover's Lock, a statue of two people kissing—is a favorite place for couples to copy the gesture for a photo. Bring a small lock to attach to one of the gates or rails on the way to seal your eternal love.

In the evening, head over to Monterosso al Mare and pop into one of the village's several enotecas, local wine bars, to cheers your first night on the Cinque Terre coast with a glass of wine in hand.  

Day 5: Sunset Cruise on the Cinque Terre Coast

Take the morning to explore Cinque Terre on your own. Whether it's soaking in the sunshine on a beach, hiking through its breathtaking trails, or wandering around the colorful villages, you'll find plenty to be enchanted by in this unique area. 

We recommend some of these activities to make the most of your day: 

  • The Cinque Terre has no shortage of churches—visit a few of them, including the Santuario di Nostra Signora di Montenero in Riomaggiore and the Church of San Giovanni Battista in Corniglia.
  • Explore the 13th-century Castello Di Riomaggiore, which dominates the Cinque Terre coastline. Built to protect the town from seafaring pirates, the castle is now simply a throwback to a different time, as well as a great place for photographs. Head inside the castle to see the museum exhibit on centuries of town history.
  • Walk up to the Torre Aurora, a medieval castle that stands on the intersection of Monterosso's Old Town and New Town.
  • Pay a visit to Cantina 5 Terre winery in Riomaggiore, to learn about how ancient traditions mix with modern-day production techniques to produce a unique and flavorful wine. Sample the wines, especially the local white, and enjoy a relaxing afternoon. 

In the evening, head out onto the water to enjoy a small group sunset boat tour. Sit back and admire the views of the charming Cinque Terre fishing villages on a 2.5-hour route from Vernazza. You'll pass by grottos tucked into cliffsides, and admire the villages of Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore from the sea. 

Go for a dip in the water off the deck of the boat and toast to your time on the Cinque Terre coast as you watch the sunset.

Day 6: From Cinque Terre to Rome

Pathway along the sea
Pathway along the sea

After a relaxing breakfast, it's time to say goodbye to the Cinque Terre coast and head to Rome. Head to the train station and make your way to Italy's capital, typically changing trains in Pisa and Florence. Your journey should be around 3 hours. Once arrived, head to your hotel to settle in and explore your new surroundings. 

According to legend, Rome was founded by brothers Romulus and Remus in 753 BCE atop Rome's Palatine Hill. The long-time center of the powerful Roman Empire, Rome boasts nearly 3,000 years of architecture, history, and culture. These days, Italy's capital is considered one of Europe's top cities thanks to its ancient monuments, incredible art masterpieces, and cosmopolitan vibe. Its a center for fashion as well, with a buzzing food culture and a growing nightlife scene. 

Be sure to visit the Mouth of Truth, Bocca della Verità, widely recognized from the film Roman Holiday. Movie buffs and visitors alike flock to this monument, as legend has it any liar that dares to stick their hand in the mouth of this giant marble mask will lose it. For dinner, head to the Trastevere neighborhood for some of the city's best trattorias.

Day 7: Visit the Colosseum & Roman Forum

The Roman Forum
The Roman Forum

Dive into the history of the Roman Empire with a walking tour of the Colosseum, the world's largest amphitheater. Learn about the lives of some of ancient Rome's most famous and illustrious citizens, such as Julius Caesar, Emperor Augustus, Nero, and the Flavian Emperors who built the Colosseum. 

Continue to the Roman Forum, where you'll see excavations dating back 2,000 years, revealing the ruins of temples, squares, religious sites, and other buildings. These were the venues for public speeches, processions, elections and, of course, gladiator matches. Historians and archaeologists refer to the Roman Forum as the most celebrated place in world history, and you'll see why as you admire its grounds.

Cut through the Roman Forum along Via Sacra, where you'll pass by the Temples of Vesta, Antonino, and Faustina. The Basilica Julia and Aemilia, a public meeting house that was commissioned by Julius Caesar, is also here.

Your tour of ancient Rome ends 131 feet (40 meters) above the city at Palatine Hill. From here you'll have incredible city views, with the Forum on one side, Circus Maximus on the other, and the Vatican in the distance. In between, the River Tiber snakes through Rome's historic neighborhoods.

In the evening, you'll have free time to continue exploring Rome. Grab dinner in one of the city's other neighborhoods, such as bohemian Monti, to tuck into a well-deserved meal. 

Day 8: Self-Guided Vatican City Visit

Take the day to visit the Vatican and St. Peter's Basilica on your own. Altogether, we recommend giving yourself 4-5 hours to see everything these famous sites have to offer.

You'll start your self-guided visit in the Vatican Museums. The Vatican is not only rich in history, but also in art, housing some of the most important Renaissance masterpieces in the world. You'll visit the Pio Clementio Museum, plus the Gallery of the Candelabra, the Gallery of Tapestries, and the Gallery of the Geographical Maps. These vast halls hold one of the world's largest art collections, so be sure to take your time, usually about 2-3 hours. 

Continue through the museums to the Raphael Rooms, where you can admire the frescoes before entering the incredible Sistine Chapel. The line here can be quite long, so give yourself an hour or so to line up, walk through, and visit at your pace. 

Only being part of a tour will allow you to go directly from the Sistine Chapel, at the end of your visit to the Vatican museums, into Saint Peter's Basilica. If you're not part of a tour, you'll be made to exit the Sistine Chapel outside, where you can line up again to enter St. Peter's Basilica. The wait time can vary, but allow yourself about 1-2 hours just in case, plus time to visit St. Peter's, the largest church in the world. 

Keep in mind that it's a one-way trip through the Vatican museums- take your time exploring at your own pace instead of rushing to the Sistine Chapel, as you won't be able to head back after.

Day 9: Rome to the Amalfi Coast - Pompeii en Route

Ancient street in Pompeii
Ancient street in Pompeii

In the morning, you'll leave Rome and head south to the Amalfi Coast. Take the train to Naples before heading by private transfer to your final destination of the Amalfi Coast, but before you arrive, you'll make an incredible stop. Visit the ruins of Pompeii, a bustling seaside city that was buried underneath 13-20 ft (4 to 6 m) of ash and volcanic debris after the 79 CE eruption of Mount Vesuvius. The ash, which killed many of the city's residents, acted as an archaeological time capsule by preserving many of the city's original buildings and features completely intact. 

The city was lost for 1,500 years following Mount Vesuvius' eruption before its accidental rediscovery in 1599. Items of all kinds from jars to furniture were frozen in time, and even those unfortunate citizens of the empire, unable to flee the oncoming ash, were perfectly preserved. A stroll through Pompeii's ancient streets will show off preserved villas, shops, public buildings, and plazas, giving you an insider's look into life 2,000 years ago.

After the excursion to Vesuvius, you'll continue on to the Amalfi Coast, where you'll check in to your hotel and settle in for the evening.

Day 10: Capri Day Trip

Busy port on Capri
Busy port on Capri

Spend the day enjoying the sunshine and clear blue waters of Capri Island. Known locally as the "Pearl of the Mediterranean," the ancient Greeks called it the "Isle of Sirens." Capri sits on the south side of the Gulf of Naples and has been a popular vacation destination for millennia. The ancient Romans, in fact, built summer villas here for the Empire's VIPs.

In the morning, you'll head out to catch a hydrofoil to Capri. Visit the Marina Grande and Marina Piccola harbors, walk along the Belvedere of Tragara (a villa-lined promenade with panoramic views), and explore the ruins of ancient Roman villas.

Then head up the hill to Anacapri to see the Piazzetta and Augustus' Garden, and enjoy the best views of the Faraglioni Rocks. Should you choose, you can later return to the water and explore the Grotta Azzurra, the famous "Blue Grotto," which is located inside a hollowed sea cave. Afterward, we recommend spending the remainder of the afternoon soaking in the sunshine on the beach, before taking the ferry back in the evening.

Day 11: Free Day on the Amalfi Coast

Enjoy your day on  the Amalfi Coast
Enjoy your day on the Amalfi Coast

Today, you are free to explore and enjoy the leisurely coastal pace of life. Go for a walk on the Lemon Path in the town of Minori, or try your hand at windsurfing or kayaking near the shores of Praiano. You can see artisanal ceramics manufacturers in the town of Vietri, or go for a half-day hike on the Path of the Gods. Of course, simply lazing on the beaches of Positano, Vettica Maggiore, and Centra is also an excellent option. 

Other suggestions include: 

  • Visit the beautiful Villa Cimbrone and Terrace of Infinity in Ravello.
  • Check out Praiano's nightlife at the Africana and Music on the Rocks nightclubs.
  • Rent a kayak and explore emerald green grottos, tiny hidden beaches, and impressive sea caves. 
  • Enjoy a quiet day in the serene town of Atrani, far away from the hustle and bustle of the larger villages. 
  • Explore the Fiordo di Furore, Italy's only fjord.
  • Visit the Cloister of San Francesco in Sorrento, an oasis of tranquility that's located steps away from the town's historic Sant'Antonino piazza. 
  • Enjoy nature in the Ferriere Valley Nature Reserve, famous for its postcard-perfect fishing villages and bucolic countryside crisscrossed with hiking trails.

For dinner head to a family-run restaurant for the best Italian pizza paired with a glass of the perfect local wine.

Day 12: Depart Naples

Sunrise over Naples
Sunrise over Naples

Time to say goodbye to Italy - for now! Transfer to the airport for your flight home. Safe travels!

Map

Map of Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, & Amalfi Coast - 12 Days
Map of Florence, Cinque Terre, Rome, & Amalfi Coast - 12 Days