- Explore ornate palaces & medieval piazzas
- Tour the romantic city of Verona and see Juliet’s balcony
- Visit magnificent castles and villas on Lake Garda
- Admire Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs, & the Doge's Palace in Venice
- Sample regional wines in the famous Valpolicella wine region
|Day 1||Arrive in Venice||Venice|
|Day 2||Venice Walking Tour||Venice|
|Day 3||Self Guided Visit to Murano, Torcello, & Burano Islands||Venice|
|Day 4||Venice to Verona, Guided Tour||Verona|
|Day 5||Wine Tour from Verona||Verona|
|Day 6||Cooking Class in Verona||Verona|
|Day 7||Verona to Lake Garda||Sirmione|
|Day 8||Guided Tour of Lake Garda||Sirmione|
|Day 9||Free Day in Sirmione||Sirmione|
|Day 10||Goodbye Italy|
Day 1: Arrive in Venice
Welcome to Italy! Arrive in Venice Airport, then transfer to the city center to your hotel. Settle in and spend the rest of the afternoon exploring the city on your own.
Venice in northern Italy is famous for both industry and tourism. With nicknames like "Queen of the Adriatic", "City of Water", and "The Floating City", it's clear that the city's myriad canals are its main draw. Stretching across 117 small islands in the marshy Venetian Lagoon along the Adriatic Sea, the city has long been a commercial and cultural hub thanks to its strategic placement. Silk, grains, spices, and art were traded through the Middle Ages, making Venice very wealthy.
The city is also famous for its many beautiful historic attractions, such as the Piazza San Marco and San Marco Basilica, the Grand Canal, and the ornate Doge's Palace. The Lido de Venezia is a popular luxury destination that attracts actors, critics, and other cinema industry celebrities.
In the evening, head to the Cannaregio District, site of the former Jewish Ghetto. The area is filled with great restaurants, bars, & shops offering kosher Venetian specialties, a Jewish museum, and several tourist-friendly synagogues. Eat and drink your way through regional specialties as you celebrate your first night in Italy. Buon appetito!
Day 2: Venice Walking Tour
Experience Venice's highlights with a guided walking tour. Start at Piazza San Marco (St. Mark's Square), the heart of the city's cultural and administrative district. There, see Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace), a Venetian Gothic palace built as the primary residence for the Doge of Venice in 1340. The palace stands on the Piazza San Marco, but don't just view it from the outside- its resplendent interior decor and priceless works of art make it a must-see for history and architecture buffs.
Adjacent to the palace is the San Marco's Basilica, originally the Doge's personal chapel. The building is one of the best surviving examples of Italo-Byzantine architecture and features a stunning collection of Byzantine art, gold mosaics, and exquisite marble floors. Your tour includes a visit inside, where you'll be able to see for yourself the incredible art and architecture it holds.
Away from Saint Mark's Square, you'll delve deeper into the heart of Venice and away from the crowds. You'll be guided through the maze of streets and canals that makes Venice so unique. Hear fascinating stories and admire the incredible views over the Grand Canal. Feel free to ask your guide for a dinner recommendation before your tour's end!
After the morning's tour, grab lunch at one of the city's many cafes before spending the afternoon exploring.
- Tour the 18th-century Chiesa di Santa Maria Assunta (also known as I Gesuiti) in the Cannaregio district and the baroque 17th-century Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute, Venice's second-most renowned church.
- Ride the elevator to the top of the Campanile di San Marco for a bird’s-eye view of Venice.
- Dive into history at the Correr Civic Museum to see art and artifact displays from Venice's history as well as the former royals' quarters.
- Go shopping at the famous Rialto fish market, located at the heart of Venice. The smell of seafood and sound of vendors vying for shoppers' attention make this colorful and hectic market a must-see for any Venice traveler.
Day 3: Self Guided Visit to Murano, Torcello, & Burano Islands
When in Venice, a visit to its lagoon and neighboring islands is a must! These picturesque villages offer a getaway from the city of Venice and a unique look into local life and culture. Take the day to visit the islands of Murano, Torcello, and Burano on your own.
Allow yourself a full day to explore all three islands and really make the most of your visit. If you're pressed for time, we recommend taking a half-day trip and just visiting one. To get to the islands, you'll use Venice's vaporetto, the public water bus system, to reach each island. Purchase a tourist transport card at any of the stations and be sure to validate it before getting on board. Take the number 12 line from Venice's Fondamente Nove station, which makes stops at the various islands, including Murano, Torcello, and Burano.
Recommended schedule & tips
The island of Murano is the closest to Venice, just about 10 minutes by boat, and is most well known for its glass making. Give yourself an hour or two to stroll around and peruse its many local shops. Go to its Glass Museum to learn and see for yourself the colorful and delicate craft in its many forms. Murano has the most shopping opportunities of the islands, as well as a few historic churches to visit, making it a great first stop and a good place to pick up souvenirs.
When you get hungry, we recommend trying Osteria La Perla Ai Bisatei, a local spot on Murano known for its fresh seafood. Or, if you're just in the mood for a mid-morning pick me up, you can't go wrong with a scoop of your favorite flavor at Murano Gelateria.
On the ferry line between Murano and Burano, Torcello is sometimes passed over. However, if you have the time, it's well worth a quick stop. You won't need more than an hour, as this tiny village's main attraction is its Cathedral in the main square, but the island itself has an entirely different feel to its neighbors. Rather than canals and bridges, Torcello has open fields and winding streets to explore, offering a delightful contrast to the rest of the day's visits.
Burano is arguably the most notable island of the three, and also the furthest away from Venice, about 45 minutes by boat. Give yourself a couple of hours to explore and enjoy a local lunch before heading back to Venice. Traditionally a quiet fisherman's village, it's known for its exquisite lacemaking and the colorful houses that adorn its canals. You'll be sure to leave with a camera roll full of photos, as this uniquely colorful village is incredibly postcard-worthy. To get a closer look at Burano's lacemaking, visit local artisan shops as well as the Lace Museum located inside the Scuola di Merletti (closed Tuesdays).
After exploring, take advantage of Burano's culinary reputation with a late lunch - it is said to have some of the best seafood in Venice. A beloved spot for great fish is Al Gatto Nero Da Ruggero, where you'll find affordably-priced, delicious, and fresh cuisine. Or, head to Trattoria da Romano to try the famed seafood risotto recommended by the likes of Anthony Bourdain.
Don't forget to stop at Panificio Pasticceria Garbo before leaving. This local pastry shop offers delicious baked goods ready to take home, or just to snack on during the boat ride back to Venice. For dinner head to the Rialto area and enjoy dinner at a restaurant on a side street off the Grand Canal.
Day 4: Venice to Verona, Guided Tour
Staying within the Veneto region, make your way west to the city of Verona, the setting of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Traveling by train is easy and will take no longer than 90 minutes. After checking in to your hotel, enjoy learning about the romantic city of Verona on a 2-hour tour with a local guide. You'll see for yourself why this city is now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and get to know firsthand the culture, history and archaeology underpinning these charming streets.
Your walking tour will start with one of Verona's most notable landmarks, the Arena in the Bra Square. Still used today, this ancient Roman amphitheater is one of the best-preserved of its kind. From there, wander through the cobblestone streets and arrive at the central Piazza Bra, the largest square in the city and the perfect spot to learn more about Verona's ancient economic and political life. alongside the quaint market Piazza delle Erbe.
Nearby, you'll visit the Casa di Giulietta featuring Juliet's balcony, said to have inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. Continuing, you'll learn more about why Verona holds such an important place in Northern Italy's medieval history and visit the former political center Piazza dei Signori.
Crisscross your way through side streets and back alleys as your guide points out the best local cuisine and traditional food, and make your list of places to try. Make your way to the River Adige, where you'll be able to admire a beautiful view of the Ponte Pietra, the Roman Theatre, and the Archeological Museum.
After your tour, take the rest of the day to explore on your own. Spend some time seeing inside the Roman Theater and Archaeological Museum. Admire the impressive archaeological feats before heading over to the Castle Vecchio. First, cross the Castelvecchio Bridge, constructed in the 1350s. You'll travel back in time as you walk over its red brick and take in the incredible scenery of the Adige river from this ideal vantage point. As you reach the other side, you can visit the Castelvecchio Museum. This small castle, built for military purposes, is a lovely example of Gothic architecture.
Head back to Piazza Bra in the evening where restaurants and bars are buzzing with locals and visitors alike. Grab an aperitivo before tucking into your meal.
Day 5: Wine Tour from Verona
After a relaxed breakfast, head out for a delightful half-day wine tour in the vineyards of the Valpolicella region, surpassed only by Chianti and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in terms of red wine production. The name, which comes from a mix of ancient Latin and Greek, translates to "valley of many cellars."
This sprawling district in the Veneto region sits between the Alps foothills and the surrounding valleys of the Lessini Mountains. Valpolicella's rich, alluvial soils cultivate some of the world's best-quality grapevines, which produce four styles of revered red wines: dry, classic Amarone, spicy cherry Valpolicella Ripasso, sweet Recioto, and lively, accessible Valpolicella. With such a wide range of flavors, there's a wine for every palate.
You'll stop at two local wineries to learn about the production process and to tour the cellars, seeing how wine barrels are stored for aging. You'll have a couple of tastings to discover the different flavors and compare and contrast before heading back to Verona.
In the afternoon, explore the city of Verona on your own. Head to the Giusti Garden in the east of the city, located just behind the Giusti Palace. Stroll through the maze of lawns, manicured hedges, and Greek statues that adorn its walkways and appreciate the Renaissance style. For dinner check out the Old Town area and find a cozy restaurant to spend your evening in.
Day 6: Cooking Class in Verona
A trip to Italy wouldn't be complete without learning to make at least one homemade pasta dish. Today, be prepared to immerse yourself in Italian cuisine. You'll be in safe hands with a professional chef teaching you the secrets of traditional Italian cooking and authentic pasta making in Verona.
Discover how to make fresh pasta and risotto in this 3.5-hour practical cooking class. You'll be cooking in a unique location in Verona and have the chance to get to know others during the small group experience. You'll learn step-by-step how to make fresh pasta, and master the skills that go into creating a perfect risotto.
Once you've created your traditional dishes, your group will sit down to enjoy lunch together, guaranteed to be delicious. To accompany the food, you will taste Valpolicella wine and round it off with the most famous of Italian desserts, tiramisu.
Later in the afternoon, you're free to relax as you'd like. We'd suggest finding a cozy coffee bar where you can enjoy a café, or taking the recently reopened cable car, Funicolare di Castel San Pietro. Head to the Ponte Pietro, the historic arch bridge facing the San Giorgio in Braida Church, and from there ride on the cable car or venture up the stairs nearby to the Piazzale Castel San Pietro. There, you'll find a stunning view of Verona and a perfect place to watch the sun go down. This centuries-old fortress perched on a hilltop is an impressive architectural wonder in and of itself, but the view it gives of the city below is what makes it so special.
Admire the church towers, river, and city skyline below before making your way back to the city center. Walk downhill and across the Ponte Pietro bridge to dinner in the old part of Verona.
Day 7: Verona to Lake Garda
Today, you'll leave the city behind and journey to Lake Garda, where spectacular natural beauty meets charming Italian villages. From Verona, it takes one hour to reach Sirmione by train and taxi, or a direct bus. Lake Garda is the biggest lake in the region, and you'll have time to discover what makes it so special. The northern villages of Bardolino, Riva, Malcesine, Gardone, and Limone are smaller and have a more romantic mountain village feeling. The southern towns of Sirmione and Desenzano are somewhat bigger, with a vibrant nightlife, trendy bars and restaurants, and plentiful accommodation options.
You will stay in the town of Sirmione, which sits on a narrow peninsula on the south end of the lake. The town is known for its famous healing waters and its many historical sites, including the striking 13th-century Rocca Scaligera. This fortress is one of Italy's best-preserved medieval castles and features a restored stone harbor.
Sirmione is also famous for its ancient Roman villa, the Catullo Grottoes, which dates back to the 1st century BCE. The villa is situated on the northernmost tip of Sirmione's peninsula and commands unparalleled views of the lake. Today, visitors can tour the grounds and ruins of the grand villa to see how ancient Rome's rich and powerful citizens lived and built their homes.
After checking in to your hotel, head out to explore Sirmione on foot. Have a peaceful walk around Sirmione Park for great views from the peninsula. Then grab a gelato and go for a leisurely stroll along Sirmione's beautiful promenade. Relax on a bench and watch boats go by as the evening draws near. Head to one of the town's many excellent restaurants for a dinner featuring fresh-caught fish from the lake. A great spot to find authentic food is Sirmione's main square, Piazza Carducci.
Day 8: Guided Tour of Lake Garda
After breakfast, you'll meet your guide in the center of Sirmione for a half-day tour of Lake Garda on land and water. Sirmione and neighboring Desenzano del Garda are somewhat larger than other villages around the lake, with vibrant bars and restaurants, and they are also steeped in history. Your guide will take you on a tour of these two villages on Lake Garda, hopping between them using the lake's ferry service. If you'd like to visit other villages with your guide, that can also be arranged in advance. During your tour, admire how the landscape changes around the lake, noting that the south is much flatter and less mountainous than the north, but also beautiful.
As you are based in Sirmione, you'll notice that the village juts into the lake on a long peninsula, making its location and views unique. The village itself is very pretty, with colored houses and cobbled streets waiting to charm you. Meet your guide in the center and visit the two main sites: the Grotto of Catullus and Scaliger Castle. The grotto was actually a large Roman mansion built for the poet Catullus. It was very common for patrician families to construct their villas around the lakes, inspired by the tranquility of the water and views of the mountains. The 14th century Scaliger Castle overlooks Sirmione and Lake Garda. For an unrivaled view across the lake, you can climb to the top of the castle up narrow stairs.
Take a short and scenic ferry ride with your guide to Desenzano. Explore the lakefront, old port, and winding streets of Desenzano, and learn about ancient history when visiting the castle and Roman Villa. If you're interested in delving even further back in time, there is also the Bronze and Stone Age Museum in Desenzano (the G Rambotti Museo Archeologico). Wander through the center and check out the variety of shops, ranging from high-end designers to smaller boutiques, and if you are here on a Tuesday, don't miss out on the market!
Towards the end of the day, enjoy some leisurely free time to explore at your own pace. We suggest hopping over to Peschiera del Garda, where you can pick from the following activities:
- Visit Roman archeological sites, the Palazzina Storica Museo, and the Sanctuary of Madonna del Frassino
- Hike to see the Waterfall of Varone, and after enjoy wine at Cantina Zeni and the Museum of Wine, set inside the Zeni Winery overlooking Lake Garda
- Enjoy nature in Peschiera at the Hruska Botanical Garden where you can find species from every part of the world, from the Himalayas to Africa
- Shop for, and sample, local food and wine. Producers sell sweet and savory treats, including tortellini, formaggella di tremosine (a soft cheese), honey, and sbrisolona (a delicious crumble cake). Vineyards surround Lake Garda, producing Bardolino wine, Grappa, and Limoncello.
We'd recommend finding a great spot for dinner in your favorite town. Fish is a specialty here- try delicious fresh trout, fish risotto, or alborelle pasta.
Day 9: Free Day in Sirmione
Sirmione juts into the lake on a long peninsula, making its location significant and views unique. Sirmione is a very pretty town, with colored houses and cobbled streets waiting to charm you.
Spend your day exploring Sirmione and the other villages of Lake Garda. We recommend buying a full day ticket for the ferry and making the most of your time with some of the following activities:
- Visit the most northern town on the lake, Riva del Garda. Make a full day of it and head out early as the ferry takes 2.5 hours from Sirmione. Tip: The hydrofoil ferry is faster and runs less frequently so it is advisable to plan your day accordingly.
- Take the ferry to Malcesine, a small town on the eastern shore of Lake Garda. Sitting between the mountains and deep blue waters, it is truly stunning. As with most lakeside towns, there is a castle, Castello Scaligero, and palace, Palazzo dei Capitani. They are both worth a visit if you are interested in architecture and history.
- Ride the cable car from Malcesine to Monte Baldo for panoramic views across the lake. Once at the top you can go for a walk along a trail or sit at one of the mountaintop restaurants to enjoy a drink and the view.
- Relax on Jamaica Beach or Lido delle Bionde in Sirmione if the sun is shining, or soak in one of the area's thermal spas.
Back in Sirmione, enjoy a walk along the promenade with Italian gelato to round off the day.
Day 10: Goodbye Italy
Your journey in Italy will end after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination. Arrivederci!