Planning Your Trip to Italy
In one week, you'll be able to explore Italy's wonderful cultural cities, undoubtedly a highlight of any trip to the country. Florence, Rome, and Venice attract the bulk of tourists, and justifiably so—they harbor some of the world's most impressive architecture and works of art.
Two weeks will give you more time to explore what Italy offers beyond the usual tourist destinations. You'll be able to travel along the stunning Amalfi Coast or Cinque Terre, where colorful villages cling to the cliffside. You should also spare a few days for the Italian Lakes, which offer some of Europe's most enchanting scenery.
However, to experience Italy at its best, you'll need to factor in three or four weeks. That way, you'll have enough time to discover a large part of the peninsula and one (or perhaps both!) of its major islands, Sardinia and Sicily. Read through the below itineraries, from one to four weeks, and see what appeals most to you.
Learn more about Italy's regions in this comprehensive guide.
Italy in 1 Week
A week gives you just enough time to catch a glimpse of Italy's wealth of cultural artifacts. Rome, the capital, harbors some of the world's most impressive Roman ruins, not least the Colosseum, the Forum, and the Palatine—but don't run around trying to see them all. If you have limited time, pick out the sights you're most keen to visit and take your time exploring. Even just strolling around Rome is a wonder in itself, the city's web of streets harboring spectacular ruins around virtually every corner.
From Rome, catch a train north to Florence, the home of the Italian Renaissance. Climbing Brunelleschi's dome is undoubtedly a highlight, and don't miss the Uffizi, one of the country's most important art galleries. It holds a priceless collection of Renaissance works, including Leonardo da Vinci's Annunciation and Sandro Botticelli's "Birth of Venus."
End your trip in beautiful Venice, one of the world's most romantic cities. Though take note: Once a powerful maritime state, Venice today attracts hordes of tourists. It can get unbearable in the high season when gondolas collide along narrow canals, and throngs of tourists swarm around the major sights—try and visit in winter for a more authentic experience (this article features plenty of tips on the best time to visit Italy).
Among the unmissable sights are Piazza San Marco and the wonderful Palazzo Ducale, the former home of the doge and Venice's governing councils. Each of the city's six historic sestrieri (districts) deserves exploring. Venice is at its more enjoyable when you stroll away from the crowds and get lost in the city's back alleys, coming across hidden little corners that burst with charm. See more details in this itinerary, including Venice, Florence, and Rome in seven days.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Italy in 10 Days
A 10-day trip can include the highlights of the week-long itinerary above, plus exploration of Italy's coastline. When you're finished exploring the cities, head to the Amalfi Coast, a beautiful stretch of coastline south of Naples, where secluded beaches sit below towering cliffs that seemingly drop into the sea. Drive its spectacular corniche road, stopping off to explore quaint fishing villages. Beautiful little Amalfi is a pretty place to wander around, while Ravello, with a gorgeous location perched on a mountainside, offers unforgettable views of the coast.
Alternatively, visit the island of Capri that lies offshore. Today it's one of Italy's ritziest destinations, dotted with expensive hotels and smart boutiques. The island is gorgeous, with whitewashed houses and spectacular stretches of crystal-clear waters that are best explored by boat. Trek up to Villa Jovis, Tiberius's former villa that sits high up on a cliff on the eastern edge of the island. Little remains of the villa, although you are really here for the spectacular panoramic views of the Sorrentine peninsula.
Italy in 2 Weeks
With two weeks, you can really get a sense of Italy's diversity. After visiting the country's most important cities of art—Rome, Florence, and Venice—plus the highlights of the Sorrentine Peninsula in the 10-day itinerary, you can then add a visit to the Italian Lakes.
Spreading across four of Italy's regions, Italy's lakes deserve a few days of exploration. George Clooney, a long-time Lake Como resident, has firmly set the lake on tourists' itineraries. Fringed by the snowy Alps to the north, Lake Como's shoreline is dotted with grand historical villas with manicured gardens tumbling to the shore. Don't miss beautiful Bellagio, one of Italy's most charming towns, and romantic Varenna, one of the lake's prettiest destinations, with cobbled narrow streets and pretty lakefront gardens.
If you're seeking an equally charming destination without the crowds, head to little Lake Orta, a beautiful slither of water that is home to one of the Italian Lakes' most appealing towns: the medieval village of Orta San Giulio. Outdoor enthusiasts should check out Lake Garda, which offers superb waterborne activities like windsurfing, sailing, and kitesurfing, along with rock climbing, mountain biking, and hiking.
Lake Maggiore, the country's second-largest lake, is a sedate destination offering a more relaxed pace of life. Don't miss the Borromean Islands, home to grand villas and spectacular gardens where white peacocks roam around freely. Little Lake Iseo is an equally tranquil destination, attracting keen bikers and hikers.
If you prefer the sea, head to Cinque Terre, where five picture-postcard villages cling onto a rugged stretch of Liguria's coastline. Squeezed among coves between cliffs, the villages are not too far apart and are best explored on foot, allowing you to soak in the panoramic views of the coastline. It gets exceptionally busy in summer—try and visit outside the June-mid-September period if you can, when temperatures are cooler, making it more pleasant to hike in the area.
Consider this 14-day highlight tour that includes everything from a Vespa ride in Tuscany to the floating island of Venice.
Italy in 3 Weeks or More
Three weeks gives you enough time to explore Italy's two large islands, Sicily and Sardinia, in addition to the above-mentioned itineraries. Palermo, Sicily's capital, feels a world apart from the rest of the country, a bustling scruffy city where medieval alleyways harbor wonderful Baroque churches and Norman architecture. Across the island, temples, theatres, and churches are a legacy of the island's foreign rulers—Greeks, Phoenicians, Romans, Arabs, Norman, and Spanish are just some of those who settled here.
Watching an open-air performance at the Greek Theatre of Syracuse is a highlight of any trip, while the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento harbors wonderfully preserved Doric temples. Avid hikers will probably want to squeeze in Mount Etna, the island's graceful volcano that can regularly be seen spewing lava. Check out this piece detailing a 14-day self-drive tour around the island.
North of Sicily lies Sardinia, a popular summer destination among Italians. Its beaches are some of the most beautiful in the country, with secluded coves, powdery white-sand beaches, and crystal-clear waters. If you're here in February or March, don't miss the three-day equestrian Sa Sartiglia festival, which takes place in the quiet village of Oristano on the last Sunday before Lent, ending on Shrove Tuesday. Masked participants don traditional costumes, and mounted contestants ride through the streets in a thrilling spectacle.
This longer itinerary will also give you time to explore more of Italy's hugely diverse regions. While in Campania, don't miss a visit to Pompeii, which was destroyed in 79 CE when Vesuvius erupted, today offering a glimpse into Roman daily life. Spare a few hours for Matera, an enchanting troglodyte settlement in neighboring Basilicata where up to a few decades ago, its inhabitants still lived in caves. Oenophiles and foodies might want to visit Piedmont's Langhe, the home of Barolo and Barbaresco wines, where the annual White Truffle Fair allows visitors to sample what is one of the world's most prized delicacies.
The vineyard landscapes of Tuscany are enchanting, home to celebrated wineries and gorgeous hill towns peppered around the countryside. In neighboring Emilia-Romagna, the university town of Bologna and nearby Parma are both unmissable foodie centers, offering some of the country's richest cuisine.
Fashion and design lovers should leave time for Milan, Italy's most cosmopolitan city with a decidedly international outlook. From the Lombard capital, it's a short one-hour train journey west to splendid Turin, home to magnificent Royal Palaces that were once residences and hunting lodges of the Royal House of Savoy. In winter, the city serves as the jumping-off point for the many ski resorts of Piedmont and neighboring Valle d'Aosta.
More Great Italy Itineraries
Looking for more inspiration for your trip to Italy? Check out these other Italy itineraries, with outdoor adventures, cultural trips, and best-of tours to hit the highlights.