- Explore the world-famous Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel
- Tour Florence's medieval piazzas, bridges, and cathedrals
- Join a cooking class and learn to prepare an authentic meal
- Explore Venice’s canals & grand palaces
- Tour the romantic city of Verona and see Juliet’s balcony
|Day 1||Arrive in Rome||Rome|
|Day 2||Self-Guided Visit of the Colosseum and Forum||Rome|
|Day 3||Early Morning Vatican Experience||Rome|
|Day 4||Rome Underground & Catacombs Tour||Rome|
|Day 5||From Rome to Florence||Florence|
|Day 6||Florence Self-Guided City Tour||Florence|
|Day 7||Tuscany Day Trip: Siena & San Gimignano||Florence|
|Day 8||Local Cooking Class in Florence||Florence|
|Day 9||Day Trip to Cinque Terre||Florence|
|Day 10||From Florence to Verona||Verona|
|Day 11||Guided Verona City Tour||Verona|
|Day 12||Wine Tour from Verona||Verona|
|Day 13||Dolomites Day Trip from Verona||Verona|
|Day 14||From Verona to Venice||Venice|
|Day 15||Self-Guided City Tour of Venice||Venice|
|Day 16||Murano & Burano Half Day Excursion||Venice|
|Day 17||Gondola Ride in Venice||Venice|
|Day 18||Depart Venice|
Day 1: Arrive in Rome
Welcome to Rome, known as the City of the Seven Hills! According to legend, Rome was founded by brothers Romulus and Remus in 753 BCE atop Palatine Hill. As the long-time center of the powerful Roman Empire, you'll find nearly 3,000 years of architecture, history, and culture throughout the city.
After arriving at one of Rome's airports, you'll transfer to your hotel in the historic center. Settle in and relax, then head out for a stroll and your first look at the Eternal City. The next few days will involve lots of sightseeing, so spend your first few hours enjoying some of the highlights. Suggested activities include:
- Visit the Catacombs of Priscilla, which were originally used from the 2nd to 5th centuries as burial grounds for the elite families of Rome. After the entrance was blocked for centuries to protect against grave robbers, the catacombs were rediscovered in the 16th century. Visitors can see the original structures as well as paintings and artifacts from various time periods.
- Stroll through the tangle of narrow streets in Centro Storico, one of Rome's most historic districts, to see classical Roman and baroque architecture.
- Stop to see the Colonna di Marco Aurelio, a Doric column with a spiral of relief sculptures. It was erected in the 2nd century C.E. to celebrate the victories of the emperor Marcus Aurelius.
- Head to the Colle Aventino, one of Rome's famous seven hills. Stroll through the Roseto Comunale, the rose garden which sits on the site of a former Jewish cemetery. Then continue to Parco Savello (Orange Tree Park), where you can find the famous keyhole that gives visitors a direct view of the Vatican. Grab a cappuccino and snack from one of the adjacent cafes.
- For an authentic market experience, stop by the Mercato dei Fiori, where locals shop for fresh vegetables, flowers, meats, and cheeses. Browse for authentic Italian pasta and other souvenirs, then take a break with coffee and a pastry at one of the many cafes surrounding the market.
For dinner, head to the Trastevere neighborhood for some of the city's best trattorias.
Day 2: Self-Guided Visit of the Colosseum and Forum
Dive into the history of the Roman Empire with a self-guided visit to the Colosseum, the world's largest amphitheater. Walking through the ancient amphitheater is like taking a trip back in time to the days of the Roman Empire. Learn about some of ancient Rome's most famous and illustrious citizens, such as Julius Caesar, Emperors Augustus and Nero, and the Flavian Emperors who built the Colosseum.
As you approach the Colosseum, you will see the Outer Wall with 3 levels of arches. Near the Colosseum, stands the Arch of Constantine which was constructed to honor Emperor Constantine’s victory in the battle of Milvian Bridge in 312 AD. The Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Palatine Hill are all located very close to each other in the same archaeological area.
Best to start early in the morning! Give yourself 2-3 hours to visit the Colosseum- with a little extra time to go through security- and around 1 -2 hours to explore the Roman Forum & Palatine Hill.
While many rush to visit the Colosseum first, the Palatine Hill is typically the least crowded of these three sites and offers an entrance with shorter lines. As it's not the typical order to visit- it might a good idea then to start your visit bright and early here. As you walk through Palatine Hill, make your way to the directly connected and incredible Roman Forum. Your entrance ticket serves for all three sites, so after making your way through the Roman Forum to see the impressive monuments, the exit will lead you right next to the entrance of the Colosseum.
After all this exploring, venture to the nearby Monti neighborhood- less than a 10-minute walk- to tuck into a well-deserved meal.
Day 3: Early Morning Vatican Experience
Today you will visit the Vatican City museums and Sistine Chapel, as well as other top sights in a 3-hour guided tour of the city's incredible art and history. The tour will start early at the Vatican, entering the Museums at 8 am and giving you a one-hour head start on the rest of the crowds. See the Pio Clementio Museum, Gallery of the Candelabra, Gallery of Tapestries, and Gallery of the Geographical Maps.
Continue on to the magnificent Raphael Rooms, ending in the breathtaking Sistine Chapel to see Michelangelo's Genesis ceiling frescoes and his Last Judgement altar fresco. Finally end the tour at St. Peter's Basilica and Square and experience the magic of Renaissance art as you learn about the secret details and untold stories of the masterpieces.
The rest of the day is free for you to explore on your own. The rest of the day is free for you to explore on your own. Stroll through the Centro Storico, the historic center, of Rome wander past iconic monuments and architecture such as the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Head over to Piazza Navona and admire the Fountain of the Four Rivers, designed by the iconic Italian sculptor, Bernini. Finish your evening with a stroll through the piazza, stopping for some pizza, gelato, and people-watching.
Day 4: Rome Underground & Catacombs Tour
Head underground today to explore the hidden world beneath your feet. Meet your guide, then descend to the shadowy tunnels of the 2nd-century Roman Catacombs, a former refuge for early Christians who sought a safe site to practice their forbidden faith and honor the dead.
After, cross the neighborhood to see the Basilica San Clemente, a 14th-century church whose resident cleric was nearly driven mad by the mysterious sound of running water. On this tour, the guide will point out the sites of the 5th-century church, the 4th-century temple, and the 1st-century street and aqueduct located underneath the basilica.
In the afternoon, continue exploring on your own with one of these suggested activities:
- Visit the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant'Angelo history museum.
- Tour the Renaissance Villa Farnesina in the Trastevere district.
- Head out of the city for a day at the Ostia beach for miles of sand and warm sea.
- Visit the historic and fascinating neighborhood of Testaccio to see the giant Monte Testaccio, an ancient pile of discarded olive oil jars from the 2nd century CE.
Day 5: From Rome to Florence
Take the morning to say your goodbyes to Rome and head to the city of Florence.
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 your time at some of these spots:
- Head to Studio Artemisia, located steps away from the Ponte Vecchio for a class in ancient fresco painting techniques
- Visit the Mercato Centrale, a 19th-century open-air market, to browse for a wide selection of vegetables, fruits, meats and cheeses, and a variety of lunch spots
- 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 followed by dinner and drinks in the hip Sant'Ambrogio neighborhood.
Day 6: Florence Self-Guided City Tour
Spend the day strolling the streets of Florence and exploring this incredible city with this suggested self-guided route. All together, the route is just a couple of miles, but take your time to enjoy the sites along the way for 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 a modest dress code. As there is often a line to get in, 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, where 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 of Florence's city center and the incredible architecture that embodies it.
Take a moment to pass through Piazza della Signoria, where replicas of famous statues, including that of Michelangelo's David, line the square and give it an incomparable air of elegance before stopping for lunch nearby.
Across this same piazza, you'll find the entrance to the Uffizi museum. Even if you decide not to make a stop to peruse the expansive art collection, you can cross through its 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 the Florence cityscape. Cross the bridge, stopping to admire the views along the Arno River that passes 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.
Chat with a local specialist who can help organize your trip.
Day 7: Tuscany Day Trip: Siena & San Gimignano
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 located an hour away from Florence. 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 horserace 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 8: Local Cooking Class in Florence
Enjoy a leisurely morning in Florence, with breakfast at your hotel and a few slow strolls through the historic center. Popular highlights include the sprawling 15th-century Pitti Palace and the world-famous Uffizi Gallery, which houses works by artists like Michelangelo and Leonardo de Vinci.
In the afternoon, you'll meet your host near the center of Florence for a traditional Italian cooking class. They'll welcome you with a glass of prosecco. Enjoy the venue as you begin the experience with an appetizer of Italian cheeses and other local products.
Next you'll roll up your sleeves and learn to cook regional Italian pasta from recipes passed down through generations. Your hands-on Italian cooking class will last about three hours. You'll learn to cook four dishes from scratch, including a side or dessert. Observe the chef's different tricks and techniques involved in cooking Italian family recipes. In the summer months, you might be able to use the small vegetable and herb garden in the courtyard where zucchini, tomatoes, and herbs are grown.
The best part of the class is at the end, where you'll enjoy your freshly-made dinner in a traditional Italian style, shared with your hosts.
Day 9: Day Trip to Cinque Terre
In the morning, depart for a full day on the Cinque Terre, a section of the Italian coast famous for its medieval villages, stunning cliffs, and beautiful hiking trails.
Start in Riomaggiore, one of the five villages that make up the historic Cinque Terre region. Walk along the beautiful Via dell' Amore (Lover's Pathway) to enjoy views of the coastline and sea. Unfortunately, due to landslides, part of this path is closed to the public. However, the views along the cliffs are still exhilaratingly beautiful and definitely worth the walk.
From here, continue to the town of Monterosso al Mare for some free time. The city's medieval center remains nearly perfectly preserved, with its ancient tower-houses and network of carrugi (narrow alleyways that lead from the sea to the cliffs above the town). Monterosso is also renowned for having the best gelato on the Cinque Terre (make sure to try some!) as well as breathtaking views of the sea.
From here, why not head up the coast to the town of Vernazza, a small resort town located at the mouth of a river and naturally protected from wild sea swells by a rocky promontory. This natural wave break protects the harbor, making it the only major docking point in the Cinque Terre. Enjoy lunch on your own time as you explore the local cuisine and savor regional delicacies.
After the day's sightseeing, follow your nose to the neighborhood bakery to sample the local Focaccia with pesto for a delicious snack you won't find anywhere else. Buon Appetito!
In the afternoon, transfer back to Florence.
Day 10: From Florence to Verona
From the birthplace of the Renaissance to the home of Shakespeare's infamous love story, today you'll leave Florence and make your way up the Italian peninsula to the city of Verona. Head to the train station and settle in for your journey, usually about 3 hours total with a stop in Bologna. When you arrive, make your way to your hotel to check in.
After you settle into your hotel, you'll have time to explore. Head to the Ponte Pietro, the historic arch bridge facing the San Giorgio in Braida Church, and from there venture up the stairs nearby to the Piazzale Castel San Pietro for 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.
Head to Piazza delle Erbe for dinner, relaxing with a glass of wine and enjoying your beautiful new surroundings.
Day 11: Guided Verona City Tour
Today, take a 2-hour guided tour of the romantic city of Verona 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 and history behind Verona. Apart from being the setting for the most famous Shakespearean love drama, Verona is rich in history and archaeological importance.
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 delve into the importance of the ancient economic and political life in the quaint market Piazza delle Erbe.
Nearby, you'll visit the house of Verona's famed lovers and see Juliet's balcony and the Casa di Giulietta, said to have inspired Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. However, Verona isn't only known for its romance. Continue your tour and 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 to add to 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 exploring 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 centuries ago 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 the Gothic architecture of the time.
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 12: Wine Tour from Verona
After a relaxed breakfast, head out for an experience in the vineyards of the Valpolicella region, which is surpassed only by Chianti and Montepulciano d’Abruzzo in terms of red wine production on this half-day wine tour. 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 surrounding valleys of the Lessini Mountains. Valpolicella's rich, alluvial soils cultivate some of the world's best-quality grapevines, which make up 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 Valpolicella wine for every palate.
You'll stop at two local wineries to learn all there is in the production process and tour the cellars and see how wine barrels are stored for wine aging. Here, you'll have a couple of tastings to finish off the day 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 its maze of lawns, pristinely kept hedges and Greek statues that adorn its walkways for a look at the beauty of Renaissance style.
Day 13: Dolomites Day Trip from Verona
Today, set out from the city of Verona to explore the nearby natural wonder of the Dolomite Mountains, which form part of the Southern Limestone Alps and extend from the River Adige to the Piave Valley. This full-day small-group tour takes you by car so you admire the views along the way.
Take a moment to breathe in the spectacular view over the Dolomites. After a few hours, you'll enter into the Val di Fassa, an expansive valley framed by this impressive mountain range. Enjoy the ride before arriving at Pass Pordoi, at an altitude of 7,345 feet. From here, you'll board a panoramic funicular that reaches more than 10,000 feet. This incredible ride offers breathtaking views of the Dolomites. From here, you'll have the chance to walk around, have lunch, and simply admire your incredible surroundings before heading back to Verona in the evening.
Day 14: From Verona to Venice
In the morning, it's time to leave Verona and make the one-hour journey to its well-known neighbor, Venice. Once arrived, check into your hotel and head out to explore the city.
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.
Venice is well known for several artistic movements, particularly from the Renaissance period. The city's many musicians, like Antonio Vivaldi and others, played important roles in the shaping of symphonic and operatic music. Numerous artists have called Venice home, and their work continues to draw visitors worldwide.
Take the evening to explore the Cannaregio district. This area of Venice, known for holding the Jewish Quarter is the perfect place to simply walk through admiring the unique, iconic architecture. Cannaregio has plenty of artisanal shops to explore and not to mention a plethora of delicious restaurants and lively bars to stop in for dinner and drinks.
Day 15: Self-Guided City Tour of Venice
We'd recommend starting at the center of it all in St. Mark's Square, or Piazza San Marco. Take a moment to breathe in the sights and sounds of this famed square before getting a deeper look inside the impressive buildings and architecture that surround it.
Admire the impressive Basilica San Marco from outside before venturing in. While admission is free, there is a skip-the-line fee that can be purchased online to avoid lining up in busy months. Be sure to wear appropriate clothing entering inside. Marvel at the incredible mosaics that adorn the inside of the building. If you're up for it, you can climb the campanile, the bell tower of the Basilica that offers incredible views! Here, we'd recommend buying tickets ahead of time online.
From here, turn your attention to Doge's Palace, also located in St. Mark's Square. This almost 600-year-old building has served many purposes over the course of time but always continued to remain an impressive symbol of Venetian history. Most notably, it was the home to the Doge, the ruler of Venice, and the center of government during the Venetian Republic. Before entering for a visit of the incredibly lavish interior of the palace (buy your admission tickets online to save yourself time!), walk over to the Grand Canal side of the palace for a look at another iconic spot in Venice- the Bridge of Sighs. This ornate Baroque-style bridge connected the palace with its first-floor prison and was used to transfer its prisoners.
Having seen the highlights of St. Mark's Square, it's time to make the 10-minute walk to Rialto Bridge. As you explore Venice on foot, you'll surely cross one of the four bridges that span the Grand Canal. The Rialto Bridge is the oldest and arguably most well-known. Linking the districts of San Marco with San Polo, the bridge gives amazing views of both sides of the canal.
A little further down along the Grand Canal you'll find the Rialto Market. This iconic food market is buzzing with local life and flavors. Overlooking the canal, you can stroll around this lively epicenter of daily Venetian life and culture seeing and tasting the local products that make up its incomparable cuisine. Note that the market shuts down around midday and is closed on Sundays and Mondays.
To round out your day, head to another of the four iconic bridges crossing the Grand Canal, the Ponte dell'Accademia. The vantage point from this bridge offers an incredible view of Venice and the canal it spans. Take a moment to admire this picture-perfect setting before heading to a nearby bar to finish off your day with a glass of wine and Cicchetti- the Venetian version of tapas.
Day 16: Murano & Burano Half Day Excursion
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 the local life and culture nearby. This morning, head out for a half-day tour of Venice's famous neighbors—the islands of Murano and Burano.
Board your motorboat in the center of Venice and make your way first to Burano, about 45 minutes away. Along the way, your guide will offer insights about the spectacular Venetian lagoon and the various islands it contains. Arrive first at Burano and have free time to explore the island. Traditionally a quiet fishing 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 charming island is incredibly postcard-worthy.
From there, return to your boat and head over to the island of Murano. Murano is famous for its colorful glass-making. Visit a glassblower to see a demonstration and learn about the history of glass-making on Murano and the process behind it. Marvel at the intricate pieces, and peruse Murano's many local shops to see the many forms of this delicate craft for yourself.
After spending the better part of your morning enjoying the sights and sounds of the unique islands, return to Venice by boat in time for lunch at one of its many delicious local eateries.
Day 17: Gondola Ride in Venice
There's something to be said for the classics. When in Rome, do as the Romans do, and when in Venice, take a gondola tour of its romantic canals. This is the classic ride, too—a leisurely 30-minute jaunt along Venice's waterways under the power and guidance of a professional gondolier.
It may be a popular tourist activity, but gondolas have been used as transport in the City of Water for well over 1,000 years. This elegant and romantic mode of transport will leave you perfectly content as you leisurely glide on the surface of the water, under Rialto Bridge, and as you pass iconic landmarks like Rialto Square.
After your 30 minutes on the water, you'll hop off the boat and can continue to enjoy Venice on foot however you choose.
Day 18: Depart Venice
Your exploration of Italy will end after breakfast, with a transfer to the airport to catch your flight home or to your next destination.