First time visitors.

10 Days in Italy

Key areas in Italy


Northern Italy

  • Venice – a city built on water and known as the city of canals
  • Milan – larger city known to be the capital of fashion and design in Italy
  • Lake Como – classy, high-end area with numerous villages along the lake with stunning scenery as it is surrounded by mountains
  • Liguria coast – northwest coastline of Italy with stunning views and gorgeous scenery as it sits within the mountains while being along the sea. Cinque Terre and Portofino are located in this region.
  • Dolomites – Italian alps running through the NE part of Italy, great for the outdoor adventurer looking for hiking, cycling, skiing, and more including adrenaline sports like paragliding and via ferrata.

Central Italy

  • Florence -beautiful city, but it is more busy with tourists than it used to be; incredible food, great history, and good size smaller city to explore
  • Siena / San Gimignano / Montalcino – small, charming towns found in Tuscany 
  • Pisa – skip it, you’ll spend more time transporting to and from than in Pisa. Only thing to see here is the leaning tower, as the town is not very nice
  • Rome – larger city, lots of history and key destination point. 2-3 days is enough to see the main sights, enjoy good food and take in the city life 

Southern Italy

  • Amalfi Coast – stunning coastline of Italy with nice hillside towns, small beaches, and islands to visit
  • Puglia – great location at the heel of the boot, but best for a second or third visit to Italy rather than the first
The countryside, the Southern coast, and the city

4 days Tuscany

4 days Amalfi Coast

2 days Rome

The highlights
a little bit of it all

2 days Venice

3 days Tuscany

4 days Amalfi Coast

1 day Rome

Northern lakes, the countryside, and the city

1 day Milan

3 days Lake Como

4 days Tuscany

2 days Rome

Northern coast, the countryside, and the city

1 day Milan

3 days Italian Riviera

4 days Tuscany

2 days Rome

Regardless of options, check tips for locations to stay when picking accommodations

Florence

Stay in the area between or near the Duomo, Santa Croce, or Ponte Vecchio (if within a 10 min walk of any of these, you are walkable to most things. I would avoid staying right around the train station (but it is only about 10 minutes from train to Duomo so between is okay).

Note that the side of the river (Arno river) where the Duomo, Santa Croce and Uffizi gallery are located is the more touristy side. Staying on this side makes it everything very walkable, but will be a bit busier. Staying on the other side of the river (i.e. on the same of the river when Santo Spirito is will provide a more “local” feel)


Rome

Option 1: Trastevere

For the nicest area to walk around in with an assortment of restaurants making it a great area for dinner. The restaurants provide good and affordable local Italian options. Unfortunately this area is not located near a metro so you likely will need a taxi to get here or need to head there on foot.

Option 2: Historic city center

For the most convenient location, stay in the historic city center which includes commonly visited sights like the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, the Pantheon and the Spanish Steps. This area will be busier with tourists, but allows you to access many places easily on foot


Venice

Staying in the San Marco area will put you within close proximity to many of the main areas in Venice.

Other neighborhoods to consider as options include Cannaregio, Santa Croce, San Polo, Dorsoduro, and Castello.


Amalfi Coast

Positano – First town on the Amalfi Coast and a very picturesque cliff-side town. Also likely one of the most expensive options

Best for the picturesque views and the typical Amalfi Coast travel experience 

Praiano – This is a smaller, much less touristy town about 20 minutes from Positano. This is where we stayed and I would stay here again in a heartbeat. Despite being there in busy season, the town did not feel over crowded at all and had a very local feel. Our airbnb hosts were phenomenal and we stayed up the hill a bit with a gorgeous view over the water and coast. It is a very convenient location as it sits between Positano and Amalfi, making it possible to take a bus, ferry or taxi around. It was also much more affordable than Positano.

Best for a less touristy feel, more affordable option and easily accessible to the main Amalfi Coast towns  

Grand Hotel Tritone – Beautiful hotel in Praiano with exceptional service and views. The hotel is definitely on the expensive side, but worth looking into if you are splurging or visiting in off-season.

Sorrento

Located just off the Amalfi Coast, Sorrento is the largest town and one that many people use as a hub to visit different towns. Its location and access to buses and ferries make it a default location for many when visiting the Amalfi Coast. It lacks the charm other towns have, but provides ease and convenience and is often the most affordable with more options.

Best for easily accessing all of the Amalfi Coast towns

Lake Como

For most visitors, the best area to stay will be in one of the towns in the middle of the lake: VarennaMenaggioBellagio, or Tremezzo. These towns are all quite small and charming. They are well-connected to each other, making it easy to access different parts of the Lake in one visit. With any of these options, you cannot go wrong, but they do each have their advantages so consider the below when picking. Como is the biggest city along the lake, located at the far edge. Although the lake is named after this town, unless you prefer a bigger town feel, I would not recommend staying here. It lacks charm and feels busy compared to other towns along the Lake.

Varenna

With its own train station, Varenna is a very convenient town to stay in as you can arrive and depart from the town and be in Milan within an hour. This is especially helpful on travel days as other towns would require you to catch a ferry to Varenna (or Como) first where you catch a train back to Milan. The town is on the East side of the lake, meaning there is afternoon sun over the town and into the evening until the sunset. It is quite a cute town and is more peaceful than Bellagio.

Bellagio

Probably the biggest, and most well-known of the towns, Bellagio seems to be the town most people default to stay in when unsure. Try to stay in walking distance of the water as this is where you will go for ferries and the majority of shops and restaurants are closer to the Lake itself. Bellagio has some fancy hotels available if looking for more luxurious accommodations. It is also on the East side of the lake, giving it afternoon and evening sun.


Mennagio

Opposite from Varenna and Bellagio, Menaggio is on the West side of the lake. This means it is a lovely spot to be up early and enjoying the sun. However, it gets shaded late in the afternoon and into the evening so you will not get a sunset here. Menaggio feels the most authentic and is bigger than Varenna but smaller than Bellagio. Another perk about Menaggio is its accessibility to other lakes. This is a great spot to rent e-bikes from and venture away from Lake Como to see the surrounding hillside towns and other lakes like Lake Lugano.

Tremezzo

Not as conveniently connected as Varenna, Bellagio and Menaggio, which easily make the points of a triangle, Tremezzo is still a suitable option. One of the nicest hotels, Grand Hotel Tremezzo, can be found here, with a swimming pool built into the lake. Tremezzo is also on the West side of the lake, meaning no sunsets, but there is a nice walk that can be done along the water towards Lenno from Tremezzo.

Italian Riviera

The Italian Riviera is known for having a beautiful coastline where colorful houses with stunning architecture are built on the hillsides overlooking the sea. As the Liguria region is a crescent shape, many of the towns sit directly on the seaside. Rather than trying to move from location to location while visiting, pick a convenient home base and plan to take day trips to other towns. This allows for a flexible itinerary and helps prevent too much moving around while still getting to experience and explore different towns in the area

Santa Margherita Ligure

Easily my top recommended spot to stay, Santa Margherita is a hidden gem. With its location sitting between key towns we hoped to visit on our trip, this was the main reason we selected it, but it greatly surpassed our expectations. The town itself provides lots of dining options from restaurants to wine bars to cafes with nice terraces and gelato shops. It sits along the seaside and has the typical Italian Riviera architecture with colourful buildings lining the coast and spread all throughout the town. It is easy to get to from Milan, with 2 hour direct trains available. It’s location makes it the most accessible town to the beautiful and upscale town of Portofino, and it is also just an hour train ride to the commonly visited Cinque Terre towns. For folks with more time, Genoa, Camogli, and Rapallo are all also easy to reach from Santa Margherita with train durations all less than 20 minutes.

The town does not feel overrun by tourists and has a great personality to it with the added benefit of more affordable accommodation options compared to the expensive options available in Portofino.

More information here

Option 1

The countryside, the Southern coast, and the city

Day 0

If traveling from the US, overnight flight to Florence

Day 1: Florence

Arrive in Florence. Today is about getting settled. You will likely be jet lagged from the overnight flight. Get yourself checked into your accommodations and explore the city of Florence on foot as the city is very walkable. A few notable destinations to consider visiting on your first day in Florence can be found below:

  • Duomo – visit the Piazza del Duomo (Santa Maria del Fiore) which is the main square in Florence. You can climb the Duomo and / or the clock tower. I have done both and would personally recommend climbing the clock tower if picking one. It has spectacular views of the city around AND you can have a nice viewpoint of the Duomo itself. After climbing stop by Panini Toscani (in the piazza) for a nice panini and grab gelato from Edoardo (also in the piazza) where I can recommend the cinnamon flavor.
  • Ponte Vecchio – famous bridge over the Arno (pretty from the riverside or bridge nearby; this bridge has a lot of luxury shops / vendors on it)
  • Santa Croce – another famous church in Florence with a gorgeous white facade located only 10 minutes from the Duomo
  • Piazza Michelangelo – spectacular view of Florence located on the opposite side of the Arno from most of Florence’s attractions. Piazza Michelangelo is located up on a hill, but only takes about 15 minutes to climb to the viewpoint. It is well worth the view and many people come up to watch the sunset with snacks and a bottle of wine.

Food & Drink recommendations:

Lunch – Panini toscano

Dinner – La Giostra (a delicious restaurant with an expansive menu and beautiful interior – reservations required)

Gelato – Edoardo (near the duomo) and Gelateria de Neri

Day 2: Florence

On your second day in Florence, plan to venture outside of the city and explore more of Tuscany. For wine lovers, a wine tour and tasting is a must as Tuscany is well-known for its wine production. Many different tour options will be available from big group, small group, private as well as options between just visiting vineyards vs. visiting vineyards and smaller tuscan towns in the area.

Food & Drink Recommendations:

Wine bar – Enoteca 4 Leoni (affiliated with the dinner recommendation)

Dinner – 4 Leoni (excellent restaurant across the river)

Gelato – La Carraia

Day 3: Florence

For day 3, plan to explore more of Florence. Any items you did not get a chance to visit on day 1 can be expanded to day 3. Additional options include:

  • Galleria dell’Accademia – famous museum in Florence where the David is by Michelangelo! This museum quite small, and thus you will not need a ton of time here, but it is recommended to book tickets in advance to guarantee an entrance time.
  • Uffizi gallery – large art gallery and the most visited museum in Florence
  • Boboli Gardens – Gardens and palace located on the other side of the Arno river from most of Florence’s attractions


Food & Drink Recommendations:

Lunch – Pino’s aka Salumeria Verdi (great paninis!)

Dinner – Osteria Santo Spirito (located on the opposite side of the river and with a more local feel; this restaurant has large dishes and overall excellent food)

Gelato – Sbrino

Day 4: Florence

On your last day in Tuscany, plan another adventure outside of Florence or book an experience like a cooking class. A few options include:

  • Visit the nearby town of Lucca on your own (train)
  • Book a tour taking you to some of the cute nearby towns including San Gimignano, Siena, and Montalcino
  • Pisa can be visited by train, but only offers the tower of Pisa. Unless this is high on your bucket list, it is one to skip as the town itself does not offer much in comparison to other nearby towns
  • Airbnb experience such as a pasta making class
  • Wine tasting


Additional Food & Drink Recommendations:

Gusta pizza – get your pizza fix here

All’antico Vinaio – Famous panini spot located on Via de Neri. Go early in the day to avoid excessively long lines as this destination has become very well known as a place for tourists to visit.

Acqua al due – Excellent steak here, especially known for the blueberry steak. The restaurant offers an assortment of any of the courses (appetizers, salads, primi, secondi, dessert) and will bring a few different tastings of dishes.

Day 5: Florence to Amalfi Coast

Train from Florence to Naples and then organize a private transfer from Naples to your accommodations in Amalfi (recommend Positano or Praiano). Naples itself is known for pizza, but often just passed through by visitors as it is run down.

Day 6: Amalfi Coast

On your first full day on the Amalfi coast, explore Positano. This picturesque cliffside town is often the main town captured on postcards and associated with the Amalfi Coast. The views from above Positano, down on the beach and out on the water are all gorgeous. You can stop through for a meal, spend the day at the beach, or get out on the water.

Another option, if you enjoy hiking, is checking out some or all of the Path of Gods hike which runs from Agerola to Nocelle (above Positano). The hike is 8 kilometers and takes about 3 hours if you go from one end to the other.

Day 7: Amalfi Coast

Take a day trip to Capri on your second full day on the Amalfi coast. This will require you to catch a ferry over to the island. Once on Capri, there are a variety of options on how to spend your day including hiring a private boat tour for a few hours to take you around the island and swimming in the grottos, larger group tour of the Blue grotto which is a famous cave visited for the beautiful blue water color created from the sun shining in the small entrance, visiting Anacapri, and taking a cable car / chairlift to the top of the island.

Day 8: Amalfi Coast

On your last full day on the Amalfi coast, a few options to consider :

  • Visit the hilltop town of Ravello after stopping through the town of Amalfi
  • Sign-up for an “airbnb experience” like Italian cooking / wine tasting
  • Enjoy a relaxing beach day
  • Path of Gods hike

Day 9: Amalfi Coast to Rome

Organize a private transfer to take you from your accommodations on the Amalfi Coast to Naples. Then catch a train from Naples to Rome and spend the afternoon exploring Rome. A few options to explore on your first afternoon include:

  • Colosseum – purchase tickets to visit in advance (and consider buying a combo ticket which also includes the Roman Forum)
  • Roman Forum – Area with many Roman ruins from ancient government buildings including Trojan’s column and the Arch of Constantino
  • Trevi Fountain – famous fountain located in the historic city center in Rome
  • Spanish Steps – Wide steps that lead from Piazza di Spagna up to the Piazza Trinita dei Monti
  • Pantheon – Former Roman temple that you can enter for free. The area around here was also nice to walk around in.

Be sure to stop by Giolitti for gelato when near the Pantheon

Day 10: Rome

On your last full day, visit Vatican City. It is known for being the headquarters of the Catholic Church and is technically its own city-state. If you are looking to visit any of the buildings within Vatican City, be sure to plan around Sunday as most places are closed on Sunday.

  • Vatican Museum
  • Sistine Chapel
  • St. Peter’s Basilica
  • St. Peter’s Square

Day 11: Depart

Today your trip comes to a close and you will catch your flight back home

Option 2

The highlights – a little bit of it all