First time visitors.
4 days Tuscany
4 days Amalfi Coast
2 days Rome
2 days Venice
3 days Tuscany
4 days Amalfi Coast
1 day Rome
1 day Milan
3 days Lake Como
4 days Tuscany
2 days Rome
1 day Milan
3 days Italian Riviera
4 days Tuscany
2 days Rome
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)
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
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.
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.
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
For most visitors, the best area to stay will be in one of the towns in the middle of the lake: Varenna, Menaggio, Bellagio, 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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
The countryside, the Southern coast, and the city
If traveling from the US, overnight flight to 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:
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
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
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:
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
On your last day in Tuscany, plan another adventure outside of Florence or book an experience like a cooking class. A few options include:
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.
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.
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.
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.
On your last full day on the Amalfi coast, a few options to consider :
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:
Be sure to stop by Giolitti for gelato when near the Pantheon
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.
Today your trip comes to a close and you will catch your flight back home
The highlights – a little bit of it all