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Italy can be a perfect country to visit for an extended vacation. You don’t need a ridiculously long time, but you do need to choose a few cities with points of interest and focus on them!
My dream Italian itinerary was already in my head before I knew I’d be going there, honestly. I mean, there are just some things you have to see in your first trip to Italy… the Colosseum, Pompeii, the Vatican, Venice… I wanted to see all these, while still leaving myself time to wander aimlessly in each of their cities.
I focused on the more historic and literary sights of Northern Italy (with just a taste of Southern Italy in Naples—literally—for Pompeii and pizza). I was interested in the most iconic and romantic cities of Northern Italian, as well as history and archaeological attractions.
The cities in my 10 day Italy itinerary were thus as follows: Venice (2 nights), Verona (1 night), Florence (2 nights), Rome (3 nights), and Naples (2 nights).
If you were interested in more modern and chic Milan (and keeping it a true Northern Italy trip), you could swap the 2 nights in Naples for that. If you’re less of a Shakespeare buff and not particularly interested in Verona, you could swap those, as well. You could also skip Verona and add an extra night in Florence to see more of the surrounding countryside, something I wish I’d had time to do. There are a lot of ways to customize this itinerary based on your unique interests and preferences!
10 Day Italy Itinerary: The Break Down
My flight arrived in Venice on a Tuesday at 9PM. I left Italy about a week and and a half later, from Naples on a Friday morning. I stayed in five different cities over ten nights, spending a total of 9 1/2 days in Italy (since I arrived late in the evening and left early in the morning).
I found this timeframe very doable, but wouldn’t have added any more stops or day trips to my trip itinerary.
There weren’t a ton of budget accommodation options in Venice, compared to the other cities. I stayed at Generator Venice, which is actually located a short ferry ride from Venice proper, on Giudecca island! This turned out to be a magical and really unique experience; after taking the bus from the airport into Venice, I wasted no time in getting on a water taxi out onto the canals, and my first views of Venice were of its beautiful lights bouncing off the water as I floated towards my hostel. Generator Venice had an awesome bar and great vibe. The ferry ride was easy, quick, and pretty.
I did not see much that first evening, as I was exhausted, but had a couple of Peronis at the hostel before crashing. If you find yourself with more time (and energy) during your first evening in Venice, I’d recommend just wandering around the city and having a meal and glass of wine on the water after your long flight. Ya know, keep it casual.
You don’t need a ton of time in Venice, in my personal experience. You will need at least one full day to wander around the fascinating canal city and see Doge’s Palace (home to the famous Bridge of Sighs) and Saint Mark’s Basilica, at least. Check out this post for more detail about how many days to spend in Venice!
It’d also be a shame if you didn’t allow yourself a bit of time to just get lost in the narrow streets and beautiful canals. I spent two nights and one full day here and thought it was perfect. If I’d wanted to take any day trips or check out glass blowing on Murano, perhaps a BIT more time would’ve been ideal.
I am overall really glad I went to Verona, but also glad I only spent one night here. First of all, there’s not a TON to do here. It’s a small and charming city, but once you explore the little castle, hit up Juliet’s balcony, and maybe walk around Via Mazzini, you’re pretty much good. Second of all, Italy is really dang romantic to begin with, and romance is kind of Verona’s “whole thing”. I was the only solo female backpacker waiting in line for a pic on Juliet’s famous balcony, and don’t get me wrong I took that selfie with pride, but I was 100% surrounded by couples. I soothed myself by buying my boyfriend a cardboard cut-out of the little Capulet house/museum/balcony, and it sits in our living room to this day!
It was cool to see at least one smaller town in Italy, compared to bigger cities like Rome and Florence. I also Couchsurfed in Verona with a super nice Italian mom whose daughter’s room was empty since she was at college, which added to the cozy small-town feel. She recommended a few sights in Verona, such as the Christmas market that was already popping up (so cute!!) and Via Mazzina, the gorgeously lit and chic shopping walking street.
Verona also has its own colosseum, and little castle with a moat! It’s a cute little town to explore.
Florence is an absolute delight. It’s more walkable than Rome in general and easier to see in a short timeframe. Along with Rome, I am almost certain Florence would appear on absolutely everyone’s 10 day Italy itinerary; that’s how much of a can’t-miss place Florence is.
- Uffizi Gallery: gigantic art museum, laid out so beautifully walking through its halls would be incredibly even if they weren’t full of pieces from the Italian renaissance. Famous works include Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, Rembrandt’s Self-Portrait, and several da Vincis. You can buy combination tickets with the Galleria dell’Accademia and see both easily in one day.
- Galleria dell’Accademia: another art museum, most famous for Michaelangelo’s David sculpture. It is smaller than Uffizi and took way less time to walk around! You can buy combination tickets with the Uffizi gallery and see both easily in one day.
- Ponte Vecchio: I had heard of the Ponte Vecchio, but didn’t realize it was in Florence until I was planning this trip. Hehe. Anyway, it’s basically just a big pretty bridge covered in tacky knick knack stands. It’s a cool experience to walk across, but the best views of Ponte Vecchio are from afar, on neighboring streets or bridges.
- Day trip to the Leaning Tower of Pisa: this day trip will take just shy of 2 hours one way. There’s not a TON to do once you’re there, so it’s very doable.
- Eat some bistecca alla fiorentina! Fun fact: steak and Florence go together like buffalo mozzarella and Neapolitan pizza. Really, eating steak in Florence is A Thing. It’s delicious. Get is as bloody as you can handle. Also, if you’re going to treat yourself to a spendy meal, this is a good one. You can find affordable options to a lot of great food in Italy, but skimping on steak is just tragic. There’s a line of restaurants called l’Tuscani dotted around the city that have consistently excellent food and ratings.
- Piazza del Duomo: it’s hard to miss the piazza if you’re wandering around Florence. It’s an extremely popular place, and you’ll know the second you’re there. It’s the kind of place you come upon and don’t want to leave. I kept walking through the piazza and felt impressed every dang time.
- Day trips into surrounding Tuscany: I didn’t do this, but if I’d had more time or was on a romantic vacation I think the more rural Tuscan countryside would be perfect.
I stayed at PLUS Florence, a large and clean hostel with really impressive amenities. I particularly enjoyed hitting up Fuoco Matto for late-night snacks. Less than 5 minute walk to baller Italian food means pizza and pasta all night, every night. It was also the only hostel I’ve ever stayed in with indoor and outdoor pool, a sauna, rooftop bar, AND Turkish Bath. You guys.
There’s really no shortage of accommodation options in the city, though!
There’s a good chance Rome will command the most time on your 10 day Italy itinerary. Heck, it’ll probably take up the most time regardless of how many days your itinerary is. Rome is huge, and there’s a TON to see and do. There are also plenty of awesome day trips (I love this post all about Rome day trips), though for a short trip you could easily just spend the whole time in the city itself. Here are some literally bonkers world-famous, must-see highlights:
- Colosseum: I recommend combining the Colosseum and the Roman Forum/Palatine Hill in one, somewhat long but totally worth it, day of walking. If you really like taking your sweet time and reading every single exhibit sign, maybe do it in two days. Be careful of scammers around the Colosseum! A bunch of different guys approached us claiming to be guides (some Italians, one American, and one Australian?!) and that they’d get us the best prices on entry to the Colosseum/Forum, or they knew a secret entrance, etc… it was all bologna. Buy your tickets in the official line, you absolutely don’t need to do a group tour.
- Roman Forum: The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill are less famous than the Colosseum, but JUST as cool. Seriously, if you only have time for a full day in Rome, don’t miss the Colosseum OR Roman Forum. You pass through a bunch of crazy Roman ruins, literally every view looks like an archaeologists’ dream, and you’re also walking in the footsteps of anyone who was anyone in ancient Rome.
- Vatican: It turns out there’s a lot more to the Vatican than the Sistine Chapel, though that’s surely a can’t-miss attraction. However much time you think you’ll need in the Vatican, allow more. It was not only the busiest place (except maybe Trevi Fountain) but a lot bigger than I expected. Honestly, we spent hours there and I don’t think we saw everything.
- Pantheon: Full disclosure, I didn’t know what the Pantheon even was, but I’d heard the word a whole bunch and knew it was in Rome so, yeah, I wanted to see it. It turns out its an ancient temple dedicated to the Roman gods. The building is gorgeous from the outside, and peaceful on the inside. It really does feel like a place of worship… because it is!
- Trevi Fountain: This is arguably the most famous fountain in the world. It’s in a ton of movies and quite literally always surrounded by tourists (unless you get there at sunrise? We never managed to do this… but it would probably be a great idea). Also, you should definitely see it at night. It’s really spectacular regardless of time of day, but the lights, sculptures, and water at night are magical.
I stayed at the Generator Hostel, which was very affordable for a private room and definitely walkable to a lot of cool locations. If I go back, I’d opt to stay somewhere in the trendy Trastevere neighborhood. We ended up walking to Trastevere every day anyway. It’s really pretty, far enough from the tourist-y stuff, and known for good food and shops. You can browse some rad accommodation options in Trastevere here!
So, Naples could technically be a day trip from Rome. Technically. However, with a 10 day Italy itinerary focusing largely on Northern Italy, Naples is a cool way to dip your toes into Southern Italian vibes and culture; it’s said that the South of Italy starts at Naples. Another thing Naples is known for? The pizza. The best pizza in the world is in Naples, according to like, everyone. Your hostel/hotel will likely have their own recommendation for the best pizzeria in Naples, but if you’re interested in hitting up the famous da Michele (the one from Eat, Pray, Love) I wrote a blog post about it here.
With more time in Naples, you’ll be able to spend a half day in Pompeii, which I absolutely knew I wanted to see. This day trip is super popular and the transportation is quick and simple; you just take the train. The peeps at our hostel, Hostel of the Sun, were SUPER helpful with directions and just about anything we wanted to know.
Someday I hope to truly visit Southern Italy and do it justice. For now, Naples is a great addition to any trip focused on the museums and history in the North!
What do you think of this 10 day Italy itinerary?
Holla at me in the comments!
Would you add any particular attractions, whether day trips or small towns or more, to your itinerary?
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