If you are planning your first trip to Italy, this itinerary is a great place to start. With two weeks in Italy, you can visit the highlights…Rome, Florence, Venice, the Amalfi Coast, Tuscany, and the Cinque Terre. Visit ancient historical sites, cruise the canals in Venice, dine on Italian food, go wine tasting in Tuscany, relax on the beach, walk through the heart of Rome, and watch the sunset from the Cinque Terre. It’s the trip of a lifetime.
14 days may sound like a long time, but if you want to see Italy’s three big cities (Rome, Florence, and Venice), plus visit both the Amalfi Coast and the Cinque Terre, you will need 14 days to do it.
Let’s get started.
Arrive in Rome
If you arrive in Rome on a red-eye flight, this first day can be challenging. Get settled into your hotel and do your best to adjust to the time change. I do not recommend making big plans today simply because you may be exhausted.
Spend the afternoon walking through the heart of Rome. This short, easy walk is a great introduction to Rome. On this walk, see some of Rome’s most famous sites, such as the Spanish Steps, the Trevi Fountain, and the Pantheon.
Here is a walking map of the route. It’s about 2 miles long, starting at the Spanish Steps and ending at Campo de Fiori. With stops along the way, this walk takes about two hours.
Start at the Spanish Steps and then walk to the Trevi Fountain. This can be a very crowded spot, so be prepared for tour groups, selfie-sticks, and lots of other tourists. Continue on to the Pantheon, a building that has been standing in Rome since 120 AD. It’s free to visit and one of Rome’s amazing, ancient historical sites. The walk ends at Piazza Navona and Campo de Fiori, two of Rome’s famous piazzas.
The Colosseum and the Borghese
The Colosseum is one of New 7 Wonders of the World and the largest amphitheater that was ever built. It was constructed almost 2000 years ago, completed in 80 AD. In its heyday, between 50,000 and 80,000 spectators would watch gladiator contests, executions, animal hunts, and the reenactments of famous battles.
This is one of Rome’s most popular sites to visit, so expect large crowds and long lines. For the best experience, book your tickets in advance. I recommend doing this as soon as you know your travel dates because tickets can sell out.
It takes about one hour to tour the Colosseum. You can purchase an “add-on” ticket that gets you access to the underground and the third level of the Colosseum. It costs and additional €9 and includes a 1.5-hour tour. If you add on this tour, a visit to the Colosseum will last about 3 hours.
Buy your tickets in advance and learn more about the add-on ticket on the official website.
Hours: 8:30 am to one hour before sunset
Cost: €12 (+€2 online reservation fee) for the combo-ticket that gets you into the Roman Forum, Palatine Hill, and the Colosseum
The Roman Forum and Palatine Hill
The Roman Forum is the historical center of Rome. This is ancient Rome, a complex of government buildings, temples, and marketplaces from 2000 years ago.
You can wander through the Roman Forum on your own, take an audio guide tour (2 hours, €5), or take Rick Steves’ free audio tour (40 minutes; download it before you go).
Take a break midday and have lunch.
Borghese Art Gallery
The Borghese contains one of the best collections of art in the world. See works of art by Raphael, Caravaggio, Titian, and Bernini. Even the building is an attraction.
Hours: 8:30 am – 7:30 pm
Cost: €15.50, prices can increase during special exhibits, +€2 reservation fee
After your visit to the Borghese, it’s a nice stroll through the gardens that surround the art museum.
Crypt of the Capuchin Friars
This is optional but I am including it because it is located within walking distance of the Borghese Art Gallery.
In several small chapels underneath the church of Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappucchini are the skeletal remains of almost 4,000 Capuchin friars. The bones are arranged in artistic patterns. It’s morbidly fascinating and definitely an off-the-beaten-path location. The Crypt is open until 7 pm.
End the day with dinner in the Trastevere neighborhood. We ate at Carlo Menta, which was recommended by our hotel staff.
Vatican and the Sistine Chapel
Vatican City is the smallest country in the world. This is where the Pope calls home. It is also famous among tourists for its legendary lines to get into the museums and Sistine Chapel. We are talking up to 3-hour waits on the busiest days.
If you really want to skip the lines and the crowds, you can book a tour where you visit the Vatican before opening hours. Tours start at 7 am and are pricey (about $100 USD per person), but you tour the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica in a small group without the crowds. Learn more here.
The View from St. Peter’s Basilica
Free Afternoon in Rome
You have some free time in Rome. Here are some ideas of ways to fill your time:
- Take a food tour
- Rent bikes and tour the Appian Way
- Visit the Catacombs
- Go shopping
- Visit Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo
- Visit Monumento a Vittorio Emanuele II
- Tour the Basilicas in Rome
- Visit San Pietro in Vincoli (see Michelangelo’s sculpture of Moses)
- Get a panoramic view of Rome from Janiculum Terrace (Terrazza del Gianicolo)
Pompeii and Sorrento
Today, you will visit Pompeii while traveling between Rome and Sorrento. This is relatively easy to do. From Rome, take the train to Naples (70 minutes) and transfer to the Circumvesuviana train. It takes 36 minutes to travel from Naples to Pompeii (get off at the Pompeii Scavi station).
While touring Pompeii, you can store your luggage in the luggage storage facility on the lower level of the Pompeii Scavi station.
After touring Pompeii, pick up your luggage and then take the Circumvesuviana train to Sorrento. Most likely you will arrive in the mid to late afternoon. After checking into your hotel (your home base for 3 nights), stroll along the marina, have dinner, and try the limoncello…it’s delicious!
Capri is just 20 minutes away from Sorrento by boat. Once in Capri, take a boat tour around the island, enjoy the breathtaking view from Mount Solaro, visit the Blue Grotto, and explore the Grand Marina.
From Sorrento, take a day trip to the Amalfi Coast. This is described as one of the most scenic drives in the world. Along the way, visit the towns of Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello.
Kayaking from Positano
The best way to get around is by private driver. Parking can be a huge hassle (avoid self-driving the Amalfi Coast during peak season) and using the public bus system can be a nightmare (been there, done that, and we had a miserable experience).
This morning, travel from Sorrento to Florence. You can take the Circumvesuviana train (1 hour, cheap) or take a private driver (1 hour, expensive) to the Naples train station (Napoli Centrale). From Naples it is a 3-hour train ride to Florence. It is a gorgeous journey, especially the final hour, as you travel through Tuscany.
Get settled into your hotel in Florence and then spend the remainder of the afternoon exploring the city.
A great thing to do on your first day in Florence is to visit the Duomo and climb the 463 steps to the top of the dome for one of the best views in Florence. This was one of our favorite experiences in Florence.
View from the Duomo
In order to enter the Duomo you will need to purchase the OPA Pass. This is a ticket that includes all of the monuments of the Duomo: the dome, the Baptistery, Giotto’s Bell Tower, the Cathedral, the Crypt, and the Opera Duomo Museum. The pass is valid for 72 hours so you don’t have to get to all of these on your first day in Florence.
Spend the rest of the day strolling through Florence.
Today will be a busy day as you visit more of Florence’s long list of amazing sites. Art museums, scenic walks, tower climbs and shopping all make the list of things to do today. Florence is compact, so you won’t have to do a lot of walking, but it is amazing how much there is to do here. Keep yourself fueled with espresso and gelato.
For a full list of things to do in Florence, take a look at our very detailed article about Florence by clicking here. If you toured the Duomo yesterday, you have just enough time to get to everything else in this article, if you don’t mind a busy day. Make sure you book your tickets to the Uffizi and to Academia in advance so you don’t waste precious time waiting in line.
I recommend starting at the Accademia Gallery and then working your way to the Uffizi Gallery, visiting the San Lorenzo Market, Mercato Centrale, and Palazzo Vecchio on the way. Piazzale Michelangelo (the cover photo for this article) is the best place to watch the sunset in Florence and this is not to be missed.
Tuscany Day Trip
Day trip into beautiful Tuscany today.
Overlooking Tuscany from San Gimignano
There are several ways to do this. You can book a tour, hire a driver, rent a car and set out on your own, or visit one or two towns by bus.
We toured Tuscany by bus and by rental car. The bus was a nightmare, at least when we did it in 2014. At several locations, the buses failed to show up, leaving us (and many other travelers) stranded at the bus stations for hours. Renting a car for the day was more expensive, but we had a lot more freedom and we could visit towns that buses do not travel to.
Traveling by a small group tour is a nice way to go. For a little more money, hiring a driver is a great way to tour Tuscany.
In the morning, take the train from Florence to the Cinque Terre. It takes between 1.5 to 3 hours to get to the Cinque Terre. Direct trains take less time but there are many more options that have a transfer in Pisa.
If you want to see Pisa, it’s easy to add on to today’s schedule. Take the train from Florence to Pisa and deposit your luggage in the luggage storage center in the train station. It takes about 2 hours to visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Retrieve your luggage and take a second train to the Cinque Terre.
If you are booking a train to the Cinque Terre, you will arrive in La Spezia and then take the local train to one the five towns of the Cinque Terre. It takes just 9 minutes to travel from La Spezia to the first town, Riomaggiore, and trains run very frequently.
End the day with dinner and sunset views from one of the five towns.
The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Italy’s most visited destinations. Five colorful, gorgeous towns are perched on the dramatic coastline of Italy. Each town offers something a little bit different than the others, and part of the fun of visiting the Cinque Terre is picking your favorite one.
You can tour the Cinque Terre by train, bus, boat, or by foot. Hiking from town to town is one of the best ways to experience the Cinque Terre. Exploring each of the towns is wonderful, but some of the best views of the Cinque Terre come from the hiking trails. And since the train also connects all five towns, you don’t need to hike the entire distance.
Travel to Venice
There are no direct trains from the Cinque Terre to Venice. You will either transfer trains in Florence or Milan. The quickest journey is 4 hours but it can take up to 6 hours to get to Venice.
To maximize your time in Venice, take the earliest train with the shortest travel time.
However, if you don’t mind giving up some time in Venice, you can visit Milan in transit. We did this. We took an early morning train to Milan, spent the mid-part of the day in Milan, and in the afternoon took a second train to Venice.
The two main places to visit in Milan are the Duomo and Da Vinci’s Last Supper. If this interests you, read our post Day Trip to Milan to get the details on how to do this.
The Duomo in Milan
Spend the late afternoon and early evening wandering the streets and canals of Venice.
Spend the day exploring Venice. Tour the Doges Palace, climb the Campanile, visit St. Mark’s Basilica, and cruise the canals. A gondola ride is expensive and touristy, but it’s something we can’t resist when we visit Venice. A ride on the Vaporetto, the water taxi, is the best cheap way to cruise the Grand Canal in Venice.
Fly home from Venice or continue your travels.
With Less Time
If you only have 12 to 13 days, you can still do this itinerary, but of course you will have to give up some time in one or two cities. I recommend taking a day from Rome or Florence or completely eliminating either the Cinque Terre or Venice. Yes, I just said to eliminate Venice.
On this itinerary, you spend three days in Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast. Getting here, and then moving on to Florence, takes some time (roughly 3 to 4 hours each way by high-speed train) and can be a minor hassle. So, it’s only worth it if you give it at least three full days. I wouldn’t recommend trying to shorten it to just 2 days. However, if you eliminate this part of the trip, this becomes an 11-day itinerary.
Can you do this itinerary in 10 days?
Yes, it’s possible, but it will feel like a race and you will spend most of your time on the train and checking in and out of hotels. It can be done but we don’t recommend it.
If you only have 10 days, take a look at our article 10 Days in Italy: 3 Amazing Itineraries. In this article, we give you three different ways to plan your time. This article is so popular, and we get so many questions about how to visit both the Cinque Terre and the Amalfi Coast in one trip, that we published this 14 day Italy itinerary.
With More Time
With more time, consider adding more time to Tuscany. From Tuscany, you can road trip to San Marino, one of Europe’s most underrated destinations. Or, from Venice, you can day trip to the lovely town of Verona. If you want to go hiking, spend several days in the Dolomites, one of our favorite hiking destinations in the world.
How to Travel Between Towns
To get from city to city, we recommend taking the train. Trains in Italy are fast, cheap, and very convenient. The train stations are located right in the city centers, so you can quickly and conveniently travel from city center to city center. Trains are faster, cheaper, and more environmentally friendly than planes.
To check train schedules and to book your trains online, Italiarail.com is the easiest website to use. Just be aware that they charge a €3.50 booking fee to use their website. You can avoid the €3.50 fee by using Trenitalia.com, but this website is more difficult to use.
In our experience, we have found it to be cheaper to book our tickets individually rather than purchasing a Eurail Pass.
Italy Travel Guide
If you need more information about traveling to Italy, check out our Italy Travel Guide. It has lots of articles and advice to help you plan the perfect trip.
Designing Your Own Itinerary?
This itinerary is a great starting point for designing your own custom itinerary to Italy. For more tips and tricks to help you plan the perfect itinerary, consider reading this article:
For more great itineraries in Europe and around the world, check out our Travel Itinerary page.
Are you planning a trip to Italy? Comment below if you have any questions.
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