In Italy lies the greatest works of art, architecture and gastronomical delights. Experience Italy’s culture and history, its effortless style and tranquil coastlines… Where would you most like to visit?
Ah, Italy, a vacationer’s paradise. The sights, the history, the artistry—and don’t forget the delicious food and incredible wine!
Your first trip to the birthplace of the Renaissance would not be complete without a visit to Rome, Florence, Venice. And even return visitors can find something new to love in these timeless cities.
If you’ve got eight days to spend and a passion for Italia, here’s the ultimate itinerary for your tour.
Day 1: Lose yourself in the cobblestone streets of Rome’s Centro Storico.
Welcome to Italy! You’ve finally made it. And what’s first on your list of things to do? Explore Rome’s Centro Storico, the capital’s historical center where you’ll find the top sights as well as plenty of places to have your first true Italian meal.
Grab your tennis shoes because Rome’s Centro Storico is incredibly walkable. A great way to get a feel for the astounding architecture throughout the historical center is with a church tour. And there are plenty of them like the Chiesa di Sant’lgnazio, a church with a deceptive dome painted on the ceiling
You can’t miss the many piazzas (or squares) within the centro storico full of fountains, statues, and lots of other picture perfect spots. Find the Spanish Steps in Piazza di Spagna, made up of 135 steps leading you from the square to the towering Trinità dei Monti church.
If you want to live like a local, be sure to grab a caffé. But drinking coffee is not enough to look like a local. If you really want to impress, follow these Italian coffee customs. Grab a granita di caffé at Tazza d’Oro for the ultimate java experience.
Day 2: Browse the classic antiquities and old masters on a tour of the Vatican and Sistine Chapel.
Vatican City tops the list of must-see experiences in Rome. Catholic or not, the awe-inspiring art and architecture will take your breath away.
Plan on spending half a day (about four hours) in the world’s smallest country to fully appreciate all it has to offer. Over the centuries, the Church collected thousands of masterpieces lovingly displayed in the Vatican Museum. Impeccable paintings, sculptures, and other art forms are available for the public to view. Artists with works on display include Leonardo da Vinci and Raphael.
If you've only seen the Sistine Chapel in books, the real thing in all its magnificent glory will blow you away. The ceiling is a melange of Biblical scenes culminating in The Creation of Adam, the most famous of them all. History will forever be grateful to the masterful Michelangelo for such divine artistry.
Stunning St. Peter’s Basilica is an exemplary exhibit of Renaissance architecture and art. The world’s largest church holds the tombs of many popes, royalty, and saints. In fact, the church is said to have been built over its namesake’s grave. As you walk through the holy building, be on the lookout for more of Michelangelo’s work and those of other Italian artists.
Day 3: Take a walking tour through the marvelous ruins of ancient Rome.
Ever heard the phrase, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do?” While this is a good rule in theory, it’s important to be a tourist, too. So spend the day doing what tourists do best—sight-see!
Rome’s Colosseum should be at the top of your list for important Roman landmarks. The ancient amphitheatre holds 55,000 people—incredible! Sport competitions, dramas, and even executions took place here. But no matter its use, the Colosseum is an architectural marvel.
Looking for a tasty treat? Sure, you can find gelato all over Italy, but you must try tartufo, another, more decadent ice cream dessert covered in chocolate, at Piazza Navona. Oh, and there’s lots of historical and architectural reasons to visit, too, but isn’t chocolate-covered ice cream enough?
The Pantheon is the most intact of the age-old structures in Rome. Completed by Hadrian in the second century, it was converted from a Roman temple to a Christian church by Pope Boniface in 609 AD. During the Renaissance, several Italian luminaries were buried there, including the artist Raphael and the composer Arcangelo Corelli. Go inside for a spectacular view of the dome’s interior. Afterwards, enjoy a glass of vino at one of the charming restaurants in the Piazza Navona.
Don’t forget that quintessential Roman experience—make a wish in the Trevi Fountain. Sure, it’s a little cheesy, but you’re on vacation! When in Rome, as they say…
Day 4: Spend a day exploring the glorious Amalfi Coast.
Italy has it all—exciting cities, magnificent mountains, and beautiful beaches. And if you’re a fan of the latter, the Amalfi Coast is the place to be.
Take a day trip from Rome and travel to the Amalfi Coast before heading on to Florence. Famous for its colorful buildings adoring the coastline, the Amalfi Coast is miles and miles of some of the most well-known beaches on the Mediterranean Sea. But if you don’t have enough time for a beach excursion, hiking is a great way to truly explore the rocky coast.
While walking through the coastal cities (Positano is arguably the most famous), stop by a cafe to sip limoncello, a lemon liqueur that is usually served after a meal, by itself, or perhaps with dessert. No matter how you indulge, you’re sure to love the drink with a powerful punch.
Day 5: Eat your way through fabulous Florence.
Feast your eyes (and your belly) on Florence, the capital of Tuscany, Italy’s idyllic countryside. Florence is the birthplace of the Renaissance; its famous sons include Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Dante, and Galileo.
As if birthing the Renaissance wasn’t enough, Florence is also the birthplace of gelato, Italy’s favorite cold and creamy confection. Bernardo Buontalenti is said to have discovered the dessert while working in the Medici Court in 1565. And in fact, Gelateria Badiani has copyrighted a flavor that matches Buontalenti’s original gelato made for the royals.
Want to immerse yourself in the local culture? Look no further than Mercato San Lorenzo. This immense indoor/outdoor market sells everything under the sun—gourmet edibles, wine, fine truffle and olive oils, leather, pottery, gifts, and fabulous pizza al taglio. .
After you’ve shopped to your heart’s content, take a day trip towards the vineyards of Tuscany. Sample exquisite Brunello wines and feast on a traditional Tuscan meal (you don’t want to miss out on bistecca alla florentina!).
Day 6: Admire Michelangelo’s David at the Galleria dell’Accademia.
You’ve seen Michelangelo's artistry on display at the Sistine Chapel, but it’s time for a date with David. Michelangelo’s masterful sculpture is literally larger than life. Showcased at the Accademia Gallery in Florence, the 14-foot Biblical king stands tall over onlookers.
If Renaissance art is your passion, take a walking tour of Florence to better appreciate this mecca of Italian culture. Stroll across the Ponte Vecchio and browse the fabulous jewelers’ stalls lining the bridge. Ever wonder why you can only buy gold and gems on the Ponte Vecchio? Thank Ferdinand I, who ordered it by royal decree in 1593.
The Republic of Florence originated in the picturesque Piazza della Signoria; a copy of David presides over the square. If you're a student of Romanesque architecture, be sure to check out the town hall.
Day 7: Explore the Piazza San Marco in Venice and have an espresso at Caffè Florian.
Venice, the floating city, marks your final destination. Built almost completely on the water, this ancient town served as a major port for Italy, opening the gateway to Asia.
While Venice is known for its maze of canals, you can’t miss out on what’s on the surface level. The Doge’s Palace showcases the political structure that made Venice into one of the most enlightened cities of the world. Walk by room after room for breathtaking works of art, including the world’s largest oil painting, Tintoretto’s Paradise. Venture across the Bridge of Sighs to the Palace’s prisons, a place you’ll be glad you’re just visiting.
Perhaps the most spectacular sight in Venice is St. Mark’s Basilica in St. Mark’s Square, Venice’s oldest and most famous quarter. Known for its opulence, the Chiesa d’Oro, or church of gold, is an excellent example of Byzantine architecture, with marble floors, Biblical mosaics and gold treasures on the inside, and detailed arches, facades, and more Biblical scenes on the exterior.
Want to sip like a celebrity? Stop by Caffé Florian, Europe’s oldest and most elite cafe, visited by Charles Dickens, Lord Byron, and even Casanova. Grab a seat under the arches and enjoy the lush sounds of the orchestra as your tuxedoed waiter serves your coffee from his shiny silver tray. If you've a bit of a sweet tooth, try the affogato or the bellini—a typically Venetian treat!
Day 8: Marvel at the Rialto Market and sample cicchetti and wine like a Venetian.
It’s your final day in Italy—make it count! You can’t leave Venice without a gondola ride. Hop aboard the famous narrow boats and glide your way through the Venetian canals.
Afterwards, head to the Rialto Market, a peruse the stalls filled with a cornucopia of flowers, fruits, vegetables. Snap a selfie on the iconic Rialto Bridge.
Feeling a bit peckish but not quite ready for dinner? Stop by a bacaro for small-bite plates (cicchetti) and ombra, or a glass of wine. Now you’re truly eating Venetian-style!