BEST OF ITALY: The 12-day Tour

Tourism to Italy didn’t start yesterday. You are following in the footsteps of Dickens, Stendhal, Goethe, and Twain. Since the 19th century, seeing the ancient and Renaissance sights has been a rite of passage. Artists and poets came here to be inspired, romanced, and thrilled. Although times have changed, most of the monuments haven’t.

A 12-day itinerary means you’ll be seeing a lot in a little amount of time, but there’s always room to cut out something or set out on a monumental mission. If this is your first visit Rome, Florence, and Venice are must-see cities. Veteran travelers may want to avoid the crowds and seek out less-frequented destinations.

Day 1
After landing in Rome, give yourself a caffeine lift at the nearest bar. Walking is the best way to beat jet-lag, so head to the Colosseum and find out what all the fuss is about. Before turning in, grab yourself a cacio e pepe pasta at any of the trattorias in Trastevere.

Day 2
If it’s sunny, check out the Forum, take a lap around the Circus Maximus, and walk up the Vittorio Emanuele monument for a view of the city. If it’s raining, get in line early at the Musei Vaticani and head straight for the Sistine Chapel. Afterwards, visit the interior of St. Peter’s and climb to the top if you still have the energy. At night, enjoy a bit of wine-bar hopping around Campo dei Fiori.

Day 3
Ride the Rome–Lido train out to Ostia Antica and have a stroll along the ancient baths, amphitheater, and fish shops. Once you’re back in town, sample a slice of pizza and throw a couple of coins into the Fontana di Trevi. After you’ve done enough window shopping along Via Condotti, scale the Spanish Steps and rest a moment under the pines in Villa Borghese. Grab a panino from one of the snack bars and take in the view or walk down to Gusto in Piazza Augusto Imperatore for a buffet lunch.

Day 4
Catch an early train to Florence. Get a good look at the baptistery doors and marble interior of the Duomo. If you skipped the Vatican climb, make sure to slog it out to the top of Brunelleschi’s dome. Afterwards have a look at the city from the nearby fort, and on your way back over the Ponte Vecchio check with the tourist office to see what concerts are scheduled inside the city’s churches. Enjoy a bistecca Fiorentina at Il Cibreo and leave room for an ice-cream from Gelateria Cavini.

Day 5
Get to the Galleria degli Uffizi as early as possible and take a long gaze at Botticelli’s Birth of Venus. Stop for a cappuccino at the museum bar on your way out and do some people-watching from the terrace above Piazza della Signoria. After lunch at Mercato Centrale, head for Galleria dell’Accademia to view Michelangelo’s David, the most famous statue in the world. Later ride a train to Pisa and visit the Campo dei Miracoli to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Before returning to Florence, have dinner under the arcades at Vineria di Piazza.

Day 6
Take the train or rent a car and drive to the Cinque Terre. Head to Corniglia and start off walking south on the lower trail toward Manarola and Riomaggiore. There are plenty of places along the way to enjoy a picnic, as well as pleasant churches in both towns and several traditional trattoria with enjoyable views. You can catch the ferry or follow the more demanding high trail back to Corniglia.

Day 7
If your legs have recovered, hike north towards Vernazza, the Cinque Terre’s wealthiest town. There are also frequent ferries to Vernazza that might save you a blister or two. Explore the defensive walls that are still in place and have a look inside Castello Doria, which protected residents from marauding pirates in the Middle Ages. It’s another 45 minutes by foot to Monterosso, where you’ll be glad you brought your swimsuit. Before diving in, have a look at the gothic church of San Giovanni Battista. You can rent an umbrella and deck chair from one of the stabilimenti that also offer light snacks and mixed drinks. Take the ferry back to Corniglia and savor your last fish dinner before returning to Florence.

Day 8
Take a last look at the Arno before catching the train to Verona. If you think you’ll get hungry stock up on cheese, cold cuts, and bread from Norcineria Bucchi. Check in to one of the convenient bed-and-breakfasts near the train station. The tourist office sells opera tickets during the summer and can provide you with a map for exploring Veneto’s second-largest town.

Day 9
Take one of the local trains that leave every half-hour to Venice. If you want to travel light, you can leave whatever you don’t need locked up at the station. Cross the Rialto and let your instincts guide you through the maze of streets. Eventually you’ll stumble across the Grand Canal and Piazza San Marco. Pizzeria Marciana, behind the duomo, is a reliable lunch option.

Day 10
In the morning join a walking tour with City Museums or CHORUS that lead small groups around the city’s palazzos and churches. At lunch, make sure to sample some fried lagoon fish or hearty brodo di pesce at Vecio Fritolin. Afterwards ride a vaporetto out to the islands of Murano and Burano. Browse the linen stalls and have a look at the glassblowers demonstrating their skills in dozens of workshops. Celebrate the journey with a glass of Prosecco at Harry’s Dolci.

Day 11
Take the train back to Rome. If you catch an early service you can make it to Termini before 2 pm. Jump on a bus and stretch your legs with a walk down the Via Appia Antica. If the weather isn’t good, go underground into the catacombs of San Callisto; otherwise, rent a bike and ride out to the aqueducts that run through the nearby park. Afterwards stop by Casa del Jazz for an open-air concert or head straight to the Pantheon and enjoy your last night at Eau Vive.

Day 12
Most hotels will let you leave your luggage at the front desk after check-out time. You can then wander the streets of the historic center and do some last-minute souvenir shopping. Take a couple of minutes for a final cappuccino at Bar della Pace before heading to the airport.

Note: Although I suggest  visiting Italy by train relative short distances between cities and good highways making driving a valid option.

Your Guide to Italy:
Moon: Rome, Florence & Venice

Have more questions about Italy
or need helping planning? Just Ask.


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