Many people dream of visiting Italy at some point in their lives. There are many reasons to be drawn to this cradle of Western culture. With only a week, you won’t be able to take it all in, but you’ll probably want to come back for more.
3 Reasons to go
- The food. Italy has a global reputation for delicious food, and for good reason. With regional nuances, you’ll get a chance to explore how Italian food has been adapted throughout the country, and come to understand its worldwide appeal.
- The history. It’s hard to step anywhere in Italy without realizing that there are centuries (if not more) of history beneath your feet. By taking the time to explore the relics and preserved parts of each place you visit, you’ll come to appreciate how much Italy has influenced the rest of the world.
- The trains. Not many people stop to appreciate that despite Italy’s recent economic struggles, they still have one of the best, fastest train systems in the world. The Italian train system can get you anywhere you want to go: comfortably, safely, and quickly.
Destination A: Rome
Once the center of all culture and influence in this part of the world, all roads really will feel like the lead to Rome once you explore this city’s ancient charms and modern amenities.
Destination B: North – Florence & Pisa
Take a step back in time through exploration of artistic and captivating Florence, plus its often overlooked neighbor, Pisa (except for that one tower you’ve heard so much about).
Destination C: South – Naples & Pompeii
If Rome is the mind and Florence is the mouth, Naples is the pounding heart of Italy. Immerse yourself in this vibrant, edgy city as well as the mysterious neighboring town of Pompeii, both in the shadow of a volcano.
How to book your vacation?
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Day 1: Arriving in
Italy can be accessed in a number of ways, depending on your point of origin. There are plenty of trains from around continental Europe, as well as a few ferries that can put you on the shore close to Rome. The most common way would be by air; there are flights daily from hundreds of destinations into Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Fiumincino Airport. From there, it’s a quick train ride into the city itself for 11 Euros.
Day 2: The Major Sights of Rome
On your first day, it’s good to hit all of the major sightseeing spots on your list (so you can come back again if you really love them!). Enjoy breakfast on the Spanish Steps before wandering down to enjoy the peaceful coolness of the Pantheon. Buy a two-for-one entry pass for the Roman Forum and Colosseum at the Forum entrance for 12 Euros – after exploring the ruins, you’ll be able to skip the forming lines at the Colosseum. Enjoy dinner in the Piazza Navona before visiting the Trevi Fountain by night. Make sure to toss a coin over your shoulder into the fountain if you want to come back to Rome someday!
Day 4: Explore Rome
Now that you’re beginning to feel a bit more like a local, you can choose to wander at will through some of Rome’s lesser-known spots. Head south to check out the Roman Catacombs of St. Callisto (8 Euros), or get lost wandering through the Trastevere neighborhood of cobbled alleyways in the western part of the city. There are also great shopping spots in Prati and throughout the neighborhoods in central Rome. End the evening by taking a high-speed train north to Florence (17 Euros, approx. 82 minutes) to end the day.
Day 5: Immerse Yourself in Florentine Food, Art, and Architecture
A single day isn’t nearly enough to experience all that Florence has to offer, but try your best by getting an early start on the day. Explore central Florence and watch the morning mists burn off as you catch your breath after climbing Giotto’s Bell Tower near the Duomo. For lunch, cross the Ponti Vecchio and create your own Panini at the hole in the wall Panini del Chianti (yes, there’s wine available too). In the afternoon, take a bus to Pisa (5 Euros, approx. 140 minutes each way) and briefly enjoy walking around the Piazza del Duomo and view the Leaning Tower itself. Again, you won’t see it all, but you’ll get a sample of what Pisa has to offer. After returning to Florence for the night, enjoy a delicious Florentine steak as part of dinner.
Day 6: Heading South into the Heart of Italy
Vacation doesn’t mean time for lying in – catch an early train south through Rome to Naples for a day of exploration (from 39 Euros, approx. 190 minutes). Spend the morning on an escorted tour of Pompeii, which is the easiest way to see the city as a tourist (59 Euros). After arriving back in Naples for lunch, explore the Castel Dell’Ovo or take in the full sights of the city from Madre del Buon Consiglio. Enjoy dinner at La Pizzeria da Michele, famous both for its appearance in Eat. Pray. Love., and for its authentic Neapolitan pizza.
Day 7: Soak it All In
Start the day with a Sfogliatelle – a crumbly pastry stuffed with ricotta cheese and famous in this part of the country – and an espresso to begin feeling like a real Italian. If you haven’t seen enough history, spend the better part of the day in the Museo Archeologico Nazionale di Napoli (Museum of Archeology). Much like Rome, most of the modern development in the city has been hampered by repeated encounters with archaeological sites, and many of the findings from these digs can be viewed in the Museo. End the day with a train back to Rome for the night. It’s almost possible to feel tired of riding trains so much, if they weren’t so efficient.
Day 8: Onward
After a week that has surely flown by, it’s time to say arrivederci to Italy. Take one last Italian train ride to head back to the airport for a flight to your next destination.
Tips & advice
- As mentioned, buy your ticket for the Colosseum at the Roman Forum and gain entry to both – being able to cut the lines will save you major time you’ll want to spend exploring and eating delicious foods.
- Italian is the primary language of Italy, but most drivers, policemen, salespeople, and those in the tourism industry speak at least a little English.
- Like most of Europe, pharmacies are marked with a green cross. If you’re feeling under the weather, Italy has some great medicine to get you back on your feet quickly.
- Being in the Mediterranean region of the world, weather is quite temperate even through winter – summers can be blistering though, so plan ahead with layers and sunscreen if the forecast calls for it.
- With so many nights in Rome, it can be an expensive trip if you only stay in hotels. Look for creative Airbnb or Vacation Rentals to save some of your budget for the fun experiences instead.
- It’s totally okay to drink coffee and espresso all day. Observe a few locals to learn how the short set of activities is somewhat of a ritual.
Valerie Stimac is the creative force behind her blog, Valerie & Valise. Started in late 2013, she’s been writing about her travels throughout Europe, Asia, and North America since, and has lately taken to working informally with other bloggers on creative and inspiring side projects. She’s also written for Lonely Planet, Yahoo Travel, and Gogobot. Follow her on:
Photo credit: Valerie Stimac