As one of the world’s most visited tourist destinations, few need any convincing to book a trip to Italy. Its destinations are instantly recognizable, and its cuisine globally adored. Home to the ancient Romans and birthplace of the Renaissance, Italy overflows with opportunity for cultural and historical exploration. For travelers, the question isn’t whether or not to go to Italy, but where to go and for how long?
In an ideal world, where vacation time, and money weren’t crucial factors, you could easily fill several months in Italy. Sadly, we live in the real world. If you can muster it, 10 days in Italy will allow you to experience some of the best Italy has to offer. To fit in as much as possible, you’ll need this Italy itinerary that covers many of the best things to do in Italy given the timeframe. No time to lose!
Best Time to Visit Italy
The best trips no matter the destination are those in which you carefully plan when to go. Italy is no exception, as your experience will vary greatly depending on the season of your visit. It is of course true that each city will have its own ideal time, but there are some broad rules that you can trust will hold true.
It’s generally accepted that the best time to visit Italy is during the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. The weather at these times of year, roughly April to June and September to October, is mostly pleasant and suitable for outdoor sightseeing. Because it’s Italy, there’s never going to be a time when there are absolutely no tourists, but crowds at destinations and attractions should be manageable throughout shoulder season. You also won’t be hit with the extreme price hikes that happen during high season.
High season runs through the summer months of July and August. The idea of eating gelato and sipping Aperol spritz under the Tuscan sun might sound like perfection, but that dream scenario doesn’t take into account the crowds of people and overpriced, yet limited, accommodation. And the lines, the neverending lines. Italy is actually one of the few places in Europe where purchasing skip-the-line tickets in advance really makes sense.
Winter in Italy also has its trade-offs. Fewer other tourists around means cheap prices for hotels, but both accommodations and attractions often close for the off season. Then there’s the shorter days, the cold weather, and in the case of Venice, a greatly increased chance of flooding. For these reasons, shoulder season is the recommended time to visit.
How to Get Around Italy
Despite its large size, Italy isn’t a difficult country to navigate regardless of how you choose to do so during your time visiting Italy.
One way you can get around is with a car. Renting a car allows you to completely personalize your schedule, and go when and where you like. A warning though, driving in Italian cities can be a challenge and parking even more so. This is especially the case in Venice, where you’ll have to leave your car somewhere such as Mestre, on the mainland, during your visit. To get the best rate on your rental car, we recommend you check out RentalCars.com.
If driving around Italy doesn’t appeal to you or work with your plans, you can safely rely on Italy’s public transportation to get around. Italy has an incredibly thorough network of Intercity and regional trains that should make following this Italy itinerary a breeze. Although regional trains may be cheaper, the fastest and most comfortable way to travel through the country is by FRECCE trains. Just remember to use the Italian names of cities when searching and booking tickets, e.g. Firenze rather than Florence, Venezia rather than Venice.
The other way you can get around Italy is by hopping aboard a bus. Buses may not be as fast an option as trains, but they can be a cheaper alternative and useful last resort if trains are fully booked in peak season. Flixbus is the main bus company for intercity trips between major Italian destinations.
Accommodation in Italy
After deciding how to get around the country, the next question to ask is where to stay in Italy. Finding the best places to stay in Italy, in terms of location, style, facilities, and price is going to depend on your preferences, but here are the main tips and options to get you started.
First a key piece of advice: If you plan on visiting in high season or close to high season, it’s best to book well in advance to make sure you get somewhere you like. One of the great things about Italy is that you’ll find accommodation for every travel budget, especially in these established destinations, but you need to make sure to snag it before it’s gone.
As for where you can find this accommodation, there are several recommended websites. Hostelworld is a great choice for budget travelers seeking dorms or private rooms in hostels. Or you can check out our list of the best hostels in Milan, Venice, Florence, and Rome.
For all other kinds of accommodation, be it hotels, apartments, or guesthouses, Booking.com is a great place to start. If, however, you’re looking to stay locally either with people or on your own, it’s worth taking a look at Airbnb. Also, with Airbnb, you can save money with our Airbnb coupon!
If sifting through page after page of listings doesn’t appeal to you, there are recommendations for accommodation at each stop on your Italian itinerary included here.
The Perfect 10-Day Italy Itinerary
This itinerary will take you through a comprehensive outline of what to do in Italy in 10 days, from the cosmopolitan city of Milan in the north, over to the floating city of Venice, down to beautiful Florence, before saying arrivederci in Rome. Along the way, the journey takes you across almost half of Italy and shows you four wildly different major cities and more. You won’t see all of Italy, but you will see some of its best bits.
However, before we get to our Italy itinerary we just wanted to remind you to purchase travel insurance. You never know what will happen and trust us, you do not want to get stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills. As a wise man once said, “If you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel.” So don’t leave home without it. We recommend World Nomads.
Even if you don’t get travel insurance with World Nomads, please make sure to get travel insurance from somewhere.
Now back to the perfect Italy travel itinerary which will have you going to as many of the best places to visit in Italy as possible during your ten days in the country.
Day 1: Milan
Your journey starts in Milan. A dynamic city of fashion and culture in Italy’s north, Milan is one of Italy’s largest cities and has a dense mix of historic landmarks within a modern metropolis. This might be the most modern of any of the stops you’ll make from here on out.
You’ll likely want to begin with the impressive central square of Piazza del Duomo and the prominent Gothic Cathedral that sits at its center. Don’t just visit inside the Duomo though, head up to the roof to admire both the architecture up close and for city views. You can buy your skip-the-line tickets to the Duomo here.
Just off the square you can walk through the ultra-glamorous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade and go window shopping. A short walk away you’ll come to La Scala Theatre, the city’s distinguished home of opera and ballet which you should make a point to visit one evening.
To experience Milan’s more historic side, venture over to the Sforzesco Castle, once home to the Duke of Milan. After you’ve explored the castle, continue on to the expansive parks of Parco Sempione and find the Porta Sempione archway.
Spend the remainder of your time in Milan heading over to the Porta Ticinese, wandering the waterways of Navigli, and picking a bar or restaurant or both to while away the evening at.
Day 2: Milan
You’re not done with Milan quite yet, you’ve still got another day of sightseeing here to look forward to. Beyond major landmarks, this is a day to see a different side of Milan through its neighborhoods.
Start things off with a visit to the Santa Maria delle Grazie church where you can see the original Leonardo da Vinci painting The Last Supper. This is one of the most famous and oft replicated art scenes in human history. As you can imagine lines for this attraction can get quite long in the summer, so if that is when you are visiting, make sure to get your tickets in advance here.
Over by another church, the Basilica San Lorenzo Maggiore, you’ll find various ancient Roman ruins like the row of columns known as the Colonne di San Lorenzo.
Journeying to another part of the city, head over to the recently gentrified neighborhood of Isola. Home to street art and plenty of entrepreneurial spirit, it’s interesting that it borders the contrastingly straight-laced business district of Porta Nuova. Still, this is a side of Italy you won’t see much of, and the hanging vertical garden of Bosco Verticale is pretty special. Plus, you’re in the right place if you want to go shopping or bar hopping.
Day 3: Venice
There’s a reason that so many different places try to claim they have their very own “Venice” – the original is absurdly spectacular. Found in a lagoon over on Italy’s eastern coast, Venice is a city where the roads are canals and tourists vastly outnumber locals.
There’s no better place to start your time in Venice than at the Grand Canal. The major waterway that carves through the middle of Venice, this is where you’ll find many of the city’s classic views. This of course includes the most famous of Venice’s many bridges, the elegant Ponte Rialto.
Wander the labyrinth of streets and canals that make up much of Venice’s interior, allow yourself to get lost, before stumbling your way through to St Mark’s Square. This distinguished square is the single busiest and most beloved point in Venice, which is hardly surprising given the number of attractions which are here. Somehow even fixtures like St Mark’s Clocktower and the many museums around its sides are bystanders in this massive tourist spot.
With all the gondolas lining the waterfront, St. Mark’s Campanile is begging to be climbed for the views, with Saint Mark’s Basilica and the architectural magnificence of the Doge’s Palace in view, you can understand why. Be sure to take a tour through the palace, before darting around the side to see the tragically named Bridge of Sighs.
Recommendation: Lines for both the Saint Mark’s Basilica and the Doge’s Palace can get quite long, especially in high season, so depending on when you visit it may make sense to get tickets in advance. You can purchase your skip-the-line tickets to the Saint Mark’s Basilica here and for the Doge’s Palace here.
The day’s not over yet as you’ve got to find time for a gondola ride. In Venice, how could you not? Gently floating down the narrow canals of the city, you’ll see it all in a whole new light and fall further in love with the city known as “La Serenissima”.
Day 4: Venice
At this point, you’ve only really touched on the attractions in one part of Venice’s main borough. We haven’t gotten to the outer parts of Venice’s center, let alone any of the other 100 or so islands that make up the city.
We’ll start with the small island of San Giorgio Maggiore directly across from San Marco square. Not only will you find the grand San Giorgio Maggiore church here, but also various ever-changing art installations throughout the gardens and parks.
At this point, you’ve probably noticed Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute resting along the Grand Canal in Dorsoduro. A short vaporetto ride gets you there. Not only can you admire the architecture of the entire area around the basilica, but you can also go inside to see artwork by Titian.
Another vaporetto ride and you’re at the next island of Giudecca where things are a little more relaxed and gentle. There’s still some pretty monumental places to visit, especially in terms of architecture, from the Casa dei Tre Oci to Le Zittele.
Islands further out that you don’t want to miss include Lido, home to Venice’s beaches, and the colorful and creative islands of Burano and Murano, with their colorful houses and love of glassworking.
Day 5: Florence
Up next is the memorable Renaissance city of Florence, the birthplace of so many famous works of art. Here you’ll find a whole lot of history and high culture to experience.
There’s no time to lose in Florence, once you arrive head straight for the Piazza del Duomo, the beating heart of the city. Here you can appreciate landmarks like the city Cathedral and Baptistery before deciding whether you want an epic view from the roof of the Duomo or from next door at the Campanile bell tower.
After some time strolling the pretty streets and squares of Florence’s historic center, find your way to the fabulous Piazza della Signoria. Here you’re treated to the Fountain of Neptune and all the statues of the Loggia dei Lanzi. Don’t forget a visit inside the Palazzo Vecchio and it’s incredible salon ceiling fresco.
Round out the day with iconic works of art like Michelangelo’s statue of David at the famed Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze art gallery.
Day 6: Florence
There’s still much more of Florence for you to explore, so today is going to be another full day of sightseeing around this wondrous city.
Start early with a trip over to the Basilica of Santa Croce, home to the tombs of some of history’s greatest minds like Galileo, Machiavelli, and Michelangelo. It’s then time for more high art at the acclaimed Uffizi Gallery, where you’ll find endless works of art by Italian Renaissance masters like Raffaello, Michelangelo, and Caravaggio.
Recommendation: Lines for the Uffizi Gallery are always super long, even in the low season. The same is true for the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze. Unless you have a lot of patience and don’t mind waiting in lines, make sure to get tickets online in advance. You can purchase your skip-the-line tickets to the Uffizi Gallery here and for the Galleria dell’Accademia di Firenze here.
With a gelato in hand, take a stroll along the banks of the Arno River and cross the beautifully iconic Ponte Vecchio to the other side. From there, take your pick of more art and history at Palazzo Pitti or the serenity of the Boboli Gardens.
Finish it all up with unparalleled views of the city as the sun dramatically sets from the perfect spot at Piazzale Michelangelo.
Day 7: Florence
Being the biggest city in Tuscany, Florence is an ideal place to base yourself to explore some of the surrounding areas. You’re spoiled for choice when it comes to day trips, but some of the best and most popular include:
- Pisa: You may know of Pisa thanks to the famous Leaning Tower, but Pisa has enough other sights to easily keep you occupied for a day. Right next to the Leaning Tower of Pisa, you’ll see the striking Baptistery and impressive Pisa Cathedral. Other attractions in Pisa include the riverfront, Renaissance palaces, and fortress gardens. You can book a day tour to Pisa here.
- Siena: Few cities can go to toe-to-toe with Florence, but Siena puts in a good effort. Full of medieval charm and culture, this hilltop city is a safe bet for a day trip. Whether you’re in the Piazza del Campo looking up at the towering Torre del Mangia or inside the striped Duomo, Sienna is fascinating even with its similarities to Florence. You can book a day tour to Siena here.
- Cinque Terre: Surely one of the prettiest stretches of coastline anywhere in Italy, the five villages of Cinque Terre are a wonder to behold. Each colorful village sits proudly among the coastal scenery. Home to fishing harbors, stretches of beachfront, verdant vineyards, you can learn more about this great destination in our Cinque Terre guide. Cinque Terre is quite far from Florence and challenging to plan as a day trip on your own. If you want to see Cinque Terre on a day trip we highly recommend you join a guided tour from Florence.
- Lucca: Not as well known as other destinations in this part of Italy, Lucca is nevertheless a great place to visit. Behind its colossal medieval walls you’ll witness a fantastically preserved historic city full of piazzas, churches, and especially towers. There are plenty of views here to be had, including the unbelievable medieval rooftop garden on Torre Guinigi. More on this great day trip in our 1-Day Lucca itinerary. You can book a guided tour to Lucca here.
The above destinations should keep you busy for a while but if you are looking for more awesome day trips from Florence click here.
Day 8: Rome
The final stop on your journey through Italy is its capital, Rome. Called the “Eternal City”, you can’t leave Italy without a visit here.
Start off with a walk past the already remarkable ruins of the Trajan Forum and Trajan’s Market to reach one of the world’s most famous tourist attractions, the Colosseum. Remarkably, this massive Roman stadium where gladiators once fought and died still stands today.
Close by, there’s a wealth of other ancient Roman remains to be found, from the sprawling Roman Forum, to the Palatine Hill where legend says the city was first founded. Then there’s the Circus Maximus where thousands would cheer on chariots as they raced around the still visible track.
Recommendation: Lines for the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill can get really long, so it really pays to get tickets well in advance. You can purchase your skip-the-line tickets for the Colosseum, Roman Forum & Palatine Hill here.
Lesser known attractions still worth your time include the Marcello Theater, with its interesting mix of ancient and medieval architecture. There’s also the gigantic Altare della Patria, a monumental building dedicated to Italian reunification and those who died in WWI. And don’t miss watching the sunset from the Terrazza Caffarelli right next door.
Day 9: Rome
There are plenty more major landmarks and popular sights still on the cards for day two in Rome.
Surely one of the most significant areas of Rome is Vatican City, home to the pope and The Catholic Church. While you wait in line to visit St Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, be sure to appreciate the grand spectacle of St Peter’s Square. Here is where you’ll get a chance to admire the incredible Sistine Chapel, a work of art by Michelangelo which is like no other.
Recommendation: The Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel & St. Peter’s Basilica is another one of those places where buying tickets in advance really makes sense – unless you enjoy waiting in lines for hours. You can purchase your skip-the-line tickets to all the attractions in the Vatican here.
Back in Rome proper, mix things up by first stopping at the Castel Sant Angelo and its moving bridge of saintly statues. It’s hard to believe that this fortress was originally an ancient Roman mausoleum.
Finish the day with a flurry of sightseeing, taking in some of Rome’s prettiest spots like the Spanish Steps and Trevi Fountain. Another sight not to miss is the Pantheon, an ancient temple turned church with a window to the heavens at its center.
Day 10: Rome
It would take more than 3 days to get through everything there is to see and do in Rome, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try, so keep going on day three with more of Rome’s seemingly endless list of attractions.
For a mix of culture which ranges from art to archaeology, it’s worth finding your way to the Capitoline Museums. Inside you’ll see works from such name as Caravaggio and Rubens. While there, it’s also worth a quick look around the scenic Campidoglio square outside.
It’s important to note that the Palatine Hill isn’t the only place associated with legend in Rome. In the Largo di Torre Argentina, it is said Julius Caesar was stabbed to death by conspiring senators.
Not far away from this square you’ll spot Tiber Island, the lone island on the river that flows through Rome. There’s plenty of history associated with this island, from the longstanding bridge of Ponte Fabricio, to the Fate Bene Fratelli Hospital that took over healing duties from a temple for the Roman god of healing.
On the far side of Rome’s center, you’ll encounter the expansive Piazza del Popolo and the ancient Egyptian obelisk that stands proudly at its center. From the square, be sure to venture up into the gardens of Villa Borghese and experience the art in the Borghese Gallery.
This 10-day itinerary is plotted out to show you the absolute best of Italy, but there’s no reason why you have to stop there. These are just some of the places which should be a part of your first trip to Italy. With more time, or a second visit, there are plenty of other places we’d happily recommend. Other great destinations you should aim to add to your trip time-permitting include:
- Naples: Not only the home of pizza, Naples is a major city in southern Italy with plenty for visitors looking for something more from their Italy trip. As much as it has its own attractions, Naples is the gateway to a whole area that includes the likes of Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii, not to mention coastal darlings like Positano and the Amalfi Coast.
- Bologna: Another classic medieval Italian city, Bologna could simply be a day trip from Florence but deserves to be its own stop if possible. Home to the world’s oldest university, Bologna is a historic city with plenty of character. Stroll through its defining covered porticos between landmarks like the landmark-lined Piazza Maggiore to the city’s symbolic Two Tower.
- Sicily: Italy’s a pretty diverse place, a fact which becomes more apparent while visiting places like Sicily, Italy’s southern island and the “toe” to its “boot”. There are historic cities and beaches here too, plus Mt Etna, but the island adds its own distinct Sicilian touch to things. Places to start with here include Catania, Taormina, and Palermo.
You can experience an incredible amount of things traveling through Italy in 10 days. So much so that you won’t want to leave by the end of it, but that’s always the hardest part of travel, isn’t it?