Italy might just be my favorite country in Europe. But as much as I
like love traveling Italy, several people I meet hate it! They find it too expensive, too touristic, or too this, that, and the other thing. Because of this, and because I hate to see tourists leaving one of my favorite destinations disappointed, I’m sharing how I would recommend spending one week in Italy as a first timer. I start with the high-level breakdown, and then include a day-by-day detailed itinerary.
Now, I have to warn you. This one week Italy itinerary is super detailed. Like, how-the-hell-do-you-have-time-to-write-all-this detailed. And I did that on purpose. You can go to any old website to get a vague “two nights in here” and “one night here,” bare-bones itinerary for Italy. But those itineraries don’t tell you what to do in each place, or how to get from each city to city. You’d have to go look that up after. But not with this itinerary.
Basically, what I’m trying to say is: you
might absolutely want to save this for later right now by bookmarking it or saving it on Pinterest, just in case you don’t finish all in one go. Then, grab a cuppa, sit back, and let’s get to it!
Italy One Week Itinerary Summary
For a first time visit to Italy, I highly recommend visiting the “big three” of Rome, Florence, and Venice. I recommend spending three nights in Rome, two nights in Florence, and two nights in Venice.
|Days 1 – 3||Rome|
|Days 4 – 5||Florence|
|Days 6 – 7||Venice|
If you’re the average traveler with limited vacation days, I suggest breaking it down like below. This way, you only need to use five vacation days, but you actually get seven days in Italy.
Psst! Want to see even more of Italy? If you can finagle just three more vacation days, you can also visit Cinque Terre, Pisa, and Milan with ten days in Italy. And if you can add in another four days, you can also add Positano and the Amalfi Coast, Capri, and Pompeii with two weeks in Italy. But if you can’t do more than one week in Italy, don’t worry – Italy is definitely a repeat-visit kind of destination!
The Best Month to Visit Italy
The best time of year to travel to Italy is hands-down the shoulder seasons of April – May and September – October. You can see everything in mildly warm weather, but you can avoid the notorious crowds (And heat! And prices!) of the summer months. If you want to swim in the sea, aim for September – October, so that the water has had all summer to get nice and warm.
How to Get Around Italy
One of the loveliest things about traveling Italy is how convenient it is to get around the country without a car. In fact, I totally believe trains are the best way to travel in Italy. This is particularly true for your first time in Italy. So, this one week Italy itinerary is completely car-free, relying solely on trains and water taxis.
One super important tip for train travel in Italy is to always validate your ticket! Otherwise, you will be fined, and lemme tell ya – the fines ain’t cheap. (Like, truly. These fines are
low-key high-key robbery.) How do you validate your train ticket in Italy? Simply insert your paper ticket into the machines before you enter the train. It’ll make a noise and time-stamp your ticket. These little validation machines are usually at the entrance to each platform. If you have difficulty finding them, just ask a train station employee. If you buy your ticket online or via the mobile app – no need to stress!
Another tip for train travel in Italy is to always buy your long-distance train tickets online as soon as you know your travel dates! This way, you can purchase a Frecciarossa ticket (the faster kind of ticket) before the price gets too high closer to the travel date. If you are riding regional trains (which work fine for shorter distances), just buy them at the station on the day of, so you have flexibility in case plans change.
In this one week itinerary, I include all the details and prices for each time you’ll use public transport to move around Italy. I’ve got you covered!
AND NOW, LET’S GET TO THE ACTUAL ITINERARY ITSELF
Beforehand, I just want to let you know you can do this itinerary in the order I have it or the reverse order. Just look up flights and see which direction is cheaper.
As the former capital of the Roman Empire and the current capital of Italy, Rome is a unique mix of old and new. Try to ignore the street vendors
with zero concern for personal space selling selfie sticks and whizzing gadgets, and I’m sure you’ll fall in love with Rome.
How to Get to Rome
This is the start of your trip, so you’ll need to fly in. Rome has two airports, so be careful you fly into the correct one. The main international airport in Rome is Fiumicino (FCO). This airport is the further out one. To get to the city center from FCO, you have two options.
- Option 1: Take the train. Follow signs in the airport to the train platform. From FCO, take the train to Roma Termini train station. This costs €14 and will take 30 minutes. From Roma Termini, you can either walk to your accommodation, or use the Metro to take the subway if your accommodation is further away. Be very careful of pick-pocketers in this train station! Do not accept or ask help from anyone except official employees, and wear your backpack facing your front.
- Option 2: Take a taxi. Taxis from FCO into central Rome are a fixed fare of €48. Make sure you get into an official taxi at the taxi pickup line. They should accept card, and you can double check this as well as fare before getting in. This will take 30 minutes, just like the train.
Rome’s other airport is Ciampino (CIA). This smaller airport is actually slightly closer to central Rome. However, it is only used for budget airline flights within Europe, like RyanAir and EasyJet. If you’re flying here (or anywhere!) with RyanAir, definitely skim through my guide on how to not get ripped off! Once again, you have two options on how to get to central Rome from CIA airport.
- Option 1: Take a bus to (right near) Roma Termini train station. There are multiple options you can explore here. Some include SITBusShuttle for €6 one-way, or Terravision for €4 if purchased online or €6 in person. This ride takes 40 minutes.
- Option 2: Take a taxi. Taxis from CIA into central Rome are a fixed fare of €30. Again, make sure you get into an official taxi at the taxi pickup line and confirm the fare before getting in. This ride takes 30 minutes.
What to Do in Rome (Three Days)
Below is exactly how to see Rome in three days. Take it easy on day one, since it’s the day you arrive on your flight. But feel free to interchange days two and three as works best for you. If you get in way too late on day one, you can tack it onto day three.
Walking straight through this route as I have it below is 30 min (2km or 1.25 miles), just to give you an idea of total distance on day one. Start at whichever end is closer to you.
- Scalina Spagna: The beautiful staircase known as the Spanish Steps gets busy in the evening as a popular hang-out spot.
- Trevi Fountain: This is Rome’s largest and most-famous fountain. Stand with your back to the fountain and toss a coin in to guarantee a return trip to Rome (if you believe the legend).
- Pantheon: This famous Roman-temple-turned-church is free to enter.
- Piazza Navona: Several cafes line the edges of this beautiful square with two impressive fountains.
- Largo di Torre Argentina: This is where Roman senators assassinated Emperor Julius Caesar by stabbing him 23 times (dramatic much?) to death in 44 BC.
- Colosseum: Perhaps the most famous landmark in Rome! Tickets are €16 and include this plus the next two sites, plus €2 if purchased online from the official site. But, unless you plan to be the first ones at the door, I highly recommend skip-the-line tickets. They are €22 here, or €37 for a guided tour. These price quotes are the highest prices, but those 25 years and younger get discounts!
- Roman Forum: This once-bustling site is now ruins of numerous important government buildings during the ancient Roman Empire. Walking around, it’s amazing seeing how huge the ruins are, and wondering how it must have been back then – almost 2000 years ago!
- Palatine Hill: This is where all the rich kids lived during the Roman Empire – the aristocrats and emperors and all that jazz.
- Arch of Constantine: This arc, built in 302 AD and the largest surviving one of its kind, is right outside the Colosseum.
- Via dei Fori Imeriali: This street connects the Colosseum to the next attraction below. You can look down on the Roman Forum from above on one side and view other incredible ruins on the other.
- Vittoriano: This huge, white, marble building almost doesn’t fit in with its ancient surroundings. It’s a memorial to Victor Emmanuel II, the first king of the united Italy as we know it today.
- Vatican City: Did you know this is its own country? It’s the smallest country in the world, ruled by the Catholic Pope. There are basically three things to see while here: St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums. St. Peter’s Basilica is free to enter, but dress code is very strict. Make sure your shoulders and knees are covered. This goes for all genders and ages. There is a slow moving-crowd-slash-line to get in, but I found it moved quickly enough when I went. Once in the basilica, you can climb up to the dome for iconic views. To the right from the entrance, there should be a “Cupola” sign. Follow the sign until at the ticket office, where you can purchase a ticket to either climb the whole way or one to take an elevator halfway up. As far as I know, you can only buy tickets on site, and they should be around €8 and €10. The Vatican Museums house the world-famous Sistine Chapel. You’ll pay €17 for entry at the door, but definitely pay €21 for a skip-the-line ticket purchased online. Entry to the Museums is free on the last Sunday of every month and on World Tourism Day (Sept 27). Seeing Vatican City should take up a whole morning.
- Castel Sant’Angelo: Emperor Hadrian originally has this built as a mausoleum for himself and his family, but it’s since been used as a fortress, castle, and nowadays a museum.
- Wander: Explore on your own! Get lost! You’ve checked off all the “can’t miss” things everyone else does, but who wants their trip to be just the same as everyone else’s? If you just run around ticking off attractions, I’m not sure you’ll like Rome. But wandering it’s less-crowded streets, strolling along the river, popping into a random church – these are the things that will leave you loving Rome.
Florence conjures images of Renaissance paintings and fairytale Tuscan buildings. There are so many things to see in Florence, but I think two days in Florence is the perfect amount of time for a first visit.
How to Get to Florence from Rome
Take an early, direct train from Roma Termini train station to Firenze S. M. Novella train station. This takes either 1.5 hours or 3.75 hours depending on what kind of train you take. If you are buying a ticket for the next morning, you can expect to pay €21.65 for a 3.75-hour Regional train or €50 for a 1.5-hour Frecciarossa train. If you are buying one month out, the price for the 1.5-hour Frecciarossa train drops to €35.90.
What to Do in Florence (Two Days)
Some people recommend purchasing the Firenze Card, because it covers a lot of the main things in Florence. But for two days in Florence (or even three days in Florence), I am not sure the card is worth it. I actually recommend purchasing the Grande Museo del Duomo ticket instead. This pass includes entry into the Duomo, a climb to the Cupola (dome) of the Duomo, a climb to the Campanile (bell tower), entry into the baptistery, entry into the Duomo museum, and entry into the crypt beneath the church. It costs €18, plus a €2 pre-sale fee if bought on the official website.
Now, let’s get to all the things to do in Florence in two days! I haven’t split it out into separate days here, because I think it’s better if you choose yourself. Would you prefer to visit one museum a day, or have one big museum day? Would you try to avoid climbing stairs twice in the same day, or are you up for the challenge? Would you enjoy a viewpoint for sunset, or prefer sunrise? Your answers to those questions will determine what things you do and see each day in Florence, so I can’t recommend that for you. Most attractions in Florence are pretty compactly located, anyways, so planning a route shouldn’t be too bad on the fly!
*You can skip items with an asterisk if you’re not interested. I’ve only listed them since they’re included in the ticket I recommended above. If you want a more-detailed breakdown of the below, check out my full travel guide to Florence things to do (complete with pictures of each attraction!).
- Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (the Duomo): It’s the third largest church in the world and practically the symbol of Florence itself. Entry is free, but prepare for a massive line at least an hour long.
- Cupola: Bruneschelli’s Dome, named after the architect who designed it, is actually the most impressive part of the entire church. They literally had to invent new tools and architectural systems to create it. Definitely climb up the steps for the view from the top. You’ll have to select a specific time slot, though, when you buy your ticket! Otherwise, you will be turned away and asked to return.
- Campanile di Giotto: Yes you already climbed up the cupola, but there’s another viewpoint nearby! This time, the view is the cupola itself.
- Battistero di San Giovanni: This is the octagonal building right across the main cathedral. The Byzantine-like mosaic inside was actually pretty surprising to find, in contrast to all the typical-Renaissance paintings. Tourists will be snapping pics of the gold doors outside, but those are copies. The real ones are in the Duomo Museum!
- Duomo Museum*: Since you already paid, it might be worth a quick visit. It will help you understand why all this Duomo stuff in Florence is such a big deal!
- Crypt of Santa Reparata*: This is also included in the Duomo combo ticket, which was the only reason I saw it. But once I got there, it was actually cooler than I expected. It’s basically church ruins from 405AD inside the main church. The unfortunate thing about the crypt is that you have to wait in the same line as for the free Duomo entry. So definitely time these two activities together!
- Piazza della Repubblica: One of Florence’s main squares.
- Piazza della Signoria: The best part of this busy square is definitely the Loggia dei Lanzi. It’s basically a free, open-air museum of dramatic sculptures that really should be in one of the museums. (Like really though, I’m super surprised these are just out there!) Also in this square is a copy of the David statue, for those of you who don’t pay to see the real thang.
- Palazzo Vecchio: I didn’t enter except for the free courtyard. But it’s supposed to have a great view of the Duomo.
- Ponte Vecchio: This iconic bridge has become synonymous with Florence itself! It was originally a passageway so the Medicis (a super rich family that basically made Florence….well, Florence) didn’t have to walk with the commoners on their commutes to work from their
homepalace. Since then, shops have been added and create the look it has today. Prepare for some crowds!
- Piazzale Michelangelo: The best viewpoint in Florence! It requires an uphill walk and is the furthest out you’ll get from the city center. So make the trek worth it Bring some snacks and hangout for a while like everyone else does.
- Acadamia: Unfortunately, the only reason to enter this gallery is for one piece of art. The David.
Don’t at me, art fanatics.You decide if that’s worth it for you, but I have such FOMO that I had to pay €12 and see for myself. Pro-tip: avoid the lines AND the €4 online skip-the-line fee to book by visiting on one of the days they allow night visits! I got in so quickly! No one really knows about it, which is why it’s so empty, so let’s try not to tell too many people? *wink* Confirm the night time hours, or book online, here.
- Uffizi Gallery: Uffizi means “offices” in Italian, and this building actually used to be the Medici’s offices. Nowadays, it’s a world-famous art museum. Its most-famous art piece is the Birth of Venus painting. Entry costs €12, plus €4 for the skip-the-line online booking fee on the official site.
- San Lorenzo Market: This is Florence’s most-famous market. Stop by here to shop leather and eat in the indoor food stalls.
- Santa Croce: I didn’t enter this church, since admission was not free. But I do think it’s in a picturesque area and warrants passing by.
- Palazzo Pitti: Normally, palaces are for royalty…but not in Florence! This palace belonged to the Medici’s (shocker). I personally have seen way too many European palaces at this point. So I did not pay the €10 entry fee and simply observed from outside. However, I did regret not having arrived earlier in the day than I did, to buy a Boboli Gardens ticket (€6)!
Beautiful Venice is the perfect last stop for your week in Italy. It’s an insanely beautiful city built on canals, and it’s become famous amongst travelers for the chance to ride a gondola. As beautiful as Venice is, the crowds (especially in summer) can be brutal. Thus, I recommend knocking out all the main attractions at less-crowded hours. Then, spend the middle of the day exploring the rest of the city, where it’s much less crowded, but no less picturesque.
How to Get to Venice from Florence
Take the train from Firenze S. M. Novella to Venezia S. Lucia. For a direct, 2.5 hour Freccia train, expect to pay €39.90 if purchased a month in advance, but €57 if purchased the day before. If you use the slower trains, priced €20.35 – €26.90 and requiring one to two transfers, the travel time jumps to 4+ hours!
What to Do in Venice (Two Days)
Venice is pretty small and easy to walk compared to Rome or Florence, so you should have no trouble “seeing everything” with two days in Venice. You’ll also be able to fit in a half-day trip to the Instagram-famous island of Burano. If you want a more detailed walkthrough (plus photographs of each of the below!), skim through my guide for the best things to do in Venice.
- Piazza San Marco: Venice’s main square is where a lot of the city’s (tourist) action is. Firstly, there’s the Basilica San Marco. It’s free to enter, but there can be a very long line most hours of the day, so be careful what time you go. I went in the middle of the day when I saw it was shorter, and was in and out in 10 minutes! If you’d rather not risk it, you can book your time slot online during high season for a €2 booking fee. Large bags are not allowed inside, but there’s a free luggage storage the basilica will tell you to use. Across from the basilica is the Campanile (the bell tower). You can take the elevator up it for €8. If you want to skip the line, it’s the same website as the basilica. There’s also the Doge’s Palace. Entry is €25, but only €13 with the 29-year-old Venice Rolling Card I mentioned above. See the official site for more details.
- Bridge of Sighs: Walk around the Doge’s Palace, making a left turn around the corner along the water. From the first bridge, you’ll spot the famous Bridge of Sighs from the left. It’s named so because it connects the prisons to the palace, and prisoners sighed while taking one last look over Venice as they walked through the bridge to their dooms.
- Rialto Bridge: If you haven’t figured out by now, Venice has a lot of cool bridges!
- Accademia Bridge: This was my favorite bridge, because it has such an amazing view.
- Take a half-day trip to Burano and Murano: I wrote an in-depth guide on how to visit the islands from Venice, plus what each island is all about.
- Fondaco dei Tedeschi: This shopping center has free rooftop views of Venice, but you needto book in advance. It’s located right at the edge of the Rialto Bridge on Calle del Fontego.
- The Grand Canal: The iconic way to float around Venice is on a Gondola. This will set you back €80 per gondola (six people max) in the daytime, or €100 sunset and later. Prices are fixed, so check current gondola prices, and don’t let anyone overcharge you. If on a budget, you can instead just ride the vaporetto between San Marco and the train station. This will be “free,” since the vaporetto pass necessary for the Burano and Murano half-day trip is still valid!
How to Get Out of Venice
Like all good things, your epic one week in Italy has come to an end! You’ll need to get out of Venice. Venice’s international airport is Venice Marco Polo Airport (VCE). There are a few ways you can get from Venice’s city center to VCE.
- Option 1: By water bus. From any of Venice’s Alilaguna water bus stops at San Marco, Rialto, Fondamenta Nuove, or Guglie, ride the water bus for €15. The ride takes up to 1.25 hours. Purchase tickets onboard the water bus or online for a €1 discount. Private water bus rides are also an option.
- Option 2: By bus. From the Venice Piazzale Roma ATVO bus stop, ride the bus for €8. The ride takes 30 minutes. Purchase tickets at the ATVO ticket office in Piazzale Roma, from the automated ticket machine outside that ticket office, or online.
- Option 3: By taxi. The fare for this 30 minute ride from Venice Piazzale Roma is €40. Make sure you get into an official taxi. They should accept card, and you can double check this as well as fare before getting in. You can also purchase online in advance (select “Town > Venice (P.Roma)” for Venice city center).
Questions on this One Week Italy Itinerary?
If you’re planning your own trip to Italy soon and want some personalized advice, drop a comment below with your questions. I love playing travel agent for people – especially for Italy!