I’ve been to Europe thrice now. The first time was a solo adventure to Eastern Europe, and that told me a lot about how I like to travel. I decided that I like spending more time in one place, and make memories, rather than hopping across countries to tally up a ‘country count’. Which is exactly why, the next year, when my annual leave came up, I decided to spend all off it in one country, and my love for food, wine, and everything fine got me to book tickets to Italia!
Now, 2 weeks in Italy is ALSO a short period of time, as I came to realise, because Italy is a HUGE country, and there is SO MUCH to see outside of the regular tourist destinations. I’ve already got a plan for when I return to Italy, and it involves a lot of countryside hopping! But for those of you, who, like me, have about 2 weeks of leave to spare, or you are part of a 3-month long trip where you want to cover as much as you can, this itinerary will make sure you see some of the best parts of Italy, which includes culture, food, drink, adventure, and whatever else you might seek!
Rome – 4 days
Amalfi – 3 days
Florence – 3 days
Cinque Terre – 2 days
Venice – 3 days
Roaming through Rome
Rome is a slice of history sitting smack in the centre of a cosmopolitan. It’s a blend of modern and traditional, and you’ll be surprised how a row of classy new buildings will suddenly make way for ancient ruins! A good way to spend your 4 days (including travel) is right here –
Day 1 – Colosseum, Palatine Hill (you’ve probably just got half a day, if you’ve arrived that morning)
Get your tickets here – https://www.coopculture.it/en/colosseo-e-shop.cfm
The ticket offers entry into the Colosseum, Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, as is valid for two days, so if you can’t finish all three in a day, you can come back the next!
Day 2 – Roman Forum, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona
You already got yourself a ticket to the Forum 🙂 Here’s a handy tip: Download Rick Steves’s audioguide for the Roman Forum before you go, it’s SUPER informative. Here’s a link to ALL Italy audioguides by Rick Steves! Tickets to the Pantheon are available on the spot without much ado, along with an audioguide, and none of the other spots need a ticket for entry. Also, do remember to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain over your shoulder. Make a wish!
Day 3 – Vatican City
Get your tickets for the museum here. You’ll need an entire day to visit the museum and the cathedral, and look around this beautiful place.
Day 4 – Baths of Caracalla, Villa Dei Quintilli, Cecelia Metella, museums
Coop Culture is the official website for most of these places, so use it for getting your tickets!
Get your tickets to the Baths here.
Get your tickets for Villa Dei Quintilii here.
Get your tickets for Cecelia Dei Metella here.
Soak in the Blues in Amalfi
To get to Amalfi, I took a train from Rome to Naples, and then the Circumvesuviana train from Naples to Sorrento. Sorrento is a pretty little town, and great to base yourself, as it’s right between Pompeii and the Amalfi Coast, allowing you the option to visit both. I stayed 2 nights in Sorrento, and one in Naples.
NOTHING can prepare you for the sight of the sparkling blue of the ocean as the road curves on the hill and the fun force of the coast hits you. The Amalfi Coast is beautiful, and I would happily have spent another 3 days there!
Day 1 – Arrive in Sorrento
Go to Positano beach. You can get a bus from the main town in Sorrento and you’ll be at Positano in 45 minutes. The bus will drop you off on the road, so just find the nearest stairs and keep walking down, till you reach a line of shops and restaurants that eventually open up into the beach. No prior ticketing required here, you’ll get a seat on the bus easy. Also, this is a PEBBLE BEACH, and I fell in love with it!
Get dinner at Buca di Bacco. Positano is famous for lemon, so I’d recommend the Lemon Risotto here. I still dream about it (*droooooool*)..
Day 2 – Pompeii
Spend some time exploring the ruins of what was once a prosperous, bustling city, reduced to ashes by a volcanic explosion. They’ve got an exhibit with the ash covered bodies of those who died, in the exact position they died. It’s eerie, and it also makes you reflect on how delicate life is!
You can get your tickets in advance to avoid the serpentine queue that can extend till outside the complex, and I’ve got the link for you right here. This isn’t the official ticket office, though. I got my ticket inside the park, at the official ticket office, and had to wait about 20-25 minutes in line.
If you manage to finish looking at the ruins in time, hike up Mt. Vesuvius, the volcano responsible for destroying Pompeii. I booked a tour 5 minutes before it left at the office as I was crossing it! You can either get off at Ercolano on the Circumvesuviana train and hike up the mountain yourself, or find a tour operator like I did.
I don’t recommend buying a tour online, because it’s ridiculously expensive and takes up 8 hours at the very least. There are a ton of tour operators in a row once you exit the Pompeii complex, and you’ll easily find a suitable one.
Day 3 – Naples
I spent a day here, and honestly, found the city to be rather shady. My friend and I were followed by a random guy, and the vibe was so off that we wanted to get out. We did see some cool stuff though, and one of those is the underground! Naples as we know it today, is actually built right on top of the old Naples. So get down and see what the city used to look like! Tours start every hour Piazza San Gaetano – check them out here.
Also, the BEST pizza ever at Da Michele. Get here early and grab a token, else you’ll never know what it tastes like. You can also check out Dal Presidente for their amazing slices.
Florence, which is as pretty as its name!
Florence is SO pretty! You can easily walk around the city and explore all of it. It’s also a great springboard to explore Pisa and the Tuscan countryside! I would’ve loved to spend a couple days more in the country, but didn’t have the time. Here’s how 3 days can be spent here –
Day 1 – Explore Florence
There’s a free walking tour you could do – Check it out!
You also definitely want to check out the museums, because Florence is ART CAPITAL.
Galleria Dell’Accademia – where the famous statue of Michelangelo’s David is housed. Get your tickets.
Uffizi Gallery – Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Botticelli, and other Renaissance artists, all in one place. Get your tickets.
Day 2 – Pisa!
Pisa is about an hour away from Florence, and you can get your tickets on www.italiarail.com or www.trenitalia.com. Here’s a tip: when you get to the Leaning Tower, buy your ticket to the top of the Tower first, because there’s a wait time of at least an hour. Once you have this, you can go check out the Cathedral, walk about town, grab a glass of wine or a gelato, and then make your way back to the tower.
Day 3 – Escape into the Tuscan countryside
While it’s super-tempting to spend more than a day in the countryside, for those of you short on time like me, this is a good tour to get a taste of what the Tuscan countryside looks like. This tour took us to Siena, San Gimignano and Chianti, and included a wine-tasting as well.
To get to Cinque Terre, you’ll have to take a train to La Spezia, and then hop on to the train connecting the 5 Cinque Terre villages – Riomaggiore, Manarola, Vernazza, Corniglia, Monterosso Al Mare.
Day 1 – you’ve probably just arrived. Go find a swimming hole! Or a beach!
Manarola has two spots for swimming, right off the rocks.
Corniglia has a hidden beach, you’ll need to walk through a tunnel to find it. I didn’t go, but I’ve heard it’s completely worth the effort.
Day 2 – Go hiking!
Start nice and early and hit the trails at Cinque Terre National Park. I woke at 4, and was at the trails in Monterosso by 5 am, so I could beat the crowds and have the views all to myself 🙂 It’s a good idea to start at Monterosso and make your way back. There are folks who Strat at Riomaggiore and hike towards Monterosso as well, this way appeared to be slightly less crowded though.
You can hit the sand beach at Monterosso towards the evening. Plenty of cafes and shops there to chill around and look at!
Venice – about lanes and canals
Getting to Venice from La Spezia involves a Florence stopover.
Here’s a tip: BOOK THIS LEG AS EARLY AS YOU CAN. If you wait, you’ll either get otherworldly timings, or ULTRA expensive prices!
Day 1 – Explore Venice
Take a gondola ride (only because it’s Venice), walk around San Marco. Visit Doge’s palace. Stop and stare at the bridge of sighs. Walk across Rialto bridge.
You can actually jump into one of the water buses and go around the city, getting off at each stop to explore the sights. It’s kinda like a joyride 😛
Day 2 – Murano, Burano, Torcello
There are plenty of day trips available to these little islands about 45 minutes from Venice. I booked my trip through my hotel. If you want to plan ahead, here’s one you can look at –
Day 3 – Day trip to the Dolomites / Explore more of Venice
If you’re a crazy person like me, go to the Dolomites. It’s 3 hours one way by bus to and back from Cortina d’Ampezzo. Once you’re in Cortina, it’s half an hour to Passa Falzarego, where you’ll get maybe an hour before the last bus back to Cortina leaves, and the last bus back to Venice leaves.
I HIGHLY RECOMMEND visiting the Dolomites and spending some time there. It’s a great place for hiking, and it’s stunning. If you have the time, go for 3 days at the very least.
If this is not your thing, stay back in Venice, and check out some of the museums. Grab a glass of wine or a gelato at San Marco. Walk the little streets and buy a few trinkets for back home, like Venetian masks you’ll not find in other parts of the world.
Where to Stay
Rome: near Central Station. Four Seasons Backpackers is quite decent.
Sorrento: Not too many options available for hostels. Seven Hostel was good, but 12 beds a dorm is a bit much for me. Check out AirBnb as well.
Naples: Hostel of the Sun was GREAT
Florence: Backpackers Florence Central. It was more like a little hotel, since we got a double room, and it was the PRETTIEST room I have stayed in ever.
Cinque Terre: AirBnb in Manarola. Good idea to stay in Manarola, it’s the prettiest village of all at night, and very central.
Venice: Book a hotel / hostel in or as close to San Marco as you can.
Italy deserves all the time you can give it. I didn’t club it with another country, or in a shorter trip, because I think there is SO MUCH to see and do that there’s never enough time!
I’ve tried putting in everything I could think of here in one post. If you feel there’s something else I’m missing, or any other info you might need, hit me up! Drop me a line in the comments and I WILL get back to you 🙂