Radiating vitality from its natty north to its stylish southern heel, there are plenty of reasons Italy attracts a remarkable range of traveller types. Given its fabulous food, sun-soaked coastline, picture-perfect panoramas, and all those extraordinary ancient sites, it’s no wonder Italy sparks a desire to return. But how do you plan a perfect trip to Italy? There’s simply too much to see — and fall in love with — during a single trip, and planning a stay in Italy can be overwhelming.
Step 1 – Best time to go and budget
The question "how to plan a trip to Italy" is often related to weather and budget, so let's dive into this first.
Best time to visit Italy
When it comes to visiting Italy timing is everything. The best time to visit largely depends on your preferences and what you hope to experience. If you seek pleasant weather, manageable crowds, and cost-effective travel, spring (April and May) and fall (September and October) are the best times to visit Italy. Since these are known as the shoulder months, you're likely to enjoy a milder climate, fewer tourists, and more affordable accommodations. Conversely, peak season, from June to August, sees a spike in temperature, crowded tourist spots, and higher prices. However, there are a few key times to avoid, such as Easter Week and around Christmas when Italy becomes very busy and prices soar.
Remember though, the best time to visit Italy is when it suits your schedule and your interests
How much will it cost?
When it comes to costs, it varies greatly depending on where you go, when you go, how you travel, and your personal preferences. Here are some average costs to guide your budgeting process.
- Lodging: A budget hotel for two people ranges from $50 to $150. For a mid-range hotel, expect $150-$350. Luxury hotels can start at $350 and go up from there.
- Food: Estimate around $25-$50 per person for city tours and add in your meals, you're looking at approximately $75-$100 per person/per day.
- Travel: For intercity travel, train fares vary from $15 to $60 depending on distance.
- Attractions: Prices for tourist spots can vary, but averaged out, expect to spend around $15-$25/day on entrance fees to museums, historical sites, etc.
Remember, these are just averages. You could spend less if you're traveling off-peak, cooking your own meals, or staying in more budget accommodations. You could also spend more if you're splurging on gourmet meals, staying in luxury hotels, or traveling extensively between cities.
Remember, similar to the best time to visit, the cost also depends on your personal preferences and style of travel
That’s why we’ve created this guide to planning a trip to Italy - to help you make the most of your time in this perennial stunner. These simple steps will help you decide where and when to go, and where to stay. Crucially, we’ll also show you how you’ll stay connected while you’re away.
Step 2 - Decide where to go in Italy
Best cities to visit
When it comes to cities in Italy, the options are boundless, each offering its own unique charm, history, cultures, and cuisines. Here are a few you might want to consider:
- Rome: Known as the 'Eternal City'. Rome's attractions include the iconic Colosseum, Palatino, Roman Forum, and Pantheon. Don't forget to toss a coin into the Trevi Fountain to ensure your return to Rome. For a real taste of Rome, visit Trastevere neighbourhood, known for its bohemian flare and delectable food.
- Venice: One of the most picturesque cities in the world, Venice is renowned for its charming canals, historic monuments, and ornate architecture. A gondola ride through its narrow canals or a walk through its labyrinth of winding streets is a must.
- Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is an art lover's paradise. Be sure to visit the Uffizi Gallery and Florence's famous Duomo. The city is also known for its leather markets and rich cuisine.
- Naples: For the pizza lovers, Naples, the birthplace of pizza, is a must-visit. Excursions to the ancient cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum, and down the scenic Amalfi Coast, are also highlights of the region.
Remember, this is just a taste of all that Italy. The country is littered with charming towns and bustling cities each holding its own unique attractions.
Best areas to visit
While Italy's cities are charming and packed with history, the northern regions of the country also offer stunning landscapes, charming towns, and unique experiences.
- Tuscany: Known for its stunning landscapes, art, history, and viticulture. Visit medieval towns like Siena, Pisa, and San Gimignano, and be sure to tour the vineyards for some of the best wine tastings you'll ever experience!
- Amalfi Coast: One of Italy's most breathtaking coastal regions. It's famous for its colorful towns like Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello, which are precariously perched on cliffs overlooking the sea.
- Cinque Terre: A string of five centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. Its hiking trails and stunning views are a real treat for the eyes.
- Lake Como: Luxury, beauty, and tranquility all come together in Lake Como. The lake is surrounded by mountains and dotted with beautiful villas and resort villages.
These regions offer a unique experience, you can enjoy an urban experience in the morning and immerse yourself in the beautiful countryside or relax by a lake in the afternoon. Each region has its own distinct flavor and culture worth experiencing.
Best wine yards to visit
Italy, renowned for its world-class vineyards, offers a plethora of options for wine connoisseurs and novices alike. Here are some of the best regions to explore:
- Tuscany: Tuscany is home to some of the world's most notable wine regions. Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, and Vino Nobile di Montepulciano are primarily made with Sangiovese grape whereas the Vernaccia grape is the basis of the white Vernaccia di San Gimignano.
- Sicily: Sicily's Marsala wines are world-famous. The region's hot climate, fertile soil, and hilly terrain offer perfect conditions for producing a variety of wines.
- Veneto: Known for its Prosecco and Soave wines. The region offers splendid views over terraced vineyards, unique to the region.
- Barbagia, Sardinia: For a truly authentic experience, consider exploring the vineyards of Sardinia, the island's climate and rugged terrain make for some distinctive wines.
When at these wineries, don't forget to pair the wines with some local cheeses and indulge in wine tours. Each vineyard has its unique methods of cultivation, fermentation, and aging wines that provide you an insight into the intricate and fascinating process of winemaking.
Best lakes to visit
Italy is famous for its picturesque lakes with awe-inspiring landscapes. Here are the ones worth a visit, including the breathtaking Dolomites.
- Lake Como: Surrounded by mountains and studded with charming villages and villas, Lake Como is a must-visit for its beauty and tranquillity. Celebrity spotting (such as George Clooney!) is also a fun activity on Como.
- Lake Garda: Italy's largest lake, Lake Garda, is home to charming medieval towns, thermal bath towns, vineyards, and the family-friendly Gardaland amusement park. The lake has a more rustic feel compared to Como.
- Lake Maggiore: Visit the stunning Isole Borromee with their ornate palaces and lavish gardens. Also, it's less crowded than Como and Garda, making it a peaceful retreat.
While each lake has its own unique charm, they all offer activities such as swimming, boating, and hiking along with exceptional hospitality. Choose a lakeside villa or hotel for maximum views and comfort.
Step 3 - Pre-book accommodation and attractions
Italy bursts with world-renowned historical sites and cultural landmarks. While you might not cover it all, ensure your Italy itinerary includes these major ones:
- Colosseum (Rome): The iconic symbol of Imperial Rome, it's one of the best-preserved monuments of the Ancient world and provides an unparalleled insight into the life and times of ancient Rome.
- Vatican Museums (Vatican City): Housing an extensive collection of art, sculpture, and cultural artifacts, the Vatican Museums are a triumph of human imagination and creativity. Also, visit the Sistine Chapel to marvel at Michelangelo's masterpiece ceiling.
- Pompeii (Naples): Visit the ancient city of Pompeii, frozen in time since the catastrophic Vesuvius eruption of AD 79.
- Leaning Tower of Pisa (Pisa): The famous leaning bell tower is a marvel of medieval engineering popularly known for its unintended tilt.
- The Venice Canals (Venice): A gondola ride through these famous canals is an essential experience when visiting Venice.
Your experience isn't confined to these major landmarks. Italy is rich with cultural and historical splendors and even a short stroll down any street might lead you to a smaller, yet remarkable gem. [Insert images of the listed attractions].
Remember to pre-book your entrance tickets where possible to bypass lengthy lines and ensure a smooth visit.
Accommodation forms a crucial part of your travel planning. Italy offers a wide range of options from high-rise luxury hotels to budget-friendly hostels, and authentic agriturismo farm-stays. The choice depends on your budget, preferred location, and the kind of experience you seek.
- City Hotels: Major cities such as Rome, Florence, and Venice offer a multitude of options in various budgets. Websites like Booking.com are excellent for comparing rates and amenities, as well as for finding deals on hotels, bed and breakfasts, and apartments [Add screenshot of Booking.com interface].
- Bed and Breakfasts/Hostels: A comfortable and cost-effective choice, especially for solo travelers or those on a tight budget. Be ready for a homely, quaint experience and a chance to mingle with other travelers.
- Agriturismo or Farm Stays: Offered by Italian farmers as a way to supplement their income, these are very popular in Italy and range from budget to luxury. Besides providing accommodations, some also offer meals made from fresh farm produce. A unique way to enjoy Italy’s countryside [Insert image of an agriturismo].
- Apartments/Vacation Rentals: Ideal for family trips or a larger group of travelers. Websites like Airbnb and Plum Guide offer an extensive list, often cheaper than hotels and give you the freedom to cook your own meals if you wish [Add screenshot of Airbnb interface].
Remember to always check reviews before booking and take advantage of the flexible cancellation policies offered by many services. At some popular tourist locations, bookings can fill up quickly, so it’s wise to reserve your accommodation well in advance.
Italy's rich history and diverse landscapes make it a dream destination for (day) tours. They provide an excellent way to learn about the culture and history of the places you are visiting. Here are our top picks:
- Food tours: Delve into Italy's culinary delights with a food tour. Savor traditional dishes and learn about regional cuisines. These tours often include visits to local markets, cooking demonstrations, and tastings at renowned eateries.
- Senior tours: Tailored for comfort and accessibility, senior tours in Italy offer a blend of leisure and cultural immersion. These tours prioritize ease of travel, with guided visits to historical sites and scenic landscapes, ensuring a fulfilling experience without physical strain.
- Train tours: Experience the scenic beauty of Italy from the comfort of a train. These tours combine the romance of rail travel with the convenience of guided visits to iconic cities and hidden gems, all while traversing Italy's picturesque countryside.
- Wine tours: Explore Italy's renowned vineyards on a wine tour. Learn about wine-making traditions, visit esteemed wineries, and taste world-class wines. These tours often include guided tastings and insights into local viticulture, perfect for enthusiasts and novices alike.
Consider building a couple of these tours when planning your trip to Italy. Remember, tours using guidebooks fill up quickly during peak tourist seasons, so it's wise to book in advance. Of course, self-guided tours using our guide books or apps are another good option for those who prefer a self-paced experience.
Activities and experiences
Immersing yourself in Italian culture is part of the attraction. Here are some recommended experiences that vary from culinary tours to exploring the countryside:
- Road tripping: Explore Italy's diverse regions with a road trip adventure. Journey along the Amalfi Coast for stunning coastal views or through Tuscany’s vineyard-covered hills. Road trips offer the freedom to discover Italy’s hidden gems and picturesque landscapes at your own pace.
- Art and architecture exploration: Immerse yourself in Italy’s rich artistic heritage. Wander through world-famous museums, gaze at Renaissance masterpieces, and delve into ancient Roman ruins. This activity offers a deep dive into Italy's profound cultural and historical impact.
- Cycling adventures: Cycle through Italy’s scenic countryside, quaint villages, and along beautiful coastlines. Suitable for all skill levels, cycling adventures are an active way to engage with Italy’s landscapes and local culture.
- Boat excursions: Experience Italy from its captivating waterways. Glide in a Venetian gondola or cruise around the islands of Capri and Sicily. Boat excursions provide a unique perspective of Italy’s coastal beauty and maritime charm.
- Hiking: Traverse Italy's varied terrains on foot. Hike through the majestic Dolomites, the scenic trails of Cinque Terre, or historic pilgrimage routes. Hiking offers a perfect combination of natural splendor and cultural discovery.
Remember that while it's essential to have a well-planned travel itinerary, also leave room for spontaneity. This could be as simple as enjoying a cup of espresso in a quiet corner café or an unexpected detour into a local market. These unplanned moments often turn out to be the highlights of your trip.
Step 4 – Get ready for departure
Get a credit card and budgetize
Getting a credit card that offers travel rewards can be highly beneficial for your trip to Italy. Look for cards with no foreign transaction fees, and good cash back or points systems. Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted in Italy, while American Express and Diners Club may not be as popular.
In terms of budgeting, set up a daily budget covering all essential aspects like food, accommodation, travel, and activities. Decide what you want to splurge on and where to save. If you're on a tight budget, cooking your own meals and choosing more budget-friendly accommodation can help significantly reduce expenses.
Also, be aware of foreign currency charges and ATM withdrawal fees in Italy. Consider getting a foreign currency card like the Wise Mastercard where you can convert Euros easily and cheaply from your US, Australian or Canadian dollar accounts.
Lastly, ensure you keep some funds aside for unexpected expenses. Planning a budget beforehand ensures your trip runs smoothly, and you can enjoy your dream Italian vacation without the stress of unexpected costs.
Look for airport transfers
Arranging airport transfers in advance can save you time and stress upon arrival in Italy. Most Italian airports are located quite a distance from the city center, and public transportation might not always be convenient, especially if you're carrying heavy luggage or traveling in a group.
Consider car rental deals or comparing different transfer services like Suntransfers or Welcome Pickups. They offer several options from budget to luxury that suit different needs, including coach, mini bus, private cars, and limo services. The service ensures that someone will be waiting for you at arrivals, and will take you directly to your accommodation in the quickest and easiest way.
For example, to transfer from Rome’s Fiumicino airport into the city center, taxis offer a set rate of €$50 and the ride takes around 45 minutes. Or, if you're a group traveling with multiple items of luggage, a pre-booked transfer can be a better option
Once you've figured out your transportation and lodging for your trip to Italy, don't overlook another essential aspect: staying connected while abroad — conveniently and without spending a fortune.
Even if you've decided to avoid work emails during your vacation (which is great), having access to affordable data will definitely enhance your experience.
For starters, it'll make navigation a breeze and keep you connected with people back home. You'll likely also want to share live updates and photos of your journey. To do this, you need immediate data access.
You're probably already aware of these advantages, but may be concerned about the cost — nobody wants to spend excessively to stay connected while traveling. Fortunately, with an international SIM card or eSIM from SIMCorner, a trusted partner of Rough Guides, you don’t have to worry about high costs.
Thanks to partnerships with top telecom providers worldwide, SIMCorner offers products for every type of traveler, especially those heading to Italy.
For those tired of hidden fees and reluctant to commit long-term, SIMCorner's data plans and services are contract-free. This means you can use your SIM card or eSIM as needed, and put it on hold when not in use. It's that simple.
Step 5 - Plan your Italy itinerary
How many days do you need in Italy?
The ideal length of a trip to Italy greatly depends on your travel desires and time constraints. For a decent first visit, aim for at least 7 to 10 days, which will let you cover the country's major cities such as Rome, Florence, and Venice with a day or two for exploring smaller towns.
If you're happy to move fast though, Italy's highlights could be covered on a 10-day whirlwind tour. This would give you a couple of days in Venice and Florence, a day each in Bologna, Pisa and Naples, and around three days in Rome.
If your time is limited to only 3-5 days, it's advised to choose one region or city to explore deeply, rather than rush through several destinations.
On the other hand, with a longer stay of around two weeks, you have the opportunity to see both the north and the south, and perhaps even squeeze in a visit to Sicily or Sardinia.
Keep in mind, these durations are just general guidelines. Elongating the stay will allow a deeper connection with the country, its culture, and its people. Your travel duration should cater to your interests, be it history, cuisine, art, or simply relaxation. Remember, Italy is a country filled with endless wonders and even a lifetime might not be enough to explore them all.
How to spend 5 days in Italy
If you only have five days in Italy, you may want to focus your trip on one or two destinations. For example, you could split your trip between Rome and Florence, spending three days in Rome and two in Florence. Here's how:
Day 1-3: Rome Immerse yourself in the history of the Eternal City. Visit the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and Palatine Hill. Also, take a walk through St. Peter's Square, or take a tour of the Vatican Museums. Roam around Trastevere for an authentic Italian dinner.
Day 4-5: Florence Hop on a high-speed train to Florence. Enjoy Renaissance art at Uffizi Gallery, marvel at the view from Piazzale Michelangelo, and visit the Florence Cathedral. Dedicate half a day for a trip to Pisa or a Tuscan wine tour.
Remember, this plan for Italy travel planning offers a taste of Italy's rich culture and history within a short timeframe. Modify it as per your preferences. If you're more interested in slow-paced vacations, consider focusing just on Rome, exploring the city thoroughly, and embracing the local lifestyle.
How to spend 7 days in Italy
7 days in Italy is a wonderful amount of time to get a taste of Italy's treasures. For first-time visitors, a common itinerary is the classic trio of Rome, Florence, and Venice.
Day 1-3: Rome Spend the first few days exploring Rome's iconic landmarks like the Colosseum, Roman Forum, and the Pantheon. Visit the Vatican City, marvelling at Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel.
Day 4-5: Florence Take a train to Florence. Spend a day exploring the city’s art history in Uffizi Gallery, climb the Duomo, and take a sunset stroll across the Ponte Vecchio.
Day 6-7: Venice Board a train to Venice. Visit St. Mark’s Square to see the Doge’s Palace, tour the Bell Tower, or visit the Rialto Market. Don’t forget to take a traditional gondola ride through the canals, for an authentic Venetian affair.
Remember, while it’s a whirlwind tour, this example itinerary offers an introduction to three utterly different and equally enchanting Italian cities. Be flexible with the plan and adjust it according to your interests and energy levels. Travelling should also include enjoying a gelato on a city square, sipping a cup of rich Italian espresso at a streetside café, and taking leisurely strolls soaking in the city’s atmosphere.
How to spend 10 days in Italy
With 10 days in Italy you have more time to delve deeper into Italy's rich offerings. In addition to the must-see cities of Rome, Venice, and Florence, 10 days provide a sufficient window to explore additional cities, like:
- Rome (3 days): Start by immersing yourself in the Eternal City's historical grandeur - from the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, to St. Peter's Square and the Vatican.
- Florence (2 days): Head to the birthplace of the Renaissance, visit the Uffizi Gallery, Florence's iconic Duomo and savor Tuscan delights.
- Pisa (1 day): Visit the remarkable Leaning Tower of Pisa and explore the surrounding area's historical sights.
- Venice (2 days): Discover the unique city on water with its famous canals and gondolas. Visit St. Mark's Basilica and Doge’s Palace.
- Milan (2 days): Conclude in Milan, Italy's fashion capital. Don't miss the Last Supper by Leonardo da Vinci and visit the majestic Duomo.
These select destinations give you a comprehensive flavor of Italy’s diverse culture, history, and landscapes. And you'll still have some downtime for savoring the food, wine, and the Italian way of life. [Add corresponding pictures of the city's main attractions here]
Remember, regardless of how detailed your pre-planned itinerary is, leave room for the unexpected to fully experience La Dolce Vita (The Sweet Life)!
How to spend 14 days in Italy
With 14 days in Italy at your disposal, you can cover more ground and enjoy a more relaxed pace. This could allow you to explore beyond the traditional Rome-Florence-Venice triangle, and immerse yourself in Italy's enchanting landscapes, rich history, and vibrant local cultures. Here's a suggested itinerary with train itineraries:
- Rome (4 days): Spend 4 days soaking in Rome's ancient sites and vibrant café culture.
- Florence (3 days): Discover this cradle of the Renaissance, its art treasures, and its delightful food scene.
- Cinque Terre (2 days): Experience the quaint colorful seaside villages perched along the rugged Italian Riviera coast.
- Pisa (1 day): Visit the iconic Leaning Tower and nearby attractions.
- Venice (2 days): Explore Venice's romantic canals, historic landmarks, and charming cafes.
- Milan (2 days): End in Milan to witness its modern side – towering skyscrapers, international fashion scene, and iconic Milan Cathedral.
In this itinerary, along with Italy's cosmopolitan cities you also experience its hidden gems and its rustic, authentic charm. Whether you're strolling Rome's ancient streets or tasting fresh seafood in Cinque Terre, these two weeks will provide a taste of Italy's diversity, history, and irresistible allure.
Remember, a slower schedule can often result in a richer experience. Balance your itinerary with rest and relaxation, and allow time to savour Italy's culinary delights, and just people-watch in beautiful piazzas. Leave room for some spontaneity, and you'll find your travel memories are all the richer!
Step 6 - Leave time to seize the day
One of the top mistakes people make while planning a trip to Italy is trying to fit in too much. While it's important to have an itinerary, don't fill every minute of your day with activities. Italy is best enjoyed at a slower pace, taking time to stroll through its cobblestone streets, sip an espresso at a sidewalk cafe, or linger over a delicious meal at a local trattoria.
It's also essential to be flexible. Perhaps you discover a picturesque spot perfect for a picnic that wasn't in your original plan, or you come across a charming street market that you would love to explore. Having some wiggle room in your itinerary allows you to seize these unexpected opportunities.
Finally, keep in mind that winding lanes and Google Maps often don’t mix. Allow extra time for getting lost - it’s part of the charm of traveling in Italy! You are on vacation after all, take time to enjoy, relax and let Italy slowly reveal itself to you.
Remember, the goal of the trip is to enjoy and experience Italy, not tick off a list of sites.
Plan some free days
In addition to structured activities and tours, you should always account for a few free days in your itineraries. These can be used for a wide variety of unscripted adventures such as:
- Exploring neighborhoods: Navigate through the winding streets of intriguing districts like Trastevere in Rome or Navigli in Milan.
- Enjoying local cuisine: Delve deeper into Italy's culinary scene. Maybe attend a cooking class or explore local markets to sample regional specialties.
- People watching: There's nothing quite like spending an afternoon relaxing in a beautiful piazza, eating gelato, and watching the world go by. This can easily turn into a highlight of your trip!
These free days give you the chance to dive deep into Italian life and culture, catch your breath, and savor the moments of your journey. They also give you the buffer needed if an attraction was unexpectedly closed or weather was harsh on a day with outdoor activities planned.
Remember, sometimes the most memorable moments emerge when there is no agenda at all!
Take a trip designed by local travel experts
Planning your Italy trip? Let our local experts help
Take a trip designed by local travel experts speaks to the heart of an authentic Italian adventure. Here's why choosing a trip curated by local experts elevates your Italian experience:
- Personalized itineraries: Our local travel experts craft itineraries that align with your interests and preferences. Whether you're an art aficionado, a food lover, or an outdoor enthusiast, your trip will be tailored to your passions, ensuring a deeply personal and fulfilling experience.
- Insider knowledge: Local experts possess invaluable insider knowledge. They guide you to hidden gems and authentic experiences that typical tourists might miss. This means dining at off-the-beaten-path trattorias, exploring lesser-known historical sites, and engaging in local traditions.
- Efficient planning: Navigating a foreign country can be daunting. Local experts streamline your trip, handling logistics like transportation, accommodations, and bookings. This efficient planning removes stress, allowing you to focus on enjoying your journey.
- Cultural immersion: A trip designed by locals immerses you in Italian culture. You gain insights into the local way of life, participate in traditional activities, and engage with the community. This cultural immersion fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of Italy.
- Support and safety:** Traveling with the backing of local experts ensures you have support throughout your trip. They provide valuable advice, assist in case of emergencies, and ensure your safety, offering peace of mind as you explore.
In essence, a trip designed by local travel experts transforms your Italian vacation into an unforgettable, authentic, and hassle-free experience, enriching your journey beyond the ordinary.
Travel advice for Italy
To make the most of your Italy trip, here are a few tried-and-tested tips:
- Avoid peak season: Beginner travelers might want to avoid July and August, when Italy tends to get hot, crowded, and expensive.
- Public transportation: Train travel is highly efficient and cost-effective in Italy. Enjoy the scenery and save on car rental and parking fees.
- Water: It's safe to drink tap water in Italy, saving you money on bottled water.
- Tipping: Service charge is generally included in your restaurant bill, so tipping isn’t necessary but appreciated. A tip of one to three Euros or rounding off the bill is common.
- Dress code for churches: When visiting the numerous beautiful churches in Italy, it's appreciated to cover your shoulders and knees.
- Eat like a Local: Trying local food is half the fun of travel. Enjoy hearty Italian meals and make sure to try regional dishes.
- Safety: Italy is generally safe, but pickpocketing remains an issue. As always, it’s important to remain vigilant and take the necessary precautions, particularly in crowded areas.
Remember, travel destinations are about breaking away from the hustle of everyday life, discovering new cultures, cuisines, and people, and creating lasting memories. [Images depicting local food, people at a public transport station, and some safety signs should be spread throughout this section].
Enjoy your trip and say "Ciao" to Italy on our behalf. Buon Viaggio (Safe Travels)!