The first time we went to Italy, it was part of a 25-day trip through 6 European countries. We planned it all ourselves when “Europe on $40 a Day” was a thing. We spent 3 whole days in Italy – 1 in Venice and 2 in Florence. One of the books I read recommended visiting northern Italy, and continuing going south if you liked it. We LOVED it, and have been going back ever since, for longer periods of time, exploring more and more of the country. We can’t get enough of Italy!
What are the top cities to visit in Italy on a 10-day trip?
The easy answer to this question is “Rome, Florence & Venice.” I am going to add Verona into the mix as well. But it’s really not that simple. There are many, many different ways to experience 10 days in Italy. Each one is as individual as the travelers. When we plan trips for our clients, no two itineraries are the same. Each trip is unique and customized to their specific situation and we ask a ton of questions in order to determine what the perfect trip will be for them: Have they have been to Italy before? Are they are traveling with children? Do they love food and wine? How much time do they want to spend in museums? Do they have a specific interest like art, history, outdoor activities, etc? There are elements that can make each journey unique and special.
So, my real recommendation is to go to Italy for as long as you can, see as much as you are able, and plan to come back. On each return, dive deeper into what you loved the most. Visit some of the same places and people, but expand your scope a little further each time. But let’s start with a truly great 10-day Italy travel itinerary. We planned a similar itinerary to the one presented below for our clients Rick and Heather who said:
When is the Best Time to Travel to Italy?
The best time to travel to Italy is absolutely any time you can go! So, if you can only go in the summer, go then. But if your schedule is more flexible, try to go in the shoulder season so you beat the heat and the crowds. If you travel to Italy in April/May or September/October, most things will be open, while there will be fewer people trying to see the same things you want to see.
How Can I Travel on my 10-Day Italy Itinerary?
You could rent a car and travel through Italy for 10 days, but for this itinerary, I recommend taking the train. You don’t want to have to mess with a car in Rome, Florence, Verona or Venice. Parking is a nightmare and it is way too easy to get a ticket for accidentally going into a ZTL (limited traffic zone). Tickets for going into a ZTL will find you months later, long after you have returned home from your trip. You’ll see an unexpected charge on your credit card from the rental car company. Believe me, you don’t want this!
The train is quick, efficient and economical. It’s also fun! There is nothing like entering an Italian train station and boarding the train with locals and tourists alike. Traveling by train is relaxing. You can buy delicious snacks to enjoy on the train, read a book, and watch the beautiful countryside go by as you travel from place to place. When you come back to Italy, you can rent a car and drive through Tuscany and Piedmont, where mass transit is more difficult. But for the cities on this Italy itinerary, I highly recommend taking the train. Embrace the journey and enjoy your ride.
What airports should I use on my Italy itinerary?
To use your time most efficiently, I recommend booking an open-jaw flight, meaning you will fly into one city and out of another. I like using Skyscanner or Google flights when I am evaluating my options. You can choose “multi-city” instead of round trip and this will give you the opportunity to put in different airports. Even if you have to pay a little more, it will save you a lot of time if you don’t have to return to your arrival airport. Time is especially valuable on your vacation, so using it wisely is important.
How should I spend my time traveling in Italy? Start with 3 nights in Rome
When planning a trip to Italy, it’s important to remember that “tutte le strade portano a Roma” – all roads lead to Rome. For this 10-day trip to Italy, I recommend that you fly into Rome and take the train into the Termini station in the center of the city. Express trains leave every half hour during the day. The cost in 2019 is €14 ($15.50 US) and the 37-kilometer trip takes approximately 32 minutes. Alternatively, you could book a transfer ahead of time and have your driver take you directly to your accommodations. Be sure to book your lodging in the heart of the city. It may cost a little more, but you’ll be happy to be situated in the center of everything.
When we planned Rick and Heather’s Italian holiday their 30th anniversary, she said the following about their accommodations:
While you are in Rome, plan to walk a lot, and enjoy the ambiance of this incredible, historical city. The food is amazing and so is the gelato. Plan to enjoy them both. You’ll likely want to see the Vatican and the Colosseum. Don’t plan to see these on the same day or you will find it exhausting. And be sure to book your tickets ahead of time so that you minimize your time standing in line.
Plan to spend 3 nights in Rome. You’ll have most of your first day to get situated, get over jet lag and take some beautiful walks. Stroll through the Piazza de’ Fiori and Piazza Navona, and if you have enough energy, continue on to the Trevi Fountain and the Spanish Steps, stopping for gelato along the way near the Pantheon. If you’d like more details, see our blog post on Planning the Right Itinerary for your Time in Rome
Then spend one day visiting the Vatican Museum, the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Basilica. Make sure to check opening dates and times so that you don’t miss seeing what you want to see. Spend another day touring the Colosseum and the Forum.
After your third night in Rome, head to the beautiful city of Florence. You will find it to be much more compact than Rome, but still absolutely stunning. If you take the fast train from Rome to Florence, it takes about an hour and a half. Costs vary, but train tickets range in price from about $40 - $120.
Spend 3 fabulous nights in Florence
Florence is a very walkable city. You could choose to stay near the train station and that would be great, although it’s a bit farther to walk from there to most of the sites you likely want to see. If you want to be even more centrally located, choose lodging near the Duomo or the Arno River. Remember to pack light so if you are walking with your bags, it won’t be an issue. If you would like your hotel to provide transportation, be sure to arrange it directly with them. You could also take a taxi easily from the train station.
You could spend 3 entire days just walking along the cobblestone streets of Florence and be very happy. But there is just so much more to see! If you are an art lover, don’t miss the treasures in the Uffizi Gallery. We recommend purchasing a Firenze Card for priority access at most major museums in Florence and the Uffizi is included. Go early, even if you have the pass. If you don’t get the pass, you will want to pre-book an entry time so you don’t spend too much time standing in line. The Uffizi is a good place to have a guided tour, or go in with information so you can do a self-guided tour to help you fully enjoy this incredible collection of art.
When you go to Florence, you will want to see Michelangelo’s David. This is one of the most famous statues in the world and, in my opinion, a must see. Experiencing this masterpiece in person is something you will always remember. You can use the Firenze Care at the Accademia too, but it’s still a good idea to go at 9:00 am or earlier to avoid a line. If you don’t have the pass, do book your time in advance - you’ll be glad you did.
We recommend visiting the Accademia and the Uffizi on different days while you are in Florence to avoid museum fatigue. You also shouldn’t miss the incredible Duomo and the Baptistery, and, depending on your interests (and attention span) possibly other sites that are part of the Museo del Duomo. The Firenze Card includes these too, but if you don’t have one, be sure to buy your ticket in advance – it’s good for 72 hours.
If you are foodie, be sure to visit the Mercato Centrale. It is one of my favorite places in Florence as it is filled with absolutely spectacular food and wine and lively, engaging people who are passionate about sharing what they have to offer. Do watch your bags in the market. It is known for having pickpockets; but if you are careful, you should not have any problems.
Enjoy the restaurants and the gelato, the art and architecture and the incredible history of this city. Walk across the Ponte Vecchio and image what it was like when butchers occupied the shops instead of jewelers. Consider how fortunate we are that this exceptional bridge was not destroyed in WWII. If you would like more suggestions on what to do during your time here read our 7 Things You Shouldn’t Miss in Florence.
After your third night in Florence, take the train to Verona for another fascinating Italian city. The train from Florence to Verona takes about an hour and a half and the price range is about $35 - $74.
Spend 1 night in Verona
You know Verona from Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “Two households, both alike in dignity, In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, From ancient grudge break to new mutiny, Where civil blood makes civil hands unclean.” Wouldn’t you like to see it for yourself? I’m including it here because it is so different than the other three cities on this 10-day tour of Italy. Verona is smaller, yet still historic. It has a beautiful colosseum – smaller, but no less impressive than the one in Rome. If you are there at the right time of year, you can go to an opera in this arena! Isn’t that amazing?
Spend one night in Verona. Find accommodations in the center of the city. Just relax and walk and enjoy the ambiance and the scenery. If you’d like, you can take a self-guided walking tour (Rick Steve’s a has a good one) or join a group tour to learn more about the city.
Go see the balcony where Juliet supposedly stood looking down on her Romeo. It’s a beautiful, romantic Italian courtyard, but even the people who make their living off of this site admit, “No documentation has been discovered to prove the truth of the legend.” Of course, they also argue “no documentation has disproved it either!” Regardless of it’s authenticity in relation to Shakespeare’s most famous tragedy, it’s still fun to let your mind wander and imagine one star crossed lover saying to another “My bounty is as boundless as the sea, My love as deep; the more I give to thee, The more I have, for both are infinite.”
Go see the Verona Arena and the Castelvecchio. Walk across the Ponte di Castelvecchio and along the river. Take the funicular up to the Castel San Pietro. Just wander - and then end up in the Piazza della Erbe. Sit down at a table outside one of the cafès and have a spritz or two and watch the people. Just enjoy the view. Take this opportunity to not schedule too much and just soak in the wonderful Italian culture before you head into marvelous Venice for your last few days. The train from Verona to Venice takes about an hour and ten minutes and the price range is about $19 - $60.
Spend 3 nights in Venice
My best advice in Venice is also to walk and just get lost in the narrow streets and tiny alleys. Discover bridges and views that aren’t on every postcard, but look like they could be. Once your feet are weary from wandering, enjoy seafood, and Cicchetti, and many refreshing spritzes! There is nothing like enjoying aperitivo while you look out on the canals of this remarkable city. I love Venice so much and so will you. It’s a great place to spend your final days on this 10-day trip to Italy.
Plan to spend 3 nights in Venice. Staying in between the Rialto Bridge and Piazza San Marco allows you to be close, but not too close, to many of the sites you want to see. But walking and riding on the canals is easy in Venice, so stay anywhere on the island and you’ll be fairly centrally located.
Visit a major site – maybe the Doge’s Palace, the Basilica San Marco or the Guggenheim Museum. Pick one – and then keep wandering. It’s also fun to visit the food markets. If you are traveling with children, they will love learning how to row a gondola. Explore the little spots for cicchetti (sort of like Italian tapas, but be careful about saying that to an Italian). Rick shared his thoughts on a tiny place that we recommended:
The seafood in Venice is incredible – for good reason, as it’s a city on the water! So, if you like seafood, be sure to enjoy it here as much as possible. Check out Chelsea’s blog post with her recipe for Clams & Mussels (Vongole e Cozze) based on her experience in Venice around Christmas time. Book your special restaurants in advance as you’ll see in Heather’s comment below:
For more ideas, take a look at our blog Things to do in Venice in 48 Hours
You’ll have a little more than 48 hours so you can take your time and really enjoy Venice, which is one of the most romantic places in Italy. You’ll be sad to leave the next day. I recommend planning a return trip to Italy as soon as possible!
Of course, you could do this itinerary in reverse, starting in Venice and then going to Verona, Florence and Rome. I would price out the flights and see if there is a difference. Or, if you want to continue your journey on to the Amalfi coast, ending the 10 days in Rome and continuing on from there would be perfect!
Does planning a big trip like this just seem a little overwhelming? We can help with that! Remember that we are always available to you and your friends and family for custom trip planning to Europe. We are experts in creating custom travel itineraries and leading small group trips in Europe. You can always reach Betsy at email@example.com. We would love to help you make your travel dreams to Europe come true!
Betsy Ball – Betsy is co-founder and partner of Euro Travel Coach (ETC), which crafts custom European vacations for independent travelers and leads small group trips to Europe. She is a passionate and culturally curious traveler who thoroughly enjoys sharing her love for exploring Europe with ETC clients. Prior to founding ETC, Betsy taught International Business at Tarleton State University in Texas (part of the A & M System) where she led study abroad trips to multiple European countries and other worldwide destinations. She retired from teaching two years ago and now travels 9 months of the year in Europe. She has a degree in hotel, restaurant management from Michigan State University and an MBA from Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She also holds a Level 3 certification from the Wine & Spirits Education Trust.