I think Italy has more beautiful things per square inch than anywhere else on earth. You would need more than one lifetime to see them all, but you only have three weeks…what to do? Because I spend so much time in Italy I am often asked for recommendations.
For first time visitors to Italy you really can’t miss the obvious places, Rome, Florence, Venice and the Amalfi Coast. I would split the 3 weeks into 4 lots and spend around 5 days in each location. Use each one as a base to explore the area.
Spend a few days discovering the delights of Rome, the Colosseum, the 2,000 year old Pantheon, Villa Borghese gardens, the Vatican….the list goes on.
From Rome a day trip to Orvieto would be a good idea. It is easy to access by train and an excellent town to explore. It is known for its magnificent cathedral and underground caves. It sits high on a Tufa plug and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.
An easy day trip by train would be to Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient port. It was abandoned in the 5th century and left to decay.
The Amalfi Coast is one of the most gorgeous places in all of Italy. A drive along the coast road is both terrifying and magnificent. Take the local bus and admire the skills of the bus driver as he navigates the twists and turns, but be sure to sit on the sea side of the bus for the most stunning views. Sorrento or Amalfi are good jumping off points to the other delights to be found…Capri, Positano, Salerno, Pompeii…
Florence is one of the most visited cities in the world for good reason. It is chock full of renaissance art and architecture. Try to book ahead if you want to visit the Uffizzi art gallery or see the real David in the Accademia, but don’t be concerned if you don’t make it there, just wandering the streets of Florence will enchant you.
Walk across the Ponte Vecchio early in the morning before the crowds arrive and watch the rowers on the Arno or stand in front of the Duomo and be amazed. You can climb to the top of the dome or the bell tower for great views.
Day trips from Florence could include Pistoia, 40 minutes by train from Santa Maria Novella station. Pistoia has been named City of Art and Culture for 2017 and there will be lots of events happening in 2017.
Siena is an easy bus ride from the centre of Florence. The Sita bus will drive you through the glorious Tuscan countryside and drop you right in the centre of the city. Don’t miss the cathedral, my favourite in Italy.
Venice has to be seen to be believed. Riding down the Grand Canal on a good day will be an experience you will never forget. I was there one October day and city glowed gold in the afternoon sun. Buy a 3 day pass for the ferries and get to the outer islands of Burano and Torcello for a different Venice experience.
Verona is a short train ride from Venice and is a beautiful town to visit. Take a quick look at Juliet’s balcony and then wander the streets gazing at the stunning buildings and stop for a snack in the Piazza Delle Herbe and watch the passing parade. If you have time, see a show in the ancient Roman amphitheatre.
Padova is another place that is easy to reach from Venice by train. You need to book ahead to see the Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes by Ghiotto…you won’t be sorry. Padova is a flat and easy to navigate and has much to offer.
It is very important not to try to do too much while in Italy. We can be tricked into thinking the country is small and the distances between towns are not great, but you don’t want to spend all you time travelling. Part of the joy of being in Italy is sitting in a piazza with an aperitivo and taking it all in.
I would suggest avoiding summer. It can be very hot and crowded, try spring and autumn.
I was going to share some of the more obscure places, but the post is already too long…another time. There are several posts on all of the places mentioned in this post. Go back through the archives by looking in Categories or typing a name in the Search box.