12 Days in Italy...Which cities should we choose?

I am going to Italy next summer, after dreaming about it all my life. It will be my honeymoon. The only problem is we will have 12 actual days in Italy, and we won't be able to see and go everywhere. We will definitely be spending a few days in Rome, but I am having a harder time picking the rest of the cities. I would love to go to Lake Como, Tuscany, Florence, etc, but am thinking we need to narrow our trip to 3 cities max. I would love advice from y'all who have had the chance to see the different sights of Italy.

Posted by Audrey
354 posts

hi Jill, I think you'll find some interesting itinerary suggestions on other 'itinerary' threads on this forum, so do check them out. Good idea not to rush things, especially since it's your honeymoon! Don't forget to factor in travel times between cities (check out the train timetables at trenitalia.com), and you should also factor the summer heat into your planning. It can get very hot! Generally, on a first trip to Italy, people choose the 'big three' - Rome, Florence, Venice. For a 12-day trip, it's probably unwise to try to do both Lake Como and Tuscany. If you're planning to spend a few days in Florence, you can visit a few Tuscan towns near Florence by bus/ train/ car: Siena, Arezzo, San Gimignano, etc. Siena, for instance, is just an hour and a quarter by express bus from Florence. However, if you're dead set on seeing Lake Como, it's possible to get there via Milan (a few hours' train ride from Florence or Venice). There's a recent thread in this forum about Como, have you seen it? The travelers on this thread are recommending the towns of Varenna or Bellagio for best views of the lake, and not Como town itself. Since it's your honeymoon, you could skip Venice and take in the Cinque Terre instead - very romantic, by all accounts! You can get there by train from Florence via La Spezia. I'm sure you'll have a great honeymoon.

Posted by Frank II
4845 posts

If you only want to do three cities, and as this is your first trip to Italy, you could always stick to the big 3--Rome, Florence and Venice. Each is easy to reach by train.

Or, since 12 days means 11 nights, you could do 3 nights Rome, 2 nights either Cinque Terre or Tuscany, 3 nights Florence, and 3 nights Venice.

Como is really out of the way.

As this is your honeymoon, you're smart in not trying to rush, rush, rush.

And remember...plan on going back.

Posted by Greg
Palm Beach, Florida, United States
536 posts

Hi Jill - Without any question, Rome and Venice are must sees - And to me - after many years travelling Italy and being Italian, I would consider Tuscany and/or Le Cinque Terre. And , you could actually spend three days in Tuscany at http://www.casolarelibbiano.it/ I know the owners-Berta and her husband Andrea- and their B&B - just outside of San Gimgignano is a beautiful property - very romantic and affords you the opportunity to see Sienna, San Gimignano, and Volterra in three days - very close to all.
Then, I would go up to Le Cinque Terre for three days and perhaps stay at http://www.nerinarooms.it/ A very nice location on the Harbor in Vernazza. Exploring The villages and walking the trails, especially the Via Dell'Amore (lovers path) from Manarola to Riomaggiore is something you will never forget!
Getting back to Rome my choice, for three days, would be http://www.hotelforte.com/en/index.htm A Fabulous location at Piazza di Spagna - The Spanish Steps - that allows you to easily walk to The Trevi Fountain, The Via Veneto, and The Roman Forum - No Cabs Required! Emanuel and Emanuella are excellent hosts !!
In Venice, for three days, I would suggest http://www.hotelcasanova.it/ The Hotel is located directly behind The Piazza San Marco and easy walking to The Rialto Bridge area , with it's markets and vendors. San Marco is the focal point , especially in the evening with it's "Battle of the Band", as the Cafes compete musically for your attention - The Grand Canal is right there for you to enjoy. And, The Hotel - Franco or Stefano - will give you - FREE - water taxi tickets to go to The Island of Murano , so you can sit and be dazzled by the glass blowing demonstrations, and then, on to The Island of Burano, famous for it's lace and embroidery. A Fun day.

Whatever you choose - Enjoy

Ciao, Greg

Posted by Francis
Eugene, Oregon, USA
473 posts

As Frank II says, plan on going back.
I would divide the trip in half.
1/2 Rome and 1/2 Venice.

Start with Rome, finish up in Venice.

Leave everything else for your next trip. If you really think you want the third city, then Florence.

Yet Rome, in my opinion, shouldn't be your first priority on a Honey Moon.

If you are willing to change that, then I'd say Florence and then Venice with a stop over in route to visit Milan for the Duomo Roof. I have a romantic itinerary in mind and can fill that out if you don't want to do the crazy,"lets see, but not experience anything," kind of itinerary.

If you spend more time in Florence, you'll get to see the little bits of the city that most people miss, like the Boboli Gardens and the beautiful views past the Kaffeehaus to the enjoining gardens. You'll have time to go to the Piazzale Michelangelo and San Miniato and if you have the spirit for it, visit the cemetery. This blew both of us away as possibly the most interesting thing experienced in Florence as side from the great art.
You'll have time to climb the Giotto bell tower, and the Duomo Dome. You will have time to have a picnic at Fiesole at sun set with wine, bread and cheese and hear monks singing.

And on the Ponte Vecchio, you can still place a lock. They made a way to do this with out getting fined. When you get to the mid-part, open part, of the bridge turn left, and just past the far end of the wall there is a single modern chain hung there that everyone now puts their locks. You can put your lock there cause its not really part of the old structure and doesn't break any rules. They remove this when it gets filled. Your lock wouldn't be there for longer than a week as they make room for others. But It is the thought that counts and the moment that counts.

Venice has its own charm. Its relaxed, an improbable city, and has gondoliers that sing.

Good Luck.

Posted by Mike
Los Angeles, CA, USA
1448 posts

Ok, I'll start with a caveat that I've been to Venice twice and for me that is one time too many, but I don't see the wisdom of spending an extended amount of time in Venice. After a day or two walking around I think you've seen pretty much all there is to see. Others, of course, can't get enough, so it comes back to know yourself and what you'd like. I don't think you're going to get a universal consensus on the top 3 or top 5 places to visit in Italy; and the more you travel, your choices might change.

I think you're making a good choice in picking 3 cities; spending 4 days in 3 locations adds a lot to your vacation; each time you pack, go to the train station, find the new hotel, check in and unpack, it takes about 1/2 a day even if the destination is only an hour away. In effect you're getting an extra day or two of vacation by not relocating so much. And keep in mind that being based at one spot still lets you explore a circle of 30-50 miles around that base.

At many libraries you can get DVDs of travel shows such as Rick Steve and others; they are also run on PBS and the Travel Channel regularly. I suggest taping the shows and discussing what catches your interest. Some people might be intrigued by hilltowns and decide to spend a few days in Tuscany/Umbria, others might find Florence or Venice more interesting. That's why we can't pick the perfect trip for you; we don't know what you like and you might not either until you watch some of the shows and see what resonates with you.

Posted by Wally
34 posts

Here's my 2 cents:

1) 3 nights in Rome
2) 3 nights on the Amalfi Coast
3) 2 nights in Florence
4) 2 nights in Venice

If 3 cities are your max, I would eliminate Florence and add a day in Rome and Venice.

Rome is simply amazing. The Vatican, St Peter's, The Pantheon, The Colosseum, The Forum, Santa Maria Maggiore, it goes on and on.

I have been very fortunate to travel to some beautiful locations. The Amalfi ranks at the top. The view from Ravello, being in Positano and Capri and seeing Pompeii is well worth a trip to the Amalfi. That amazing coastline is simply outstanding.

Venice is remarkable for many reasons. It clearly is a must see if nothing but for it's shear uniqueness.

Florence is amazing as well and is worthy of a day or 2.

Hope this helps.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
24175 posts


First of all, congratulations! Given the circumstances and especially the short time, your plan to limit the visit to three locations is good.

You might consider something like this:

Rome - 4 days

Florence (which is in Tuscany) - 4 days (with perhaps a day trip to nearby location such as Siena).

Lago di Como (Varenna) - 3 days (with day trips to Bellagio or other points on the lake). Rick's evaluation of Lago di Como is that it's perfect for Luna di Miele!

All of those locations are easy rail trips. Rome to Florence is only about 1H:40M via EuroStar Italia/Alta Velocita and Florence to Milano is as short as 2H:10M plus an hour from there to Varenna. Using P-P tickets (second class if cost is an issue) would be easy, so no Rail pass needed.

Using "open jaw" flights, inbound to Rome and outbound from Milan would work best with this plan. Towards the end of the trip, you could return to Milan for one night before flying home from MXP.

Happy travels!

Posted by George
123 posts

Hi Jill - This past May\June we spent 14 nights in Italy. Initially I planned 12 nights split between Rome-Florence-Venice, but then I decided it would be a real shame to take my daughter all the way there and not include the Amalfi coast. So I added a couple of nights and included Sorrento-Positano-Ravello-Amalfi-Capri. We paid the price for all the unpacking, packing, traveling, etc., and we were pretty tired the last three days, but in the end the Amalfi coast was my daughter's favorite part of the trip, so it was worth it. I agree with your thought and others' recommendations that you should limit your 12 days to three cities max. Have fun!

Posted by Otter
Santa Clara, CA
252 posts

If it were my trip, I'd fly into Milan and go straight to the Cinque Terre for 2 nights, then 3 nights in Florence, 2 nights in a Tuscan hill town (I'd pick Siena) and finally 4 nights in Rome where you fly home from.

I've been to Venice, it was nice but I didn't buy into the trumped up romanticism of the city. Frankly, if you need background ambiance in order to spark romance on your honeymoon, your marriage is in trouble from the start! haha. In any case, LOTS of people here love Venice...personally, I wouldn't give it more than a day and I doubt I will ever go back.

Posted by G.María
Lima, Perú
126 posts

You know what? I thought the Amalfi coast was some of the most spectacular coastline I've ever seen - and extremely romantic. We took a train from Rome to Salerno & a short ferry ride to Positano (which I had to visit after seeing the movie Under the Tuscan Sun). We spent 2.5 days there, although 4 would've been better, as we missed out visiting Ravello, Pompeii - even Capri. Nevertheless, my husband took me on an incredibly romantic scooter (ha, ha) ride from Positano to Sorrento. Scary for me, exhilarating for him. I just held on to him tighter. Lunch in Sorrento was lovely. Also very romantic was renting an inflatable boat w/engine at Positano beach and motoring to Amalfi. We stopped at several tiny beaches tucked into the coastline along the way - none of them empty in the Summer, but still soooo romantic. The water was incredible. The food was excellent throughout the area. We ate at one particular restaurant in Positano, on a tiny side of the street, overlooking the amazing rugged coastline.

Rome was definitely worth 3, but 4 for us would've been better. Florence was also fascinating and romantic. We were there for 3 days; again 1 more day would have been less hurried. Didn't have time for Venice and must go back to the Tuscan countryside one day. I have some friends who went on a wine tour of Tuscany, and stayed with families in B&Bs/farms. They found them online.

You'll have a wonderful time wherever you go - and you'll just have to go back again and again to cover what you don't see on this trip!

Posted by Susan
Marin County/San Francisco
4034 posts

I agree with Wally's itinerary suggestion. My favorite area in all of Italy is the Amalfi Coast, and Sorrento especially. La Tonnarella hotel in Sorrento is fantastic and perfect for honeymooners, it's in RS's Italy guidebook.

Posted by Michael
Seattle, WA, USA
6726 posts

The nice thing about doing Rome - Florence - Venice is that they line up in pretty much a straight line, so your travel time is spent very efficiently. That's the drawback with trying to add in the CT or the Amalfi Coast. Since it will be your honeymoon, I really want to lobby for Venice. So romantic. But here's a catch - you say you'll be going in summer. Can you narrow that down? July and August can be pretty freakin' hot in places, and even though you're from Texas, you may not be used to spending so much time outside in the heat (also, you won't find air conditioning in as many places in Italy).

The farther south you go (Amalfi), the hotter it is likely to be.

Posted by Anne
Augusta, GA
75 posts


With 12 days I would spend 3 in Venice, 4 in Castelrotto (in the Dolomites) and 5 in Florence.
If you enjoy hiking and gorgeous alpine scenery you really can't beat this area. It's also nice to break up the cities with some fresh air and slower pace. With 5 nights in Florence you can day trip to Sienna or Pisa if you like. Sienna is one of my favorite Tuscan towns and despite it's ultra-tourist designation, it's still kind of cool to see and climb the leaning tower.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8186 posts

If I wanted to see the max of Italy in the time available, I would probably follow Frank II's suggestion Rome, Florence, Venice.

On a honeymoon, the two best stops will be Venice and Cinque Terra, other towns in Tuscany (Voltera, Montipulciano, San Gimignano maybe using Siena as a base) would round out a very relaxed and romantic trip.

Florence and Rome have great must sees but are generally expensive and heavily tourist ridden.

I wouldn't go South of Rome only because trying to go South AND see Venice puts too much travel time into the itinerary. South of Rome should be it's own trip and I don't think you should miss Venice on your honeymoon.