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Need advice on how to sort my itinerary for Italy

Hi everyone,

I have 16 nights total in Italy. I want to definitely visit Venice, Florence, and Rome. Other places I'm interested in are Siena, the Amalfi coast, Cinque Terre, and Lago Como or Lago Maggiore, and Bologna. It would be nice to get some swimming in, but it wouldn't be the end of the world if I didn't.

I am traveling solo, so will be in hostels.

I'm trying to get a rough itinerary to figure out which city in Italy to fly into.

A few questions:

  1. Lake Como vs Amalfi vs Cinque Terre, which should I see on my first time in Italy?
  2. Is Bologna worth visiting on the first time?
  3. What is the best order to do everything in?

Here is a very very rough itinerary I made (I have 0 clue if it makes any sense):

Day 1: Land in MXP
Day 2: Lago Como OR Lago Maggiore
Day 3: Lago Como OR Lago Maggiore (maybe go to Bellagio)
Day 4: Go to Cinque Terre
Day 5: Venice
Day 6: Venice
Day 7: Go to Cinque Terre
Day 8: Cinque Terre hiking
Day 9: Pisa on the way to Florence
Day 10: Florence
Day 11: Siena
Day 12: Tuscany
Day 13: Rome
Day 14: Rome
Day 15: Rome
Day 16: Leave

Other option is to skip Cinque Terre, skip Lago Como, and do Amalfi coast (being in Sorrento and seeing Pompeii and stuff as well).

Posted by
3379 posts

This must be a typo?

Day 4: Go to Cinque Terre
Day 5: Venice
Day 6: Venice
Day 7: Go to Cinque Terre

When is this trip? That is important for us to know.

I think you have a few too many places and not enough time in most of them but not knowing your interests it is hard to offer any further advice.
You don't have 16 nights IN Italy, you have 15 nights.

Day 9: Pisa on the way to Florence
Day 10: Florence Day
11: Siena Day
12: Tuscany

Pisa, Florence and Siena are all IN Tuscany. Spend 3 nights in Florence- your itinerary now has 2 and your arrival to Florence will be later in day if you stop in Pisa so that's really only 1 day for Florence.
Spend 2 nights in Siena

Both Rome and Venice could use another night.

Posted by
34 posts

This must be a typo?

Sorry! That was a typo oy

When is this trip? That is important for us to know.

Next Friday (I know, I am a horrible planner but I already got approved for vacation next Friday so I will be planning all weekend long. I already looked at museums and everything and there is ticket availability).

I think you have a few too many places and not enough time in most of them but not knowing your interests it is hard to offer any further advice.

Anything I can help elaborate on interests? When I went to Paris I fell in love with wandering around the cobblestone streets, seeing the cafe culture with Parisians, seeing beautiful architecture. I also loved the Louvre. I love parks too, and Paris had nice parks.

You don't have 16 nights IN Italy, you have 15 nights.

I might have accidentally left out a day. I would land May 28th, and leave June 13th, which is 16 nights.

Day 9: Pisa on the way to Florence Day 10: Florence Day 11: Siena
Day 12: Tuscany Pisa, Florence and Siena are all IN Tuscany. Spend 3
nights in Florence- your itinerary now has 2 and your arrival to
Florence will be later in day if you stop in Pisa so that's really
only 1 day for Florence. Spend 2 nights in Siena Both Rome and Venice
could use another night.

Noted! I will add another night to Florence and another night to Rome. Hmm, Venice I heard from friends that 2 nights was plenty? But maybe they are different in terms of travel style, so I’ll add another night.

Posted by
39 posts

You should either fly into Venice or out of Venice, not sure it makes sense to fly into Milan then Venice after, kinda out of the way. Do open jaw with Venice and Rome, work your way there and you will benefit from time saved.

You could do Siena in a day trip, either into Florence or CT.

I did Amalfi as a day trip, it is doable, but will be a long day.

Possible itinerary:

Fly into naples for Amalfi/Pompeii/Others, 2 nights
Rome 4 nights
Florence 3 nights
Milan 3 nights
Fly out of Venice 3 nights

Posted by
34 posts

You should either fly into Venice or out of Venice, not sure it makes
sense to fly into Milan then Venice after, kinda out of the way. Do
open jaw with Venice and Rome, work your way there and you will
benefit from time saved. You could do Siena in a day trip, either into
Florence or CT. I did Amalfi as a day trip, it is doable, but will be
a long day. Possible itinerary: Fly into naples for
Amalfi/Pompeii/Others, 2 nights Rome 4 nights Florence 3 nights Milan
3 nights Fly out of Venice 3 nights

Thank you for the advice!! I booked my plane ticket to Venice and will be flying out of Rome. I will probably do Cinque Terre instead of Amalfi, and save Amalfi and southern Italy for a different trip :)

Posted by
2770 posts

You can train from Venice to Liguria either via Florence / La Spezia or via Milan. The former route is faster, but the latter requires only one train transfer in Milan's Centrale Station.

You could take an high speed train from Venice to Milan, spend a couple of nights on the Como Lake and then move to the Cinque Terre.

Posted by
13521 posts

I will probably do Cinque Terre instead of Amalfi, and save Amalfi
and southern Italy for a different trip :)

I think that was a wise decision as the CT fits better with the rest of your itinerary. So this is one way to order your trip:

5/28: Venice (partial day)
5/29: Venice
5/30: Venice
5:31: Varenna/Lake Como (partial day)
6/1:Varenna/Lake Como
6/2:CT (partial day)
6/3:CT
6/4:Florence/Pisa en route
6/5:Florence
6/6: Florence or additional day trip
6/7:Florence/day trip to Siena
6/8: Florence
6/9: Rome (partial day)
9/10: Rome
6/11: Rome
6/12: Rome
I would get all over booking accommodations for the CT and Varenna/Lake Como right away. As well, some of the attractions mandate advance, timed-entry reservations - and they are selling out quickly - so you'll need to get busy booking the "biggies" you wish to see.

Posted by
34 posts

Yeah my bad. I made one account on my phone and forgot the login. So on my computer I use the other. I should probably just stick to one…

And I haven’t totally settled on it, I keep changing my mind. Like if I go to Italy I’m like oh man I won’t get to see X, and vice versa.

Posted by
3379 posts

If you already booked a ticket to Venice it looks like you are going to Italy

You can’t go wrong with Italy and although it will be hot it won’t be near as hot as Spain

Posted by
34 posts

I booked with free cancellation up to 24 hours before the flight.

Is there one that would be best done in early June? Italy vs Spain vs Amsterdam/Berlin/Budapest

Posted by
13521 posts

Dude, if you are looking to leave in a week then you really need to just make a decision and go back to Europe in the future for what you can't do this time. 😬

Posted by
34 posts

I forgot to specify. I’m switching jobs soon, so I will have another 4 weeks in July as well for vacation. So im leaving next week, then in July I have another 4 weeks.

So is a certain country better to be done now and another one visit in July?

Like I recall that Italy closes in august. So does anything close in July so that would help sway my decision. Or is heat so bad in one area that I should go there first? If that makes sense.

Posted by
13521 posts

LOL, Italy does not "close" in August. All of the attractions will be open, transport running, and more than enough restaurants and hotels to accommodate you. Some proprietors of smaller businesses do close up for a bit to take their own vacation but not for the entire month, especially not having suffered from the long period of tourist-less COVID. It will be hotter than you-know-what but so it will be in Spain.

Look at current temps + historic averages for all. I see it's really hot in Seville this week. Will be so end of this week in Granada. Rome temps are currently up and down. Etc, Etc. What they'll be anywhere in 16 days is a crapshoot but warmer than not, I'll wager.

But again, you've been tossing around Spain/Portugal or ltaly for a week (as SeaTraveler or AlpacaOnMars) have now added Amsterdam/Berlin/Budapest to the pile, and knew back THEN that you were already very late making a decision. You've lost another week, and tickets for some of what you want to see are vanishing quickly and some may be gone altogether. LOL, I do not mean to sound cranky (I'm not!) just concerned that with every high-season day that goes by you'll be left with a LOT to have to do on the fly...such as understanding the transport systems, booking accommodations, tickets, etc.

Edited: I see you've been to, "Paris and Strasbourg in France and also soloed Hawaii, and went non-solo to London, Prague, Vienna, and Kiev." But I also see that you said yesterday that you, "..found plenty of reservations for where I’ll be going. And I booked them yesterday and am leaving next week." So if you're all booked, why the indecision? Where are you currently booked to go?

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel-forum/general-europe/having-a-hard-time-choosing-narrowed-down-my-options-between-3-countries

Posted by
34 posts

Hey sorry for taking long to respond, I was booking hostels in Venice.

I realize I probably sound crazy. I’m just going to stick with Italy. There’s so much in Europe to see that I won’t be able to see them all. I just have to accept that.

I think I have this obsession with visiting everywhere but it’s not going to happen in 2.5 weeks.

This isn’t my first trip to Europe, I’ve been to Paris solo and Prague, London, Vienna, and Kyiv with family.

Posted by
13521 posts

Very happy you've made a decision! You will love Italy!

Posted by
97 posts

So I wanted to ask,

If we don't include extra stuff and just include Florence, Rome, and Venice, then I have 2 nights in Venice (someone suggested 3, but that's overkill for me personally), 5 nights in Florence (and day trips), 5 nights in Rome. That leaves 4 more nights.

I was thinking EITHER I could do Lago Como/Maggiore AND Cinque Terre, OR I could just do the Amalfi coast (including probably Pompeii). Is one preferable?

Posted by
13521 posts

I don't know as there's a wrong answer but the Lake Como/CT scenario is the one I'd provided earlier. Those two just make sense to me geographically with your other destinations (Venice> Florence> Rome).

The AC is a bit of a haul from Florence, and will involve backtracking north to Rome, which is where you're ending your trip. Preference? YMMV; it's subjective. I was bored with Positano (on the AC) in 1/2 a day but enjoyed Sorrento, which is not on the AC but next door. Pompeii (by cheap Circumvesuviana) commuter train) and Capri (ferry) are both easily done from there. Access the AC by SITA bus or ferries. You can do some of the AC easily by SITA bus/ferry from Salerno (can take a high-speed train there from Florence; may have to change trains depending on when you want to get there) but Capri is a 2-hour haul, one-way, by ferry from there. Sorrento by train involves a change in Naples to the (bare-bones but cheap ) commuter.

My Canon's lens loved the CT; enjoyed some hiking about about there as well. Lake Como was pretty hazy; did it on a day trip from Bergamo, and maybe would have been more taken with the area given more time/different day.

Editing to add: it may also come down to availability/affordability of accommodations in all 3 locations at this late date.

Posted by
97 posts

Good point! I guess I'll think it through and see what interests me more. I did find this itinerary which is 14 days (https://www.earthtrekkers.com/two-weeks-in-italy-14-day-italy-itinerary/), not sure if it's any good though. They did Amalfi coast with Rome/Florence/Venice.

So I booked my hostels in Lago Como (staying in a hostel in Como itself, since there were no hostels in the city you mentioned).

I was wondering what ticket I should book for the Vatican (if you know). Is a guided tour worth it? Here were the options:

  • Prime Experience - Vatican Museums Take part in a guided tour of the Vatican Museums one hour before the opening time. Having finished the tour, enjoy a delicious American Breakfast.

More expensive but budget isn't a concern. Willing to pay if it's worth.

  • Admission tickets - Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel

Cheaper.

I do know Rick Steves does have a Vatican audio thingy. So maybe could just do that, but I've not done many guided tours before.

Edit: looks like the itinerary I linked did do cinque terre as well. But they also did do only 3 days in Rome, which is bad...

Posted by
777 posts

I went to Rome in July 2017. I had a guided tour in the Vatican. I forgot what I paid for this tour. I did another guided tour of the coliseum and the Roman forum with a lady from "The Roman Guys" - that tour cost 99. I forgot whether that was 99 Euros or equivalent of 99 US dollars. At the time I booked my tours, I wrongly believed I needed guided tours because I was afraid I would see places without knowing what I was seeing. Now I think I paid too much attention to the tour guides while barely observed what was around me. Some background reading and/or carrying a good guidebook with you, paper or electronic on a tablet or e-book reader, will take away your need for a guided tour. If you do a "free" guided tour, you should give your guide 11 to 20 euros at the end. I paid 30 euros for a guided tour in Florence with "Art viva". That was the required cost because Art Viva takes advance reservations and they don't do "free tours". The guide was extremely knowledgeable. He talked even while we were walking. I stopped doing expensive guided tours like the kind that cost 75 euros or more.

Posted by
13521 posts

Did you check the availability for Vatican museum tickets?? If your 3 full days in Rome are June 10th, 11th and 12th, they're closed on Sunday the 12th, Prime Experience tour is showing as sold out for the 10th, and low availability for the 11th so if you want that one, better jump on it.

While I'm at it, you might want to leave Florence on Sunday June 5th, when it's Free First Sunday at the Italian State Museums (affects the Uffizi, Accademia. and others). I personally wouldn't go near them on a free-entry day. There ARE other great attractions to see, though, so you wouldn't have to venture out of the city but I'd check the info on the stuff you want to see for hours, ticketing etc. There are probably some less-visited Sate museums that wouldn't involve long queues and huge crowds, though.

General entry tickets for the Vatican Museums are sold out for the 10th with the exception of 8:00 PM entry, and same for Sat. the 11th. Those are the two days they're open late, is the last entry slot of the day, would give you just a couple of hours until closing at 10:30, and I believe they start herding people to the exit before that time.

Posted by
3379 posts

Rethink just 2 nights in Venice
Your first day is jet lag so you really only have one day to experience Venice

One of our favorite things to do is take vaporetto out to Burano
You need another day if you want to do that

Venice is the perfect place to get over jet lag, wander the back canals, get lost- that’s where the magic is

With just one full day you will be in crowds and hot tourist spots the whole time

Posted by
777 posts

One more thing: I had an advance ticket to the brick dome, the Duomo di Firenze, in Florence. When the guy scanning tickets scanned my ticket, the machine showed that my ticket was "already used". I didn't get in. I suspect that by mistake I used this ticket to get into another place, and it worked because both tickets were sold by the same organization. Make sure you carefully look at your tickets before you let them get scanned; make sure you are using the right ticket for the right place.

Posted by
13521 posts

Mike, things have changed at the duomo complex since you were there 5 years ago. They now have 3 types of visitor passes, only one of them includes the dome climb, and you are required to choose a reserved entry day and time slot for that at the time you purchase that particular pass. That date/time is the start of the 3-day validity of the pass for the other monuments in the group with the exception of the main body of the church, as it's free and there's no line-skipping for that one.

https://duomo.firenze.it/en/home

Posted by
97 posts

Did you check the availability for Vatican museum tickets?? If your 3 full days in Rome are June 10th, 11th and 12th, they're closed on Sunday the 12th, Prime Experience tour is showing as sold out for the 10th, and low availability for the 11th so if you want that one, better jump on it.

Yes I checked. That's why I asked if it's worth it to do a tour. My full days in Rome would be on June 9th - 12th. Hence 3 full days. I just realized I never showed the updated itinerary. Here is what it would look like:

Day 0: Land in Venice Marco Polo international
Day 1: Full day in Venice
Day 2: Full day in Venice
Day 3: partial day in Venice and leave for Lago Como. Stay in Como town
Day 4: Lake Como
Day 5: Cinque Terre (partial)
Day 6: Cinque Terre
Day 7: Florence/Pisa en route
Day 8: Florence
Day 9: Florence
Day 10: Florence/Siena day trip
Day 11: Florence/Maybe Bologna day trip?
Day 12 (June 9): Rome
Day 13: Rome
Day 14: Rome
Day 15: Rome
Day 16: Leave

Now that I look back on it, I wanted 5 full days in Rome. So maybe it's better to remove Lago Como OR Cinque Terre for more time in Rome. Also, if I add a day to Rome I can book the guided tour on the 8th. Another option is to change my flight to start in Rome (there's more availability on June 1st and 2nd), that way I can get necessary guided tours.

While I'm at it, you might want to leave Florence on Sunday June 5th, when it's Free First Sunday at the Italian State Museums (affects the Uffizi, Accademia. and others). I personally wouldn't go near them on a free-entry day. There ARE other great attractions to see, though, so you wouldn't have to venture out of the city but I'd check the info on the stuff you want to see for hours, ticketing etc. There are probably some less-visited Sate museums that wouldn't involve long queues and huge crowds, though.

Do you mean doing a day trip to Siena would be best on this day? To avoid more crowds?

General entry tickets for the Vatican Museums are sold out for the 10th with the exception of 8:00 PM entry, and same for Sat. the 11th. Those are the two days they're open late, is the last entry slot of the day, would give you just a couple of hours until closing at 10:30, and I believe they start herding people to the exit before that time.

If I did not do a tour, I could do the Breakfast at the museums tickets on one of those days. I do see availability.

Posted by
13521 posts

Whether to do a tour or not is up to you. Some people like 'em and some don't.
According to your schedule, you are coming into Rome from Florence on 6/9 so by the time you get in, find your hostel, get checked in, etc. you have closer to 1/2 day versus a full day.

The crowds you want to avoid on First Free Sundays of the month are at the state museums. As 1st Free Sundays have only been re-instated for a couple of months now, tough to tell how long the entry queues will be but I wouldn't expect them to be pretty. Actual dates added + some edits in bold below:

5/28 Day 0: Land in Venice Marco Polo international
5/29 Day 1: Full day in Venice
5/30 Day 2: Full day in Venice
5/31 Day 3: partial day in Venice and leave for Lago Como. Stay in Como town
6/1 Day 4: Lake Como
6/2 Day 5: Cinque Terre (partial)
6/3 Day 6: Cinque Terre
6/4 Day 7: Florence/Pisa en route
6/5 Day 8: Florence (this is Free First Sunday at State Museums: I'd switch this with a day trip)
6/6 Day 9: Florence (State Museums are closed on Mondays; take a day trip)
6/7 Day 10: Florence/Siena day trip (Do museums in Florence: Duomo museum closed on this date)
6/8 Day 11: Florence/Maybe Bologna day trip? (Do museums in Florence)
6/9 Day 12 : Rome
6/10 Day 13: Rome
6/11 Day 14: Rome
6/12 Day 15: Rome (Vatican museums closed)
6/13 Day 16: Leave

Posted by
34 posts

Thank you! This makes a lot more sense. I’m going to think about removing either Como or Cinque Terre to add more days in Rome. I think it is best to do that, not sure if others agree. My gut tells me 3 full days is way too little for Rome.

Posted by
22 posts

We travelled around Italy last year. It was great. For Venice: https://www.dfs.com/t-fondaco/rooftop-terrace-booking/booking/terrace_venice_en.html. This gives you a great view over Venice and it is or was free of admission. You just have to reserve a time slot.
Cinque Terre: we bought a Cinque Terre traincard in advance on line for one day which gave us unlimited access to the trainstations from La Spezia and the Cinque Terre villages as well as acces to two chargeable hiking trails. Be aware that you have to wear proper footwear hiking the trails. No slippers allowed.
In Tuscany we love Lucca! We found Pisa ok just for the tower but prefer Lucca as a city to visit.

Posted by
3379 posts

I know your time is short but wanted to throw this out there, something to think about.
All of the places you are going- Venice, Como, CT, Florence and Rome will be very crowded. We were just in Florence for 4 nights and as much as I love Florence we could not wait to leave. Rome was probably just as crowded but we mostly stayed in Trastevere, not our first visit to Rome and there is more room to move there!

You might consider slotting in a few lesser visited/less crowded places just to break up the manic pace.

Some suggestions would be Lucca and Orvieto- both easy to get to on train, both quieter with enough to do on a 2 night stay.
A 2 night stay in Siena would even work, if you don't mind moving about a bit more.
Have not been to Lake Como but do know Como town is not the best place to stay- YMMV

Venice 3 nights
Como 2 nights
Lucca 2 nights- day trip to Pisa very easy
Florence 3 nights
Orvieto or Siena 2 nights
Rome 4 nights (if you arrive from Orvieto it's only an hour train ride so you have a full day on first day here)

You could visit Ostia Antica as a day trip from Rome to just get out of the city- a substitute for Pompeii.

Posted by
34 posts

I know your time is short but wanted to throw this out there, something to think about. All of the places you are going- Venice, Como, CT, Florence and Rome will be very crowded. We were just in Florence for 4 nights and as much as I love Florence we could not wait to leave.

Wow, and you must have been there during shoulder season (May). Was it more crowded than pre pandemic?

Rome was probably just as crowded but we mostly stayed in Trastevere,

That’s actually where the hostel I would most likely book is.

You might consider slotting in a few lesser visited/less crowded places just to break up the manic pace.

Hmm, then maybe I should keep Cinque Terre and Lake Como? Given that the crowds are less.

Some suggestions would be Lucca and Orvieto- both easy to get to on train, both quieter with enough to do on a 2 night stay.

A 2 night stay in Siena would even work, if you don't mind moving about a bit more.

The issue is that most good hostels aren’t in those areas. Honestly I don’t mind the crowds if I’m sleeping there.

Have not been to Lake Como but do know Como town is not the best place to stay- YMMV

Yeah issue is that the hostel Ostello Bello is in Como. I could book a hotel in Varenna but wanted to socialize with others. Maybe I might consider booking an Airbnb or hotel if I find that Como town is super out of the way of everything.

Venice 3 nights
Como 2 nights
Lucca 2 nights- day trip to Pisa very easy
Florence 3 nights
Orvieto or Siena 2 nights
Rome 4 nights (if you arrive from Orvieto it's only an hour train ride so you have a full day on first day here)
You could visit Ostia Antica as a day trip from Rome to just get out of the city- a substitute for Pompeii.

Thank you! I will consider this. I most likely will just bear the crowds but if I do get crowd sick I might decide to spontaneously go there.

Posted by
3379 posts

Don’t kid yourself!
CT is usually overrun with crowds and cruise ship passengers

As we trained thru LaSpezia it was the most crowded train station

We were in Florence 4/27 thru 5/1
It was shoulder to shoulder in the streets

Posted by
777 posts

Looking at my itinerary I wrote about 5 or more years ago, in Florence I had a 9:30 am reservation for the Academia musem. That same day I had a reservation for the Duomo of Florence at 5:30pm. I don't remember whether I showed up early. The ticket scanning machine showed that my ticket to the Duomo was used that day sometime between 8 and 9am, I forgot the exact time the machine said my ticket was used. By mistake I might have used my ticket for the Duomo to get into the Academic early, causing my ticket for the Duomo to have been "already used" when I showed up at the Duomo.

Posted by
97 posts

Okay I made some more changes. One thing I did not realize was that going from Lago Como to CT is a 5 hour train ride. Also, I do really want to see the Amalfi coast, and if I stayed in Sorrento or some town nearby it wouldn't be so bad. I see 2 options:

One option is this:

Day 1: Land in Venice Marco Polo Airport

Day 2-3: Venice

Day 4-5: Lake Como

Day 6: Leave Como for Florence

Day 7-8: Florence

Day 9: Florence day trip (probably Siena, may consider renting a car)

Day 10: Florence to Sorrento, half day in Naples (maybe see archeology museum)

Day 11: Pompeii/Herculaneum

Day 12: Amalfi/Positano

Day 13: Path of Gods hike

Day 14: Rome

Day 15: Rome

Day 16: Rome

Day 17: Leave

Other option is to remove Lake Como and add 2 extra days somewhere. Options would be to pick 2 out of:

  • a day trip to Verona (Juliet's balcony)
  • an extra day trip from Florence (ie Lucca or somewhere else)
  • or an extra day trip from Rome (ie Orvieto)
Posted by
97 posts

I did find lodgings. I didn't find many hostels so I decided to just book a nice hotel to treat myself. Might be a good break in case I'm tired of hostels anyway.

Posted by
8641 posts

a day trip to Verona (Juliet's balcony)

Juliet's balcony is not worth trading out any of what you have listed

Posted by
97 posts

Noted, I’ll skip Verona then. Does the rest of the itinerary look ok?

Anything else I should book in advance? So far I’ve booked all lodging (with free cancellation in case I need to make changes to itinerary), Academia and Duomo in Florence, a shared Gondola ride in Venice, Vatican guided tour, and an Airbnb experience of making pasta.

Also any tours or experiences I shouldn’t miss out on?