Italy Essentials: 10-Day Itinerary


Italy Itinerary: 10 Days

By Nicole
Before even stepping foot in this country, I had vividly imagined what Italy would be like, an image that evolved from watching films like Roman Holiday and, admittedly, The Lizzie McGuire Movie. With a few weeks off, my friend, S, and I set off to explore Italy for ten days, hopefully eating all the pizza and gelato we could along the way.

Duration: 10 days / 9 nights
Accommodations: AirBnb in Piazza Navona (Rome), AirBnb near Duomo (Florence), Best Western Hotel Montecarlo (Venice)
Before you go: Book tickets for major sites in advance, reserve tours, make dinner reservations (if desired)

♦♦♦ A Must   |   ♦♦ Recommended   |   ♦ Point of Interest

Day 1 – Arriving in Rome

We arrived in Italy hungry for the culture and in particular, pizza. We took a cab from the airport to our AirBnb apartment in Piazza Navona, which took about twenty minutes.

♦♦ AirBnb in Piazza Navona. Located just off of Piazza Navona, our AirBnb apartment was perfectly situated for exploring. Most major sites were a within a twenty-minute walk, and at night the Piazza would come alive with street performers and people.

♦♦♦ Pinsere Roma. Our first stop after checking into our apartment was Pinsere Roma, a small restaurant serving a wide array of personal pizzas. There was no seating area, but I finished my pizza before I even needed one. Perfectly crisp crust and fresh toppings, this may have been the best pizza I had on the entire trip, or ever.

♦♦♦ Trevi Fountain. The Trevi Fountain was built in the 15th century and is a stunning display of the Baroque style popular at that time. Legend has it, tossing a coin over your left shoulder into Trevi Fountain will guarantee you a return trip to Rome, so naturally I had a bagful of coins ready. Luckily, my first attempt made it in, so I used the rest of the coins to make a bunch of wishes.

♦♦♦ Piazza di Spagna & the Spanish Steps. Built in the 1700s, the Spanish Steps connect Trinità dei Monti church and the Piazza di Spagna, one of the most famous squares in Rome. As one of the most popular spots in the city, expect crowds, but enjoy the colorful people watching that comes with them.

♦♦ Pincio. Right up the Spanish Steps, we found a magical view of the city at the Terrazza del Pincio. If you’re in the area, go here to take in the beautiful panorama of Rome’s historic architecture.

  • Piazza Navona

    Piazza Navona

  • Pinsere Roma Pizza

    Pinsere Roma Pizza

  • Trevi Fountain

    Trevi Fountain

  • Spanish Steps

    Spanish Steps

  • View from Pincio

    View from Pincio

Day 2 – Exploring the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Forum

♦♦♦ Colosseum. S and I woke up very early to be among the first people to get into the Colosseum. Waking up early to beat the crowds (and the heat!) was a common theme of ours during this entire trip. Plan ahead for your visit by purchasing tickets in advance through CoopCulture, which include entrance into the Colosseum, Palatine Hill, and Forum.

As for the Colosseum itself, it is unquestionably a must-see sight in Rome. In addition to touring the arena, don’t miss the underground where gladiators once awaited battle.

♦♦ Palatine Hill. In legend and in fact, Palatine Hill is the center from which Rome grew. According to legend, Romulus killed his twin brother Remus and founded Rome on Palatine Hill, and archaeological evidence proves that indeed this is one of the most ancient areas of the city with evidence of habitation dating back to 1,000 B.C. Augustus, the founder of the Roman Empire, lived here for all of his life, as did many of the emperors who succeeded him. Wander around to explore their imperial palace grounds and private residences.

♦♦♦ The Forum. The social and political epicenter of one of the greatest empires of ancient times, the Forum served as a place for elections, speeches, trials, and commerce. I walked through the grounds, imagining what it must have been like buzzing with activity. For the best views of the Forum, climb up to the terraces of Campidoglio near the Arch of Septimius Severus.

♦♦ Trastevere. In the evening, we strolled over to the charming Trastevere neighborhood across the river for dinner. Before we reached our destination, we passed through Piazza Santa Maria. The Basilica is one of the oldest in the in Rome and the square in front of it is a center for nightlife.

♦♦ Roma Sparita. For dinner, S made reservations at Roma Sparita, known for its cacio e pepe, for an authentic, local meal. We let our waiter pick out the favorites for us, and we dined on some prosciutto and melon and the most delicious cacio e pepe I have ever tasted. This was one of my favorite dining experiences in Rome.

  • Outside of the Colosseum

    Outside of the Colosseum

  • Colosseum

    Inside the Colosseum

  • Palatine Hill

    Palatine Hill

  • Forum Rome


  • Forum Rome

    More Forum

  • Roma Sparita

    Roma Sparita – Cacio e Pepe

Day 3 – Vatican City

♦♦♦ St. Peter’s Basilica. We woke up early in the morning to visit St. Peter’s Basilica and the Cupola di San Pietro. If you are planning to go, remember that all visitors must have their shoulders and knees covered, a rule strictly adhered to. As one of the holiest Catholic shrines in the world, St. Peter’s is full of artistic masterpieces from the likes of Michelangelo and Bernini.

We also climbed up to the dome of the basilica, the Cupola di San Pietro. Don’t rush to the top – the views on the way are one-of-a-kind. From the top we had the most beautiful views of St. Peter’s Square and the city.

♦♦♦ Vatican Museum and the Sistine Chapel. Right outside of St. Peter’s is the Vatican Museum and home of the Sistine Chapel. Always a popular destination, I highly recommend purchasing tickets in advance.

♦ Castel Sant’Angelo. The Castel Sant’Angelo was originally commissioned by Emperor Hadrian as a mausoleum for himself and his family. It was later used as a castle and fortress, but today it stands as a museum with a great view of the Vatican.

  • St. Peter's Basilica in the Morning

    St. Peter’s Basilica in the Morning

  • Inside St. Peter's

    Inside St. Peter’s

  • View from the Top of St. Peter's Cupola di San Pietro

    View from the Top of St. Peter’s

  • Cupola di San Pietro

    Cupola di San Pietro

  • Statues of Jesus and Apostles, St. Peter's Basilica

    Statues of Jesus and Apostles

  • View from Castel Sant'Angelo

    View from Castel Sant’Angelo

Day 4 – The Catacombs and Ostia Antica

♦ Catacombs of St. Callixtus. We ventured out of the city center to visit the Catacombs of St. Callixtus, one of the major catacombs located near Rome. The tombs were carved from soft volcanic rock and primarily used by Christians and Jews who were forbidden by law to bury their dead within city limits. With limited land, construction continued deeper underground to form a labyrinth of tombs. While touring the catacombs was a great way to escape the summer heat, I do not recommend this for those of you who are claustrophobic or may be creeped out knowing you are walking in an underground cemetery surrounded by dead bodies (like me).

♦♦ Ostia Antica. Just thirty minutes outside of Rome, the ancient ruins of Ostia Antica offer a well-preserved glimpse into what life in a bustling commercial seaport was like over 2,000 years ago. The port was abandoned with the fall of Rome and buried in mud, protecting it from decay. These days, visitors can explore the remnants of apartments, mansions, shops, bars, and baths. This was one of my favorite stops and a good option to visit ruins without traveling to Pompeii (four hours south of Rome).

  • Ostia Antica

    Ostia Antica

  • Ostia Antica

    Ostia Antica

  • Ostia Antica

    Ostia Antica

Day 5 – Orvieto

♦♦ Orvieto. For an easy day trip, we traveled to Orvieto, a beautiful medieval hill town in Umbria just an hour train ride outside of Rome. For panoramic views of the city, head to the top of the bell tower. Orvieto is also well-known for its cathedral, which took over 300 years to build, and its white wine and wild boar dishes. A great way to spend a day outside of the city.
  • Orvieto Cathedral

    Orvieto Cathedral

  • View from the Bell Tower, Orvieto, Italy

    View from the Bell Tower

Day 6 – To Florence

♦♦♦ AirBnb near Duomo. I highly recommend this AirBnb apartment for your stay in Florence. It is literally right outside of the Duomo and the apartment was large, clean, and beautifully decorated.

♦♦♦ Giotto’s Bell Tower. After arriving in Florence in the morning, we headed straight to the Duomo to climb up the bell tower for views of the city and the dome.

♦♦♦ Galleria dell’Accademia. In the afternoon, we had reservations for the Galleria dell’Accademia, home to Michelangelo’s David, arguably the world’s most famous sculpture. The museum also houses works by other Italian artists, such as Sandro Botticelli and Orcagna. Be sure to purchase tickets in advance for this museum, as lines to buy them are generally very long.

♦♦♦ Ponte Vecchio. The oldest bridge in Florence, Ponte Vecchio has been home to several shops since the 13th century. Although butchers initially occupied the space, Ferdinand I decreed that only goldsmiths and jewelers were to sell their goods there in 1593. Today, in addition to jewelers you will find art dealers and souvenir vendors.

♦♦♦ Piazzale Michelangelo. For the best view of Florence, we walked up the hill to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sun setting over the city.

  • Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

    Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore

  • View from the Giotto's Bell Tower

    View from the Giotto’s Bell Tower

  • Ponte Vecchio

    Ponte Vecchio

  • Piazzale Michelangelo

    Piazzale Michelangelo

Day 7 – Cinque Terre

♦♦♦ Cinque Terre. To explore outside of the city, we booked a day trip to Cinque Terre through Viator. Nestled along the coast of the Italian Riviera are five charming fishing villages, and we visited all of them. The tour was a great way to see Cinque Terre in only one day, so I highly recommend it! Just don’t forget to bring walking shoes if you book the same one – hiking the cliffside was more difficult than I thought it would be. Also, remember to stop by Il Frantoio in Monterosso for some pan fritto, a puff pastry stuffed with cheese.
  • Manarola


  • A View of Vernazza

    A View of Vernazza

  • Vernazza


  • Riomaggiore


Day 8 – Palazzo Pitti and Exploring Florence

♦ Palazzo Pitti. We crossed the River Arno to visit the Palazzo Pitti. We toured the Palatine Gallery and Costume Gallery and spent some time wandering around the Boboli Gardens. You will find great views of the city here as well.

♦♦ La Terrazza, La Rinascente. On the top floor of the department store La Rinascente, we enjoyed drinks at the rooftop cafe La Terrazza. While sipping on my cocktail, I absorbed the perfect views of the Duomo and Piazza Della Republica.

  • Palazzo Pitti

    Palazzo Pitti

  • Boboli Gardens

    Boboli Gardens

  • View from Boboli Gardens

    View from Boboli Gardens

Day 9 – Visiting Venice

In the morning we took the train from Florence to Venice. We stayed right off of Piazza San Marco, which I recommend because it is conveniently located to the major sites and transportation. We had only budgeted one day in Venice, so we began exploring immediately after checking into the hotel.

Venice is a charming and romantic city to wander around and get lost in. The winding paths are rich with history, and around every corner I found new and exciting spaces to see. Of course, we walked around the Piazza, snapped photos of Rialto Bridge, but below were a few of my highlights from Venice.

♦♦♦ Gondola ride. The gondolas of Venice are iconic, and I knew I wanted to ride in one during my visit. While we saw them everywhere, it was comically difficult to track down a vacant one! My advice is to jump in right when you find one. Gondola rides typically cost 80 euros for approximately 40 minutes, which is expensive, but coasting along waterways we could have never found on foot while being serenaded in Italian by our gondolier was priceless.

♦♦♦ Cicchetti. My favorite experience in Venice was crawling through cicchetti pubs. Cicchetti are local appetizers that line the counters of small, hole-in-the-wall bars and restaurants around town. For about one euro, each cicchetti was an opportunity to try a different culinary combination deliciously and affordably. If this sounds like something you might enjoy, remember to start early (around 6:00 P.M.) as bars tend to close early.

  • View from our Gondola, Venice

    View from our Gondola

  • Grand Canal, Venice

    Grand Canal

  • Cicchetti


Day 10 – Flying Home

The tenth day had finally arrived, and it was time for me to fly home. I woke early in the morning to catch a water taxi from San Marco. If I had done the trip differently, I would have stayed one less day in Rome and one more day in Venice. However, I felt extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity to explore so many Italian cities in such little time. Before I left, I was greeted with the most beautiful sunrise. I knew I would be back again because I was in love with Italy, and because that was what I had already wished for back at the Trevi Fountain in Rome.
  • Venice in the Morning

    Venice in the Morning

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