For many, a trip to Italy is a once-in-a-lifetime event. Trying to visit an entire country inside of a week is an overwhelming task. Instead of trying to "see it all," consider focusing on an itinerary that features the "best of" Italy. Visiting the major cities of Florence, Rome, and Venice, you'll find you get a genuine taste of this iconic country.
Luckily, most guided vacations cover the top sites and destinations. You can be in Rome one day and Venice the next. Taking a tour of Italy means you don't have to plan how to get to each place to see what you want. And, fortunately, if you fall in love with a specific area, you can plan your next trip to discover even more of what the region offers. Because it's true, you'll find you can never get enough of Italy once you go.
If it's your first time visiting Italy, make sure you travel through the Northern region. Often revered as one of the most romantic cities in Italy, Venice is most certainly one of the most beautiful destinations in the country. If it's not already on your bucket list, add "a gondola ride on the Venice canals." While traveling through Northern Italy, make sure you plan to visit Juliet's balcony in fair Verona, see the Alps in the Acosta Valley, do some shopping in posh Milian, and try the famous sauce of Bologna. If you get the chance, spend a day or two along the shores of any of the Italian lakes. And, of course, don't miss out on a chance to visit the beautiful coastal villages of Cinque Terre.
If you're looking to visit Cinque Terre, you'll head northwest to see the UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cinque Terre translates to "Five Lands," the small coastal villages of Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza, and Monterosso. Famous for the colorful, cliff-hugging houses, overlooking the blue sea below, Cinque Terre is also the best place to try Italian anchovies. The small fish are prepared here in such a unique way that they've earned a regional distinction – similar to the wine classifications of Italy. You can spend time in the charming and picturesque fishing village of Manarola, then cruise along the rugged coast to explore Monterosso's medieval quarter and popular sandy beach.
Of course, one of the main draws of a visit to Venice is a gondola ride through the Grand Canal, complete with singing gondoliers. A city built on canals, many believe there is no place in Italy more beautiful than Venice. Located in Northeast Italy, Venice is surrounded by the Adriatic Sea and is actually made up of an archipelago of more than 100 islands connected by breathtaking bridges and canals. Often revered as one of the most romantic cities in Italy, Venice's architecture is complemented by pleasant temperatures year-round.
Italy's exquisite Lake District is home to scenic Lake Como, Lake Garda, and Lake Maggiore. The Italian Lakes have been a favorite summer retreat in Italy for centuries. Visit the charming town of Baveno, Italy, on Lake Maggiore's shores. Soak up the picture-perfect setting of Italy's largest lake, Lake Garda, with its 13th-century Scaliger Castle and the Grottoes of Catullus. One of the best parts of visiting the Italian Lakes is sampling the delicious local olive oils and cheese at local markets.
Tours That Go to Northern Italy
Relax in the beautiful Lakes District, float the canals of Venice, or stroll the colorful cliffside villages of Cinque Terre. See Da Vinci’s “The Last Supper" in Milan, Juliet's Balcony in Verona, and eat so much pasta in Bologna.
Synonymous with "fashion," every couture-lover will want to plan a stop in Milan during their Italian voyage. Not into fashion? Milan also shines when it comes to art and culture. Here you'll find Leonardo Da Vinci's famed "The Last Supper" and the La Scala Opera House and one of the world's largest Gothic cathedrals.
The Acosta Valley
If you want to see the Alps while in Italy, you're going to want to travel to the Acosta Valley. Italy shares a border with France and Switzerland. If you've seen pictures of the Swiss Alps, imagine similar on the Italian side of the border – jagged peaks and beautiful scenery. You'll also get to take in exquisite views of the Alps while visiting Italy's Lake District.
Bologna is known for its "Kissing Towers," Asinelli and Garisend lean towards each other, seemingly poised to embrace. Perhaps it's better known for the famous and delicious bolognese sauce - named for the city. It's no wonder, though, as many incredible foods are made here, including salamis, balsamic vinegar, and the much-beloved parmesan cheese. Bologna's Piazza Maggiore is home to the Fountain of Neptune and the Basilica di San Petronio. Both absolutely not to be missed.
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene...A beautiful city and the setting for Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet. On the edge of the city of Verona, you'll find a theater that resembles Rome's colosseum - performances now held only by candlelight. Walk the narrow cobblestones streets lined with high-fashion shops, and you'll most likely find yourself in the center of town at the Piazza. Drinking water still pours out of fountains, and the stalls offer everything from trinkets to fruit. Of course, as you are in Verona, you should stop by Juliet's balcony. Notes and messages line the walls to the courtyard where Juliet's statue stands, bronze under the small balcony.
Traveling through Central Italy will bring you to some of the most famous Italian cities and destinations. It's been said that if you visit only a single European city in your lifetime, make it Rome. And there's much to explore and see in this eternal city. Of course, the countryside and vineyards of Tuscany are incredibly famous for both the scenery and the wine. If looking for the classic Italian experience, make sure you visit Rennasaince Florence to take in the works of some of the world's most revered artists. And, if you get the chance to explore the area a bit more in-depth, make sure you pay tribute to St. Francis in Assisi.
When in Rome, make time to explore the ancient sites including the Colosseum, Roman Forum, Spanish Steps, Trevi Fountain, Pantheon, and the Vatican. The governmental seat and capital of Italy, Rome is simply a must-do for every tourist. Besides housing famed ancient monuments like the Colosseum, Rome is also home to Vatican City, the central geographical home to Catholicism and home of the Pope and hierarchy of the Catholic faith.
A collection of Christian artwork that spans centuries and stirs the soul is found in the Vatican Museums. From the intricate ceiling by Michelangelo in the Sistine Chapel to the detailed Pope portraits from the 16th century to today, you will be lost for words once inside this blessed museum complex. Wander through the museums, admiring the artistry of great masters and walking in the footsteps of popes who have found peace within its beautiful green landscapes for centuries. Visit St Peter’s Basilica and the gardens Pontifical Villas of Castel Gandolfo.
Of course an absolute must-see in the central region of Italy is the Basilica Papale e Sacro Convento di San Francesco d'Assisi. The lower church holds the Tomb of St. Francis of Assisi and you can see how the saint lived his modest life. The upper church sits high above the town. Among the treasures the basilica is the colorful ceiling and Giotto’s frescoes that tell the story of St. Francis of Assisi.
Tours That Go to Central Italy
If you're looking to get a real taste of what Italy is all about, then you have to see Rome and Florence, drink wine in Tuscany, and visit the tomb of St. Francis in Assisi.
In the Central Region of Italy, you'll find perhaps the most beloved of Italy’s smaller regions, Tuscany. The area is probably what most people imagine when they picture Italy outside its cities with its rolling hillsides topped with those famous cypress trees. The gorgeous landscapes here are home to some of the best vineyards and olive groves in the world. While traveling through Tuscany, it's imperative that you try the lush and complex Chianti, considered one of the best red wines in the world. Along with the art mecca of Florence, Tuscany is where you'll find Pisa and the Square of Miracles, home to the incredible Leaning Tower and beautifully sculpted marble Cathedral.
For the artist in you, Florence is world-renowned as a center for art. Many of the museums are free to visit, and most showcase an impressive assortment of marble, canvas, stone, and other mediums. Plus, it's here that The Uffizi Gallery and the Galleria dell'Accademia hold their iconic treasures. The marvels of Florence also include the striking Piazza della Signoria with its impressive sculptures and palazzi, the multi-colored marble Duomo and Baptistery, and the artistic contributions of the Medici you'll find at every turn.
Been there, done that? If this isn’t your first trip to Italy, or if you’re just looking for a bit of a different flavor to your travels, Italy isn’t made up of just the big three tourist cities. You can spend a whole trip visiting only the gorgeous areas in Southern Italy. You'll want to visit Naples for some of the best pizza of your life, the AlmafiCoast for the beaches and glamor, and historic Pompeii for a glimpse into Italy's past.
Situated on the sea in southern Italy, Naples is the birthplace of Italian dining staples like pizza, spaghetti, and parmigiana, so it makes a great place to enjoy authentic cuisine. Also offering a vibrant shopping and dining scene and pleasant temperatures well into the fall, this is a great place to visit in the offseason.
If you want the best beaches in Italy, almost every expert will tell you these are the shores to see. Located in the south of Italy, the Amalfi Coast is highly regarded for its picturesque vistas and ritzy resorts. This is certainly the place to see and be seen.
A great side trip on your visit to Rome, Pompeii is famed for being lost under several feet of volcanic ash for more than 1,700 years following a massive eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. While the excavation of the site began in the 1700s, excavation is not yet complete. This means each visit has the potential to showcase a new Pompeii. A walk through the cobbled streets offers an unaltered look into Italy’s past.
Tours That Go to Southern Italy
Looking for some sun and a bit of an adventure? A tour through the Southern Region of Italy promises all that and more.
While there are other islands worth the visit, don't rule out Sicily if you're looking for an original island adventure. The largest island in the Mediterranean Sea is separated from the mainland by a simple 2-mile ferry ride.Delve into the rich history of Sicily in Taormina, Palermo, and Syracuse while watching the sunrise over Mount Etna. Or, take a boat ride to stylish Capri, the Isle of Dreams.
Sicily is rich in art and cultural history. Famous for its fresh, island fare, the island is also home to some magnificent ruins and elaborate fountains. While on the island don’t miss out on seeing Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano. If you’ve already been to Italy, you might want to consider a trip focused on the history and culture of this incredible island.
Cruise by hydrofoil through the impossibly blue sea to the sun-drenched island of Capri. The best way to see the sites is a ride in an open-top taxi or strolling through narrow alleyways. Visit the immaculate Gardens of Augustus to admire the views of the famous Faraglioni Rocks. No matter what you do, don't miss tasting limoncello, Capri's famous lemon liqueur.
Tours That Go to Sicily or Capri
Take a deep dive into history and savor fresh, Italian island cuisine on these Sicily-specific tours.
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