Round up of fabulous Italy itinerary ideas for all types of travelers: Italy itineraries and vacation ideas for lovers of the outdoors, foodies and returning visitors.
If this is not your first time planning a trip to Italy, chances are you are looking for itinerary ideas that are a little different from a whistle-stop tour of Italy’s main sites.
Not that there is anything wrong with those, I myself regularly recommend that type of trip to first-time visitors.
However, if you have already seen Italy’s must-see sites, you may wonder what else you can include in your trip to make your experience beautiful yet different.
I am Italian and, over the course of the years, I have traveled around Italy many times spanning the length of the Italian boot from North to South and East to West.
These are my recommendations and Italy vacation ideas for returning visitors and include my favorite and most beautiful places in Italy.
I hope they will help you plan your trip and will give you ideas on what to see, whether you have weeks in Italy or just a few days!
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Italy itinerary idea #1 for lovers of the outdoors: Venice, the Dolomites, Lake Garda (Northern Italy)
If you love the outdoors, then the place for you is the North East of Italy and in particular the area of Lake Garda and the Italian Dolomites.
This is an area of outstanding natural beauty and it offers a plethora of hiking options for all levels of fitness, from family strolls to proper hiking and even rock climbing.
Locations I highly recommend you consider are the wonderful Val Pusteria, scenic lake Misurina and the stunning 3 Cime di Lavaredo, Val Badia and Val Gardena.
These are all wonderful and well equipped to receive visitors (mostly Italian and germans but this is changing fast!)
This area is easily accessed from Venice and can be combined with a visit to Venice itself, Verona and the area of Lake Garda where you can visit Riva, Desenzano and beautiful Sirmione.
II would recommend spending in this area a minimum of 10 days but ideally more as the Dolomites come into their own once you can truly experience their beautiful nature.
The best time of the year to visit this area is the summer: at this time, the weather is usually mild and sunny and hiking paths are open.
The best way for adding the Dolomites to your Italy trip is renting a car: this will give you maximum flexibility as public transport will limit your options.
You can find my tips for driving in Italy here.
- Best time for this Italy itinerary: summer
- Mean of transport: car
- Time needed: 1 week to 10 days
- Closest international airport: Venice
Italy vacation idea #2: Florence, Tuscany and Cinque Terre
If your dream is to see the fabulous hilltop villages of Tuscany and the romantic colorful houses of Cinque Terre, my recommendation is to build a full itinerary around them.
I would recommend staying in the area one week to 10 days, set your base in Tuscany and visit Cinque Terre over one or two nights.
Most towns in this area are popular day trips and get quiet and authentic in the evening only. Traveling this way, you can escape the crowds and tune in with the slower pace of the Italian countryside
My go-to provider for villa accommodation in Italy is homeaway.it.
Top tip: several companies provide day tours in Tuscany. These can be an excellent option for a wine tasting days, since they take away the stress of finding a driver.
To these, you can easily add a few days to see the beautiful coastal landscapes around Cinque Terre.
You can find my recommended itinerary for Cinque Terre here
This Italy itinerary is most enjoyable if you rent a car and drive yourself, so you have maximum flexibility in your movement.
Top Tip: While Tuscany is best discovered by car, the best way to visit Cinque Terre is by train. From Florence, you can catch the train to La Spezia and, from there, you can use the regional Cinque Terre trains to go to the different towns.
- Best time for this itinerary idea: late spring, summer, early autumn
- Best mean of transport: car + train
- Time needed: 1 week – 10 days – 2 weeks if planning on adding Rome
- Closest international airports: Rome, Florence
Italy vacation idea #3: Rome, Amalfi Coast, Capri, Pompeii
The Amalfi coast is one of the most famous places in the whole of Italy and with good reasons
Its coastline is stunning, the food out of this world, and the views picture-perfect.
Many tourists visit the Amalfi coast as a quick add-on to a trip to other areas of Italy.
However, this is an area that gets overcrowded in the high season and that therefore is better savored slowly.
If you can stay here a few nights and you will truly see this location coming into its own.
There are several places worth seeing on the Amalfi coast, each with their own characteristics and worth seeing.
Stylish Positano attracts couples looking for romantic hotels and a taste for Italy’s most glamorous lifestyle.
Ravello has wonderful views.
Maiori and Minori are perfect for families.
Sorrento, while not on the Amalfi coast as such, is perfect for food lovers and if you want easy connections to both the coast and the rest of Italy.
The train station here is the only one with connections to Naples and Rome.
Please be advised that accommodation in this area books out extraordinarily fast! I recommend you secure a place early: booking.com has generous cancellation policies and deals for loyal costumers.
An Italian vacation in the area allows you also to visit some of Italy’s famous islands such as glamorous Capri and lovely Ischia as well as nearby Pompeii.
- Best time to visit: spring, late summer
- Closest international airports: Rome, Naples
- Mean of transport: train / bus /boat (car in low season only)
- Time needed: 1 week – 10 days.
Italy itinerary idea #4: Puglia, Matera, Paestum, Rome
The South of Italy doesn’t usually get much attention but it is stunning, and it will not stay undiscovered for long.
Puglia, in particular, is already starting to attract international travelers and considering how incredibly beautiful it is, I am just surprised there is still so few of them!
The best way to visit this area is planning a road trip and take a few nights in each location.
You can find our detailed road trip itinerary in the Italian South here.
Some of the towns to use as a base are Alberobello (where you can sleep in a traditional ‘trullo’), Trani and Matera, where you can stay in a refurbished ‘sasso’, Matera’s most unique dwelling!
- Best time to go: spring, early autumn for sightseeing, summer for the beach
- Mean of transport: car
- Time needed: 4 days to 2 weeks
- Closest international airports: Bari, Brindisi, Naples (Rome also is an option)
Italy itinerary idea for foodies #5: Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Bologna and Parma
If you love food, you will love this itinerary built around the food powerhouse regions of Tuscany, Liguria and Emilia Romagna, the home of Parma ham, parmigiano, tortellini and much much more.
This is an itinerary for lovers of slow travel and it is one that will allow you to touch also on some lesser-known yet stunning historical towns in Italy.
In this area, I recommend you visit Ravenna, home of wonderful Bizantine churches unique in Italy, and that you join organized food tours.
These are the best way to learn about what makes local produce and techniques special and will allow you to visit locations and producers otherwise hard to access.
If you want to plan a full Italy itinerary around food, I would recommend an itinerary like this:
Three days in Rome, including a Trastevere food tour). During your stay, you will have the time to see Rome must-see sites, like Colosseum, Spanish Steps and the Vatican and taste Rome’s most famous foods.
4 day to 1 week in Florence and the surrounding area, with winery day tour)
Two or three days in Cinque Terre to taste the amazing Ligurian food and maybe learn to make some local dishes with a local cooking class
Two or three days in the Bologna and Parma area – food tours here are a foodie paradise!
- The best time of the year for this Itinerary: spring /early autumn
- Mean of transport: train, organized tours (this would allow you to taste wine without the stress of finding a drive each time)
- Closest international airports: Bologna, Florence, Rome
Italy itinerary idea #6: Milan, Lake Como, Florence
If you are looking for and Italy vacation idea to mix elegant atmospheres, beautiful villas and serene landscapes, then this is the itinerary for you.
The area of the lakes near Milan is beautiful, however, I don’t recommend you spend too long here since, to be honest, it can get boring.
I recommend instead that you mix a few days here with stops in Milan, Florence and possibly Rome, easy to reach by train: they are very diverse and all worth a visit.
You can plan a few days on the lakes or, should you prefer, you can stay put and take day trips from Milan instead.
Following this itinerary idea, you can visit Milan’s most important sites (Duomo, Sforza Castle, Galleria and Last Supper), you can slow down at the lakes and also visit Florence city center.
- Best time to go: late spring / early autumn
- Mean of transport: train
- Time needed: 1 week, more if planning on a proper visit to Florence
- Closest international airport: Milan
Italy itineraries idea #7: Sicily
Sicily is one of the most beautiful parts of Italy and one I highly recommend everyone to go visit.
The best way to travel around Sicily is by car and I highly recommend planning at least 10 days or ideally 2 to 3 weeks to see it properly.
You can find our favorite Sicily itinerary here, touching on all the locations mentioned but also Monreale and Erice and the Val di Noto, which is stunning.
Out of all these Italy itineraries, this is the one that best mixes cultural exploration with sea and sun relaxation.
- Time needed: 2 – 3 weeks
- Mean of transport: car
- best time to go: spring, early autumn
- Closest international airports: Palermo, Catania
Italy vacation idea #8: the tops cities
If you love city exploring, then Italy is a treat and Rome, Florence and Venice, albeit maybe not the most original of all destinations, should definitely be your first choice.
My recommendation, in this case, is to opt for a trip to Italy’s most beautiful cities is to move around by train and explore each city on foot.
You can spend many days as you want in each of these cities and not get bored, but this is how long I recommend as a minimum for each.
Florence deserves at least 2 days. With two days in Florence, you can visit the city center, admire its famous duomo, visit the Uffizi, the Accademia and catch a view from Piazzale Michelangelo and indulge in art-filled strolls.
If you have longer, you can also add one day in Fiesole or in the Tuscany countryside and Chianti, easy to reach from the city.
Rome deserves a minimum of 3 days. This is a short amount of time for the city but sufficient to see Rome’s ‘must-see sites’.
With three days in Rome you can see the Colosseum and the Roman Forum, take your time in the Vatican Museums and take a stroll around Rome’s famous Piazzas.
If you can stay longer, even better.
While the must-see of Rome are impressive, the city has a lot more to offer and you can easily spend a week here (or a month!) without running out of things to do.
Venice deserves a couple of days too or even three, if you want to also explore Burano, nearby.
While compact, Venice has a surprising amount of attractions and things to see, many a little off the main tourist track.
With 2 or three days in Venice, you can discover Cannaregio and Castello and see Venice for the living and breathing city it really is, something quick visits make impossible.
- Best time to go: spring and autumn
- Mean of transport: train
- Time needed: 10 days (can be done in a week but it would be very rushed)
- Closest international airport: Rome, Venice Florence
Booking timeline for this itinerary
Need to know: accommodation and attractions in Rome, Florence and Venice book out fast.
For accommodation, I recommend booking. com which has many excellent options and also great cancellation policies.
For tickets, I like booking directly with the attractions whenever possible. These are the official links.
- Colosseum (Rome): you can find official tickets here
- Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel (Vatican, Rome): official tickets here
- Borghese Gallery (Rome): official tickets here
- Uffizi (Florence): official tickets here
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I also recommend you book in advance the fast trains between the cities. The Rome to Florence and Rome to Venice trains in particular books out fast.
I recommend you secure your tickets at least a few days before your planned travel day. The official website for Italian Train tickets is trenitalia.com although I often prefer booking on Omio, which has a cleaner user experience.
Italy vacation idea #9 for sea and sun lovers: Sardinia
One last vacation idea I want to add to this overview is Sardinia, one of the most beautiful places you can pick if you want a sea and sun vacation in crystal clear Mediterranean waters.
Sardinia has gorgeous beaches, boating opportunities and some nice towns that make it perfect for families but also lovers of water sports.
Out of all these Italy itineraries, this is the one to choose if you want a real beach vacation and want to explore off the beaten path.
- Best time to go: Summer
- Mean of transport: car
- Time needed: 1 week or more
- Closets international airports: Alghero, Cagliari
Italy travel resources
- Omio – Handy website for Train and Bus connections across Europe
- Booking.com – My go-to resource for accommodation (hotels, apartments and specialty lodging) with good deals and excellent cancellation policies
- LuggageHero – Large selection of luggage storage options for bags-free day trips
- GetYourGuide: booking platform for attraction tickets and day tours
- Lonely Planet: my one and only go-to travel guide provider
- AutoEurope: handy comparison website for the best car rental deals
I hope you enjoyed these Italy itineraries and gave you vacation ideas that helped you plan a trip to Italy that makes all your Italy dreams come true! Safe travels!