Planning your first or even your second trip to Italy can be daunting!  So many beautiful things to see and experience.  The table below is intended to help you design a survey trip to Italy.

Survey trips, by design, are intended to help you quickly see the major sites in order to either: a) see as many sites as you can and/or b) know where you might want to return on a future trip.  

Within the planning table, the list of Italian cities is in geographical order from Milan to Rome and can be viewed in the reverse order (e.g., Rome to Milan).  This is the order in which you would take your survey trip – either moving from north to south or south to north.  By eliminating any back-tracking you can optimize the time you have to sightsee.  

Step One: Decide what time of year you want to go to Italy as this may impact your itinerary.  If possible, try to travel during the “shoulder seasons.” The weather is typically excellent and the crowds are smaller. Shoulder seasons in Italy are the months of April, May, September, and October. 
Step Two: Select the cities and sights that you want to see while you are in Italy and create a rough outline of your trip utilizing the following information.  If possible, place the cities in geographical order (from north to south or south to north).

Number of Days Rectaingular Img
City From North to South Top Attractions Must See* Efficient Pace More Relaxed Pace Leisurely Pace Notes
Milan

Leonardo da Vinci’s Last Supper

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

The train from Milan to Como is ~45 minutes making it easy to fly into Milan and then train to Como.

Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

Il Duomo

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

Opera at Teatro alla Scala

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

Castello Sforzesco

1-Day

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

Via Della Spiga
(Pedestrian Fashion District)

1-Day

2-Days

2-Days

Como

Como Duomo

2-Days

2-Days

3-Days

Lake Como is easily accessed utilizing boat taxis to reach the villages. The Como Duomo is less than 3 blocks from the Lake Como water taxi service.

Villages of Lake Como

Yes

2-Days

2-Days

3-Days

Venice

St. Mark’s Basilica

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

3-Days

Even though expensive I highly recommend staying in Venice – St. Mark’s at night (when the day visitors have all left) is MAGICAL.

St. Mark’s Square in the Evening

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

3-Days

Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) and Bridge of Sighs

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

3-Days

Grand Canal

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

3-Days

Rialto Bridge

Yes

1-Day

2-Days

3-Days

Day Trip to Murano (home of Venetian glass making) and Burano (home of Venetian lace) Islands

1-Day

2-Days

3-Days

Peggy Guggenheim Collection

Portofino

Harbor and Village

Yes

0-Day

1-Day

1-Day

This should be worked into a day trip.

Cinque Terre

Villages of Cinque Terre

Yes

0-Day

1-Day

2-Days

This can be worked into a day trip if you utilize the ferry from La Spezia to view the villages from the water. You will have time to get off of the ferry for lunch before the return trip.

Hike the Footpath from Monterosso to Vernazza

0-Day

1-Day

2-Day

Florence

Gallerie Degli Uffizi

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Day trips to San Gimignano, Siena, and the Chianti wine region are easily done from Florence. There is no train service into San Gimignano which will require that you either take a group tour or drive. The roadways are narrow two- lane roads with little to no shoulders.

Galleria dell’Accademia (Statue of David)

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Basilica of Santa Croce (Burial Site for Who’s Who)

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Duomo and Piazza

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Palazzo Vecchio

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Pitti Palace

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Piazza della Signoria

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Ponte Vecchio

Yes

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Day Trip to Chianti Wineries

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Day Trip to Lucca

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Day trip to Siena and San Gimignano

3-Days

3-Days

5-Days

Rome

Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel Tour

Yes

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Be sure to find a hotel in the historic center of Rome to minimize your logistics of moving around the city. It will also allow you to see some of the major sights of Rome while you are walking near your hotel. Also, consider hiring a private guide for the Vatican Museum – this will allow you to “jump the line” at the entrance.

Rome Highlights Tour (which will include many of the following)

Yes

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Pantheon

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Colosseum

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Roman Forum

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Palatine Hill

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Piazza Navona for Dinner

Yes

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Trevi Fountain

Yes

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Villa and Galleria Borghese

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Palazzo Doria Pamphilj

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Santa Maria della Vittoria

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Altare Della Patria

2-Days

3-Days

4-Days

Day Trip to Pompeii

Yes

2-Days

3-Days

4-days

Total Number of Days

9 Days

13 Days

20 Days

Does not include travel to/from the US.

*”Must Sees” are those activities you don’t want to miss if you have planned an Efficient Pace itinerary.  

Step Three: Decide the airport into which you will arrive and depart.  Please note that it is possible to arrive in Italy at one airport and depart from a different airport (e.g., arrive into Rome and depart out of Milan).   

Step Four: Decide where to stay.  Use a map to identify the location of the Top Attractions that you will be visiting in each city and secure a place as close as possible to the top attractions so as to optimize your time sightseeing.  You may pay a little more to stay centrally but you will gain additional time on the ground.  Utilize TripAdvisor to assist in identifying highly rated hotels in the desirable locations.  You may also want to research Rick Steves’ Guides for places to stay as they do a great job of finding centrally located hotels in all price ranges. 

Step Five: Decide how you will get from place to place.  For assistance with planning how to get from point to point consider using the website/app Rome2Rio.  I’ve simplified this a bit by including cities in the Itinerary Table that can be accessed via train which reduces the stress of travel.  

Step Six: Place all of your hard work into an itinerary.  Feel free to utilize a format similar to the one I created for an Italian Wine Trip.  

Here’s to many unforgettable moments ahead!  

Mary Beth I have a passion for creating and experiencing unforgettable moments and sharing those with others. I hope that this story has helped you experience one of those moments.

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