A couple of years ago, before I set sail for South America, my friend got married in Italy. Being the great friend that I am, I traveled to Italy for the wedding, and I decided to take a holiday to explore more of the country while I was there. I loved Italy, and Italian food, people, art, and architecture just blew me away. I wanted to share this one-week Italy itinerary that will take you to Rome, Florence, and Pisa.
Getting Around Italy
Traveling in Italy by train is easy, at least to these key destinations. I recommend booking tickets in advance, especially for high-speed trains. With only one week to explore the country, you don’t want to risk wasting time. However, at the station watch out for over-helpful scammers who will grab your bags and expect a tip for carrying them onto the train. Only give your tickets to the official ticket collector!
Italy Itinerary Days One to Three: Rome
Rome is magnificent. There are so many wonderful things to see in Rome that three days are just enough to scratch the surface. Don’t miss the Colosseum, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Roman Forum, or the Pantheon. I chose not to visit the Vatican, and although I want to go back and see it, I don’t regret spending my time simply wandering the streets and eating. This is another essential activity in Rome or anywhere in Italy for that matter!
Bear in mind that the Colosseum and St. Peter’s will both have hefty queues, so I suggest doing these first thing in the morning. For me, the Colosseum was the highlight of Rome. Walking inside and imagining gladiators battling in front of hordes of Romans gave me goose bumps!
Sadly, when I was in Rome, the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain were both hidden beneath scaffolding. This is another excellent excuse for me to make a repeat visit! You can take in some of the key sites walking around the city, and then you can hop on the bus or take a taxi when you get tired.
In the evening, head to Trastevere and choose any of the restaurants here for one of the best meals you will ever have. Enjoy a glass of wine in any piazza, and watch the world go by. Italy is not a country for rushing, so just sit back and relax.
When in Rome, do as the Romans do. Speak the few words of Italian you know, gesticulate wildly, and fall in love with Italy or an Italian if you can! And know that Rome is just the beginning of your adventure in Italy.
Italy Itinerary Days Four to Six: Florence
Trains from Rome to Florence can take as little as an hour and a half, so book an early train to enjoy the rest of the day in Florence. Here, too, morning is the best time to visit the most popular attractions to try to avoid crowds. To see Florence at its most magnificent, spend your mornings sightseeing and the afternoons eating and exploring. Florence was my favourite city in Italy. It’s compact, stunningly beautiful, and less in-your-face than Rome. I could imagine myself living there.
You have to visit the Galleria dell’Accademia to see Michelangelo’s “David.” The detail and size of the statue surprised me, from the muscles in David’s leg to his smooth marble skin, along with the fact that Michelangelo began work on his masterpiece when he was just 26 years old, finishing it three years later. For more classic Italian art, the Uffizi Gallery is home to works by Botticelli, Piero della Francesca, and many more. Book slots online to avoid the crowds at both museums, or get there before they open and join the queue.
In the afternoon, admire Il Duomo, the huge cathedral that dominates the skyline of Florence, and climb the bell tower for unbeatable views of the city. Stroll down to the river at sunset to see the Ponte Vecchio bridge bathed in golden light and its reflection on the Arno River. Across the river is the Piazzale Michelangelo, with a bronze replica of “David” and more stunning views of Florence. The walk up the hill is worth the effort!
Florence’s market is a haven for foodies, where you can buy risotto, pasta, cheese, wine, olive oil, and more to take home, as long as you can resist the temptation to eat everything before you leave. With creamy gelato, focaccia sandwiches stuffed with cured meats and cheeses, fresh bread with a drizzle of olive oil and rich balsamic vinegar, spaghetti in a garlic sauce with clams, the food in Florence is to die for. Even if you do nothing else, just eat in Florence, and you’ll be happy.
Italy Itinerary Day Seven: Pisa
Two days are best to get to know Pisa, but one day is enough to see the highlights and the Leaning Tower. I booked another morning train from Florence to Pisa, which took about an hour, and then I hit the streets to explore the city.
The Leaning Tower is the most popular attraction in Pisa. Many tourists simply visit the Tower in the Piazza dei Miracoli and neglect the rest of this charming city. Take time to discover Pisa’s piazzas, side streets, cafés, and bars to get a real flavour of Italy away from the crowds. Alternatively, try a pedicab tour of Pisa for a unique view of the city with a local guide.
I ended my trip in Pisa and took a cheap flight back home to the U.K. If you’re flying to and from Rome, then catch a train to whisk you back to the capital. If you have more time, you can add other destinations to your itinerary, such as Bologna, Venice, or Milan to explore more Italian city life. For a taste of picturesque waterfront towns, try Lake Garda, Lake Como, or Cinque Terre. No matter how long you spend in Italy, I guarantee it won’t be enough!
Have you been to Italy? What was your favourite city? Let me know in the comments below.
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