How long should I spend in...

The minimum amount of time takes to see Italy's major cities and destinations

City itineraries
Rome in 1, 2, or 3 days
Florence in 1, 2, or 3 days
Venice in 1, 2, or 3 days
They say Rome wasn't built in a day—and you ain't gonna be able to see it all in one day, either.

The chart below to the right gives you an idea of the bare minimum reasonable number of days it takes to "do" Italy's major cities and other destinations: to settle in, see the major sights, get a taste for the place, and maybe make one day trip. You could spend less time, but you'll be missing big chunks for sure.

Rome 3-4 days
Venice 2 days
Florence 1-2 days

Amalfi Coast * 1–2 days
Apulia 2–4 days
Assisi 0.5–1 day
Bologna 1 day
Capri 1–2 days
Cinque Terre 1–2 days
Milan 1–2 days
Naples 1–2 days
Palermo 1–2 days
Pisa 0.5 days
Positano 0.5–1 days
Sicily 3–5 days
Siena 1 day
Sorrento 0.5 days
Torino 1 day
Tuscany ** 1–3 days
* Keep in mind "Amalfi Coast" includes Positano and Sorrento on this list. ** I'm talking "Tuscany" beyond Florence, but including Pisa and Siena on this list

Keep in mind, this is a minimum time frame, and I was brutally honest in these assessments. It drives me a little bit nuts to say that you could, conceivably, visit Florence in a day or two. Personally, I'd rather spend a week there, at the very least.

And for someone who has spent nearly four years of his life in Rome, it breaks my heart to admit that a tourist seeing Italy at a dead trot could make do with just three or four days in the Eternal City.

Also remember to add on at least an extra day for each major excursion or sidetrip you'd like to take.

Of course, you won't run out of things to do if you stay longer anywhere, and I highly recommend more days than this minimum for some cities in particular—Rome comes to mind.

Most of these cities you couldn't exhaust in a lifetime of diligent sightseeing. Like I said, I've actually lived in Rome for around four years, and I still discover at least one new and indescribably wonderful thing every time I visit.

Beyond the Big Cities

Many travelers returning to Italy for the second or third time are discovering that there's so much to see outside of the major cities that they're forgoing trains and hotels for rented cars and villas.

They go hill town-hopping and explore one tiny corner of Italy at a time, really exploring the back roads of Tuscany, Sicily, or Apulia, traveling at a leisurely pace away from the crowds and pressures of a rigorous sightseeing schedule in the big city.

I wholeheartedly endorse that plan, but on a first visit you'll probably want to pack in as many major cities and sights as possible—and there's nothing wrong with that.

The whirlwind tour still remains the best first-time visit. It gives you a sampling of everything, so you'll know which bits to come back and explore in more depth. It also gets all the "required" sights out of the way, so when you return (and you will come back), you can concentrate on discovering Italy's lesser-known sights and facets on your own.

Trust me: You won't exhaust Italy in one trip, and it's so easy to come back once you realize how effortless and enjoyable travel here is. I've been returning for 25 years—sometimes spending six months in a single region, sometimes hitting eight regions in 10 days—and haven't even come close to seeing all I want to see.

To help you along, I've whipped up a batch of perfect itineraries for spending a week or two exploring Italy, and how to spend from one to three days in each of the major cities.

Tips & links

Useful links
Don't overplan

I will freely admit to being as guilty as anyone of this, but: Please try not to overplan your trip to Italy. That's a two-fold plea:

  1. Plan everything, but don't feel compelled to stick to the plan. I think it's a fine idea to work out all the details of what you plan to do—if nor no other reason than it will help you get a handle of what you are able to get done, and start making the hard choices of what you have time for and what you should leave for the next trip to Italy. (Always assume you will retrun!)

    But then do not book absolutely every second in advance (that leaves no room to adjust things as you go to accommodate changing interests, sudden festivals, or unexpected invitations), and please do not attempt to stick to the schedule if it turns out to be overly ambitious and startrs making you miserable.

    Rememeber Clark W. Griswold, the Chevy Chase dad in the Vacation movies, always bound and detemrined to get to WallyWorld come hell or dead aunties? Yeah, don't be that guy. No one in that family was having any fun.
  2. Don't try to pack too much in. A vacation is not meant to be all about checking sights off a list or dashing from place to place to fit in as much as humanly possible. It's about enjoying yourself.

    So do that. Enjoy yourself. Take a hint from the Italian concept of la bel far' niente—the beauty of doing nothing—and take a break from the sightseeing every once in a while.

    Leave some time to stop and sip the cappuccino.
Consider a tour

I'm all for planning your own trip‚ and this website is set up to help you do just that—but some people might just as well prefer to leave all the planning, logistics, transportation, lodging, and gathering of information to the professionals and simply sign up with a guided tour.

Nothing wrong with that. Just take my advice and choose a tour that emphasizes small groups over large crowds, local transport over big tour buses, and fun cultural experiences over sightseeing checklists. You'll have a better time, and probably spend less for it. Here are a few of my favorite tour companies who emphasize just that.

1-5 days

1-2 weeks

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