Italy is a large country full of thousands of years of history. If you are planning a visit, it would be hard to see everything in less than a week, but I would recommend a few weeks at least. On my first trip, we spent 8 days in Italy, and while it was a whirlwind, we did all the things I really wanted to do. Here are my itinerary for one week in Italy.
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A 10-day trip from the United States may only be 7 or 8 days in a European country, depending on your flights and where you are coming from. It took us nearly 24 hours from when we left our home (in Oregon) to landing in Rome. So even though we were gone for 10 days, we really only had seven days to explore Italy.
As an example, we left home on April 7, arrived in Rome on April 8, and I will not be starting my “Day 1” until April 9. The reason for this is because we did not land in Rome until 6:30 p.m. and did not get to our hotel until nearly 9 p.m. Although we had plenty of plans to go out and explore that night, we decided to take a short nap — and then woke up at 6 a.m. the next day.
Getting your rest once you land is so important, because otherwise you may be exhausted the rest of your trip.
The Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel, and climbing St. Peter’s Basilica
After our long night of rest, we woke up bright and early to get going on our first day. We had 9 a.m. Skip the Line tickets to The Vatican so we had to get going right away.
I learned my lesson from this day, because having an appointment that early on the first day of vacation added a lot of stress to a really fun vacation. We wanted to just explore first, but we couldn’t. However, it was one of our only days to go to The Vatican, and I wanted to get there early. If we hadn’t bought Skip the Line tickets, we would have waited in line for four or five hours.
Learn how to get your Skip the Line tickets in advance and everything else you need to know about visiting the Vatican Museums, Sistine Chapel, and St. Peter’s Basilica
We spent 3-4 hours at The Vatican, exploring the Vatican Museums, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Sistine Chapel. We even climbed St. Peter’s Basilica to see much of Rome. Not having to wait in line saved us so much money, and I am thankful we did it.
Although I did not have plans to visit Castel Sant’Angelo, it was on our walk away from The Vatican and I am so glad it is. As far as history goes, Castel Sant’Angelo was pretty significant in Rome, but the best thing about it was the amazing view. Even if you have no interest in the history, definitely climb to the top of this castle and take some photos.
When you get near the top there is even a small cafe where you can enjoy the view with a beer, glass of wine, a coffee, or a small bite to eat.
Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, and more
After this, we just did the wandering we were hoping to do first thing in the morning. While doing this, we saw Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon. It was nice finally relaxing and enjoying what is a beautiful city.
Since we only had seven days to explore, we took a day trip on Day 2 from Rome to Ancient Pompeii, Italy. This was BY FAR my favorite part of the entire trip. If you are on the fence about whether you should visit Pompeii, definitely do it. Out of everything we saw, Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius were life changing.
Taking a day trip to Pompeii from Rome is possible but your timeline will be tight. If I did it again, I would definitely spend the night in Pompeii or Naples.
We woke up and took the first train from Rome’s Termini station to Naples, and then took the local train to Pompeii. Just be aware that the local train ride is more than an hour, and it is basically a subway — meaning you will probably have to stand up the entire time. Learn more about getting to Pompeii from Rome.
You can sign up for a tour of Pompeii or you can explore on your own. The city is fairly large and you could spend weeks exploring without seeing everything. We arrived around 9 a.m. and explored for 4-5 hours.
The walk through the roads and buildings was an amazing experience — we saw apartments, the town square, the town amphitheater, and theater. Pompeii was home to thousands of people when it was destroyed, and it reminds you of how organized they were at the time.
Climbing Mount Vesuvius
Although we almost didn’t end of hiking Mt. Vesuvius because of time, we decided to do it and it was completely worth it. You don’t actually hike the entire mountain — a bus takes you most of the way to the top and you climb the rest.
At the top, you can see the caldera, the city of Naples, and the sea. You can buy gifts, drink some wine, and take photos. Just a note: we did the climb in April and it was completely packed with people. If you are looking for a nice independent stroll, this is not it. But once you get to the top it’s very worth it.
Back to Rome
We then took the same trains back to Rome (we barely made the last train out of Naples), and had a nice relaxing dinner in Rome.
Exploring St. Peter’s Tomb
Taking a tour through St. Peter’s Tomb — otherwise known as St. Peter’s Necropolis or the Ufficio Scavi Tour — was an amazing experience very few people get to see. Only 250 people a day get to take the tour, and you have to order your tickets months in advance. One note: You cannot take photos on this tour, so expect that in advance (some people on our tour were pretty unhappy about it).
The tour will walk you through the old streets of Rome, below St. Peter’s Basilica. At once point, we looked up to see a window into the basilica, with a child looking down at us. The tour guide will show you where Peter and his family lived, and even what The Vatican believes are bones of St. Peter (there is of course a dispute about where these bones actually are).
This tour took a little more than an hour, and then we were out on our own. We spent the rest of the day just walking around the city, and getting ready for our early train to Venice.
The train from Rome to Venice took around four hours. Because I knew we were only spending one day in Venice, I opted to book the earliest train out of Rome — at around 5 a.m. We arrived to Venice around 10 a.m. and dropped our bags off at our hotel.
We stayed a boutique hotel in an amazing location, called the Locanda Leon Bianco. See our full review here.
St. Mark’s Cathedral & St. Mark’s Square
We first went to St. Mark’s Square, because it was the most obvious thing to do. It is VERY tourist and if we missed it, I wouldn’t have minded it. We did take a tour of St. Mark’s Cathedral, which was beautiful and very historic.
If you plan to eat, you need to know that eating in St. Mark’s Square will be incredibly expensive. They know it’s a tourist trap and will charge whatever they want. We stopped to have a beer — we knew it would be expensive, but decided it was worth it because we would never be back there.
We wandered for most of the day around Venice. There are so many small alleys and amazing buildings, you could spend days or weeks wandering around. The only other point of interested I really wanted to see was the church used as the library in Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.
Indiana Jones Church
This church was not incredibly easy to find, but with some research in advance I found out where it was and how to get there. Although a lot of people told me not to rely on Google Maps while I was there, I never lost service while we were there.
We spent the rest of the day getting dinner and exploring the city.
We woke up on Day 5 in Venice, had breakfast, and took our time getting to the train station. We took the short train ride to Florence and checked into our hotel, which was close to the train station.
We stayed at Hotel Pendini in Florence, mostly because I saw a photo of it and knew I needed to stay there. Read my full review here.
One of the most important tips I have for Italy, which I learned from Rick Steves, is that if you want to climb to the top of Il Duomo in Florence, you have to reserve tickets months in advance. I did this and was thankful, because we would not have been able to climb The Dome without those reserved tickets.
We had a 6 p.m. appointment and climbed the dome. We then found a nearby bar and had a beer while watching passersby on the street and then wandered around until late at night.
On Day 6, we got up and headed straight to see the Statue of David. The lines are long and we knew we’d have to wait in line for a while to see him. However, we did purchase a Firenze Card in advance, which allowed us to jump the line a little. We spent about an hour walking through the museum, which has so much more than just David. There are sculptures, statues, and plenty of paintings.
We had rented a car in advance because we knew we wanted to take a day trip to Pisa, and so we went to pick it up around 11 a.m. It took us around 1.5 hours to get to Pisa, and we parked within a few blocks of the Leaning Tower Complex.
We climbed the Leaning Tower of Pisa (because, you have to if you’re there) and spent some time exploring the area.
We then took off for Marina di Pisa, which is tourist-free and also a beautiful beach. It was only a few minutes away and was well-worth stopping.
We had planned to drive back to Florence, but we missed an exit and ended up driving south through the Tuscan countryside. This was an accident, but such a beautiful adventure. We ended up driving through a few towns, including Siena and a hillside town called Volterra.
If you find yourself in Florence or Pisa, exploring Tuscany is something you should definitely add to your trip.
We woke up in Florence the next day and took the train back to Rome. Although I was exhausted, we still had a few things on our list to do. We stored our luggage at the train station and went back to town.
I had originally purchased Colosseum Skip The Line tickets for earlier in the week, but we ended up not making it. So I was a little nervous heading to the Colosseum without those passes. And even though there were dozens of people coming up to us trying to sell us tours and tickets, we decided to try out luck by just standing in line at the Colosseum Box Office. And it took us 16 minutes before we were inside the Colosseum.
The history of the Colosseum is important and the building is beautiful. Visiting the Colosseum is so important while you are in Rome, although if I went back, I wouldn’t need to see it again. You can take tours that will take you under the Colosseum, but we did not do that.
Via Appia Antica
The Appian Way is something I had never heard of before our trip, but we decided to walk the road and it was such a beautiful part of Roman history. If you’ve ever heard the term “All Roads Lead to Rome,” this road is one of the ones they are talking about.
We took a bus ride to the beginning of the road and began walking. The sides of the road are a living history of Rome: with crypts, ancient Roman monuments, and even homes that are currently lived in. We ended up walking about 3 miles of the road, which tired us out for our flight the next day.
We took an Uber back to town, grabbed our luggage at the train station and took a train out to the airport (we were staying at the Airport Hilton that night).
We had dinner at the hotel that night and tried to get some sleep for our 14-hour flight the next day.