Great Itineraries: Venice, Florence, Rome, and Highlights in Between

Venice, Florence, Rome, and Highlights in Between

Think of this itinerary as a rough draft for you to revise according to your interests and time constraints.

Day 1: Venice

Arrive in Venice's Marco Polo Airport, and hop on the bus to the city's main bus station. Check into your hotel, get out, and get lost along the canals for a couple of hours before dinner.

Logistics: At the main bus station, you can immediately transfer to the most delightful “bus” in the world: the vaporetto. Enjoy your first ride up the Grand Canal, and make sure you’re paying attention to the fermata (stop) where you need to get off.

Day 2: Venice

Have coffee at a real Italian coffee shop before taking in the top sights, including the Basilica di San Marco, Palazzo Ducale, and Galleria dell'Accademia. Don’t forget Piazza San Marco: the intense anticipation as you near the giant square climaxes in a stunning view of the piazza. Stop for lunch, sampling the traditional Venetian specialty sarde in saor (sardines in a mouthwatering sweet-and-sour preparation with onions and raisins), and check out the fish market at the foot of the Rialto Bridge; then see the sunset at the Zattere before dinner. Later, stop at a bar on the Campo San Luca or Campo Santa Margherita, where you can toast to being free of automobiles.

Logistics: Venice is best seen on foot, with the occasional vaporetto ride. Always carry a city map: it's very easy to get totally lost here.

Day 3: Ferrara/Bologna

The ride to Ferrara, your first stop in Emilia-Romagna, is about 90 minutes. Visit the Castello Estense and Duomo before grabbing lunch. Wander Ferrara's cobblestone streets, then hop on the train to Bologna (less than an hour away). Check into your hotel, and walk around Piazza Maggiore before dinner. Later check out some of Italy's best nightlife.

Logistics: The train station lies a bit outside the center of Ferrara, so you may want to take a taxi or a less expensive city bus into town.

Day 4: Bologna/Florence

After breakfast, visit some of Bologna's churches and piazzas, and climb the leaning Torre degli Asinelli for a red-rooftop-studded panorama. After lunch, take the short train ride to Florence. You'll arrive in time for an afternoon siesta and an evening passeggiata.

Day 5: Florence

Start with the Uffizi Gallery, where you'll see Botticelli's Primavera and Birth of Venus, among other works. Next, walk to Piazza del Duomo, site of Brunelleschi's spectacular dome, which you can climb for an equally spectacular view. After a simple trattoria lunch, either devote the afternoon to art or hike up to Piazzale Michelangelo, which overlooks the city. Finish the evening in style with a traditional bistecca alla fiorentina (grilled T-bone steak with olive oil).

Logistics: It's best to reserve Uffizi Gallery tickets in advance; you must reserve in advance to climb Brunelleschi's dome.

Day 6: Lucca/Pisa

After breakfast, board a train for a 90-minute ride to the walled medieval city of Lucca. Don't miss the Romanesque Duomo or a walk along the city's ramparts. Have lunch at a trattoria before continuing on to Pisa (30 minutes away) and its Campo dei Miracoli, where you'll spend an afternoon seeing the Leaning Tower, along with the Duomo and Battistero. Walk down to the banks of the Arno River and dine at one of the inexpensive local restaurants in the real city center.

Logistics: Lucca's train station is conveniently situated just outside the walled city. Although across town from the Leaning Tower, Pisa's train station isn't far from the city center.

Day 7: Rome

Take a high-speed train bound for Rome, a 90-minute trip. Although the Eternal City took millennia to build, on this whirlwind trip you'll have just two days to tour it. Make your way to your hotel and relax for a bit before heading to the Piazza Navona, Campo de' Fiori, and Trevi Fountain—it's best in the evening—and have a stand-up aperitivo (Campari and soda is a classic) at an unpretentious local bar. For dinner, you can't go wrong at any of Rome's popular local pizzerias.

Day 8: Rome

In the morning, head to the Vatican Museums to see Michelangelo's glorious frescoes at the Sistine Chapel. Visit St. Peter's Basilica and Square before heading for lunch near the Pantheon. Next, visit the magnificent Pantheon, and then the Colosseum, stopping along Via dei Fori Imperiali to check out the Roman Forum from above. From the Colosseum, walk or take a taxi to Piazza di Spagna, a good place to shop at stylish boutiques. Taxi to Piazza Trilussa at the entrance of Trastevere, where you can have a relaxing dinner.

Logistics: Avoid lines and waits by buying tickets online in advance for the Vatican Museums and the Colosseum.

Day 9: Rome/Departure

Head by taxi to Termini station and catch the train to Fiumicino airport.

Logistics: For most people, the train from Termini station is preferable to a taxi ride.

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