Fancy a multi-centre trip to Italy, but not sure how to split your time? We’ve done the sums to give you a taster of how you can make the most of your holiday. For each itinerary, we’ve suggested how long you could stay in each destination, but don’t forget that our trips are completely bespoke, so if you want to spend an extra day here or a few days less there, that’s no problem.
If you’ve got 7 nights: Rome (3) & Sorrento (4)
If you’ve got seven nights to play with, split your week between the capital and the coast. Start off with three nights in Rome. Its centro storico is easily explored on foot, and packs in sights like the Pantheon, Piazza Navona (home to Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers) and the Trevi Fountain. As well as the famous St. Peter’s Basilica over in the Vatican, Rome has some smaller churches that are also worth seeking out, like the Gothic Santa Maria sopra Minerva and the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, decorated with shimmering 12th-century mosaics (for more tips on things to do in the Eternal City, check out our guide to spending 48 hours in Rome).
A short train journey links the capital with Naples, on the coast. From here, you can catch the Circumvesuviana train round to Sorrento. This seaside town is famous for its views (they stretch across the Bay of Naples to Mount Vesuvius) and its huge lemons (which make delicious limoncello). It’s also an ideal base for visiting the pretty villages along the Amalfi Coast and for trips to the historical sites of Pompeii and Herculaneum.
If you’ve got 8 nights: Rome (3) & Taormina (5)
If you’re into history, Rome and Taormina make an idea twin-centre trip. While you’re in the Eternal City, you can tour the remains of Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum, explore the gladiator passageways of the Colosseum and discover the 2nd-century catacombs on the edge of the city centre. The Basilica of San Clemente is another historical gem – you can descend from the ground-level basilica (which dates back to the 12th century) and explore the 4th-century church and 2nd-century pagan temple that it was built on top of.
A short flight takes you down to the southern island of Sicily, where you’ll spend five nights in beautiful Taormina. As well as wandering the medieval streets and visiting the town’s Greek-Roman theatre (which dates back to the 3rd century BC), you’re perfectly placed for day trips to some of Sicily’s other highlights. Head to Agrigento to discover its UNESCO-protected Greek temples, or spend a day in Syracuse, with its impressive Greek theatre, Roman amphitheatre and World Heritage-listed old quarter.
If you’ve got 9 nights: Milan (3), Florence (3) & Liguria (3)
This nine-night itinerary kicks off in Milan, Italy’s fashion capital. The Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is one of the city’s top sights, not just for the shops (which include Prada and Louis Vuitton), but for the marble flooring and impressive glass-and-iron roof. Milan is also famous for its café culture (sip espresso at Cova, which dates back to 1817) and its love of aperitivo. Other must-dos include visits to the grand Duomo and the Teatro alla Scala, the city’s opera house.
From Milan, high-speed Frecciarossa trains can whisk you to Florence in an hour and 40 minutes. Earmark three nights for Tuscany’s capital. It’ll give you plenty of time to tour the Uffizi and Accademia galleries, climb the Duomo or Campanile for photo-worthy views, and discover the antique shops and trendy restaurants in the Oltrarno neighbourhood.
Rapallo, in the region of Liguria, is a two-hour drive from Florence. It’s the biggest seaside resort on the Italian Riviera and is the ideal place to relax for a few days before you head home. Spend your time on the beaches here or venture to some of the Riviera’s other highlights, like glamorous Portofino or the postcard-pretty villages of the Cinque Terre.
If you’ve got 10 nights: Venice (3) & Lake Garda (7)
A 90-minute drive separates Venice from picturesque Lake Garda, so the two make an ideal combination. Spend your first three nights in Venice, one of the most unique cities in the world. Its canals are perfect strolling territory, edged by elegant palazzos and criss-crossed by centuries-old bridges (one of our favourites is the Ponte Chiodo in Cannareggio, one of only two in Venice with no parapets). Check out the ornate gold mosaics in St. Mark’s Basillica, join locals at the Rialto Market (set up next to the Grand Canal), and maybe take a trip out to the islands of Murano, Burano or Torcello.
A private transfer will take you from this floating city to Lake Garda, Italy’s biggest lake. Spend a week in one of its lakeside towns, relaxing on the pebbly beaches and enjoying the mountain scenery. Active types can head up into the mountains to tackle hiking and cycling trails, while down by the lake itself you’ve got everything from theme parks to ancient castles to explore.
A day trip to the nearby city of Verona – home of Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers – is well worth doing. The main piazza is dominated by a Roman amphitheatre, which hosts the city’s opera festival in the summer.
If you’ve got 10 nights: Bologna (3), Florence (2) & Tuscany (5)
This one’s a fantastic option for foodies. Start off in Bologna, Italy’s culinary capital. Sample local favourites like tagliatelle al ragu (the original spaghetti Bolognese), tortellini and Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, and take day trips to the nearby towns of Parma (home of the famous ham) and Modena (birthplace of balsamic vinegar). If you need to walk off all those calories, climb the 500 or so steps to the top of Asinelli, one of Bologna’s medieval towers – you’ll get great views over the city’s terracotta rooftops.
Half an hour’s train journey will take you from Bologna to the centre of Florence. Here, you’ve got sights like the Palazzo Vecchio, Uffizi Gallery and Duomo to explore, plus traditional dishes like bistecca alla Fiorentina (a huge T-bone steak) and trippa alla Fiorentina (tripe with vegetables and tomatoes) to try.
From Florence, pick up a hire car and journey 100 kilometres south, into the heart of Tuscany. Your base for the next five nights could be Borgo Tre Rose, a hotel set on a vineyard estate close to Montepulciano. The hotel has its own wine cellar and offers vineyard tours and wine tasting sessions. As for the restaurant, it serves a menu of traditional Tuscan dishes made with locally sourced ingredients. And when it comes to exploring the area, places like Pienza, Siena and Cortona are all in easy reach.
If you’ve got 11 nights: Sorrento (7) & Ischia (4)
Fancy a beach break but with a bit of exploring on the side? Try pairing Sorrento with the island of Ischia. Begin with a week in Sorrento, on the mainland. This clifftop town sits beside the Bay of Naples, with views across the water to Mount Vesuvius. Down by the water you’ll find wooden platforms set up with loungers and stripy parasols, while up in the town centre there’s a buzzing main piazza and winding backstreets lined with little restaurants and shoe shops (handmade sandals are something of a speciality here).
The town is perfectly placed for exploring the Amalfi Coast – head along the coast road and you’ll find tiny beaches hidden between the cliffs, as well as cute little towns and villages like Positano, Amalfi and Maiori. Head around the Bay of Naples, meanwhile, and you’ll come to Pompeii and Herculaneum.
A 90-minute ferry ride takes you over to Ischia for four nights. This little island lines up golden sandy beaches (the stretch at Sant’Angelo is particularly lovely) and a handful of pretty towns. Thanks to its volcanic nature, it’s also home to an abundance of natural spas, which make the most of the island’s thermal springs and mineral-rich mud baths.