Planning a trip to Italy?
Italy is a country of art. From the masterpieces lining the walls of the Uffizi Gallery to the iconic cypress trees dotting the Tuscan landscape, Italy is a feast for the eyes. And don’t even get me started on the food. I’m afraid this post would just devolve into a string of clichés. It takes a wordsmith of a much higher caliber to do this country justice.
Planning a trip to Italy can be a daunting task. Rome, Venice, Pompeii, Verona – the list of must-sees is endless. When Anna, a good friend of mine, asked if I wanted to travel with her to Italy, I jumped at the chance. She had never been before, so I wanted to make sure her first visit to one of my favorite countries was one to remember.
Our Italy Itinerary
Our eleven days were split up over four locations: the Amalfi Coast, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Genoa. I decided to forgo the major urban destinations like Rome and Milan in favor dramatic seaside vistas and the Tuscan city of Florence. In my opinion Florence provides the best balance of history, architecture, and ~ambiance~ of all the Italian cities. Plus Anna loves A Room With A View. Italy’s west coast was on my travel bucket list for some time. Everyone seemed to be spending their holidays there, and I was curious to see what the fuss was about. Genoa, on the other hand, was added as an afterthought, but it ended up being one of my favorite places of the whole trip.
Planning this holiday was also a challenge for me because I’m used to traveling budget-style. Anna was looking for a little more comfort than a twenty bed hostel dorm provides. Finding a balance between two travel styles can be tricky at times, but I think we nailed it in the end. Turns out sharing a B&B room with a friend isn’t much more expensive than a hostel in some places!
This is just a brief overview to give you some ideas for planning your own trip, whether you have two weeks to explore Italy or only a few days. Let me know what you think or if I missed anything important!
Day 1 – Naples Airport to the Amalfi Coast
Depending on when your flight arrives in Naples, you might be able to take the bus out to the city and do some sightseeing. Storing your luggage in the airport is a good way to get around faster and avoid the risk of being pickpocketed. Stop at the airport tourism desk and they can give you all the up-to-date information you need.
Once you’ve made it to Naples, stick to Spaccanapoli street to get a sample of the city. Staying in the touristy part of town isn’t bad when you are on a tight schedule. Depending on time you can check out the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale to see some finds from Pompeii and Herculaneum.
Hire a car to take you from Naples airport to the village of Maiori on the Amalfi Coast. Smaller, cheaper, and less touristy than Positano or Amalfi, Maiori is the perfect base to explore the coast from. We found B&B Castiavano through AirBnB and loved it. The owner Vincenzo was incredibly kind and accommodating.
It is possible to reach most villages on the Amalfi Coast by a combination of trains and buses. We opted to hire a car because we were arriving late, and I didn’t want to overwhelm my friend on her first night. Definitely book in advance though. You don’t want to be caught off guard with a €150 bill!
Check out my guide to traveling on the Amalfi Coast for more information about getting around.
Double Room B&B Castiavano: €66 per night
Luggage Storage in Naples Airport: €9
Archaeology Museum Adult Ticket: €12
Car hire from Naples to Maiori: €108
If you are new to AirBnB click here to get $33 off your first trip.
Day 2 – Maiori, Amalfi Coast
Spend the morning walking around the village of Maiori and taking in the beautiful scenery. Follow the Lemon Walk (1 hour), a scenic trail through the local lemon groves, to the neighboring village of Minori. If stairs aren’t for you, or you want an easier walk home, return to Maiori via Strada Statale Amalfitana, the main seaside road (20 minutes).
Time to get into vacation mode! Grab your beach towel and head to Maiori’s lovely sand beach. If you’re feeling fancy, go ahead and rent a chair and umbrella for the day.
Tuck into some delicious pizza at Matinée Cocktail Bar & Restaurant and people watch on the main street of the village. One pizza could definitely feed two people, depending on how hungry you are.
Beach Chairs and Umbrella Rental: €10
Pizza Dinner: €5-8 per pizza
Day 3 – Exploring the Coast
Take a boat tour of the coast. It is 100% true that the villages are best seen from the sea. Capone Servizi Marittimi offers half-day tours that stop in Positano and the Emerald Grotto (entrance fee not included). They also stop for a quick swim break out in the sea. Make sure to visit their kiosk by the beach as soon as you can because these tours are small and fill up fast. They also offer tours that visit the island of Capri if you want to explore even more.
If you still have some energy, catch the ferry to Amalfi. There is a ticket and information kiosk by the seaside which displays the ferry schedules. Spend some time exploring the village including the beautiful cathedral. Grab a paper cone filled with calamari to snack on as you walk around. If you haven’t gotten your fill of the sea, you can relax on Amalfi’s pebble beach (though I prefer the one in Maiori).
Return to Maiori and spend your final night watching the sunset while eating dinner at one of the seaside restaurants. Restaurant El Dorado was reasonably priced and served a decent linguine alle vongole (linguine with clams).
Half-Day Boat Tour: €30 per person (€5 extra for Emerald Grotto)
Ferry Maiori to Amalfi: €6 round trip
Beach Towel Rental: €2
Cathedral Entrance Fee in Amalfi: €3
Day 4 – Maiori to Florence
Catch the Sita bus to Salerno (1 hour). The roads are very windy, so if you get motion sickness, I would advise taking something beforehand. Bus tickets can be purchased from the tourist information kiosk on Strada Statale Amalfitana or the corner store down by the marina. The Sita bus stop is a five-minute walk from train station. The bus stop is down by Bar Oriente.
Take the train from Salerno to Firenze Santa Maria Novella station (3.5 hours).
Check into your accommodation. We stayed at Academy Hostel which was right by the Duomo. Have an evening stroll to get acquainted with the city. For dinner head to the Mercato di San Lorenzo and grab some delicious and affordable Tuscan food at ZaZa Trattoria.
Sita Bus to Salerno: €2 per ticket
Train to Florence: €35-40 if booked in advance
Academy Hostel (4-bed dorm): €26 per bed/per night
Day 5 – Florence
Take the morning to hit up the main sights of Florence. If you want to visit any of the main art galleries such as the Galleria dell’Accademia (home of Michelangelo’s David) or the Galleria Uffizi (home of the Birth of Venus), then you need to book your tickets online at least two weeks in advance. Otherwise you will waste a ton of time waiting in line, and you may not even make it in.
Head across the river via the Ponte Vecchio and walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo for an amazing panoramic view of Florence. Make your way back down the hill through the rose garden. If you want to feel super classy and try something different, stop at Lorenzo Villoresi’s perfume shop on your way to dinner. You may even get some samples to take home!
In the evening head to Trattoria Pandemonium, a family-run restaurant that dishes up some excellent pasta. It’s only open from 7:30pm to 10:30pm for dinner, so a reservation is recommended. After dinner make your way to Bar Due between the Ponte Vecchio and the Ponte Santa Trinita. Sip on a Bellini and look out over the Arno as the sun sets.
Uffizi Gallery: €23 (including online booking fee)
Accademia Gallery: €18.50 (including online booking fee)
Box of 16 2ml sample perfumes from Lorenzo Villoresi: €42
Day 6 – Day Trip to Siena
If the crowds of tourists in Florence start to wear you down, Day 6 is an excellent time to catch the train and check out the nearby medieval city of Siena. It is only an hour and a half away on the train. Climb the tower of the Pubblico Palace in the Piazza del Campo for the best views.
If taking another train seems unbearable for you, that’s okay! Spend the day visiting a few more of Florence’s best sights. Take some time to relax in one of the city’s many cafés. My recommendation is La Menagère, the most instagrammable café I’ve ever seen. After you’ve had your caffeine fix, cross the river and wander the Giardino di Boboli at the Palazzo Pitti or stop in another of Florence’s fantastic museums.
Train to Siena: €18 round trip
La Menagère Latte and ham and cheese croissant: €7.5
Entrance Fee for Boboli Gardens: €10
Day 7 – Florence to La Spezia
Head back to Firenze Santa Maria Novella Station and take the train to the beautifully historic, though often overlooked, city of La Spezia (3 hours). Like Maiori, La Spezia is a great base to explore Cinque Terre from, and it is a lot less expensive than the villages.
Check into your accommodation then spend the day walking around the city center and marvel at the beautiful old buildings lining the streets. We found an AirBnB apartment 20 minutes walk from the city center. Having your own kitchen is a great way to save money on food, and the whole flat was less expensive than a hotel.
You’ll be spoiled for choice of places to eat in the city center, and there are plenty of restaurants with mains for less than €10. Near our apartment was a nice, no frills pizza place which (I believe) was called La Spartana. It felt like a real locals spot. This was the first time on the whole trip that Anna and I were the only people in a room speaking English.
AirBnB Apartment: €62 per night
Train Ticket Florence to La Spezia: €14 (day of)
Glass of wine at La Spartana: €1 Not even kidding.
Day 8 – Exploring Cinque Terre
Head back to the train station and pick up a 2-Day Cinque Terre Card. This pass gives you the freedom to hop on any trains going between the towns from La Spezia to Levanto, and you can access all the main hiking trails. The prices were recently increased due to rising train fares.
Be careful when buying train tickets – if you are approached by someone who offers to help you buy your tickets make sure they are an employee of the rail line before you proceed.
Head first to Riomaggiore, the closest of the five villages. Wander the streets before walking the Via dell’Amore to Manarola, the most popular and easiest walk in the area. The trails get harder as you go, so I recommend starting in Riomaggiore and then ditching the trails for trains once you get tired. Continue village hopping by train or trail until it is time to eat.
For dinner you can stop at one of the many restaurants in whatever village you end up in, or you can take the train back to La Spezia to find something a little more reasonably priced in the city center.
Bottle of wine at the CO-OP (grocery store): €1.5 Seriously. I’m not kidding.
Cinque Terre 2-Day Card: €29 (€16 for 1-Day pass)
Gelato after long hike: Priceless (Or €2.5)
Day 9 – Beach Day in Monterosso al Mare
Hop right back on the train and back to Cinque Terre. Make sure to visit any villages you missed on your first day, or revisit some of your favorites. Personally I liked Corniglia and Vernazza the best, though the stairs up to Corniglia from the train station were quite the workout!
Make your way to Monterosso, the final of the five villages and the only one that has a proper beach. Grab a slice of foccacia or a cone of fried calamari once you start to get hungry. Have a lazy afternoon soaking up the sun or swimming in the crystal clear water.
If you are feeling ambitious, you can continue on to Levanto. Much like Cinque Terre, the town is gorgeous and charming. It is also another good place to look for accommodation as it is less well-known than the other towns.
Take the train back to your favorite scenic spot, such as the Via dell’Amore, and watch the sunset. The epic lighting will make for some excellent photos.
Two slices of foccacia: €3.95
Monterosso Tart: €3
Dinner in La Spezia: €13-18 (main + cover + drink)
Day 10 – Genoa
Take a morning train from La Spezia to another urban gem, Genoa (1.5 hours).
Walk from the train station to your accommodation, stopping at a small cafe for a bite to eat if you have some time to kill. Spend the afternoon walking around the city center window shopping or maybe popping into one of the many museums.
I only booked one night in Genoa because we were flying out of there the next day, but it is such a cool city and deserves to be treated as such. You could spend another day here easily.
In the city center there is a great little restaurant and bar called Nº1 (it doesn’t come up when I search it on Google Maps, but you’ll see it if you walk downhill on Via di Porta Soprana). It’s a tiny little place, but their Genoese pesto pasta is dreamy. Grab a cocktail and soak up the atmosphere before turning in for the night.
Double Room Mini Hotel: €55 per night
Train La Spezia to Genoa: €10-14 day of
Pasta at Nº1: €9
We found our hotel through Booking.com. Use this link to get $25 back after your first booking.
Day 11 – Fly Out
Have your hotel call a taxi for you to take to the airport. If there are at least two of you travelling together, the cost of the taxi is not much more than taking the bus, but it is much more convenient and fast (20 minutes vs. almost an hour). Otherwise, walk to the Piazza Principe by the train station to catch the Volabus to the airport. You can get tickets on board.
All that’s left is to catch your flight and head to your next destination.
Volabus ticket: €6 per person
Taxi from Mini Hotel to airport: €18
It is always sad when a holiday comes to an end, but ten days felt like a good amount of time to be on the move. We had enough time in each place to cover pretty much everything we wanted, and we were never left with nothing to do.
Feel free to take this basic itinerary and tweak it as you see fit. I would have loved a little more time in Genoa, but I suppose it is always good to leave wanting more. You could also take a day in Naples to visit Pompeii.
I hope this helped you plan your own trip to Italy. I know I’m already thinking of where I want to go when I return to Italy. I’ve heard Sicily is nice…