Best Places to Visit in Italy for the First Time

Best Places in Italy for the First Visit

Which cities to visit in Italy? How to plan the trip to understand the country and have a good time there?

I would recommend three options for those who are planning their trip to Italy for the first time. All of the variants are planned for 7-10 days:

  1. Rome, Florence, and maybe Napoli – this option is a good start especially if you are planning to come back to the country in the future and explore it step by step;
  2. Rome, Napoli, Florence, Venice – you’ll get tired, but you’ll see a lot;
  3. Milano, Venice, Verona, Florence, Piza, Rome, Napoli – if it’s your first and the last time in Italy.

Let’s go deeper and analyze the options mentioned above, based on my knowledge and experience:

Rome, Florence, and maybe Napoli

Look, Rome is an affluent city in terms of history and the sightseeings and whatever city you visit after it, it might seem to be boring and as if there is nothing to see and to do. So, if you are going to Rome, spend there 1-week minimum. Every time I get surprised when some people say that one day is enough for the city.

Really? I have been living in Rome for seven years and every day I notice something new to me. For instance, there are more than 400 amazing churches in Rome and each of them is like a museum inside. I haven’t managed to visit even half of them so far.

Of course, if you travel just to put in an appearance, one day is enough. However, I suppose our readers are wise and curious.
So, I highly recommend spending as many days in Rome as possible; four is the minimum. Then you can go for one day to Napoli, check Vesuvius volcano and Pompeii. The remaining 2-3 days leave for Florence and Tuscany.

The Ideal Itinerary of Your Trip by Days:

  1. Day 1: Arrival, check-in, useful tips. Dinner in a traditional restaurant or Trastevere Walking Tour with Local Private Guide, which will help you to understand Roman gastro-culture better.
  2. Day 2: Walk around the sightseeings at the sunrize. Ideally, with a guide, or you can look at a good route in the tour description, but then you deprive yourself of a chance to know a lot of exciting information. Enjoy lunch and rest. Head for an evening walk around Pantheon, Navona Square, Campo di Fiori, and Trastevere.
  3. Day 3: Visit St. Peter’s Cathedral at sunrise and the Vatican Museum if you wish. All the tours around the Vatican can be found here. Have lunch and rest. Visit virtual tour around the Forum of Caesar and Traianus in the evening.
  4. Day 4: Feel free to sleep a bit longer this day. However, I strongly recommend you to split the day into two parts: sleep for 5-6 hours at night – have an early rise – and sleep for another 1-3 hours during the day. This will let you escape from thousands of tourists and the heat. Believe me, this is the other level of your travel experience. You can spend this day more relaxed and enjoy the places you liked more during your first three days in the Eternal City. If you stay in a hotel, just miss your breakfast and just go to one of the true Roman bars nearby to practice your Italian and to get fresh cornetto con crema with a cup of cappuccino or espresso. Then I would go to Capitoline Museums or Borghese Gallery. However, if you are not a historian or an art expert, it is better to do it with a professional guide; otherwise, you will waste your time. If you do not like museums, go to the EUR district – to see modern Rome or have a stroll in Borghese Villa.
  5. Day 5. Go outside the Eternal City to visit Tivoli and the Villa of 100 fountains or to Ancient Ostia, which is not worse than Pompei. If you are a foodie, take a gastro-tour to the Castelli Romani zone or visit the terra of olive oil with Leonardo.
  6. Day 6. You’ve already got used to the noise of the Eternal City, so you are ready to go to Napoli for a one-day trip. You will see the city, Pompei and Vesuvius volcano. Instruction: take an early high-speed train to Napoli. You need to arrive there not later than 9 a.m. Napoli is southern, poor, and might be a dangerous city. Leave all your accessories and everything that costs you big money or sweet memories in a safe deposit at your hotel in Rome. After a long day of exploration and new emotions, it’s high time to go back to Rome for dinner. Once you return, Rome will appear to be a very modern, calm, and European city.
  7. Day 7. For the remaining three days, I would go to Florence. The plan is to take a morning high-speed train from Rome to Florence, check-in, and have lunch till 2:30 p.m., as then the restaurants will be closed till dinner time. After that, head to a sightseeing tour visiting Galleria Degli Uffizi. Finally, end your day in a nice place and try Florentine steak.
  8. Day 8. Spend a day in Tuscany. All the options can be found here – Val d’Orcia, Lucca, eno-gastro tour around villages of the area to try local specialties. And back to Florence in the evening.
  9. Day 9. On the last day of your stay in Florence, I would spend on a walk at the sunrise, visiting Palazzo Vecchio, Giardino di Boboli gardens, and a couple of viewpoints.
  10. Day 10. Come back to Rome to take your plane back home.

That is how I see your ideal visit to Italy based on my 7-year of life in the country. I hope you trust my experience and use this guide.

Read more about When it is better to go to Italy to relax at the seaside.

The second and more intensive variant is:

To Get Tired But to See a Lot

To the first variant described above, you can add Venice spending two days sacrificing exploration of Rome or visiting Napoli. So, the first three days remain the same Trastevere, Rome at sunrise, Vatican. On the 4th day, head to Napoli. Then go to Florence for two days, day-night in Venice, and come back to Rome by high-speed train or take a direct plane back home.

And here is the third and hard-core variant for those who plan to visit

Italy Itinerary for the First and the Only Time

This option has nothing in common with enjoying and diving deep into the atmosphere and exploration of the country, but when the aim is just to mark as many points on the map as possible. I wouldn’t recommend doing this, but I know that some people prefer this type of traveling and here is an ideal plan in my opinion.

To see maximum within ten days – Milan, Venice, Verona, Florence, Piza, Rome, and Napoli. We will start from the north to the south. You can do it in the opposite direction, but I would recommend doing it this way.

  1. If you arrive at Malpensa airport, go straight to Milan and check-in at a hotel. The second half of the day – take a sightseeing or a gastro-tour. If you arrive at Bergamo airport, stay there for a night. It is a  lovely and beautiful town.
  2. Milan – check Sforza Castle, Duomo di Milano and that’s it Moving to Venice, check-in in one of a hotel in Mestre or historical center closer to Rialto bridge and San-Marco square. I would just have a nice evening walk and dinner.
  3. Being for the first time in Venice do explore it in the morning; otherwise, you might hate the most popular and expensive city in Italy. Ideally, book a sightseeing tour at sunrise or just walk by yourself from 5 a.m. till 8 a.m. Then have breakfast at the hotel and check-out.
  4. Moving to Verona, Romeo and Juliet’s city, here is the instruction. To save money, I recommend buying Verona Card. Here you can book an individual tour and a trip to the Garda lake or vineyards.
  5. After breakfast, head from Verona to Florence. During the second half of the day, have a walk or visit the Uffizi gallery.
  6. In the early morning, go to Pisa from Florence. Three hours is more than enough for this place: find the main square take a unique picture with the famous falling tower, and that’s it – that’s the only attraction in the city. Plan a private tour around Lucca and its suburbs or come back to Florence in the second half of the day. Lucca is 30 kilometers by train from Piza, and it’s a nice place to visit while you are there.
  7. It’s high time to go to Rome, the Eternal City. Here you spend the second half of the day walking and having dinner in Trastevere.
  8. At sunrise, walk around the city, enjoy lunch, and at 1.30 p.m., go to the Vatican Museums, checking the Sistine Chapel and St. Peter’s Cathedral.
  9. One-day trip to Napoli, visiting Pompei and Vesuvius. Come back to Rome.
  10. Fly back home or stay for one more night to relax. Here are the tips on how to spend your last day in Rome.

Personal Experience

Before moving to Rome, I visited Italy about ten times and managed to see Rome and Napoli only. My first trip to Roma was for four days, and I immediately fell in love with this city. This is because a friend of mine who lived there showed me her city.

We were walking late in the evenings and sunrises around the most popular spots. We saw night city, having dinners at local, authentic restaurants – that is the very Rome we are sharing with our guests now during our private tours at sunrise. Watch this video for inspiration:

After such a trip, I had a desire to come back, and in several months I did and spent a week there. The true exploration of Rome began in 2013 when I moved to the country of sun wine and when was launched.

I got inside the Colosseum for the first time only in 2016, even though I’ve seen thousands of sunrises near it.

I mean that one should not rush for popular sightseeings like Tavi Fountain, Colosseum, and others but to walk in a relaxed tempo around the city, randomly entering numerous inner yards and churches. The priority should be to enjoy and fill the atmosphere of a place. And then after such a journey, you will be full of positive vibes and genuinely relaxed.

After visiting the main touristic cities of Italy, start exploring Verona, Bologna, Genua, check other regions like Umbria, Sicily, Lombardia, and others. Don’t forget to try local cuisine. Italy is endless!
  • For inspiration, please read about my beloved places in Italy to come back.

Alternative First Time Italy Itinerary

By the way, an alternative itinerary – for the first time come to Rome only, spend there 4-7 days, be sure to read this article and settle in the right area. Do not take excursions, do not read about the sights, just explore and feel the city. Go to restaurants, walk in the morning and evening, and rest during the day. Then, come back in a couple of months and let’s meet at our excursions.

You can also choose Florence as a city where you will sleep and dine. And from there explore the neighboring cities of Tuscany. Here are ideas for day trips from Florence.

If you have already been to Italy, please share your experience and impressions of the first trip in the comments below.
Guide, traveler, marathon runner, journalist, creator of the site ITALY FOR ME. I live in Rome and am in love with Rome. On the subject of the article, please ask questions in the comments. I try to answer everyone at least once a day.

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