Italy was the first country I visited in Europe and I haven’t looked back since! There is so much to do and see in Italy that 9 days are definitely not enough. However, this itinerary covers some of the big cities in an attempt to scratch the surface and I guarantee that this 9 day sampler will leave you wanting to come back for more. So, here is my tried and tested itinerary for 9 days in Italy. It is especially great for first time visitors.
Notes on the Itinerary
- Feel free to switch the order of the cities but it definitely makes sense to go from North to South or vise versa. This way you are not zig zagging through the country
- Don’t try to do too much! Like I said, this is a sampler and I guarantee you will want to come back for more
- If possible, try to avoid the hot summer months, which are also the most crowded! We did this 9 days in Italy itinerary in Mid-May and it was perfect
- The Italian siesta is very much a thing! Plan to see free and open sites during this time
- Watch your belongings, especially in Rome
- You MUST have gelato everyday!
See HERE for more tips on visiting Europe
How to Get Around
The best way to get around Italy during this 9 day itinerary is to use trains. Trenitalia is the biggest name and can be used for travel between big cities (i.e., Florence -> Rome). Tickets for these need to be bought in advance. If you buy well in advance, you may also be able to get discounted seats or first class seats for second class rates! One thing is that Trenitalia is notorious for being late. Get to the train station well in advance to figure out the platform.
Italo is another company that is privately owned and also runs high speed trains between major cities.
Tickets for any regional travel does not have to be bought in advance but do remember to validate them at the train station before you get on the train.
9 Days in Italy
Day 1 – Milan (Overnight Milan)
I felt like such a unsophisticated simpleton in Milan! ha! Milan is the fashion capital of the world and it is so easy to see why. We spent a full day and one evening (next day ) in Milan and I felt like it was the perfect amount of time. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is in Milan but you need to reserve tickets months in advance. See here for more details.
The Duomo of Milan is one of the best Gothic churches in the world! I highly recommend getting tickets in advance here. A visit to the roof top is a must in my opinion.
What Not to Miss
- Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele
- Teatro alla Scala (La Scala opera house)
- Castello Sforzesco
- Pinacoteca de Brera
- Santa Maria delle Grazie
- Sant’Ambrogio Basilica
Day 2 – Lake Como (Overnight Milan)
I think this day was my favorite in this 9 days in Italy trip. Lake Como is an easy day trip from Milan. The 3 most popular places in Lake Como are Como, Bellagio and Varenna. To get to Lake Como by train, get to Milano Centrale and get on a train that goes to Como San Giovanni. From Como, you can take a boat to either Bellagio or Varenna. Alternatively, you can take a direct train from Milan to Varenna. In my opinion, Bellagio and Varenna is where all the charm is. So, if you want to skip Como altogether, then 2nd option is the best. This being said, the boat ride from Como to Bellagio was wonderful! It’s worth it just for the stunning mansions you will see from the boat. A ferry will get you between Bellagio and Varenna.
Check out these tours below, if you don’t want to figure out the transfers by yourself
Day 3 – Verona (Overnight Padua)
We arrived by train from Milan to Padua and after dropping our bags in the hotel, we walked around Padua for a bit and visited the Basilica of St. Antonio before taking a regional train to Verona.
I thought Verona was a great addition to our 9 days in Italy trip. It’s relatively small but definitely packs a punch. Most people flock to Verona to see Juliet’s Balcony, a balcony in a Gothic-style 1300s house, said to have inspired Shakespeare.
What Not to Miss
- San Zeno Maggiore Church
- Ponte Scaligero
- Arena di Verona
- Porta Borsari
- Juliet’s House and Balcony
- Piazza delle Erbe & Lamberti’s Tower
- Sant’Anastasia Bascilica
- Ponte Pietra
- Giardino Giusti – if you have time
Day 4 – Venice (Overnight Padua)
We hopped on a super early morning train and made it to Venice. It was really nice to be in Venice before all the hoards of tourists were up or had arrived). Personally, I didn’t find Venice to be super charming and almost thought it was a little overrated. I can put this down to 2 things. 1. I was not there with a significant other (perhaps it’s more romantic if you are with a partner) 2. We did not stay overnight (perhaps there is charm in spending the night in Venice).
What Not to Miss
- A Gondola ride – touristy? Yes! But, felt like the must do thing in Venice! We did this first thing as we arrived and it was a good decision!
- St.Marks Basilica and square
- The Doge’s Palace
- The Bridge of Sighs
- Realto market and Bridge
- Basilica di Santa Maria della Salute
- Grand Canal
- Get lost in all the narrow alleyways
We managed to squeeze in a small side trip to Murano, Burano and Torcello. You can either do this on your own (best if you have more time in Venice) or take an organized tour like the ones below. Murano is known for the best glass in the world and Burano is known for its colorful houses and lace.
We left Venice after getting dinner by the canal and got back to Padua late at night.
Day 5 – Florence (Overnight Florence)
Ah! Florence has so much character! It was my favorite big city on this 9 days in Italy itinerary. There is a lot to do in Florence and it Tuscany in general. We only got to see the major sites in Florence but I do want to go back to visit the country side of Tuscany one day!
There are 2 sites in Florence that you absolutely should get tickets well in advance. The first is the Uffizi. It’s one of the best art museums in the world. So, if you are an art lover, you should prioritize the Uffizi and leave at least 1/2 a day for it. It’s closed on Monday’s, so if you have 2 days in Florence and one of them is a Monday, you will have to visit the Uffizi the other day.
The second site is the Academia Gallery. This is also an art museum in Florence that is best known as the home of Michelangelo’s sculpture of David. The Academia Gallery is also closed on Monday, so plan ahead.
Also, there are various passes that you can purchase that cover some of the sites listed below. See here for more details
What Not to Miss
(split over 1.5 days)
- Duomo – Also called the Duomo di Firenze and Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore. The Duomo is one of the most beautiful churches I’ve seen from the outside. A visit to the main floor of the cathedral is free (not as impressive as the outside) but there is a charge for the Dome and you need an advanced reservation!
- The Baptistery of San Giovanni
- The Uffizi
- Academia Gallery
- Giotto’s Bell Tower – awesome views of Florence
- Palazzo Pitti
- Boboli Gardens
- Ponte Vecchio Bridge
- Mercato Nuovo
- Palazzo Vecchio
- Piazza Della Signoria & Neptune Fountain
- Visit a rooftop bar or two
Day 6 – Pisa/Florence (Overnight Florence)
We left Florence for a bit today and side tripped to Pisa. We were not interested in doing a lot in Pisa, other than to see the Leaning Tower. So we made a focused walk from the train station to where the Leaning Tower was and marched back to the train station. I later learned that Pisa has a public university that is founded in 1343 and is one of the oldest universities in Europe.
Once back in Florence, we visited the sites we did not get to on day 5.
There are so many more cool things you can do in Florence but you will need more than 1.5 days.
Day 7 – 9 Rome (Overnight Rome)
Rome is everything I imaged it would be and more! The trick to conquering Rome is to plan ahead. My biggest advice is to think about what you are doing when and don’t leave it for when you get there. Covering sites that are close together make a lot of sense.
The Vatican in general requires some advanced planning. Remember to dress modestly if you are visiting St. Peter’s Basilica. The Basilica houses Michelangelo’s Pieta. The Pieta is one of the artist’s most famous sculptures and is worth going to see, even if you are not interested in visiting the church. I cannot recommend buying tickets ahead of time to the Vatican Museum. The Pope holds a general audience at the Vatican Square every Wednesday morning. This brings a lot of crowds to the area. If you are not interested in the audience, this is a great time to visit the Vatican Museum. The Vatican Museum is also where the Sistine Chapel is located.
What Not to Miss
- Basillica of St.Peter
- Vatican Museum (Sistine Chapel)
- Basilica of St. John
- Spanish Steps – go early morning
- Castle Saint Angelo – Skippable in my opinion but still worth seeing from the outside
- Piazza del Populi
- Villa Borghese
- Victor Emmanual Momument
- Roman Forum
- Arch of Titus and Constantine
- Palatine Hill
- Trevi fountain
- Piazza Navona
If you get through these must visit sites in Rome, consider a half day trip to Tivoli. This city has 3 main attractions that are worth visiting if you have one full day. But, if you only have half a day, you will have to pick one of the three. Tivoli is about a 50 minute bus ride from just outside Rome and makes for a great day trip or half day trip.
What to See in Tivoli
- Villa d’Este
- Hadrian’s Villa
- Villa Gregoriana
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