Plagued with a limited number of vacation days, but yearning to go somewhere full of culture that’s molto bella? I hear ya! It was my first time traveling to Europe and Italy seemed like a monstrous beast to tackle all in one go. But with so many sites to experience, I thought it would be difficult to choose only 2-3 cities to focus on in 2 weeks.
My friends and I were ambitious and after a lot of research through guide books and online sources, we came up with an itinerary that surprisingly worked very well with us (minus the dent in our bank accounts).
I made a few tweaks to the original plan as reflected here (i.e. we visited Naples for a day and would have much rather skipped it and spent an extra day in Florence), but for all those thinking of travelling to Italy, consider this itinerary.
Suggested Itinerary at a Glance
DAY 1: Venice
DAY 2: Venice
DAY 3: Verona, Milan (night)
DAY 4: Milan
DAY 5: Milan
DAY 6: Florence
DAY 7: Pisa, Lucca, Florence (night)
DAY 8: Florence
DAY 9: Florence
DAY 10: Pompeii, Sorrento (night)
DAY 11: Capri Island, Sorrento (night)
DAY 12: Positano, Amalfi, Ravello, Sorrento (night)
DAY 13: Rome
DAY 14: Vatican City, Rome (night)
DAY 15: Rome
DAY 16: Rome
Feel free to revise this itinerary based on your own travel goals and personal interests. Italy is all about going with the flow, relaxing, and enjoying life. So make sure you have enough time to do and see what you love.
Travelling Within Italy by Train
Between cities, we travelled by train. Within cities, we mostly walked everywhere until our legs were dead, then we walked some more. Depending on the city, there may have been local subways or buses available. Do beware labour strikes! While we were in Milan, there was a metro strike that messed up with our plan for the majority of the day. Not cool.
For trains, we bought the Eurail 1st Class Italy Group Pass, which is charged based on how many days of train travel you’ll need. Before you buy the pass, create a brief outline of your itinerary so you know how many days of train travel you’ll need.
You may also want to calculate your potential savings of buying a Eurail Pass versus buying single tickets on the day-of at the train station without a pass. This is where it gets tricky.
When traveling within Italy, there is a 10 Euro surcharge called “seat reservation fee” that they add to every single train ride you take. You will need to add this cost onto your Eurail Pass, as this surcharge is not covered. You can buy the “seat reservation” on the day-of at the train station. If you fail to have a seat reservation, you will be fined to pay the full regular price of that trip when the train staff check your tickets. It’s such a hassle, but that’s why it’s important to do your research before you go!
Note some exceptions, however… because life’s just that complicated! A few places do not require seat reservations. Based on this itinerary, NO seat reservations are required between Florence –> Pisa –> Lucca and back.
Also, if you’re wanting to go from Naples –> Pompeii –> Sorrento and back, this is a local train called “Circumvesuviana” that is NOT a part of the Eurail pass and also doesn’t require seat reservations. Do NOT count this day in your pass. With this particular local train, you’ll notice the down grade in quality of the train ride right away. I would not recommend bringing too many luggage on this train if possible. It feels like an old school bus on a train track.
If you’re totally confused by the whole seat reservation fee thing and just want to get from city to city as you go along, DON’T bother buying the Eurail Pass and just purchase your tickets directly at the train station. The seat reservation fee is already included in the price, so you don’t have to worry about it. The Eurail Pass only saves you a few Euro anyway, so it might be worth the convenience just to buy direct from the station.
In most cases, you won’t get seats with your entire party if you buy it from the Express Machines. You can ask to change seats with other passengers when you get there.
In terms of storing your luggage, there is ample room above your seats, as well as at the entrance of each train car.
Train schedules in Italy are pretty frequent, but all trains leave very promptly, so be sure to show up on the platform of your train at least 15 minutes in advance or else you might miss it. If your destination is one of the stops along the main route, be ready to get out of the train once it arrives, as you will have a 5-minute window to actually get off. Otherwise, you’re heading to the next stop whether you like it or not!
Here are some websites that were great guides for planning train travel in Italy:
Now read up on my city-specific posts and start planning your vacation! If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. Buon Viaggio!