Is Italy on your bucket list but you do not know where to start? Are you asking yourself, what are the most famous sights in Italy and what not to miss when visiting? What are Italy’s landmarks other than Rome, Florence, and Venice? In this post, I am presenting a detailed Italy’s three-week itinerary of places to visit for first-time visitors. You will discover not only Italian big cities but also famous Cinque Terre, the Amalfi Coast, ruins of Pompeii, and more.
FAMOUS SIGHTS IN ITALY – WHAT NOT TO MISS
3. Lake Garda
4. Cinque Terre
7. Rome and Vatican City
10. The Amalfi Coast
You can combine these most famous sights in Italy into one unforgettable adventure. It especially makes sense if you are flying and your airline ticket is the biggest expense of the trip. You will need at least three weeks to enjoy this itinerary which is organized in geographical order from north to south. The most convenient way to follow it is by car but it is doable by train too.
Three-week itinerary for your first-time visit to Italy:
1. Venice – 3 days
Venice is small so you can cover all its major attractions in 3 days, but seeing it may be tricky. The city is situated on a group of 118 small islands separated by canals and linked by over 400 bridges. Since there are no cars in the city, you must walk or take a boat to navigate it.
Must-see in Venice:
St. Mark’s Square and Basilica di San Marco
Piazza San Marco, the largest square in the city, is the heart of Venice. To fully appreciate it, go early in the morning when there are fewer people, and in the evening when music is playing all around you.
Basilica San Marco, the grand church on Saint Mark’s Square, is one of Venice’s top attractions and one of Italy’s most spectacular cathedrals.
Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace)
Palazzo Ducale is a massive Gothic-Renaissance structure raised in 1309 and rebuilt after a 1577 fire. Today, the Doge’s palace serves as a museum and it is open to the public.
Taking a gondola ride should be a part of your experience in Venice. Yes, it is expensive, but if you already paid to get there, do it all the way. To save a few bucks, take a shorter ride. No need to cruise the whole city this way.
The Rialto, over the Grand Canal, is an elegant arched stone bridge formed of three sets of stairs divided by arcades with shops. It a great spot for photography.
Day trip to Burano from Venice
If time allows, put a day trip to Burano on your Italy’s three-week itinerary. You will enjoy its brightly colored houses, outdoor cafes, and shops with handmade lace.
There are plenty of tours from Venice to Burano and Murano but do not take them. No need to see Murano unless you want to visit a glass blowing factory and spend money there. Those tours do not give you enough time in beautiful Burano.
Find out how to get to Burano from Venice on your own, here.
Visit Burano on your own to fully enjoy its charm. Read Practical Tips on Visiting Venice.
Find more things to do in Venice here.
2. Verona – 1 day
Must-see in Verona :
The Verona Arena is a well preserved Roman amphitheater built in the first century. It is still in use today and is internationally famous for the large-scale opera performances.
There is no evidence that the house is connected to Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet play, but the romantic fantasy about Verona’s attractions keeps growing, especially after Hollywood movie Letters to Juliet added even more romance to the story.
The courtyard’s walls are covered with love notes. Visiting couples believe that Juliet will cast a lucky spell and their love will be eternal. In the center of the court stands a bronze statue of Juliet. According to legend, touching Juliet’s right breast will bring good luck in love.
3. Lake Garda – 1 day
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy. Considered one of the most beautiful areas in the country, it draws visitors with theme parks, beaches, water sports, mountain climbing, great food, and shopping.
Many come here for their extended vacations, but you can experience a lot in one day too. Just drive around, take in the views, and stop for a few attractions that speak to you.
4. Cinque Terre – 3 days
Cinque Terre ( five villages) should be a part of your Italy’s three-week itinerary. This extremely popular area of the Italian Rivera is best to visit during the offseason when crowds are thinner.
The villages are closed to car traffic so the best way to get there is by train. You can also travel by train between villages. Additionally, hiking is very popular to move within the area.
For details of the Cinque Terre three day itinerary, click here.
5. Pisa – 1 day
Just like all other visitors to Italy, I stopped in Pisa just to see its famous leaning tower. Try to arrive early if you are aiming to get a good photo. Later in a day, it is almost impossible to take one without people jumping in front of you.
6. Florence – 3 days
Florence tops a list of places to visit in Italy for many travelers, but for art lovers, it should be the most important part of the three-week itinerary. The city’s museums, palaces, and churches house some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world.
Must-see in Florence:
Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore ( Florence Cathedral) and Piazza Duomo
Piazza Duomo and the group of buildings that form its cathedral complex gather some of Italy’s greatest artistic treasures into one relatively small area. Santa Maria del Fiore is the third-largest church in the world and was the largest church in Europe when it was completed in the 15th century.
Uffizi Palace and Gallery
Uffizi Gallery is also one of the largest and best known in the world and holds a collection of priceless works, particularly from the period of the Italian Renaissance. See the most famous art pieces of Uffizi here.
Uffizi Gallery is a must for first-time visitors to Italy.
Overlooking Florence, the Piazzale Michelangelo is one of the most popular viewpoints in the city, and should not be missed by first-time visitors to Italy. This ornate square is known for its views and its towering replica of Michelangelo’s David.
For more personal experience visit Giardino Delle Rose nearby, my favorite spot in Florence, for its roses, stunning views of Florence, and modern sculptures.
Piazza Della Signoria and the Loggia dei Lanzi
Piazza Della Signoria is an iconic Florentine square, historically the center of Florence since the 14th century. The square is packed with history, important buildings, statues, fountains, restaurants, and more. It is full of incredible art and includes a wonderful copy of David. Learn more here.
Galleria dell’Accademia (Academy Gallery)
Most visitors enter Galleria dell’Accademia to see the magnificent giant marble sculptures created by Michelangelo called David. David is a 5.17-meter (17.0 ft) marble statue of the Biblical hero.
Palazzo Pitti (Pitti Palace) and Boboli Gardens
This is where you’ll find paintings by Raphael, Titian, Rubens, Tintoretto, and other masters hanging not in gallery style, but as decoration for rooms designed for entertaining. Behind the palace, beautiful Boboli Gardens invite you for a stroll.
Ponte Vecchio (“Old Bridge”)
It is a first segmental arch bridge built in the West, which crosses over the Arno River in Florence. Now a popular attraction, it is an outstanding engineering achievement of the European Middle Ages and a great place for an evening stroll.
Check out more Florence attractions here.
Day trip from Florence to Tuscany’s countryside and the Chianti region
If time allows, put Tuscany’s countryside on your list of places to visit in Italy. Make it a relaxing break in your three-week itinerary. Check out highlights of Tuscany here.
7. Rome and Vatican City – 4 days
Without a doubt, this is going to be the most intense part of Italy’s three-week itinerary. In my opinion, the best way to explore the city is on foot. You may want a taxi once in a while if you run out of steam.
Must-see in Rome:
The Colosseum, located in the center of Rome, is the largest amphitheater ever built. It was used for gladiatorial contests and public spectacles and on average held 65000 people.
Piazza Navona is one of the largest and most beautiful piazza squares in Rome with three impressive fountains, including la Fontana Dei Quattro Fiumir in the middle. The area is full of life with outdoor restaurants and music performances.
The Pantheon is a Roman temple built during ancient Rome to honor the pagan gods of Rome. Today it is the most preserved building of ancient Rome still in existence. It has been used continuously since it was built. From the 7th century on it has been used primarily as a church.
Trevi Fountain is one of the most famous attractions in Rome and a must for first-time visitors to Italy. Keep in mind that it is usually very crowded. Come first thing in the morning or later in the evening if you wish to have a little more space to yourself. It is a tradition to throw a coin into the fountain to ensure your return to Rome.
Piazza di Spagna (The Spanish Steps)
The Spanish Steps are generally a place to congregate and relax. At the lower end of the steps, you can find an early baroque fountain called Fontana Della Barcaccia, or “Fountain of the Old Boat”. Shopping is excellent in the area. Find a guide to designer shopping around Piazza Di Spagna here.
Piazza del Popolo (Square of people)
This is an interesting large piazza with twin churches, an obelisk, and fountains, frequently visited by street performers. It is a safe place to let children run freely.
Today, the castle houses the Museo Nazionale di Castel Sant’Angelo and its grand collection of paintings, sculpture, military memorabilia, and medieval firearms.
Monument of Victor Emanuele
This grand monument, also known as the Altar of Patriotism, was erected between 1885 and 1911 to glorify the first king of Italy. The monument commemorates the unification of Italy in 1861 and the first king of Italy, Victor Emmanuel II.
The Vatican City
Many tourists put Vatican City on the top of their list of places to visit in Italy. The Vatican is the smallest state in Europe. It is the center of authority over the Roman Catholic Church.
Must-see in Vatican City:
Within the Vatican, there are numerous interesting attractions to visit, but the best are the following: St. Peter’s Square, St. Peter’s Basilica, and the Vatican Museums, where the Sistine Chapel is located.
Expect shoulder to shoulder crowds in the Vatican Museum.
For more things to do in Rome, click here.
8. Pompeii – 1 day
The city buried in Vesuvius’s eruption in the year 79 A.D, is the most-visited archaeological site in the world. Since it was engulfed so quickly by a wall of volcanic mud, the city is very well preserved.
9. Capri – 1 day
Treat yourself with some leisure time during your Italy’s three-week itinerary. The Island of Capri, famous for its rugged landscape, upscale hotels, shopping, and limoncello is just perfect for that. Spend at least one night there to enjoy its beauty without feeling rushed. Capri can be reached by ferry from Naples or from the Amalfi Coast.
Looking straight down for the top of Mount Solaro in Anacapri.
Must do in Capri Italy:
Take a boat tour around the island
Enjoy the sights of Capri from the sea, including a close encounter with iconic Faraglioni Rocks. Many travelers put the Blue Grotto on the top of their list of places to visit in Italy. I skipped it. Honestly, I am not sure if this attraction is worth your time and money. See this Youtube video and judge for yourself if this is what you imagined.
Take a boat ride around Capri’s magnificent coast.
Take a chairlift to the top of Mount Solaro
The easiest way to get to Monte Solaro is by chairlift from Piazza Vittoria in Anacapri, but you can walk to the top too. From the peak, you can enjoy the views over the Faraglioni rock formations.
Take a ride in a convertible taxi from Capri to Anacapri
They are buses connecting Capri and Anacapri, but why miss a chance to ride a convertible and have some fun while enjoying stunning views of the sea? Where else can you do it? The price is reasonable, like for a regular taxi.
Visit the Gardens of August
Just a short stroll from Capri’s central Piazzetta square, the Gardens of Augustus are laid out on a series of colorful terraces filled with an abundance of flora and gorgeous views.
10. The Amalfi Coast – 3 days
The last leg of Italy’s three-week itinerary will be the Amalfi Coast. Do not get afraid of driving there. Just get up early, soon after sunrise, and you will have a road to yourself. The road is not bad to drive if locals and tour buses are not there yet. Make your first stop in Positano and take a ferry from there to see the rest of the cost to Salerno and back. Stay in Positano first night.
The next day, drive early again from Positano to Amalfi. Spend a few hours in Amalfi then head for the next two nights to Ravello, a tiny village perched atop a cliff overlooking the sea.
I would recommend it as one of the top places to visit in Italy for those who look for relaxation, beautiful gardens, and stunning views away from the crowds. (See here why to stay in Ravello and what to do there.)
Villa Cimbrone in the Amalfi Coast should one of my favorite places in Italy.
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