One Month in Italy – Our Itinerary

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When we started planning our first trip to Europe several years ago, we wanted to see it all! I had visited Europe once before, in college, but Grant had not (unless you count a 30-minute layover while he was in the Army, which we don’t). We knew we wanted to make the most of the long flight and spend as much time there as we could. Our thoughts wandered to France, Germany, Italy and everywhere in between and near and far!

After much consideration, we decided to just focus on Italy. We knew we would enjoy the trip more if we had time to see some of the smaller towns. We absolutely made the best decision in this regard and that idea has shaped much of our travels since then.

Here is our itinerary for how we spent one month in Italy, complete with our favorite sites and mistakes! We used Rick Steve’s Italy itinerary for inspiration, but definitely made changes to make it work for us and our length of time.

Among the Ruins of Ostia Antica
The ruins of Ostia Antica are beautiful and far less crowded than you will find in Rome.

(Disclaimer: When we link to places you can buy our stuff or places we stayed, we are using special codes which earn us commissions on the sales at no additional cost to you. Please see our Review Policy  for more information.)

Rome – Four Nights

Most folks traveling to Italy will fly into Rome because it is the biggest city and a must-see destination. Rome is a good starting place for one month in Italy, but it is very crowded and busy in the summer, so be ready! Our Four Days in Rome gave us enough time to see the major sites plus a few off-the-beaten-path sites.

We decided to spend our first night at the Hilton at the airport (Fiumicino). In hindsight, that probably was not the best idea, especially since we arrived early in the day. We did end up going into the city, which was about a 30-45 minute shuttle bus or train ride. While we enjoyed the hotel and the amenities of the Hilton, I would only suggest staying near the airport if you are arriving later in the day and know that you won’t have time to go into the city.

We booked our next three nights through AirBnB, which was our first experience with that app. Our room was in the apartment of some locals – a woman and her son. The location was great and the price was right. While everything was ok, it just was not the type of experience we were looking for – not enough privacy when staying in someone’s home vs. an actual bed and breakfast.

Selfie on top of the Castel Sant'Angelo
Selfie on top of the Castel Sant’Angelo

Two or three days is enough time to see the major sites of Rome, such as the Colosseum, Vatican and the Spanish Steps. If you spend another day or two in Rome, it will give you time to get off the beaten path. We found some of our favorite sites, such as the Catacombs of San Sebastian, Via Appia Antica and the Castel Sant’Angelo off the beaten path.

Salerno – Three Nights

From Rome we went to the Amalfi Coast. We chose to stay in Salerno at the wonderful Alto Mare B&B. The view from our room was amazing and the hosts were very friendly and helpful.

Bonnie on the Path of the Gods
Bonnie on the Path of the Gods

Salerno itself is fairly quiet and there is not a lot to see or do. We enjoyed a big park near the coast, but the real attraction is the other nearby cities. We spent one day visiting Amalfi and Sorrento via ferry and bus. The next day we hiked “Sentiero degli Dei,” which means The Path of the Gods, near Amalfi.

Get more details on our time at the Amalfi Coast, Salerno and Sorrento here.

Naples – One Night

We spent one night in Naples, which was one night too many for us. Seriously, we absolutely HATED Naples. I had read some mixed reviews, so we were hesitant to add it as a stop for our one month in Italy. That said, the Archeological Museum in Naples houses many of the artifacts from Pompei, which we wanted to see. It was also a good base for visiting Pompei, which we really enjoyed.

Statue with Graffiti in Naples
While you find graffiti everywhere in Italy, you don’t typically find monuments defaced. Not in Naples.

Naples was dirty, crowded, confusing to navigate and not terribly safe. We definitely walked past a SWAT raid of some sort and are pretty sure we walked past a drug deal on one of the side roads (we were about a block off the main street trying to avoid the congestion). The food was not any different from anywhere else in Italy. I’m sure plenty of people have had wonderful experiences in Naples, but not us.

On the flip side, our hotel in Naples, Hotel Piazza Bellini, was one of the best we stayed at the entire month in Italy. If you feel that you must go to Naples, we strongly suggest this hotel.

We also started using the Booking.com app, rather than AirBnb. We liked Booking better because it brings up not just the Bed & Breakfasts, but also local hotels, hostels, and even chains, such as Best Western or Hilton. Now, we use TripAdvisor, which has pricing from multiple sites. This app became our main method for making hotel reservations, as it is very easy to use and has great listings.

Ferry to Palermo (Sicily) – Two Nights

While we enjoyed the (overnight) ferry, which was basically a small cruise ship, we definitely made some mistakes here. One mistake was not scheduling more time for Sicily in our one month in Italy itinerary. The other was that we took the ferry from Naples to Palermo, but then decided to visit Mt. Etna on the other side of the island.

Mt. Etna
Mt. Etna

We had to take a three-hour bus to get there and back. The upside was that we got to see a lot of the interior, which was very pretty. The downside was that we wasted a good part of our time there sitting on a bus.

The Best Western Hotel Mediterraneo in Catania (one night) was very nice. They helped us book a tour of Mt. Etna, which was with a local guide and only four of us total in the group. We also found some great food here. If you want to try exotic meats, Sicily is the place to do it.

Read more about our time in Naples, Pompei and Sicily here.

Venice – Two nights

We flew from Palermo to Venice on Ryan Air, which was a cheap and easy flight. One note about flying into Venice: there are two airports. Somehow, we weren’t paying attention and didn’t realize we were at the one farther outside the city. We kept waiting and waiting for the hotel shuttle to pick us up and couldn’t figure out why it was taking so long. Once we realized that we were at the “wrong” airport, it took a train and a cab to get us to the right place. I think we finally arrived after midnight…A full day of travel exhausted us!

Seeing the Grand Canal in Venice by gondola is an experience not to be missed.
One of our biggest travel mistakes was flying to the wrong airport in Venice, Italy. I think we were both responsible for that one.

One full day in Venice was more than enough for us. Other people will tell you to spend two or three days or more. I think we were just tired that day and didn’t have the patience for some of the lines and rules about not taking bags into places. The city is very interesting though, and definitely worth a day or two.

Make sure you take the time and spend the money on a gondola ride. On our second trip, we took one and LOVED it! We also recommend going out to the islands and seeing glass blowing… Amazing!

Our hotel for this stay was the Hilton Garden Inn in Mestre, just outside of Venice. A note on Venice: you cannot drive in Venice, so don’t bother renting a car here. Honestly, though, I wouldn’t want to drive anywhere near any of the big cities we visited in our one month in Italy.

Trento – One Night

Trento is northwest of Venice and is a good base for visiting the Dolomite mountains in northern Italy. There is definitely a German/Austrian influence here and not nearly as touristy, which was a nice change of pace!

We took a “hike” that offered some nice views, but we must have missed some signs because a lot of it was along a road.

The main square of Trento
The main square of Trento

This was a great place to rest and relax, but maybe not necessarily a “must-see” stop, unless you are just looking for something different.

We stayed at the Hotel America, which was definitely more European than American!

Milan – One Night

We were going to go from Trento to Bolzano, another mountain town farther north, but we discovered at the last-minute the museum we wanted to visit was closed the day we would be there. So, change of plans and directly to Milan we went.

Milan was the perfect example of “don’t go somewhere just because everyone says you should go.” Yes, the cathedral in Milan was amazing. That was it. We aren’t big shoppers and didn’t care about going to any of the malls for the latest fashions. So, basically, we spent the night in Milan for a 30-minute visit to one cathedral.

The Duomo in Milan
The Duomo in Milan

If I had it to do over, I would skip Milan on our one month in Italy itinerary. It just wasn’t where our interests are.

We stayed at the DoubleTree by Hilton, which was a nice hotel, out of the main part of town, but near a metro station. Locals obviously frequented the restaurant and bar.

Varenna – Two Nights

Thankfully, our next stop, Varenna, made up for the wasted time in Milan! Located on Lake Como, Varenna became one of our favorite cities in Italy. We visited an old castle that is now home to several owls and hawks. They do a falconry show each day, but it was short due to the heat. The hike there was still worth it, as there were great views from the top.

Varenna, on the shore of Lake Como
Varenna, on the shore of Lake Como

We also took the ferry across the river and did a short hike in one of the neighboring towns. We loved this area and would definitely spend more time here if we could get a do-over!

The Hotel Monte Codeno provided a comfortable room, though it did have a very small shower.

Turin – One Night

The big attraction in Turin is the Museum of the Shroud. We enjoyed the museum and how it presented the information. We also visited the Cinema Museum, which was just ok.

The monument in the main square of Turin
The monument in the main square of Turin

Turin was not overly touristy or crowded, which was a nice change. If either of these attractions interests you, or anything else you read about in Turin, then it’s worth a day. Otherwise, you could probably skip it on your one month in Italy.

We stayed at the Best Quality Hotel Gran Mogol, a nice, comfortable hotel, despite the fact they were in the middle of some renovations.

Read more about our time in Northern Italy here.

Riomaggiore – Three Nights

Riomaggiore is one of the five towns that make up the Cinque Terre. These towns are quintessential Italian coastal hillside towns and there is a hiking trail that connects all of them, which makes the area even more interesting.

There are a couple of different trails. The Blue Path is the lower and more popular path. The Red Path is higher up the mountain and more difficult to get to. In fact, we were not able to hike the Red Trail, as we waited too late to plan it and couldn’t make it work with the bus schedule.

Vibrantly colored houses cover the hillside of Riomaggiore in the Cinque Terre.
The town of Riomaggiore is the southern end of the Cinque Terre, a rugged area of the Italia Riviera.

Parts of The Blue Trail were closed, due to poor conditions, which is not unusual after a lot of rain. There have even been some mudslides in the past that have completely washed out parts of the trail.

We took a train to Monterosso al Mare, then hiked to Vernazza and on to Corniglia. Having train service to all the towns makes it easy to start and stop hiking wherever you want or need to.

We stayed in  Riomaggiore at the Hotel La Zorza, which provided a large one-bedroom apartment above a nice bar/restaurant at a very reasonable price.

Read more about Hiking the Coast of the Cinque Terre here.

Florence – Four Nights

We made a quick stop in Pisa on our way to Florence to see the Leaning Tower. As we walked through town, it was obvious that we really weren’t missing anything else. Thus, we did not feel bad about not spending more time there. I’m sure Pisa is a lovely town, but we had other towns that we were more interested in seeing.

Florence is by far our favorite “big” city in Italy. The art and beauty of the entire town are just magical. We found what ended up being our favorite restaurant, Trattoria Antica di Tito, not far from our Bed & Breakfast. Grant REALLY enjoyed the Beef Florentine!

Florence skyline at dusk
Florence skyline at dusk

There are tons of interesting sights in Florence, so I would suggest giving yourself at least two or three days. I am sure that it would be easy to fill up a week, especially if you decide to use Florence as a base to travel out to Pisa or any of the smaller towns in Tuscany.

We stayed at the B&B La Notte Blu. The hotel was about a 10-minute walk from the main part of town – close enough to be convenient, but far enough to not be too loud or crowded.

Read more here: Let Florence Capture Your Heart in Three Days

Cortona – One Night

While one night is plenty of time to “see” Cortona, we could easily have spent several days here. It is absolutely beautiful and very quaint and interesting, as most of the small hill towns are.

It was VERY easy to see why Frances Mayes was inspired to buy and renovate a house here, which ultimately became the book (and movie), Under the Tuscan Sun.

On the hillside of Cortona
On the hillside of Cortona

Spend as much time here as you can. The Hotel San Luca was right at the entrance to the town with great views and a good restaurant.

Siena – Four Nights

We spent “extra” time in Siena because we were here for The Palio. If you haven’t heard of The Palio, be sure to check out our article here. If you can time your visit so you are in town for The Palio, we highly suggest it.

Exploring Siena
Exploring Siena

There are probably one or two days worth of sites any other time of the year. Siena is a smaller town, but not too small. It too would be a good town to use as a base to take day trips to some of the other small towns in Tuscany.

The Hotel Albergo Chiusarelli was amazing! Great location, great food, and managed to accommodate us when we decided to add an extra night at the last-minute… Not easy to do on the day of The Palio!

Read about Planning Your Trip to See Il Palio – Italy’s Craziest Horse Race

Oca, winner of the July 2013 Palio!
The winner of the Palio was Oca!

Assisi – One Night

I am convinced that most visitors love Assisi because it is the only small town they visit. And I understand that. If you have limited time and/or money, I understand choosing Assisi as your one small town so that you can see the church of San Francesco.

Don’t get me wrong, it is an interesting town, and the church is nice. But, we enjoyed Cortona and Siena more.

The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi.
The Basilica of San Francesco d’Assisi was built to honor St. Francis immediately following his canonization.

By this point in the trip, it was “just another interesting church” to us. Seriously, there are SO MANY interesting and pretty churches and paintings in Italy that eventually they all run together.

The Hotel Sorella Luna was very comfortable and conveniently located.

Exploring Tuscany: Side Trips from Florence

Rome – One Night

Our last night in Italy was at the Hilton Garden Inn at the Rome airport. We did not see any additional sites in Rome this day.  We like to stay near the airport on our final night, especially if we have an early flight. It allows us to not have to worry about fighting traffic and missing our flight and maybe even get a little extra sleep!

Final Thoughts on Our One Month in Italy

We thoroughly enjoyed our trip to Italy, though we would certainly make changes if we were doing this trip again. Spend the one month in Italy, rather than splitting it up between two or three, or more, countries, was definitely the right decision for us. You can get more details on each of our stops in the links above or below.

I know there are still some amazing sights that we missed. Hopefully, we will get to go back one day and revisit some of our favorites and enjoy some new places.

In the meantime, we will stay busy visiting the hundreds of countries that we haven’t been to yet!

If one month in Italy is too much for you, check out our itinerary for One Week in Italy (Venice, Florence and Rome).

Travel Resources
What do you use to find a flight?

We use Skyscanner to find deals on flights. Skyscanner has a great interface and compares tons of airlines for the best pricing and routing. That said, it does not always have every airline and some airlines will have better deals on their website. Still, Skyscanner is a great place to start.
Click here to search for a flight.

What do you use to find a hotel?

We typically stay at Hilton properties, so we use the Hilton website. We can find good Hilton Honors discounts or AAA discounts for a hotel there. We make great use of our free night certificates from our Hilton Honors American Express.
Click here to book a Hilton property.

If there are no Hilton properties available, we use TripAdvisor to read reviews and book the hotel. We find we can get the best price that way.
Click here to search for a hotel.

What if I need more space than I can get at a hotel?

We use Vrbo for the times when we have rented a cabin for a weekend getaway, like this cabin in Townsend, TN, or needed to rent a house for a large family vacation. We had a great experience with them in terms of refunding deposits when COVID hit and will continue to use them.
Click here to search for a vacation rental.

Who do you use for rental cars?

As a general rule, we book with Hertz for rental cars. We have had nothing but good experiences with them. Plus, we really like unlimited mileage and not worrying about crossing state lines. We have even rented from Hertz overseas in both Slovenia and Croatia.
Click here to book a rental car.

How about booking a cruise?

We have found some amazing prices booking a cruise through Cruise Direct. We have saved a lot of money on our cruises compared to what we found elsewhere, making a last-minute Bahamas cruise even cheaper.
Click here to book a cruise.

What if I want to rent an RV?

We highly recommend Outdoorsy for RV rentals. We rented a camper van for a week to visit Rocky Mountain National Park for the elk rut and Custer State Park for the Buffalo Round-Up and had a blast. The program was easy to use and we really enjoyed the freedom of having a camper van for that trip.
Click here to rent an RV.

What do you use for booking tours?

We don’t often book tours. Typically, we like to do stuff on our own. That said, there are some experiences you just can’t have any other way. So, when we do want to book a tour, we always check Viatour first.
Click here to book a tour.

Do you use anything to get discounts on the road?

We make extensive use of both Good Sam and AAA on the road. Good Sam is normally regarded as a discount card for RVers at campgrounds and Camping World but anyone can use the 5 cents off a gallon at the pump at both Pilot and Flying J.
Click here to get a Good Sam membership.

We have had AAA as long as we have been married and it has more than paid for itself in discounts at hotels, aside from the peace of mind of having roadside assistance. Add in paper maps and the ability to get an international driver’s license and it is more than worth it for any traveler out there.

Our itinerary for how we spent one month in Italy, including time in Rome, Florence, Venice, Sicily, Cinque Terre, Cortona, Assisi and The Palio in Siena.
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6 thoughts on “One Month in Italy – Our Itinerary”

  1. Can never go anywhere staying only a day or two. prefer to stay long term in a single region and day trip to towns nearby. For me Florence is a 5 day trip alone. Venice a minimum of 4 days. Having 45 to 60 days helps. Salerno or Sorento is a must for 5 days or more. the ferry takes you to so many beautiful sights. As Americans we tend to equate a great trip with how many “things” we can see in a day. I look for memorable moments and they rarely happen at the pace we set for ourselves. See less enjoy more is my motto. Rushing around destroys the attempted infiltration of life overseas.

    Reply
    • We 100% agree but also know that most folks simply do not have that much time to dedicate to visiting just one city. We could only afford the month we spent by saving for quite a while.

      Reply
    • I agree with you Gary, it’s not about quantity, it’s about quality. I find that I need at least a day or two in each city or town (depending on the size) to get a “feel” for the place. The first couple of days all I do is “walk” the town, to get my bearings, and see the daily lives of people throughout the town and try to experience the vibe. I do a lot of people watching from street cafés. It’s only then, after a few days, that I try to start to see the sites and go only when the day trippers and tour groups aren’t there. I’ve been going to Italy annually for four weeks for the last ten years. The best trips have been when I visit the least amount of cities and towns. The average time in a city is about one week for me. I’ve also learned that one wants to repeat visits and patronize those establishments you enjoy being at, like restaurants, and bars (coffee) several times. The reason: the first time you go, your just another customer. the second time you go, they recognize you with better service, and the third time you go, you’re family!

      Reply
      • That is a wonderful way to travel. We wholeheartedly agree. The only difficulty we have is time restrictions. As teachers, we only have so much time we can travel. We are lucky that we can spend a month or more on the road. Most folks can’t.

        Reply
  2. Grant
    I was wondering, do you have a written budget of your daily expenses? Like for accommodations, meals, transportation, tours/museums/city passes, entertainment, and souvenirs/purchases? That would be a an incredible insight. I understand that everything depends on one’s choices like luxury hotels vs AirBnB, or Michelin rated restaurants vs humble family trattorias. As for me, I don’t ever plan to stay or eat in hotels, I prefer the “real-life” experience of renting a strategically located apartment (a la AirBnB) half way between the main train station and the historical center, and I total avoid ridiculously priced Michelin starred restaurants and try to eat only in simple trattorias that service the locals not tourists.

    Reply
    • Charles,

      I actually have a breakdown of how much we spent and how much we budgeted. Please bear in mind that this was in 2013, so you will have to factor for inflation and the difference in exchange rates.

      We budgeted $300 per day. We spent about $265 per day.

      In terms of accommodations, we spent $3,581 or about 44% of our total. We spent $2,553 on food or about 31% of our total. We spent about $1,236 on transportation or about 15% of our total. We spent $733 on tours/museums/entertainment or 9% of our total.

      We stayed in moderate hotels, no hostels and only one AirBnB. We ate in mostly reasonable restaurants but did splurge from time to time.

      I hope that helps!

      Reply

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