With no intention of visiting Italy, I found myself in Budapest having an intense desire to try Italian pizza. What ensued was a last-minute flight to Naples and two and a half weeks in Italy. I took the train north, stopped in six Italian cities, and fell in love with the landscape, architecture, food, and wine, over and over again. While Naples had a truly authentic feel to it, people yelling on the streets, motorbikes honking at you as they whiz by. Venice felt touristy and out of touch. Locals scamming you, tourists blocking the alleyways, all a bit crowded and overwhelming.
Out of all the cities I had the chance to visit, without a doubt my favorites, and where I recommend spending eight days include Rome, Florence, and Verona. The perfect Italian trio to take an eight-day vacay to.
8 Days in Rome, Florence, Verona
WEDNESDAY – Depart from the USA, fly into Rome, Italy
Leave Wednesday for arrival into Rome on Thursday
If you’re on the west coast your flight can take anywhere from 12 hours, if layover free, with a nine-hour time difference (Europe ahead of the US), depending on daylight savings.
The example was taken from Los Angeles, LAX to Rome, FCO
If you’re in Middle America your flight can take anywhere from nine hours, if layover free, with a seven-hour time difference (Europe ahead of the US), depending on daylight savings.
The example was taken from Chicago, ORD to Rome, FCO
If you’re on the east coast your flight can be taken anywhere from eight-hours, if layover free, with a six-hour time difference (Europe ahead of the US), depending on daylight savings.
The example was taken from Boston, BOS to Rome, FCO
I prefer to use Kayak for finding flights
THURSDAY – Arrival in Rome
Highlights of Rome Day One – Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Margutta Street
Stay: Hotel Cosmopolita – A simple, no fuss hotel in the heart of Rome. Minutes walking distance from both the Trevi Fountain and Colosseum, the location is what makes this hotel so special. If you don’t find that it suits you to try Airbnb or booking.com to search for the best rates on hotels. (If you’re new to Airbnb, use my referral code for a discount).
Arriving in Rome I was filled with a sense of freedom and wanderlust. A city that is steeped in history, and has managed to influence almost every corner of the world. Walking through Rome is like walking through an outdoor museum. Everywhere you turn there is a piece of history in front of you, be it the Colosseum, the Trevi Fountain, the Vatican, and more.
The best part about Rome isn’t that walking through the streets sets you back in time and teaches you history along the way. It’s that Rome quite literally has everything to offer. Food, wine, weather, and friendly locals. In Rome, there is something for everyone.
Upon arriving in Rome, and dropping off your luggage hit one of the most famous sites in Rome. The Trevi Fountain. Of Baroque style architecture, the Trevi is one of the most famous and recognized fountains in the world. Throwing coins in the Trevi is common practice, and it’s estimated that 3,000 Euros are thrown into the fountain every single day. The money is collected at intervals and has been used to build a supermarket for Rome’s underprivileged. It’s found in the Trevi District, surrounded by cafes, bars, and restaurants.
From the Trevi, make a stop at Giolitti, a gelato stop, before making your way ten minutes north to the Spanish Steps. Arrive at sunset, gelato in hand, to see the sun drop behind the city, illuminating the buildings and painting the sky a burnt orange. A five-minute walk further north will bring you to one of Rome’s most picturesque streets – Via Margutta. Stroll down the street as dusk settles in on Rome, taking in the romantic feeling of being in the Eternal City and enjoying one of Rome’s quieter streets.
FRIDAY – Rome
Highlights of Rome Day Two – Roman Colosseum, Palatine Hill, Roman Forum
The Roman Colosseum is undoubtedly Italy’s most recognized structure. Dating back to 70 AD, the Colosseum was used for animal and gladiator fights for over 500 years. Standing in this giant structure will set you back hundreds of years. It’s as though you can hear people screaming for their “team”. The smell of sweat and tears, the splatter of blood across the ground. One animal tearing out another animal’s throat. A truly exciting experience. And one that brought people together from all of the worlds for hundreds of years.
Needless to say, if you’re visiting Rome… don’t miss a visit to the Colosseum. You can choose to enter the Colosseum alone or take a tour. Beware of what tour you choose to take, keeping in mind that cheaper isn’t always better. I used Roman Guy and couldn’t recommend them enough. We toured the Colosseum, learned about the rich history from the animals to the slaves. From there we toured Palatine Hill and the Roman Forum. A trio of history that has impacted the world as we know it.
• If you’re looking for a true and hearty Italian restaurant, a bit off the beaten path, check out Osteria da Fortunata •
SATURDAY – Depart Rome, arrive in Florence
Highlights of Florence Day One – Ponte Vecchio, Palazza della Signoria, Palazzo Pitti
Transportation: Take a train north from Rome to Florence. You can find tickets for as low as $18 and as quick as an hour and a half. Depart from Rome Termini, arrive in Florence Santa Maria Novella.
Note: I utilize GoEuro (now known as Omio) to find train transportation through Italy
Stay: I would recommend a stay in an Airbnb or a hotel near the Ponte Vecchio Bridge, Palazza Vecchio, or Palazzo Pitti.
In Florence city center, there are over 20 plazas to explore. All made up of restaurants, wine bars, cafes, gelato shops, and more. Palazza della Signoria and Palazzo Pitti were my two favorite stops. The highlight of Palazza della Signoria is Palazza Vecchio. Here you’ll find a replica of Michelangelo’s Statue of David. From Palazza della Signoria, brave the crowds to cross the Ponte Vecchio bridge; one of only four bridges in the world that has shops spanning both sides. The Ponte Vecchio used to be the only bridge across the Arno River up until 1218.
Upon crossing the Ponte Vecchio, make your way to Palazzo Pitti. The highlight of Palazzo Pitti is seeing The Boboli Gardens, a UNESCO World Heritage site housing a collection of sculptures ranging from the 16th-18th centuries.
SUNDAY – Florence
Highlights of Florence Day Two – Piazzale Michelangelo
Spending a second day in Florence, make it your mission to get lost in the many streets. My favorite stops along the way are Gusta Pizza, for heart-shaped pizza, La Prosciutteria for wine and charcuterie, and Il Santino for Italian wine and a cozy, off the beaten path, feel.
After exploring the city for the day, pick up a bottle of wine from a corner store, and make your way to Piazzale Michelangelo to watch the sunset behind the city. Although you have to climb over 100 stairs to reach the top, the sweeping views of Florence are worth it. The city in front of you with its burnt orange and yellow buildings, Ponte Vecchio bridge making a walkway over the Arno River. And to the left, lush, rolling green hills.
• Alternate Route: If you want to hit more cities, spend only one night in Florence, take the train to Bologna for a night, before departing onwards to Verona •
MONDAY – Depart Florence, arrive in Verona
Highlights of Verona Day One – Teatro Romano
Transportation: Take a train further north from Florence to Verona. You can find tickets for as low as $20 and as quick as an hour and a half. Depart from Florence Santa Maria Novella, arrive in Verona Porta Nuova.
Stay: I would recommend a stay in an Airbnb or a hotel near Piazza dei Signori or Piazza Bra.
You’ve seen some of the best that Italy has to offer. The history-rich, capital city of Rome. The understated, bustling city of Florence. You may think that you’ve seen the best… but you haven’t even scratched the surface.
Making your way further north brings you to Verona, a colorful Italian town with oodles of charm. Situated along the Adige River, Verona was put on the map by Shakespeare, having inspired Romeo and Juliet. A city so quintessentially Italy, with fewer tourists, and a culinary scene that can stand up to anyone else, Verona offers it all.
Getting lost in the colorful streets is truly the best way to discover Verona. Start in Piazza Bra to see the Verona Arena. An Arena that on a smaller scale, looks almost identical to Rome’s Colosseum. Eventually, make your way towards the Adige River. Here you’ll find the gem of Verona, Teatro Romano. While it costs a few dollars to enter, it’s worth it to see the views of Verona. Once you reach the top of the theatre, you’ll look down upon the turquoise river, orange roofed, multi-colored buildings, and hundreds of years of history in front of you. A chance for still and quietness, above a city bustling below.
TUESDAY – Depart Verona, arrive in Rome
Highlights of Rome Day Three – The Vatican, St Peter’s Basilica, Sistine Chapel
Transportation: Take a train south from Verona to Rome. You can find tickets for as low as $40 and as quickly as three hours.
On your last day in Rome discover the works of Michelangelo, visit a city within a city, and climb the largest basilica in the world for views overlooking the Eternal City. All three wonders can be found in Vatican City, a city-state within a city, founded in the 1900s. Currently, Vatican City has a population of over 1,000, uses its currency, and houses the Pope.
Entry into Vatican City costs 17 Euros and also allows entrance into the Sistine Chapel. The Sistine Chapel is where you will find Michelangelo’s work, The Last Judgement, adorning the walls and ceiling. Truthfully, the most exciting part of Vatican City.
Hours of operation: Monday-Saturday 0900-1800 (last entrance at 1600)
St Peter’s Basilica can also be found in Vatican City, a renaissance church where Saint Peter was buried. Entrance into the church is free, while the climb to the top of Basilica for the views of Rome costs 10 Euros for the elevator, eight for the stairs.
All three sites are worth the visit, you have to decide if you want a tour guide, or to visit on your own. While a tour guide from the Roman Guy will allow you to visit before hours, granting you privacy and quietness as you move through the Vatican; it wasn’t my favorite tour I’ve gone on.
WEDNESDAY – Depart Rome, fly back to the USA
Because Italy is ahead of the US time-wise, you should be able to leave Wednesday and arrive back in the States on Wednesday. Just in time to clock-in for your shift on Thursday!
Important Notes About Italy
Most everyone in Italy speaks fluent English
At the time of writing 1 USD = 0.88 Euro – Making the Euro stronger than the Dollar
112 – European emergency number
113 – Police
115 – Fire brigade
118 – First aid
What to Pack
Tennis shoes for walking long distances
European power adapter to charge your devices – I use TravelSmart
A light jacket – As you move north through Italy the weather gets milder
*If you choose to check a bag, don’t forget to pack an extra outfit in your carry on in case your luggage gets lost*
If this is your first time hearing of the 8 Day Vacay and would like some background info, please click here.