Posted by: Debra Kolkka | January 2, 2017

Make the most of your trip to Italy

I think Italy has more beautiful things per square inch than anywhere else on earth. You would need more than one lifetime to see them all, but you only have three weeks…what to do? Because I spend so much time in Italy I am often asked for recommendations.

For first time visitors to Italy you really can’t miss the obvious places, Rome, Florence, Venice and the Amalfi Coast. I would split the 3 weeks into 4 lots and spend around 5 days in each location. Use each one as a base to explore the area.

Spend a few days discovering the delights of Rome, the Colosseum, the 2,000 year old Pantheon, Villa Borghese gardens, the Vatican….the list goes on.

From Rome a day trip to Orvieto would be a good idea. It is easy to access by train and an excellent town to explore. It is known for its magnificent cathedral and underground caves. It sits high on a Tufa plug and offers spectacular views of the surrounding countryside.

An easy day trip by train would be to Ostia Antica, Rome’s ancient port. It was abandoned in the 5th century and left to decay.

Ostia Antica

The Amalfi Coast is one of the most gorgeous places in all of Italy. A drive along the coast road is both terrifying and magnificent. Take the local bus and admire the skills of the bus driver as he navigates the twists and turns, but be sure to sit on the sea side of the bus for the most stunning views. Sorrento or Amalfi are good jumping off points to the other delights to be found…Capri, Positano, Salerno, Pompeii…

Florence is one of the most visited cities in the world for good reason. It is chock full of renaissance art and architecture. Try to book ahead if you want to visit the Uffizzi art gallery or see the real David in the Accademia, but don’t be concerned if you don’t make it there, just wandering the streets of Florence will enchant you.

Walk across the Ponte Vecchio early in the morning before the crowds arrive and watch the rowers on the Arno or stand in front of the Duomo and be amazed. You can climb to the top of the dome or the bell tower for great views.

Day trips from Florence could include Pistoia, 40 minutes by train from Santa Maria Novella station. Pistoia has been named City of Art and Culture for 2017 and there will be lots of events happening in 2017.

Siena is an easy bus ride from the centre of Florence. The Sita bus will drive you through the glorious Tuscan countryside and drop you right in the centre of the city. Don’t miss the cathedral, my favourite in Italy.

Venice has to be seen to be believed. Riding down the Grand Canal on a good day will be an experience you will never forget. I was there one October day and city glowed gold in the afternoon sun. Buy a 3 day pass for the ferries and get to the outer islands of Burano and Torcello for a different Venice experience.


Verona is a short train ride from Venice and is a beautiful town to visit. Take a quick look at Juliet’s balcony and then wander the streets gazing at the stunning buildings and stop for a snack in the Piazza Delle Herbe and watch the passing parade. If you have time, see a show in the ancient Roman amphitheatre.

Padova is another place that is easy to reach from Venice by train. You need to book ahead to see the Scrovegni Chapel with frescoes by Ghiotto…you won’t be sorry. Padova is a flat and easy to navigate and has much to offer.

It is very important not to try to do too much while in Italy. We can be tricked into thinking the country is small and the distances between towns are not great, but you don’t want to spend all you time travelling. Part of the joy of being in Italy is sitting in a piazza with an aperitivo and taking it all in.

I would suggest avoiding summer. It can be very hot and crowded, try spring and autumn.

I was going to share some of the more obscure places, but the post is already too long…another time. There are several posts on all of the places mentioned in this post. Go back through the archives by looking in Categories or typing a name in the Search box.




  1. What a clever and inspiring blog. You sum it up so well when you say not to try to do too much. Italy is awesome and it is so easy to get overexcited and do too much. From experience I can agree with you that it’s best to focus on areas and really get to explore and enjoy. Love this post Deb, no wonder you win awards. Plus you are passionate about your second home , Italy.

    • I have been a fan of lovely Italy for more than 40 years. I look forward to being back there in a few weeks.

  2. Great advice, Debra! I totally agree with your recommendations.

    • There is much more to see, but you must begin somewhere.

  3. Excellent recommendations, especially to avoid a travel experience that seems to close to work.

    • I think a lot of people try to squeeze too much in. I understand that, you want to see as much as possible, but I think it is better to see less and enjoy it more.

  4. This is a wonderful post, Debra…you have really made some great suggestions and some good itineraries especially for people who have never been there. I agree everyone tries to do too much and part of the joy of being in Italy is to sit quietly and savor the moment. Love the photos as usual

    • We all do it. We went to fabulous Sicily this year and tried to squeez in too much. Next time we will choose a couple of places and take it more slowly.

  5. Great post Deb – never tire of all the places you featured – Pistoia is on the 2017 list

    • I love Pistoia, I plan to spend more time there. Unfortunately I also love many other places and want to spend time there too. We are planning a few day in Naples in spring and some more time on Ischia.

      • Loved Ischia – as you know – can’t go too many times !!!🇮🇹

  6. Great advice Deb. I agree….don’t try and do too much. Just enjoy the places you visit and soak up the atmosphere. Take time to have a coffee, eat the local cuisine and if you can take a couple of trip out into the country, do so, you won’t be dissapointed. I love Italy!!!!

    • It is tempting to try to see everything, but you simply can’t. I love to wander back streets and find interesting things.

  7. I would agree with your list Debra- Italy for beginners, though there is a little too much there for three weeks. I’m heading over this year, now that I can say this year finally, and spending October and November there. Can’t wait.

    • I agree that is it a lot for 3 weeks, but so many people I know pack in much more. If you only go once you want to see as much as possible. I’m still guilty of that and I spend 6 months every year there.
      I like October and November. On our area there are lots of chestnut festivals and local events. I love them.

      • The planning is fun and the plot is getting thicker. I think one month in Lombardia is now plotted- an area I haven’t given much time to before.

      • I love Milan and Lake Como is deligtful. We liked Bergamo. We only spent a short time there and need to return. We love Mantova.

      • So far we have on our stay list ( a week at each maybe) Vigevano ( our quiet base for Milano and near the train, Pavia, and Verona. I must add Mantova and Bergamo. Thanks Deb.

  8. Wonderful list Debra. This is the perfect itinerary for a friend visiting in April. I missed adding Orvieto for her. Much appreciated.

    • Orvieto is fabulous. I have been several times and find something new to like each time.

      • l love it too. Went there just for a day

  9. I think that is a fabulous itinerary especially for a first time visitor to Italy. Too many people hesitate to go to the main cities because they’re touristy, but they’re popular for good reason. We visited in April/May on our first trip and November on the second, travelling outside of peak season makes a huge difference to accommodation prices and crowds.

    • It would be wrong to miss places just because they are popular. As you say, there is good reasons for this. If people really don’t like cities, then smaller places like Arezzo and Spello are good choices, but I think you need to see the iconic places first.

  10. What an excellent post! If I’m ever going to Rome, I will dig this out for tips 💓

    • There are lots of Rome tips in the Rome category. I have been there many times and love it.

  11. A great one day trip from Rome is going to see villa Hadriana and Villa D’Este in Tivolli. They are close by and you can take a bus from Rome to see them both in one day if you plan well. I highly recommend this trip.

    • Thanks for the tips. I haven’t been to either.

  12. Lovely blog Deborah. How did you manage to take a photo of an empty Scrovegni Chapel? Great photos! Happy New Year. 🙂

    • There were lots of people there, but I am pretty good at cutting people out of photos by waiting for just the right moment.

      • Fabulous! But I thought you couldn’t take photos inside….??? I’m completely envious of this great photo. And yes, Italy needs to be explored at leisure, if at all possible. So important to have time to wander.

      • You are correct on the “no photos”. I just checked my blog post on the Scrovegni. I didn’t take photos, we had to leave bags, cameras in a locker. This is a photo of a photo.
        I have been known to wait quite a while to get a view without people, unless that is the point of the photo.

  13. Terrific post, Debra. Anyone that reads it will want to start packing their bags. I chuckled at your comment about the Amalfi coast…both terrifying and magnificent is a perfect description. Wishing you all the best in this New year.

    • The bus drivers along that road need a medal. If there was another coat of paint on the buses they wouldn’t be able to pass each other on corners. I used to live in the area many years ago, it was my introduction to Italy. No wonder I love the place. Happy new year.

  14. Need to bookmark this for my Italy trip!

    • I hope you have a great time.

  15. Fantastic post. I especially like your suggestion of staying 5 days in one place. This gives a good amount of time to see the main sites of your base city, and some of the quieter surroundings. Sharing on FB and Twitter. 🙂

    • Thank you. I think we are all guilty of trying to do too much when on holidays.

  16. It’s my dream to visit more of Italy this year (and the rest of my life). I have loved everywhere there that I’ve been 😀

    • Once Italy gets under your skin you can’t get enough of it.

  17. Italy is so beautiful… and I really wished to live there… I always remember my Milano days… and yes, with your travelling, with your life in Italy and with your amazing photographs, I feel better, I feel as if I am there… Thank you dear Debra, I hope and wish one day I can make a travel again, and also to visit your amazing town where you live. Love, nia

    • I hope you come to visit one day.

  18. Great post! I still have the Amalfi Coast on my list. Thanks for sharing!

    • I love the Amalfi Coast. I am a little biased. I lived there many years ago and my son was born in Sorrento. The scenery is divine , the food is fabulous and the people are great…what’s not to like?

  19. Wow! Great blog Debra! Wonderful advice and a walk down memory lane!

    • There is so much to see in Italy it is difficult to narrow down the possibilities.

  20. Beautiful! Reading this makes me even more excited to visit Italy next month 😍

  21. There is so much to see and I know I would be black and blue from pinching myself – maybe just sit in the piazza and sip an aperitivo and just breathe it all in.

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