Arguably Europe’s most enticing country, Italy charms visitors with irresistible food, awesome architecture, diverse scenery and unparalleled art. In fact, it’s so packed with possibilities it can almost overwhelm.
If you’ve not visited before you are probably wondering what to see? Where to go? How to travel? Here’s everything you need to know on how to plan your first trip to Italy whether you explore on your own, with scheduled tours and transfers, or with a group so that you have a guide with you at all times, or even on a ship where you can see different areas of Italy and not have to unpack and pack because the ship is your hotel!
Short on time? Start with the big three: Rome, Florence and Venice. A week is (just) enough time to enjoy the country’s most popular cities with a 3-night stay in Rome, a 3-night stay in Florence and two nights in Venice.
The glories of Rome
A day: Rome wasn’t built in one, and you certainly can’t see it in one. Instead allow at least two, preferably three. That’s time to take in the spectacular Colosseum, the 2000-year-old Pantheon, the palace ruins of the Palatino, sacred St Peter’s and the art-filled Vatican Museums. Trot up the Spanish Steps, toss a coin in the Trevi Fountain, shop in narrow lanes and indulge in prime people watching.
Take a Small Group Walking Tour with Serena of the Colosseum and Ancient Rome. Follow in the footsteps of mighty emperors and brave gladiators on a 3-hour walking tour that illuminates daily life, sport and politics in ancient Rome. Explore highlights of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill, including the Roman Senate, Arch of Constantine and mystical House of the Vestal Virgins. Conclude inside the legendary Colosseum for a glimpse into the ancient empire’s taste for bloody entertainment.
InJoy Hotel Tip: Hotel Ponte Sisto is a vibrant and stylish Rome luxury downtown hotel, which enjoys a fabulous city centre location only a few minutes walking from all of Rome’s major attractions. Housed in a former Monastery this beautifully restored hotel offers the perfect ambience. Enjoy a welcome drink or aperitif on the Rooftop Terrace whilst gazing at the rooftops and enjoying the wonderful Roman sunsets.
InJoy Restaurant Tip: Ristorante Vladimiro proposes specialties of Roman cuisine, authentic and rich in flavor. In the center of the Eternal City, the Vladimiro offers dishes in a historic and elegant place where you can taste the essence of Romanesque even at the table in the immediate vicinity of monuments, places of worship, shopping streets, and many attractions. Also check out Gelateria Frigidarium, a gelato store that is a few steps from the characteristic Piazza Navona in the heart of old Rome. They have flavors such as Bacio, Nutella, Stracciatella, Dulce de Leche, Cannella, Melone, Limone and more. Here, ice cream is not just a food, but an artistic expression: the balanced combination of quality materials contribute to creating a special tasting experience for everyone.
Three days in Florence allows you to admire the incomparable art in the Uffizi gallery, delighting in the frescoes in the Duomo and pondering the anatomy of Michelangelo’s David. It also allows for shopping on the ultra-chic Via de’ Tornabuoni and an aperitivo (pre-dinner drink) or two in locals’ favorite Piazza della Signoria.
Take a 5-hour Italian Food Market and Cooking Experience in the heart of Florence. The classes are small and intimidate and offer a view into typical Tuscan cuisine. You will shop at the central market for your lunch where you will meet the butchers, bakers, and farmers selling vegetables from their gardens. You will also learn how to distinguish the highest quality ingredients and as an added bonus, how to bargain! You will taste local foods and wines on your way around with this true hands-on experience where you will prepare your own meal, made up of Bruschetta, fresh hand-made pasta, and a main course, accompanied by a selection of Chianti wines.
Enjoy learning about the most famous sculpture in the world, the David with the original and best Artviva guides who are notable for outstanding expertise in making history and art come alive. This is the only small group tour that focuses solely on Michelangelo and the David. Hear all about the miserly genius that was one of the greatest masters of the Renaissance. Exclusive small-group only tour.
InJoy Hotel tip: Bernini Palace Hotel lies in the heart of Florence, just a few steps from Galleria degli Uffizi and Piazza della Signoria as well as from shopping streets like Via Tornabuoni. Among long corridors scattered with antiques you’ll find refined spaces, smart ambiences recalling the charm of the ancient glories of this palace, which dates back to the 25th century. The ambience is really splendid: you’ll be surrounded by the charm of a private salon, which boasts traditional Tuscan furnishings with a balanced touch of modern design, in order to please the tastes of international and local clientele.
To enjoy unique, utterly exquisite Venice, allow a couple of days. Glide down the Grand Canal, by gondola or vaporetto (water bus), tour the grand Palazzo Ducale, gape at the treasure-filled Basilica di San Marco and run out of camera space snapping the extraordinary array of Venetian architecture. There’ll also be time to join the locals shopping at Rialto Market, tuck into cicheti (Venetian tapas) and get a little lost amid the 400 bridges and 150 canals.
The Doges Palace Secret Itinerary Tour features Venice history from vast paintings by Tintoretto and Veronese to the wooden slot where accusations of treason where slipped to the fearsome Secret Police. The tour covers the rooms and chambers where the delicate work of some of the most important bodies in the Venetian administration was carried out. These spaces offer an interesting insight into and acknowledgement of the civil and political history of the Venice Republic, its public organizations, and its institutional bodies deputed to government and justice. Follow your guide to the attic prison where Venice famous writer and lover Casanova was kept for month before he miraculously managed a successful escape. Visit the spectacular Bridge of Sighs, so named for the prisoners that walked its length on their way to cells across the Canal. Across the Bridge of Sighs you will see the New Prisons and a visit to the Doges Palace is a roller coaster experience, taking you from the artistic highs of Renaissance Venice to its grim bottom.
In the evening, enjoy the orchestras at Piazza San Marco, or Saint Mark’s Square—the largest and most important square in Venice. Just being in St. Mark’s Square after dark is a thrill, as dueling café orchestras entertain. Every night, enthusiastic musicians play the same songs, creating the same irresistible magic. Hang out for free behind the tables (which allows you to easily move on to the next orchestra when the musicians take a break) or spring for a seat and enjoy a fun and gorgeously set concert. Dancing on the square is free (and encouraged).
InJoy Hotel tip: The Hotel Londra Palace in Venice combines the charm and luxury of a historic hotel with comfort and the latest services overlooking the San Marco Basin. Staying at the Londra Palace means fully experiencing the privilege of being in Venice. The hotel is located on the Riva degli Schiavoni a few steps from Piazza San Marco, the Bridge of Sighs and all the other places which are symbolic of the Venetian Republic, but it is also close to its most hidden and authentic corners.
Are you planning a trip to Italy? Contact me today for more information!