This itinerary takes you through Italy’s most beautiful regions in 10 days – the Northern Lakes, Tuscany, and the Amalfi Coast. It also includes stops in Cinque Terre, Pisa on travel days. If you’re wanting to plan a whimsical Italian trip that’s not only a feast for your appetite, but for your eyes, this is it.
Transportation Tip: First off, I would recommend flying into Milan and picking up a rental car there. (This itinerary does not travel by train or use any public transportation). At the Milan airport, there are about 10 car rental agencies that makes the process very simple and they all speak English. We rented from Hertz (via Expedia beforehand), and didn’t have any issues whatsoever. The end of your trip you need to fly out of Naples, dropping your rental car off at that airport. If you don’t rent from a larger agency, double check that the agency you’re renting from has locations at both airports.
The Northern Lakes: Day 1-4
Where To Stay
A smaller village on the west side of Lake Como. I recommend Brienno, Argegno or Tremezzo – they’re in a perfect location and the villages are not your typical touristy locations. Small enough to feel like home, but large enough to have continuous activity. Their location right on the lake gives you excellent views and you’re close enough to the city area of Como to get necessities if needed, and close enough to the ferries to conveniently get to the other side of the lake.
What To Do
As mentioned in this blog post, you must see Bellagio, day trip into Switzerland, and spend time in Argegno. Also, if you have the time and resources, rent a boat to cruise around Lake Como! This is the best way to see the entire lake. The lake is so wide, open, and long it’s ideal for cruising and soaking in the Italian sun.
Things To Know
You must rent a car, familiarize yourself with the ferry routes (and which ferries you can drive onto) and download Google offline maps (so you can navigate the area without Internet connection).
Traveling To Florence (Day Trip in Cinque Terre, Pisa)
When leaving Northern Italy, route yourself to Vernazza and drive along the gorgeous Cinque Terre coast. I recommend leaving Lake Como as early in the AM as possible. Before you get there, you’re going to drive through some insanely spectacular mountains and villages. With plenty of beautiful sights to see, it takes about 3.5 hours to Vernazza, and not too terribly out of the way on your the way to Florence. Leave with enough time to spend exploring.
When you arrive to Vernazza, you will have to do a bit of walking to get down to the city, so be sure to wear comfortable shoes. They don’t allow parking in the city, so you park outside of the city and walk. Also, carry an umbrella, you never know when it’s going to start pouring rain. (I made that mistake and got soaked!)
While walking through Vernazza, you feel as though you’re in a different world. A vividly bright, almost Disneyworld-feel. It just seems too beautiful to be real – it’s kind of odd. The leaning buildings, all multicolored, with opened and closed shutters, the boat engines roaring, splashing noises from the beach, all the languages, people making their way in and out of the shops and restaurants, the sun shining — take all of Vernazza and its imperfect perfections in. Here’s a photo gallery of photos taken in Vernazza.
After that, route yourself to Pisa, as its still all on the way to Florence. There you can get your typical hand-holding-the-tower picture.. You know you want to. If you have time, Pisa is an interesting city that is worthy of exploring.
Then route yourself to Florence.
Tuscany: Day 4-7
Where To Stay
Well, well, well. Florence and Tuscany is absolutely magnificent and you can’t go wrong with staying in either the city of Florence or in the Tuscan countryside. If you do stay in Florence, I do recommend staying somewhat close to the sights that you’re going to see. I stayed a few blocks from the Duomo, and we literally walked there every night. So breath-taking, it never seized to amaze us. If you stay in the Tuscan countryside, I recommend either finding another town to stay in (such as Siena), or even better, rent a house on or near a farm to receive the true Tuscan experience. There’s plenty of options on AirBnB, HomeAway, etc.
What To Do
I have an entire blog post dedicated to why I fell in love with Florence, and I believe you will too. There are so many sights to see, you’re in the birthplace of the Renaissance.. There’s treasures around every corner. Depending on your taste, there is something for everyone. I recommend doing a search for Florence’s main sights (there are just so many), and pin-pointing what interests you the most. Read here for the top several things that you absolutely cannot miss while in Florence.
If you didn’t plan on staying in Tuscany, which we didn’t, I would recommend a day trip from Florence. We did some research and found a vineyard near Montepulciano that had excellent reviews. We arrived at breakfast time, ate, and then did an early tour of the vineyard.. It was absolutely stunning. Tuscany was everything and more that I believed it would be. One thing I will note, is that the pictures of Tuscany do absolutely no justice. Once you’re there, feeling that Tuscan sun on your skin, how peaceful and tranquil it is, words cannot describe the feeling. I knew instantly that one day when we come back I will rent an old Tuscan house and live like the locals for a few weeks. Don’t miss out seeing the Val d’Orcia and sipping a glass of aged wine at a vineyard.
Things To Know
Florence parking. It was terrible near our apartment, especially in the evenings. We ended up parking our rental car in a parking garage that costed us nearly $200 for the days that we were there. Do some research, ask your host, and plan out where you’re leaving your vehicle!
Travelling to Positano
This will be a long day of travelling, so I would recommend leaving Florence in the morning no later than 10AM. It takes about 6.5 hours to get to Positano, so leave with enough time to make that drive comfortably. You want to arrive before sunset because the roads on the Amalfi Coast can be very narrow and wind through the mountains.
Amalfi Coast: Day 7-10
Where To Stay
We stayed in Nocelle, a tiny village above Positano, and it offered us amazing views of the coast. Staying there was a completely unique experience as it wasn’t your typical city.. You’re completely separated from the touristy coastal towns. Situated on the Path of the Gods hike, the locals in this quiet village strive to keep everything original. The house we stayed had a very interesting story about how it (now a bed and breakfast) was built into the steep mountains by her father, by hand. I couldn’t imagine having no roads to haul anything with, building by hand – such a testament of honor to the land.
I recommend staying here if you’re in good physical shape, as there are ALOT of steps from where you will park. There is one restaurant (which is absolutely amazing food, with even more amazing views) that is owned by three brothers and one small “store” that sold produce, foods, and a few toiletries. As previously mentioned, it was a completely unique experience, and was well worth all of the effort put in.
We enjoyed the serenity of Nocelle, and would recommend it to couples. If you’re a young, single adult, I would recommend staying in Positano.
What To Do
Positano is known for it’s beaches and hikes! I would recommend getting to the Spiaggia Grande early in the morning as the chairs near the water fill up quickly. Spend the day on the beach, taking in the spectacular views of the city, mountains, and ocean. It’s exhilarating! Positano is truly the most gorgeous town on the Amalfi Coast, in my personal opinion. The water is cool, crisp, and crystal clear.
Another option aside from lounging on beach chairs, it renting a wooden boat and anchoring down about 80 feet out in the ocean in front of Positano. There’s no better way to get a spectacular view. Pack your lunch, bring some drinks, lounge in the sun on the deck, and dive in to cool off. Relaxation at it’s finest. 🙂
Take the ferry over to Capri. Capri is known for its rugged coastline, Limoncello, and it’s famous Blue Grotto. Capri has always been a legendary island and was once inhabited by the Greeks. It offers dramatic views with the bluest waters. There’s a reason that Capri is one of the most famous spots in the world. Don’t miss this!
Lastly, the Path of the Gods is a hiking trail that is set in stunning natural beauty. Avoid any crowds, the heat, and head out as early as possible! This hike is very long, so come prepared, it takes you through authentic Amalfi Coast.
I hope that this itinerary helps you plan your Italian trip. I have travelled through a lot of Italy now, and can confidently tell you that if you follow this itinerary, you will not be disappointed.