12 Days in Italy: An Itinerary

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It was the end of twelve glorious days in Italy with my husband, and we were sitting outside a tiny cafe on one of the oldest highways in the world: the Appian way, eating croissants with the rest of our Walks of Italy tour group. A young couple was mid-way through their one-week blitz through the country, and I was dizzy from the sound of their itinerary.

"You're going to visit how many cities in six days?" I nearly choked on my cappuccino. I felt like we barely saw the country in two weeks of travel, so I couldn't comprehend how this couple was going to visit twice as many places in half the time.

View from the Boboli Gardens in Florence, Italy

I made eye contact with Matt and smiled. I knew he was thinking about that day in Positano he wanted us to do too much and how, after we left that beautiful town, he would have been just as content sitting on our hotel balcony the whole time, soaking in the beautiful Mediterranean view. There were definite moments during our 12 days in Italy where we wasted more time trying to figure out how to "see everything" than actually seeing everything.

But the key to travel is always less is more. This isn't your how-to-see-ALL-of-Italy-in-12-days guide. This also isn't the perfect guide to Italy either. We made a lot of mistakes, and some of those mistakes turned out to be our favorite memories from the trip. Here's how we explored Italy along with a few recommendations and highlights.

Day 1 : Arrive in Rome

Arrive early, take a nap, and explore the neighborhood you're staying in. We booked a small AirBnB apartment in the historic heart of Rome.

12 Days in Italy - Historic Heart of Rome

  • Budget Tip: Free admission at the Pantheon
  • Where to Stay: Rent an apartment in the historic heart of Rome for easy walking to most sites of interest.
  • Where to Eat: Trattoria der Pallaro: No menu; you eat what the Nonna is making that night in the form of a five course meal. Delicious, authentic Italian home cooking, but not cheap.

Day 2: Explore Rome

Learn something about the city. Whether it's through a tour or on your own, absorb the culture, past and present.

Roman Colosseum at Night - 12 Days in Italy

Day 3: Travel to the Amalfi Coast

If coming from Rome, you can go by direct bus or by trains. However, the direct bus from Rome to Positano only runs during a certain part of the year. Keep in mind most of your day will be spent traveling.

Positano Views - 12 Days in Italy

  • Budget Tip: Stay at the Hotel Vittoria for a delicious continental breakfast that's included with your stay. There's also the option of complimentary room delivery. Book a room with a view and have breakfast on your balcony.
  • Where to eat: Have your hotel book you a reservation at a restaurant with outdoor dining. An easy walk from Hotel Vittoria, we ate at Next2. A bit pricey, but so worth the views, food, and calming experience after a long day of travel. 

Day 4: Explore Positano

It's easy to just meander in Positano. Take a walk, go to the beach, or do a little shopping. Take the day to explore at a leisurely place.

Positano Streets - 12 Days in Italy

  • Where to Eat: Lunch on the pier at The Brasserie and dinner at Constantino's  - once you have dinner there, it will be hard to eat anywhere else. Have your hotel make a reservation; the restaurant will send a complimentary shuttle to pick you up.

Day 5: Day Trip to Capri

We booked a boat tour and it was such a lovely experience. We stopped for a quick dip in the mediterranean. We were supposed to also stop to see the blue grotto, but it was closed down due to the sea and it's fickle behavior. 

Swim in the Mediterranean - 12 Days in Italy

Capri was slammed with tourists. If you have limited time, choose one activity.

We really lucked out and in our search for a bathroom, and stumbled upon the Villa San Michele: a quiet and beautiful sanctuary from the tourist madness with beautiful island views. 

If Capri is a must-see for you, devote more time to visiting - at least a half day.

Day 6:  Day trip to Pompeii

Book a guided tour of Pompeii.  If you are not a guided tour kind of person and refuse to book any tours on your trip, this is the one area where you should suck it up and do it anyway unless you've been before and know everything about Pompeii. This is not just an excavation site. This is an entire city...like Rome.

Day Trip to Pompeii - 12 Days in Italy

  • Budget Tip: pack a picnic lunch. The dining hall on site is crazy crowded. 

Day 7: Travel to Tuscany with a stop at Civita di Bagnoregio

We felt the best way to see Tuscany while traveling to our next destination was to rent a car. We picked a location mid-way at random to stop in: Civita di Bagnoregio.

Civita di Bagnoregio - 12 Days in Italy

  • Where to Stay: we stayed at the beautiful agriturismo, Il Bacio (Translates to "The Kiss"). The location allowed for easy day trips to Florence and Bologna. 

Day 8: Day Trip to Bologna

Sleep in from your previous day of travel and then head to Bologna for sight seeing, delicious food, or the Opera. Opera season in Italy was at an end when we went, but we were lucky to find that Bologna's opera house (one of the oldest in all of Italy) was performing Verdi's Macbeth.

Bologna Opera House - 12 Days in Italy

Day 9: Half day in Florence

Explore your Agriturismo and then head out to Florence for lunch and exploration, ending with a leisurely stroll in the Boboli Gardens.

Il Baccio - Agriturismo - 12 Days in Italy

  • Where to Eat: Trattoria Anita - Porcini mushrooms are in season during this time of year (October) and we had a huge Porcini "steak" - delicious!
  • Budget Tip: If you want to see the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (or as most know it, the famed Duomo) has student docents who will give you a free tour of the church (not the basilica or dome)

Day 10: Florence

Florence is known for their collections of art. The Uffizi and the Accademia host amazing works of Art, so if you want to see it, these will take up an entire day. Keep in mind that admission tickets are purchased with time slots so be sure to plan your day carefully to allow as much time as needed and a lunch break!

View of Florence and Duomo - 12 Days in Italy

  • Budget Tip: Avoid the Uffizi cafe - super pricey and the worst cappucino and croissant we had in Italy

Day 11: Back to Rome

Drop your rental car off in Rome and take a taxi to your next hotel.
Roman Synagogue - 12 Days in Italy
  • Budget Tip: Strongly consider whether or not it's worth it to stay in a 5 star hotel. They are not for everyone. We stayed at Aldrovandi Villa Borghese. Since this trip was for celebrating our five year anniversary, Matt wanted to book us a really nice stay in a fancy hotel. For a five star hotel, our room wasn't ready on time (we waited two hours), and you're nickel and dimed for everything. Not to mention, you're kind of far from the hustle and bustle of Rome - which could be a good thing if you're just wanting to enjoy the property rather than venture out. It also seemed like a lot of the guests in this hotel were there for business rather than leisure. All in all, it was a gorgeous hotel and we had a beautiful room, but we've come to realize we are not 5 star hotel people.

Day 12: Rome

The Vatican is about a half-day event. We booked the Sistine Pristine tour because this place is huge and overwhelming and you get early access. For your last evening in Rome, head out to one of the many beautiful piazzas for dinner and La Passeggiata (evening stroll).

The Vatican - 12 Days in Italy

Avoid the Crowds: Book an early entry Vatican tour

Looking for a bite-size version? See below! 

12 Day in Italy Itinerary

12 Days in Italy Itinerary - Rome, Amalfi Coast, Tuscany

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