My family and I spent only 6 days in the month of May touring major cities all over the country of Italy. We were completely exhausted by the end of the trip, but we saw so much in such a short amount of time that it definitely made it worth it. Here’s how we got the most out of our time traveling.

We started out our trip by flying from Munich (currently my home town) to Rome on the earliest flight possible to get the most out of our few days. This meant waking up in the middle of the night to catch a 6am flight, but again – worth it. We landed in Rome, checked into our Airbnb and headed straight to the Vatican. We booked a guided tour in advance that took us through the Vatican Museum, Sistine Chapel & Saint Peter’s Basilica. The tour was a few hours long and we were all very tired, but it was so beautiful and our guide was very knowledgable on the history so we were happy to be there.
After the tour, we went back to our apartment to have a rest and find somewhere nice to eat for lunch and then dinner. Pretty much every single restaurant we went to during our trip had amazing food, so this was never our problem.
For the rest of the evening we continued to walk around and explore our area of Rome, and were getting excited to see more of it the next day on our walking tour.

To Stay:
We rented an Airbnb right in the middle of town so it was walking distance to everything. Our rental was next to the Piazza Navona, which made it very convenient for going out for meals at all times of the day. I highly recommend staying in the city center if you plan on doing a lot of site seeing.

This day we had a relaxing exploring day. After a nice breakfast in the Piazza while being serenaded by street performers, we all went our separate ways. A few decided to walk around the city and take pictures, some of our group went a mission to find the pyramid in Rome (huh?!) and the rest went on a paid guided walking tour of the Colosseum. In the late afternoon we took a free guided walking tour of the city which included things like: Spanish Steps, Roman Aqueduct, Trevi Fountain, Piazza Venezia, Roman Forum (outside), Colosseum (outside). We booked this in advance as well, but it’s free so don’t stress too much about it. It is a 2 hour tour and covered all of the important “tourist” stops in my opinion. Even though we only saw the outside of the Colosseum and Roman Forum, you still had great views of everything so this wasn’t a problem for me at all. If you are a history lover and really want to get the whole experience, you can pay for a fully guided tour of all the ins and outs.

There is so much to see and do in Rome, but we jam-packed everything we wanted to see in the first 2 days that there wasn’t much else to do on a third day. Overall, when you go to Rome, make sure you do research on which tourist spots and attractions you want to see while you’re there and look on a map to find out where they are to create the best route to see them all. If that is too much work for you, then just book a walking tour like we did and show up! Rome has many sights to see, so even if you just wander around you will find something amazing around every corner. Also, be sure to stop and watch Rome move around you as well. Sit outside at restaurants and buy gelato as often as possible. Enjoy the street performers and the quiet alleys. Drink amazing wine and Aperol Spritz! And most of all, enjoy the endless amounts of pizza and spaghetti.. mmmm…

On our last morning in Rome, we rented a car and drove about 3-4 hours to Tuscany. Originally, we thought we would stay in Florence and just do a day trip out to Tuscany for wine tasting (which is still totally a good idea). But we had a large group of family, and an extremely busy and crazy few days in Rome, that we decided that maybe staying out in Tuscany for a few days and slowing down the pace might be a good idea for us – and it was! We rented a large Airbnb in the middle of no where Tuscany and had an amazing time just hanging out. We were surrounded by gorgeous scenery and vineyards for miles. We drank lots of red wine, played games and cooked dinner on the barbecue by the pool.

Again, if you are traveling alone or with one other person, trains or flights between cities might be a good idea. But when you are traveling with 6+ people and all the luggage, individual tickets for trains and planes really add up in cost and hassle. For this reason, and because we wanted to be able to leave and stop whenever we please while traveling between places, we decided to rent a car and drive. When the trip is broken up with multiple stops and cities, it’s really not that bad of a drive at all. Plus Italy is just plain beautiful so you have amazing views throughout the whole drive.

To Stay:
It might be worth it to stay in Florence and explore the city if you are traveling as a couple or with fewer people, since there would be more to do. We were staying about a 40 min drive away from Florence (in Tignano/Chianti Region) so you can drive to and from quite easily if you wish to do both. We chose a remote Airbnb to spend more quality time together with the family. There was only a small town near us so we did all of our cooking at the house and spent most of the time just hanging out.

We decided to do a full day tour of wine tasting, because my family just loves red wine. The tour we booked prefers taking their clients to smaller, family run wineries which is what we really liked about it. The wines were delicious and the tastings were very generous. To purchase the wines was inexpensive too so we brought home quite a few bottles that day. They all had the most amazing views on their properties and we got to know some of the owners themselves. We purchased the lunch to be included in the day, which was the best decision. Overall it was a great tour with multiple stops and a lot of tastings. I highly recommend doing a full day tour of wine tasting if you do enjoy drinking wine, because Tuscany has the most amazing wines. Our favorite is the Chianti Classico!

This day was another planned relaxing day, and we decided to explore the small town in our area – which basically ended up consisting of us eating pizza in the middle of the most insanely beautiful buildings with gorgeous architecture. So I took my phone out and went crazy with the pictures – I was completely obsessed.
Another option we had for this day was to drive to Florence and explore the city for the day. Since we still had the rental car with us it would have been easy to do, and if we had one more day I think we would have done this, but maybe next time. I hear Florence is great so I would like to see it one day.

This day was another crazy day on our itinerary. We left Tuscany in the morning and started making our way to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa, which was only an hour or so away. We got there fairly early in the morning, which was great for pictures as it was not crowded at all.

From Pisa we drove another hour or two to Cinque Terre. This area can be a bit complicated so I would definitely recommend doing your research before going. We drove to one of the main stops and parked in a parking lot and only paid for a few hours. Unfortunately, it was raining that day which we knew would impact the amount of time we would spend there. We bought train tickets so that we could go to the different towns and see a few of them. I know there are also quite a few hikes you can do between the towns too, but it was raining so we took the train. Rain or shine, these are the most beautiful and colorful houses you will ever see on a cliff! It was a lot of fun walking around taking pictures of all the different views. We also had lunch in one of the towns, and had the best seafood! Unfortunately, this was the last stop on our tour, so we tried to make the most of it.

After Cinque Terre, we drove to Genoa where we had a hotel booked for the night. We thought that it might have been a nice town to explore, but there wasn’t much there. We were so tired we just went to bed and prepared ourselves for the drive home to Munich the next day. Yes – we drove from Italy to Munich, but my family had never seen the Alps or had any idea what the country landscape outside of the big European cities looked like. Even though it was definitely a long drive, we took turns and made a lot of stops along the way to make in bearable. We drove through places like the Dolomites and Innsbruck, Austria which has since then become one of our favorite cities to visit!

Final Thoughts:
Overall, our trip was absolutely amazing and I’m still surprised by how much we were able to see and do within such a short amount of time, especially because we spent a few days just relaxing in Tuscany! Of course Italy still has so much more to offer like Naples, Amalfi Coast, Pompeii, Florence, Milan, Venice, etc etc etc!! We wanted to fit a lot more in when we made our original itinerary, but ended up having to edit down because we knew realistically it would have been too stressful to do much more than we did. And no one enjoys a stressful holiday! I think for our family, we did the right amount of “touristy stuff” and balanced it with some relaxation. Not seeing everything in Italy the first time just means that we’ll have to go back now and do the rest!

I hope this helped anyone interested in planning a trip to Italy, and if you’re not then you should. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed my picture spam as per usual and thanks for reading!

~ Rylee

One thought on “How to Spend a Week in Italy for First-Timers

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