There is a reigning question amongst all upcoming travellers to Italy while planning their itinerary. That is, “How many days should I spend in each place?”
Firstly, forget about how much time you will have available and ask yourself this:
“Why am I going?”
It’s likely that there are more than one reasons why you want to visit Italy. Perhaps you a foodie and your main reason to visit is to taste your way across the country and perhaps do some cooking classes. Perhaps you have an interest in art and history. Maybe you want to experience some of the much romanticised about Italian culture for yourself. Or maybe you just want to see the most famous sights.
Whatever your reasons, identify your main priority.
Would you be happy settling into one area and really soaking up the culture there if it meant that you couldn’t visit both Venice and Positano?
If you’re a foodie and want to visit the most famous sights, will you be satisfied eating in the tourist zones?
Identifying your priority and planning your itinerary accordingly will go a long way to ensuring that you are satisfied with your holiday.
The second factor that should help you plan is whether this your first or second time traveling to Italy. Or have you been multiple times before?
I believe it is rare for a first-time traveller to Italy not to prioritise seeing all the famous sights in their first trip, and that is fair enough! Yes, they are swamped with hagglers and other tourists, yes the food is often terrible by ‘normal’ Italian standards and yes they are more expensive, but they are some of the most historic, beautiful and artful places in the world.
If this is you, I suggest spending 2 days in each major city (Rome, Florence, Venice, etc) that you want to visit and 3 days in each area (Amalfi Coast, Cinque Terre, Lake Como, Tuscany). Fit in as much as you like in the time you have available, but remember that the suggested 2 and 3 day rules are the minimum number of days that I suggest you stay.
If you have more time or if you like to take things a little slower, then you should add a day to each city and another 1 or 2 to the areas.
If organising all that sounds too overwhelming, or the thought of getting to all those places and finding your way around sounds exhausting, I recommend booking day tours or one multi-day tour. There are some great companies out there that cater to all needs and budgets.
After your first tour of Italy, you should have a pretty good idea about where you would like to spend more time, and what you would like to spend more time doing on your next holiday in Italy.
If you have more time available, or if this is your second trip to Italy, great! This is when you really get to have some fun. This is when you get to venture off the main tourist track, hone in on a province and really get a sense of the people and their culture. It’s also when you start to eat some truly authentic and delicious food and wine.
Whether you want to explore the more known regions such as Tuscany and Sicily or lesser known regions such as Abruzzo or Puglia, I wouldn’t spend less than 5 days in any region in this case. Any less and you simply won’t have allowed enough time to wonder and discover hidden gems. Slow right down to the pace of the locals and soak up the atmosphere.
In fact, I would suggest spending 1-3 weeks in each province.
You can use public transport to travel all through Italy and the lesser travelled areas are no different. Speaking from experience, if you do travel this way, finding out about timetables and routes can be time consuming and confusing and I’d never do it (again) with anything more than a backpack in toe.
Hiring a car is a great because you can go where the wind takes you and stop off anywhere on a hunch. However, driving a car in Italy is not for everyone and if you haven’t driven in a foreign country before, I recommend testing it out for a couple of days first, before you attempt to drive your way through a full-fledged itinerary.
If you are confident about driving in Italy, I think this is one of the best ways to see regional Italy.
Booking a multi-day tour is the answer if you don’t have the time or patience to plan or don’t like the idea of catching public transport or driving in Italy. They also ensure that you get the most out of the time you have available to tour Italy and you are sure to learn a lot more about the sights and culture than when you go it alone.
Look for tour operators that use tour guides who are local to the area and have a maximum of 12 people on their tours.
For those cultural purists and those who are regulars to Italy, rent a car and a little house in a little village and do what the locals do. Spend as much time there as you have available and enjoy the Italian way of life. Simple.
Written by Katri Pagliaro
Katri operates Italian Provincial Tours along with her husband Marco. Their tours will take you off the beaten path and allow you to immerse yourself in authentic cultural experiences.
Become more Italian.