Want to Go to Italy? Five Tips to Plan Your Trip

Florence is one of my favorite cities.
Florence is one of my favorite cities.

Italy is among the top desired vacations for North Americans. There is plenty to see and do, history, architecture and food. Plus, it is attainable, and can be done on a budget or in the lap of luxury. Regardless of budget, there are a few key tips that will make your vacation awesome. (Don’t want to go to Italy? That’s okay. These tips will help you get the most out of any vacation.) 

Leave time for the fun stuff!
Leave time for the fun stuff!


Use me, or use someone else, but use a travel agent that knows what they are doing. Planning an itinerary should be exciting, not stressful, and a good agent can help you navigate the murky waters of transportation, lodging and sightseeing all at once.


If you work Monday through Friday, and are taking a week off, maximize your time. Leave late Friday night to arrive early Saturday morning in Rome, and have the whole day available for touring. Choose a flight that leaves the following Sunday. Will you be tired when you get back to work the next day? Probably. But it will be worth it for the extra vacation day.

Whatever your work schedule looks like, maximize the time off by adding weekends, or holidays, into the mix.

Cinque Terre is amazing, but not the best use of time during the first trip to Italy.
Cinque Terre is amazing, but not the best use of time during the first trip to Italy.


This is the big one, people. Most folks want to pack as much as possible into a trip, and I am telling you it is okay to slow down a little. Yes, you will want to see a lot, but in a week-long itinerary, you will want to start with the popular cities of Rome, Florence and Venice.

But I want to go off the beaten path!” Indeed. But as a first time visitor, surely you are not going to skip the Vatican, right? Or seeing Michaleangelo’s David. Be sure to leave yourself enough time to do the things you want to do in each place. You can explore neighborhoods, find wonderful, tiny restaurants and shops, and still manage to see the important (to most people) stuff.

But I’ve heard the Cinque Terre is beautiful!” It is. I’ve been there. But not on my first (or even second) trip to Italy. And if you are planning a two-week, or longer, jaunt you can squeeze in a couple days there. Trying to cram in a day hiking the five towns, between going to the major cities will leave you rushing around and frustrated.


Plan down time into your schedule. Allow yourself the opportunity to stroll through charming neighborhoods and towns. Leave time to peruse through local shops. Schedule leisurely meals. Racing from museum to monument and back will leave you with plenty of good photos, for sure, but having a little breathing room between sites will allow you to soak it all in, relish the moment and enjoy even more.


I have a love-hate relationship with Google Maps. Usually, I find it helpful. On vacation, I prefer to have a general idea of where I am going, and if I get lost, so be it. Getting lost often results in good stories (I’ll post about our visit to a winery in Montalcino soon. That was an experience getting lost.) FKGuy wholeheartedly disagrees with me on this one. He thinks we’ll have great stories from adventures alone, even if we know where we are going.

So, research. Look online for restaurant recommendations, sightseeing options and more. Just be careful not to get too caught up in it. What is a must-do for someone else, might not be your things. I like to have some restaurant options available, but also be able to wing it if I find something else great.

Whatever you choose, enjoy your vacation. Take a silly picture in front of the leaning tower of Pisa. So what if everyone else has one? You can have one too. Talk to locals. Ask for restaurant recommendations. Eat the local specialties. Come back with photos, stories and wanting more.