Hi there! You have found one of my favorite pages on this site - the itinerary for our trip to Rome & Venice.
My husband and I recently took a fabulous trip to Italy and I'd love to share our trip outline with you. We had not had a big trip alone together since our wedding, 15 years ago! We figured it was time to go and we felt very lucky to have 2 weeks to visit Roma & Venezia.
If you've never been to Europe before, Italy is a great place to start. It is a foodie's dream, with wonderful pasta, wine, and fresh bread on every corner. It is also a paradise for history, architecture and art lovers. Each street in Rome featured some historical marvel; you can literally turn the corner and be in front of a 2000 year old building. You will also find dozens of remarkable churches featuring gorgeous architecture and priceless art work. Rome is a great start for an Italian adventure because you can usually find folks who speak English (although learn a few key phrases in Italian so that you can be seen as a good sport), and you can navigate the city easily. Public transportation is abundant, so you don't need to worry about driving yourself.
While Rome is busy and beautiful and remarkably historic, Venice is a completely different world. I've described Venice as the most ridiculously picturesque place in the world. It truly is! Every 5 feet you can find something amazing that you must photograph. The city is an island punctuated by dozens of little canals; there are no cars on the island, just footpaths, boats, gondolas, and vaporettos (public water "buses"). Venice has many historic and significant pieces of sculpture and architecture, but what it's really known for is mystery and fantasy. Venice is beautiful, romantic, secretive, and exotic. I can't truly describe it, you just have to go!
I hope our itinerary below will help you plan your own trip and if you do go, please drop me a line. I'd love to hear about your adventures. I'd also love to see your photos. The one above is me in front of the Bernini Elephant Obelisk, which is in front of the Santa Maria Sopra Minerva. If you see it, remind me to tell you the story of the pope and the elephant. Happy Travels! Ciao!
Itinerary - 9 days in Rome & 4 days in Venice
Day 1 - Arrival Day
- Arrive at FCO airport, take taxi to hotel. It's a $45 (or so) flat fee and the easiest way to go after a long flight.
- Check in at Hotel Aventino San Anselmo. You can read my review of the hotel here, we loved it.
- Take a nap, then walk down the hill and take the bus to the Vatican area. Have dinner and stroll near the Vatican.
Day 2 - Vatican Day
- Take the bus to the Vatican (bus tickets are sold at the tobacco shops)
- Start at the Vatican Museum (Musei Vatacani). Buy your tickets online before you go, otherwise there's a 2 hour wait (or longer) to enter.
- See the sculpture hall, the tablet hall, the Egyptian hall and then have lunch at the cafeteria and rest.
- Continue at the Musei down the "long hall" of galleries; this leads you to the Sistine Chapel.
- Take your time in the Sistine Chapel; it is so beautiful. But no photos, the guards are serious and will yell at you if you try.
- Head over to St. Peter's Bascillica. Marvel at Michelangelo's Pieta, Bernini's altar, and Raphael's mosaic. This is the most incredible space I've ever been in; it brought me to tears. So incredibly amazing.
- Explore around outside. If you're not too tired, go over to Castel St. Angelo and see Ponte St. Angelo, my favorite bridge in Rome.
- Have some dinner! We had dinner at Pizzarium in the evening. It was fun with fresh, handmade gourmet pizza.
Day 3 - Pantheon Day
- Take the bus to Argentina.
- Explore the Largo Argentina Ruins and keep your eyes peeled for cats!
- There is a cat sanctuary at one end of the ruins and you can often spy 10 or so cats roaming free.
- Head over to the Sopra Minerva church. Admire the Bernini elephant out front, then go in to see the amazing blue ceiling, the wonderful art, and one of Michelangelo's lesser known sculptures - Christ with Cross.
- Walk towards Via Corso, have lunch at Il Falchetto. My favorite restaurant in Rome. Not expensive, popular with locals, great atmosphere.
- Make your way to the Pantheon. Spend some time admiring the outside of the structure and each alcove inside. If you can go when it's raining, do! It's so cool to see rain pouring in through the occulus. Great photos any time of day.
- Go see the Trevi Fountain, make sure to come back at night sometime. It looks so beautiful when lit at night.
- Shop and explore the local area, then head home!
- We decided to have a picnic dinner in our room and we stopped at Volpetti, a local meat and cheese shop, for provisions. They were so friendly and helpful!
Day 4 - Borghese Day
- Take a bus to the Termini station, then a taxi to Borghese Museum.
- Enjoy the Borghese Gallery; you will have just two hours inside, so make sure to split your time appropriately between the sculpture gallery and the painting gallery. We didn't realize there was a painting gallery, so we had to sprint through it in 15 minutes, which was really not enough time to see the Caravaggios or Berninis.
- When you're done at the Gallery, explore the gardens. You can walk them, but I highly recommend renting a bike or a golf cart to get around. The garden is 3 square miles and it's just too much to try to do it all on foot. You can learn more about the golf carts at noloborghese.it. We rented a golf cart and loved it!
- Have some lunch when you're ready. There's a cute little garden cafe in the park; nothing fancy, but good. If you're in the mood for something fancier, there was a lovely place between the Medici Villa and the Spanish Steps that had beautiful views.
- Go towards the Spanish Steps and the Piazza de Spagna. Wander and explore!
- Walk down Via Corso, have some coffee or gelato (or both) and end up in Piazza del Popolo.
- Head home when you're ready, pick up a casual dinner or find a fun place that looks good. The hotel has good recommendations.
Day 5 - Aventino Day
- We were really needing a rest day after the first few days, we walked nearly 7 hours each day and man, were we tired! This was a great low key day and we loved it.
- Sleep in a bit, then walk over to Parco Savello. It's a gorgeous park with sweeping views of the city and it's a 5 minute walk from the hotel.
- See the San Clemente Church and the Fontana de Santa Sabina.
- Head down the street to the secret keyhole. On a good day, you can look through the keyhole and see an amazing view of one of Rome's most lovely domes (the Vatican!).
- Walk down the hill and go to the Santa Maria Cosmedin so that you can see the Bocca della Veritas (the Mouth of Truth). A fabulous photo opp!
- Pick up some lunch or stop in at a local restaurant by Circus Maximus; then head home for a nap.
- Have dinner at Felice in Testaccio - excellent food, amazing Cacio e Pepe.
Day 6 - Ancient Rome Day
- Take the bus to Colosseo.
- Find a place to purchase a Roma Pass, then go to the front of the line at the Colosseum.
- Take your time as you explore the Colosseum, then head over to the Forum.
- Wander through the Forum, photo opps are plentiful! It's very helpful to have a guide or a guide book to help you understand what you're seeing.
- Make sure to walk up to the Palatine Ruins. There are amazing views of the city at the top, not to be missed!
- When you're ready for lunch, head over to Taverna dei Quaranta; great local color, good food and great prices, fabulous tiramisu.
- On your way home, go see the St. Peter in Chains church. You can see amazing religious relics, including St. Peter's actual chains, and Michelangelo's Moses.
Day 7 - Capitoline Day
- Take the bus to the Vittorio Emmanuel Monument.
- Explore the area around the monument, especially Trajan's Column.
- Explore the Vittorio monument; take the glass elevator on the second floor to the top of the monument.
- Enjoy the amazing 360 degree panoramic views of Rome; I think the best views of the city are had up here!
- Take the elevator back down and take the short cut (right near the entrance to the elevator) to Santa Maria Araceoli church. Spend some time enjoying the church; notice all of the crystal chandeliers!
- Leave the church through the side door by the altar, this is a shortcut to the Camidoglio plaza. Thank you Rick Steves and your super cool Rome tourbook for all of these great short cuts and tips!
- Buy your tickets for the Capitoline Museum, enter the museum and head to the cafetteria for lunch. We had a great meal here, very affordable, and great views.
- After lunch, explore the Capitoline. Make sure to see the terrace facing the forum; the terrace is between the two sides of the museum by going through the underground tunnel that connects them. I know this sounds strange; just ask one of the English speaking guides where the forum view spot is, if you get lost.
- Grab some coffee or gelato and head home; of wander down VIa Corso and find a fun place for dinner.
Day 8 - Campo de'Fiori Day
- Take the bus to the Campo de'Fiori area.
- Explore the area; great streets with abundant cute shops. Wander over to Campo de'Fiori; see the flowers and fresh veggies. Great photos to be had here.
- Walk more, shop, explore. We loved Antica Libreria Cascianelli on Largo Febo - a great antique bookstore.
- Head towards Piazza Navona. Enjoy the shops here and make sure to see the chiesa. Another fun shop to see in Piazza Navona is Navona Antiquariato - they have wonderful antique decor from all over Italy.
- Ready for lunch? Go to La Montecarlo on Vicolo Savelli. Amazing pizza and the best gnocchi quattro fromaggi we had all trip. I'm still thinking about that gnocchi!
- After lunch, stop in the La Perla D'Oriente, also known as the Rome Bead Shop. Great selection of handmade beads; very fun to collect a few and make some gifts for friends when you get home.
- Hop back on the bus and go to Santa Maria Della Vittoria church to see Bernini's Ecstasy of St. Theresa. Amazing sculpture.
- Head home, get a picnic lunch or for a fancy dinner, try De Franchesco in Piazza del Fico.
Day 9 - North Rome Day
- Take the bus to Barberini.
- Explore Piazza Barberini. I think the main fountain is also a Bernini.
- Head over to the Capuchin Crypt, also known as the Bone Church. This is certainly one of the most unique places I have ever been; where else can you see the bones of thousands of monks artfully arranged into decoration? It sounds creepy and it is creepy. But when you're there, it feels strangely appropriate. See what you think.
- Leave the Capuchin Crypt and walk towards the Spanish Steps. There are some very good graphite artists who draw portriats on demand at the top of the steps; good place to have a souvenier portrait drawn if you like that type of thing. I had a portrait drawn of my mom, amazingly the artist did the drawing from a photo on my iphone. I love it. My favorite Rome souvenier.
- Walk down the steps to Piazza de Spagna, see Keats house on the left.
- Stroll down any of the long streets that lead to Piazza del Popolo. Take a winding path, why rush it?
- See the twin churches at Piazza del Popolo, both are lovely.
- Make sure to go into the Santa Maria del Popolo church. This chiesa houses the famous Chigi chapel, which contains 3 Bernini sculptures. The front altar of the church is flanked by gorgeous Caravaggios and a stunning Raphael painting. The artwork in this church is probably worth upwards of $500M, where can you see that type of work in one non-museum building?
- Somewhere along the way, stop for lunch at That's Amore on Via Arciare. Great food.
- If this is your last night in Rome, pick one thing to go see at night. I recommend Trevi Fountain. Throw your coins in the fountain, say goodbye to Rome and promise to come back again!
And if you have extra time in Rome, a couple of other places to visit: Pompeii & Naples (a good day trip), Tivoli and Villa D'Este (another day trip), Ostia Antica (yes, you guessed it, another day trip), and one thing I wish I would have seen - the National Museum of Art. Next time!
Day 10 - Travel to Venice
- Take the train from the Termini station to Venice. It's a long ride, about 4 hours, but lovely and relaxing. We chose the Italia train over the others offered; first class was comfy and private.
- Arrive in Venice and take a vaporetto (water bus) or water taxi to St. Mark's Square (San Marco stop).
- Walk through St. Mark's and head to your hotel. We stayed at Hotel Saturnia and loved the location. Our room was just ok, but the hotel itself was wonderful.
- Have dinner at any local spot that looks good, we enjoyed wandering about and finding places that had local menus and seemed casual.
Days 11-14 - Choose your own adventure
Once we arrived in Venice, we no longer had a checklist of things we HAD TO see. So instead of giving you an itinerary, I invite you to pick and choose from the following lovely things to do. It's really hard to go wrong in Venice...
- Wander the streets, get lost, turn on your phone, figure out where you are and find your way back. This is the best way to see the island!
- Take a day trip to Murano. Explore the different glass factories and glass shops. I loved Studio Salvadore - beautiful, artisan glass handmade on the island.
- Listen to the live music in St. Mark's square, have a perfect cappuccino at Caffe Florian.
- Ride the elevator to the top of the Campanile at St. Mark's, marvel at the 360 degree views of the city.
- Spend some quality time in St. Mark's Basicilica, visit the museum inside to see the amazing mosaics up close.
- Visit Doge's palace and look at all the marvelous architectural details around, espcially the pink glass in the street lights.
- Have lunch at Osteria al Portego. Hard to find, but so worth it, our favorite meal in Venice!
- Visit the shops by the hotel, so many amazing paper stores, clothing stores, and specialty shops. I especially liked all of the fun masks. Wished I could have brought a few home for the kiddos.
- Take a gondola ride. Best way to see all of the buildings is from the water.
Venice was really a fun treat and honestly, I think I would have been more entranced if it wasn't so crowded when we went. I prefer things a little quieter and mellower, but all in all, a truly amazing trip and if you just do some of the above, I know you'll have a remarkable time!