World ? Europe ? Italy

Italy: In One Week

The very title of this tour is a misnomer. There is no way you can see Italy in 1 week. But you can have a memorable vacation in Rome and see some of the highlights of Siena, Florence, and Venice if you budget your time carefully.

You can use the following itinerary to make the most out of a week in Italy, but feel free to drop a place or two to save a day to relax. One week provides enough time, although barely, to introduce yourself to the attractions of Rome, such as the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, and the Vatican (with a stop at St. Peter's).

After 2 days you can head north to the great Tuscan city of Siena, which still carries the aura of the Middle Ages. With time remaining you can budget 2 nights for Florence, taking in its Pitti Palace, the Duomo, and the masterpiece-loaded Uffizi galleries.

After that, you can end your trip in Venice, sailing along the Grand Canal to such attractions as the Basilica di San Marco, the Doge's Palace, and the Gallerie dell'Accademia.

Days 1 & 2: Arrive in Rome

Take a flight that arrives in Rome as early as possible on Day 1. Check into your hotel and hit the nearest cafe for a pick-me-up cappuccino before sightseeing.

Two days in Rome is just too brief -- after all, Rome wasn't built in a day. But you can make the most of your limited time. There are two major areas to focus on in a 2-day trip: the legacy of imperial Rome, such as the Forum and the Colosseum, plus St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums (unlike any other in the world).

On Day 1, those who have come to see ancient Rome and the glory of the Caesars can start their tour at Michelangelo's Campidoglio, or Capitoline Hill. From here you can look out over the Roman Forum area before venturing forth to discover Rome. After the overview, walk east along Vie dei Fori Imperiali, taking in a view of the remains of the Imperial Forums, which can be seen from the street. This route leads you to the ruins of the Colosseum. After a visit to this amphitheater, cross over to spend the rest of the day exploring the ruins of the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill to the west of the Colosseum. And you can detour north of the Colosseum to look at Domus Aurea, or the "Golden House," once occupied by the emperor Nero.

For a change of pace, stop in at the Church of San Pietro in Vincoli, which is near ancient Rome. Here you can gaze upon Michelangelo's celebrated statue of Moses.

You can spend Day 2 exploring St. Peter's and the Vatican Museums, which will be one very busy time indeed. The tiny walled "city state" of the Vatican, the capital of the Catholic world, contains such a wealth of splendor that you could spend more than a week trying to see it all, but most people are content to hit the highlights in 1 busy day.

After exploring St. Peter's Basilica, including a climb to Michelangelo's panoramic dome, take a lunch break before strolling over to the Vatican Museums. This array of galleries contains one of the most jaw-dropping collections of art and antiquities in the world, all of it culminating in the gloriously restored Sistine Chapel. By now, you'll probably be exhausted, but, if you can keep going, take in a final attraction, the Castel Sant'Angelo.

Have dinner your final night in Rome at a restaurant in Trastevere.

Day 3: North to Siena

On Day 3, drive north from Rome for 230km (143 miles) following the signs into Siena, the second-greatest city of Tuscany (after Florence, of course). After checking into a hotel, set out to visit the Piazza del Campo, the main square, in the center, including its attractions such as the Museo Civico in the Palazzo Pubblico. You can also visit the palazzo itself, climbing the Torre del Mangia for a panoramic view of the city and the surrounding countryside. Afterward, head for the Duomo where you can spend at least 2 hours taking in other attractions adjoining, including Museo dell'Opera Metropolitana and the Battistero. If time remains, return to the Piazza del Campo for some cafe sitting and people-watching.

Days 4 & 5: Florence: City of the Renaissance

On the morning of Day 4, leave as early as you can and drive north from Siena to Florence, a distance of only 34km (21 miles). Spend the rest of the morning exploring the masterpieces of the Uffizi, followed by a light lunch at a cafe opening onto Piazza della Signoria. After lunch, see some of the sculpture in the Museo dell'Opera del Duomo before visiting the Duomo itself (best seen from the outside). Climb to the top for one of the great panoramas of Europe. Follow up with a visit to the adjoining Battistero San Giovanni and the Campanile di Giotto before walking down to the Galleria dell'Accademia for a look at Michelangelo's monumental David. End the afternoon with a sunset stroll along Ponte Vecchio.

On Day 5, spend the morning on the "left bank" of the Arno, taking in the masterpieces of the Palazzo Pitti. Afterward, wind down in the adjacent Giardini di Boboli. After lunch, cross over to the right side of the river to view a grand array of Renaissance treasures, including the Cappelle Medicee with Michelangelo's grand sculptures. A nearby visit is in order to explore the Basilica di San Lorenzo, climaxed by a late-afternoon visit to the art-filled Palazzo Vecchio.

Days 6 & 7: Venice: La Serenissima

Leave Florence early in the morning on Day 6 and drive 267km (166 miles) northeast to Italy's most spectacular city. You'll ride into the heart of Venice on a vaporetto (water bus), taking in the Grand Canal, perhaps the world's greatest thoroughfare. After checking into a hotel, head for the Piazza San Marco for a coffee and a long look before striking out on a sightseeing expedition.

The Basilica di San Marco is right in front of you. After exploring it, visit the nearby Palazzo Ducale (Doge's Palace) before walking over the Bridge of Sighs. Climb the Campanile, also nearby, for the grandest view of Venice and its lagoon. Have dinner in a typical Venetian tavern along the lagoon.

On Day 7, take in two of Venice's grandest art collections, each very different: the Gallerie dell'Accademia, and for those with more modern taste, the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. Walk the Ponte di Rialto (Rialto Bridge) and explore some of the small shops in the area. Before the afternoon fades, try to take in one of the churches of Venice, perhaps San Rocco for its great art. If it's summer, head for a dinner on the Lido. The boat ride alone is worth the trip.

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