World ? Europe ? Italy

Italy: In Two Weeks

In this tour, we can take in all the same sights covered in "Italy in 1 Week" , but we can also include a lot more of Naples (with its great archaeological treasures); Pompeii (with Italy's most spectacular ruins); the stunning Amalfi Drive (the most thrilling but hair-raising road in the country); Bologna (gourmet citadel); Padua (with its Giotto frescoes); and even Verona of Romeo and Juliet fame; as well as the industrial city of Milan with its great cathedral and art museums.

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: South to Naples

On Day 3, drive south to Naples, a distance of 219km (136 miles) southeast of Rome. Leave as early in the morning as you can in order to take in the major attractions of Naples: Museo Archeologico Nazionale; Museo e Gallerie Nazionale di Capodimonte; and, if times remains, Certosa di San Martino and Museo Nazionale di San Martino. Perhaps head for a pizzeria that night -- Neapolitans claim they invented the pie. Stay overnight in Naples to end Day 3.

Day 4: Pompeii: Europe's Best-Preserved Ruins

On Day 4, drive 24km (15 miles) south of Naples to spend a day wandering the archaeological garden of Pompeii. The city was buried for 2,000 years, having suffered devastation when nearby Vesuvius erupted. Some of the great treasures of southern Italy -- including the remarkable patrician villa, Casa dei Vettii -- are found here. Return to Naples for overnighting.

Day 5: Death-Defying Amalfi Drive

On the morning of Day 5, drive 49km (30 miles) south of Naples along A3 until you see the turnoff for Sorrento. At Sorrento you can head east along the curvy Amalfi Drive, of which Andre Gide said "[there is] nothing more beautiful on this earth." The drive winds around the twisting, steep coastline.

Follow it to the southern resorts of Positano or Amalfi, either place of which would make an idyllic stopover. Allow at least 3 hours for this drive because it is slow moving -- not only because of heavy traffic but also from all the rubbernecking of fellow motorists. Positano lies 16km (10 miles) east of Sorrento, with Amalfi reached after going 18km (11 miles) east of Positano.

Day 6: North to Siena

It's a long day and a long drive, but you can head north along the autostrada to Rome, bypassing it and continuing north to the cutoff for Siena. You'll arrive in Siena in the afternoon, time enough to see the Duomo complex and the Piazza del Campo. For more sight details, follow the suggestions given in Day 3 under "Italy in 1 Week," above.

Days 7 & 8: Florence: Birthplace of the Renaissance

On the morning of Day 7, 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 8, 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.

Day 9: Bologna: Gastronomic Capital of Italy

Leave Florence on the morning of Day 9, driving 105km (65 miles) northeast to Bologna. The major sights lie in the immediate center. The best of them are the Basilica di San Petronio; Pinacoteca Nazionale di Bologna, and Torre degli Garisenda, all of which can be seen in one afternoon. One of the pleasures of Bologna is merely wandering its arcaded streets; even getting lost is fun. Stay overnight in the city to end Day 9.

Days 10 & 11: Venice: City that Defies the Sea

Leave Bologna on the morning of Day 10 and drive northeast to Venice, a distance of 152km (94 miles). Once in Venice, follow the sightseeing suggestions as outlined under Days 6 and 7.

Day 12: Padua & Its Giotto Frescoes

While still based in Venice, you can explore Padua, lying only 40km (25 miles) to the west. In 1 fairly easy day you can visit the Basilica di Sant'Antonio with its Donatello bronzes and tomb of St. Anthony of Padua and the Cappella degli Scrovegni with its Giotto frescoes. If time remains, explore Chiesa degli Eremitani as well. Return to Venice for the night.

Day 13: Verona of Romeo and Juliet Fame

Leave Venice on the morning of Day 13, heading west for 114km (71 miles) to Verona where Shakespeare set the world's most famous love story, Romeo and Juliet. Wander Piazza dei Signori and take in another square, Piazza delle Erbe before descending on the Arena di Verona, evoking Rome's Colosseum, and the Romanesque church, Basilica San Zeno Maggiore. Spend a night in Verona.

Day 14: Milan: Italy's Most Dynamic City

Leave Verona in the morning, driving west for 157km (98 miles) until you reach the most bustling city of Italy, Milan. It's not all industry and commerce. Milan possesses one of the great cathedrals of Italy, Il Duomo, and its Biblioteca-Pinacoteca Ambrosiana with its cartoons by Raphael is one of the great galleries of Italy. Its Pinacoteca di Brera is a fabulous treasure-trove of art, laden with masterpieces from Lombard and Venetian masters. If it can be arranged, at least make an attempt to see Leonardo's fading but still magnificent The Last Supper. Stay overnight in Milan, a city that is one of the major transportation hubs of Europe, ideal for departures for your next destination.

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