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Let’s be realistic: It’s impossible to see these storied cities properly in a week. However, a fast, efficient rail network along the Rome–Florence–Venice axis makes it’s surprisingly easy to see a handful of the best that these graceful, art-stuffed cities have to offer. This weeklong itinerary treads the familiar highlights—but they are the most visited because they are sure to provide memories that will last a lifetime.

Days 1, 2 & 3: Rome ★★★

You could spend a lifetime in the Eternal City, but 3 days is enough to get a flavor of it. There are two essential areas to focus on in a short visit. The first is the legacy of Imperial Rome, such as the Forum, Campidoglio, and Colosseum. Bookend day 1 with the Forum and Colosseum (one first, the other last) to avoid the busiest crowds; the same ticket is good for both. On day 2, tackle St. Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums, with a collection unlike any other in the world that, of course, includes Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel. On day 3, it’s a toss-up: Choose between the underground catacombs of the Via Appia Antica; treading the cobbled streets of an ancient port at Ostia Antica; or visiting some of the capital’s quieter museum collections, including the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme. Spend your evenings in the bars of Campo de’ Fiori or Monti and the restaurants of Trastevere or Testaccio. Toward the end of your third day, catch the late train to Florence. Make sure you have booked in advance: Walk-up fares are much more expensive than advanced tickets on the high-speed network.

Days 4 & 5: Florence: cradle of the Renaissance ★★★

You have 2 whole days to explore the city of Giotto, Leonardo, Botticelli, and Michelangelo. Start with their masterpieces at the Uffizi (you should definitely have booked admission tickets ahead), followed by the Duomo complex: Scale Brunelleschi’s ochre dome, and follow up with a visit to the adjoining Battistero di San Giovanni, Museo dell’Opera del Duomo, and Campanile di Giotto. Start day 5 with “David” at the Accademia. For the rest of your time, spend it getting to know the art at the Palazzo Pitti, the intimate wall paintings of San Marco, and Masaccio’s revolutionary frescoes in the Cappella Brancacci. In the evenings, head south of the Arno for lively wine bars and better restaurants. Leave on an early train on the morning of day 6.

Days 6 & 7: Venice: the city that defies the sea ★★★

 

 

You’ll ride into the heart of Venice on a vaporetto (water bus), taking in the Grand Canal, the world’s greatest thoroughfare. Begin your sightseeing at Piazza San Marco: The Basilica di San Marco is right there, and after exploring it, visit the nearby Palazzo Ducale (Doge’s Palace) before walking over the Bridge of Sighs. Begin your evening with the classic Venetian aperitivo, an Aperol spritz (Aperol with sparkling wine and soda) followed by cicchetti (Venetian tapas) before a late dinner. Make day 7 all about the city’s unique art: the Gallerie dell’Accademia, the modern Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and San Rocco. Catch the latest train you can back to Rome. Or add another night—you can never stay too long in Venice.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.