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Italy is so vast and treasure-filled that it’s hard to resist the temptation to pack in too much in too short a time. It’s a dauntingly diverse and complex destination, and you can’t even skim the surface in 1 or 2 weeks—so relax, don’t try. If you’re a first-time visitor with little touring time on your hands, we suggest you go just for the classic nuggets: Rome, Florence, and Venice could be packed into 1 very busy week, better yet in 2.

How can you accomplish that? Well, Italy ranks with Germany and France in offering mainland Europe’s best-maintained highways (called autostrade). You’ll pay a toll to drive on them, but it’s much quicker to use them than to trust your limited time to the array of minor roads, which can be much slower going.

The country also boasts one of the fastest and most efficient high-speed rail networks in the world. Rome, Bologna, and Milan are the key hubs of this 21st-century transportation empire—for example, from Rome’s Termini station, Florence can be reached in only 95 minutes. In fact, if you’re city-hopping between Rome, Florence, and Venice, you need never rent a car. Upgrades to the rail network mean that key routes are served by comfortable, fast trains. You’ll only really require a rental car if you plan rural detours.

 

The itineraries that follow show you some of our favorite places. The pace may occasionally be a bit breathless for some visitors, so consider skipping a stop to have some chill-out time—after all, you’re on vacation. Of course, you can also use any of our itineraries as a jumping-off point to develop your own custom-made adventure. Buon viaggio!

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.