rooftops of rome
Bert Kaufmann/Flickr

How to See Rome, Florence, and Venice in a Week

You could easily spend a week in each of these cities and still not see everything they have to offer, but it's still possible to see the familiar highlights if you're on a tighter schedule. The high-speed rail network between Rome, Florence, and Venice makes it easy to city-hop, and you don't need a rental car if you plan to stick to the urban areas. This one-week itinerary takes you through the must-see sights, but there's always room for customization if you want to skip a place or add a detour.
Benjamin Golub/Flickr
Day 1: Legacy of Imperial Rome
The first of two essential areas to focus on during your short visit, the imperial Roman sites are not to be missed. Start and end your day with the Forum and Colosseum to avoid the bulk of the tourist crowds. In the middle, visit Campidoglio, one of the seven hills of Rome, or take in the Forum of Trajan and the intricately carved Trajan's Column depicting one of the emperor's military victories.
St. Peter's Basilica
Ed Brambley/Flickr
Day 2: Christian Rome
Spend your second day touring St. Peter's Basilica and the Vatican Museums. Take in the magnificent art and architecture, being sure to stop by one of the most recognizable sculptures in the world, Michelangelo's Pieta. The star attraction in the museum's virtually unparalleled collection is undoubtedly the Sistine Chapel, but take this opportunity to take in the beautiful ceiling without the filter of a camera lens. Taking photos will get you escorted out by security.
Ostia Antica
Patrick M/Flickr
Day 3: Take Your Pick
The itinerary for your last day in Rome is up to you. Delve into history with a visit to the underground catacombs of Via Appia Antica, or walk the cobblestones of Rome's ancient seaport at Ostia Antica. After the crowds at the Vatican and the other major attractions, a trip to one of the city's quieter museums such as the Palazzo Massimo alle Terme might be a welcome change. Cap off your evening with dinner at a restaurant in Trastevere or Testaccio, then drinks at a bar in Campo de'Fiori or Monti. Depart on the late train to Florence.
Florence Duomo
Jason Pier/Flickr
Day 4: Renaissance Masters
Start the day with the masterpieces of Giotto, Leonardo, Botticelli and Michelangelo at the Uffizi Gallery(make sure to book admission tickets ahead of time to avoid waiting in long lines). Follow it up with a visit to the Duomo complex: Climb Brunelleschi's ochre dome, and then see the adjoining Battistero di San Giovanni, also known as the Baptistry of St John. The Museo Storico dell'Opera del Duomo, which contains many of the original works of art created for the cathedral, including Lorenzo Ghiberti's well-renowned Gates of Paradise, can be your next stop. Finish your tour by admiring the second-most recognizable structure in Florence, the 278-foot-tall Campanile di Giotto.
The David in Florence
Greg Willis/Flickr
Day 5: The Art of Florence, Part 2
Make your first stop at one last Michelangelo masterpiece: the "David" at the Galleria dell'Accademia. Fill the rest of your day by getting to know the art at the Palazzo Pitti, the intimate wall paintings of San Marco convent, and Masaccio's revolutionary frescoes at the Cappella Brancacci. In the evening, head south of the Arno where you'll find lively wine bars and better restaurants. Stay overnight in Florence, then leave via an early train on the morning of day 6.
Venice Grand Canal
John Fowler/Flickr
Day 6: Venetian Sights
You'll ride into the heart of Venice on a vaporetto (water bus), taking in the Grand Canal, the world's greatest main street. Begin your sightseeing at Piazza San Marco: The Basilica di San Marco is right there. 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.
Venice Piazza San Marco
Day 7: Last Moments in Italy
Center your plans for your last day around the city's unique art. Explore the Gallerie dell'Accademia, which features artists from the 14th to the 18th centures, stroll through the modern Peggy Guggenheim Collection housed in the unfinished Palazzo Venier dei Leoni, and examine the Tintoretto paintings in San Rocco. Savor your last moments in the city before catching the latest train you can back to Rome. Or add another night - you can never stay too long in Venice. Or in Italy for that matter.