Updated: Feb 11, 2019
This summer we spent 10 days exploring Italy, flying to Milan and out of Naples. We used the train to travel between each place which is really easy in Italy. This itinerary could definitely be extended, but we had limited time so tried to make the most of it!
Day 1 – Milan
Our flight landed in Milan in the early evening and as we had already had a weekend break here in the past, we planned to move straight on the following morning. We did head to the Duomo area for dinner though, which is beautiful, especially at night.
Day 2, 3 & 4 – Cinque Terre
We headed off for an early train to the beautiful Cinque Terre, which took around 3 hours direct to Monterosso al Mare where we were staying. This town is a bit bigger than the others so had more options for accommodation. I think this was a great base to explore - it had a larger beach as well as some lovely restaurants in the evening.
The Cinque Terre is made up of 5 towns (Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore) all with their own distinctive characters! You can get the train between each of them within minutes, take a ferry or chose to take one of the hiking routes.
Our first day was spent wondering around Monterosso and spending some time on the beach there. The beach was lovely but you have to pay for a sunbed (around 25 euros a day!), or take your towel and lie in the public area, which can get very crowded! The water was so clear though and you can swim out by the rocks. That evening we got the train to Riomaggiore for dinner, as we heard it was the best to watch the sunset, and we weren’t disappointed. We bought some beers from the shop and headed down to sit on the rocks. Others had bought takeaway pizzas too, so a good idea if you are on a budget!
The following morning we decided to take one of the hiking routes – we hadn’t planned to do too much walking as it was the beginning of August, so really hot! I think the months of May or September would be lovely to do more of the hiking on offer here. You need to buy a pass to hike the trails - a one day pass costs €7.50 and you can buy it at one of the tourist information centres or at one of the control booths. The other option is to buy the combined train/hiking pass which is €16 and includes unlimited use of the trains. The trains go between La Spezia and Levanto and stop at each of the five towns, so worth buying if you are going to be jumping on and off the trains all day.
We chose to do Monterosso to Vernazza, which took around 1.5 hours. The walk was lovely with amazing views of both villages. It was a bit cloudy which we were actually glad of, as some places you can’t escape the sunshine! As we wondered in to Vernazza we had some amazing Focaccia bread with fresh tomatoes, pesto and mozzarella, before having a quick swim in the sea to cool down. The smell from the bakeries is mouth-watering!
Next we jumped on a train to Manarola. Tip for Cinque Terre – check when the big cruise ships are coming in, as these will be when the towns get really busy. I had read a lot that the towns were unbearable in the summer months due to the crowds, however we found it wasn’t too bad at all.
We headed to Nessun Dorma for lunch, which has gorgeous views over Manarola. There was a bit of a queue for a table, but it was worth the wait. We had fresh mozzarella and tomato salad, bruschettas and a bottle of local white wine. The restaurant overlooks the harbour, so after lunch we headed down for a swim and joined the crowds jumping in off the rocks.
Finally we headed to Corniglia in the late afternoon. As this village is much higher than the others, the train drops you off and you can either take the bus or climb up a lot of steps! We chose this option and soon regretted it due to the heat. The village has some incredible views and lovely quaint streets though.
That evening was spent in Monterosso – the village has lots of charm and it is lovely to walk from the new town to the old town in the evening. We stumbled across a lovely little restaurant called Da Eraldo and booked a table while having a drink at the little wine bar across the way. This part of town is idyllic and the meal was amazing – you have to try the pesto lasagne and traditional lemon pudding for dessert!
On our final day we did another walk – this time heading right from Monterosso up towards Levanto. You can go all the way there in 2.5 hours, but we just did around 1 hour to where the remains of the hermitage of Sant’Antonio (St. Anthony) can be found, with incredible views back over Monterosso. Other things we could of done in Cinque Terre include kayaking, pesto cooking classes and wine tours – maybe next time!
Day 5 & 6 - Rome (via Pisa and Florence!)
As the train from Cinque Terre to Rome goes through both Pisa and Florence, we thought we would stop off in both on route! This of course wasn’t enough time to see everything, but it broke up the 3.5 hour train journey and gave us a flavour of the cities. In both places we left our cases in the station for around 5 euros, which was effortless.
In Pisa we just went straight to see the Leaning Tower of Pisa – the area is lovely but very crowded and hot during August! Florence was really beautiful, with incredible buildings and streets at every turn. We went to see the Cathedral, had lunch at Mercato Centrale Firenze, and enjoyed a glass of wine at Rinascente Firenze, which had incredible views over the rooftops.
When we arrived in Rome it was early evening, so we checked in and just wondered around the streets near the Pantheon and had dinner. We only had two nights and one day here, so this part of the trip could definitely have been extended, but in August it was probably enough due to the high humidity! We tried to fit in as much as we could within the day – visiting the Colosseum, Roman Forum, the Trevi Fountain, Piazza Navona, Piazza Campo de' Fiori and lunch in the Trastevere area! It was a lot for one day, but we had a great time exploring the city and sampling the amazing food (and gelato) on offer.
During the evening we headed past the Spanish Steps and out to Terrazza del Pincio to watch the sunset. It was a great viewpoint overlooking the city, but try to get their early so you can get a spot at the front. It was a whirlwind stay in Rome and we will definitely be back – we didn’t visit Vatican city and will save that for another trip!
Day 7 - 10 – Amalfi Coast
For the final part of our trip we headed down to the Amalfi Coast. From Rome we got the train to Naples – stopping off for some of the best pizza I have ever tasted! If you are ever in Naples, the birthplace of pizza, don’t miss L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele, the margarita really was delicious!
To explore the Amalfi Coast we stayed in a small B&B called Villa Denise. It only had 3 bedrooms and had incredible views overlooking the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. The hotel was near to Vico Equense, which is a nice area if you want to stay outside of Sorrento, and only 9 minutes by train. The last train back however is around 9.30pm, so I would advise staying closer to the centre to enjoy Sorrento in the evening.
We had some great food whilst staying here, and I would highly recommend heading down to Marina Grande, a small fishing harbour, which you can walk to or catch the bus from Sorrento town. We ate at Bagni Delfino which was beautiful – excellent views, impeccable service and great seafood. Titos in Vico Equense is also a great option for lunch or dinner and don't miss the sunset in Sorrento from the terrace above Marina Picollo!
We did two day trips whilst here – one to Capri island, and another from Sorrento along the coast, stopping off in Amalfi and Positano. We did both of these on small boats with only 10 people onboard and felt this was a great option, especially if you are limited on time. These cost around 100 euros per person though, so may not the best option if travelling on a budget! Alternatively there are buses you can take, you can hire a car, or catch the public ferry across to Capri.
The first trip to Amalfi and Positano took us right along the beautiful coast line, stopping off to swim in caves and giving us time in each of the villages. The views as you enter Positano are breathtaking, and although the towns are busy, they are still well worth the visit! If you head through Positano and keep following the path up and towards the right, you will get a Bar Bruno, a great wine bar overlooking the sea and village.
For the trip to Capri we sailed all around the island, again stopping off for a swim in the bluest waters. We decided not to visit the Blue Grotto on this occasion, as the queues in the heat were really long and we wanted to spend our time there on the island instead. All boats dock at Marina Grande and from here you can take the funicular up to the charming Piazzetta, the heart of Capri town. The other option is to take the bus to Anacapri and take the chairlift up Monte Solaro, which we would have done if we had a little more time. Instead we did some window shopping in Capri, had lunch with incredible sea views, ate lemon ice cream and visited the Gardens of Augustus. For just a one euro entry fee, these gardens have amazing views of the Faraglioni and the incredible Via Krupp, which zigzags its way to Marina Piccola.
Overall we loved our time in Italy and the train was an easy way to get around. The food and wine was incredible and we will definitely be back in the future to try some more! If you would like any further information or would like to discuss your own trip to Italy, please get in touch!