If You Have a Month in Italy and Europe
A month-long itinerary will give you even more time to relax in Italy's major cities, deviate from the train lines to explore even more local villages, and cross Italy's borders to enjoy some of the additional fun that is so close by in Europe.
However, unlike the other itinerary suggestions in this chapter, it's best to start a month-long itinerary in Italy's islands, from which you can work your way north and eventually up into Austria, Switzerland, or the other countries of your choice.
You may be the type of traveler who prefers your most leisurely days at the end of a long trip, instead of at the beginning. If that's the case, you can reverse this suggested month-long itinerary and end your trip in the Italian islands instead of starting there. For most people, though, the opposite is better, allowing you to adjust to Italian time slowly.
Fly into Rome or Naples on your first day and catch a ferry ride over to Sardinia. Indulge in a two-night, three-day stay, relaxing on the beaches and dining in waterfront seafood restaurants. On your fourth afternoon, step onboard a ferry for the overnight crossing to Sicily, where you can spend days five and six. Work your way around the island from west to east, ending in Messina, where you can spend your sixth evening in a hotel near the local ferry dock.
Wake early and catch the ferry across to mainland Italy, where you can board the northbound train in Reggio di Calabria. Arrive in Naples at the end of your seventh day, and prepare to begin your exploration of mainland Italy.
Depending on your personal interests, you can divide the seven days of your second week between Naples, Rome, and Florence. If cities are not your thing, reserve one day for each metropolis and spend the rest of your time touring the countryside in Campania and Tuscany. If you plan to explore Tuscany, rent a car so you can get off the beaten path and into as many charming villages as you can find. Rent the car at the Naples airport and drop it off in Florence.
The Vatican Museums alone comprise some twenty different museums, including everything from the Sistine Chapel to the Egyptian Museum and the Gallery of Tapestries. Some art students spend entire weeks visiting just one. If you tend to linger, then count on at least a full day in Vatican City during week two of your month-long itinerary.
Conversely, if you love to sightsee in the cities, you might consider sticking with the train lines and adding even more days in Naples, Rome, and Florence. They are arguably the most interesting of Italy's cities — primarily in terms of sights and museums — and you could let your time in them cross over into week three, if you so desire.
Where you go during week three of your itinerary will depend on where you want to go later, during week four.
Beginning from Florence, you will need to decide whether you want to go to Italy's northeast — perhaps positioning yourself to move later into Austria, Slovenia, or Croatia — or to Italy's northwest, which would put you closer to the borders of France and Switzerland. It is possible to crisscross the north of Italy in one week before moving on to the rest of Europe, but the pace would be harried.
If you choose to head northeast via the train system from Florence, then you can take the whole of week three to explore Bologna and Venice. Or, spend a few days in those two cities with a few “countryside” days out in the villages and vineyards. As with Tuscany, you have options in this part of Italy. The pace can be as slow as you want it to be, and as far away from the rest of the tourists as you desire. As long as you end week three in Venice, you will be well-positioned to move into eastern Europe via train or ferry.
Venezia Lines (
Alternatively, you can head northwest from Florence, beginning with a day in Pisa to see the Leaning Tower and then moving on to Genoa. The aquarium at the port of Genoa is worth a few hours of your time, and it's within easy walking distance of the main part of the city for shopping and sightseeing. After a day or two in Genoa, you can venture by rental car into the countryside to the villages and vineyards where the locals bottle world-famous Barolo and Barbaresco vintages. From there, make your way to the city of Milan, which is Italy's northernmost major train hub with connections into the rest of Europe. You can drop off your rental car and return to mass transit for your trek into greater Europe.
Spend your fourth week moving beyond Italy's borders, into greater Europe. After three weeks of exploring from Sicily in the south all the way to the country's northern cities, you will have a good appreciation for the whole of Italian culture — and you will be better able to see how the spread of the Roman Empire so long ago continues to influence the European lifestyle today. That's especially true if you move east toward Croatia and beyond to Greece, where many amphitheaters, temples, and other ruins from Roman times serve as remarkable tourist sites today.
Chapter 18 offers detailed suggestions for easy destinations via train in the countries that surround Italy's northern border. Whether you want to finish your month-long vacation in Paris or Munich, you can easily do so by departing from Venice or Milan with your Eurail pass firmly in hand.