Rick Steves' Best of Italy tour is exactly that — the very best. Starting on beautiful Lake Como, this tour treats you to Italy's must-see destinations: timeless Venice, Renaissance Florence, Eternal Rome and St. Francis' Assisi. You'll also soak in Italy's quieter side: hill-town vineyards, mountain-ringed Alpine meadows, cliff-clinging Cinque Terre villages, and cozy fishing harbors — all accompanied by memorable meals and local wines. And Rick's guides will make Italy's art, history and dolce vita come vividly to life. Join us for the Best of Italy in 17 Days!
You'll get all this!
- A small, friendly group of 24-28 people — half the size of most tour groups
- Full-time services of a professional Rick Steves guide and local experts who will make the fascinating history, art and culture of Italy come alive for you
- All tours and admissions — at no extra cost — covering at least 26 group sightseeing events • Lake Como ferry pass • Verona walking tour • South Tyrol Museum of Archaeology (Ötzi the Iceman) • Venice walking tour • Renaissance Florence walking tour • Uffizi Gallery tour • Florence's Accademia Museum (Michelangelo's David) • Pesto demonstration • Cinque Terre hiking pass • Orientation for "vacation" day on Italian Riviera • Pisa visit • Hill town visit • Siena walking tour and Duomo • Siena contrada visit • Stained-glass demonstration • Assisi walking tour • Umbrian wine tasting • Orvieto orientation and San Brizio Chapel tour • Evening walk through Rome including Trevi Fountain • Ancient Rome walking tour • Colosseum tour • Roman Forum tour • Pantheon • St. Peter's Basilica • Vatican Museum tour • Sistine Chapel...and more
- All group transportation from Varenna to Rome
- 16 nights accommodations in memorable, centrally-located hotels
- All breakfasts and half your dinners
- All tips for guides and driver
- Free stuff including Rick Steves' Italy guidebook, Italy Sightseeing Supplement, Italian phrase book, moneybelt and earplugs
- Guaranteed tour price, locked in the moment you make your deposit
- Optional single supplements — this tour has a limited number of private rooms for solo travelers for an additional fee
- Tour alum discount of $50 for each tour you've taken prior to 2014
- 50% discount on a consulting appointment with our in-house experts to assist with your pre- or post-tour travel plans
- Flexibility should you need to transfer, or cancel/interrupt your tour
- Fine print: You are responsible for the cost of your drinks and free-time sightseeing. See our Tour Conditions Agreement for important details regarding everything listed above
Daily Activity Key
- Light = 2-4 miles of mostly level walking throughout the day.
- Moderate = 2-6 miles walking throughout the day with some hills and stairs.
- Strenuous = 2-8 miles walking throughout the day with lots of hills, stairs and uneven terrain.
Day 1: Welcome to Italy
The sleepy Lake Como village of Varenna is a quick, easy train connection from Milan. Around 5 p.m. you'll meet your guide and fellow tour members at our hotel for a get-acquainted session. We'll then take a village orientation walk, pointing out places for dinner on your own tonight. Sleep in Varenna (2 nights). No bus. Walking: light.
Day 2: Cruising Lake Como
Equipped with your included Lake Como ferry boat pass, you'll have the entire day and evening free to explore the villages and waterways of romantic Lake Como, including the elegant town of Bellagio. Or hike up into the Alpine foothills for unforgettable vistas. At breakfast, your guide can help you plan your day. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 3: Verona and the Dolomites
We'll drive to Verona this morning for a walking tour of the town's medieval center, including the bustling Piazza Erbe market square, ornate Scaligeri tombs, and (of course) "Juliet's balcony." You'll then have free time to grab some lunch, and marvel at the Roman Arena — today a popular opera venue. Then we'll drive high up into Italy's Dolomite Alps, where the locals speak German first, Italian second. We'll have a hearty Tirolean dinner together at our Alpine hotel. Sleep peacefully in the Alpi di Siusi area (2 nights). Bus: 6 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 4: Hiking the Dolomites
From your totally-yodely home base, you'll have all day to explore the dramatic Dolomites, Italy's hiking and skiing mecca. Choose from an array of challenging hikes, or join your guide (weather permitting) — and the free-roaming cows — for a peaceful walk through Europe's largest Alpine meadow. Maybe you'll even watch colorful paragliders float on the wind as you relax outside a mountain hut café. We'll regroup tonight for dinner at our cozy hotel. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 5: The Iceman and Venice
We'll head downhill from the Dolomites with a stop in Bolzano to visit its most famous resident: the 5,300-year-old, naturally-preserved remains of Ötzi the Iceman, along with a museum exhibit on prehistoric European life. After some free time for lunch, we'll set a course for Venice, where we'll board a vaporetto boat for a Grand Canal ride to our hotel in Venice's historic heart. Tonight we'll take an alleys-and-canals orientation stroll before setting you loose for dinner on your own. Sleep in Venice (2 nights). Boat: ½ hr. Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 6: Exploring Venice
Our local guide will join us this morning for a historical walking tour, with a modern Venetian's-eye view, through the backstreets of Venice. Along the way, we'll learn about the city's remarkable past and its challenging future. The afternoon and evening are yours to explore the imposing Doge's Palace, maybe take in a church concert, waltz on St. Mark's Square, or pub-crawl your way through this unique city. Later tonight, your guide will help organize a classic, romantic gondola ride for those who are interested. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 7: Florence and David
We'll drive straight to Florence this morning, and hit the ground walking with a Renaissance tour of the city's historic center. We'll see and learn about Brunelleschi's magnificent cathedral dome, Ghiberti's Baptistery doors, and other creations that helped define this world-changing era. We'll end our walk at the Accademia Gallery to marvel at works of sculptural genius: Michelangelo's rough-hewn Prisoners and his greatest masterpiece, David. Sleep in Florence (2 nights). Boat: ½ hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: Renaissance Florence
This morning we'll devote our time to the breathtaking Renaissance art of the Uffizi — home to the finest collection of Italian paintings anywhere — including works by Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo and more. The rest of the day is yours to stroll across the delightfully medieval Ponte Vecchio, visit more of the city's art-filled churches and museums, browse the colorful markets, and find a special trattoria for dinner on your own. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 9: Cinque Terre Villages
Today's destination is Italy's enchanting Cinque Terre fishing villages, laced together with hiking paths that meander between vineyards and the deep blue sea. Upon arrival, your guide will give you an introduction to the town, leaving you with plenty of free time this afternoon to explore on your own. We'll regroup tonight for an entertaining pesto-making lesson and special pesto lasagna dinner at a local family restaurant. Sleep in Monterosso (2 nights, may be split between 2 hotels). Train: ¼ hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: light.
Day 10: Exploring the Cinque Terre
You'll take a "vacation from your vacation" today in our Mediterranean getaway. Hike along the trails, taking in lots of fresh air and panoramic views between Cinque Terre villages. Or pick a village where you can spend your day exploring the stairways and alleyways, sunning yourself on the rocks, or sipping cappuccino and catching up on your journal at an outdoor café. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 11: Pisa and Tuscany
Today we'll venture into the heart of magical Tuscany, stopping on the way to gaze at Pisa's leaning tower and then poke around the quiet lanes of a friendly hill town. Saving the best for last, we'll take an orientation tour of our home for the next two nights — remarkable Siena — a "living museum" brimming with some of Italy's finest Gothic architecture and perhaps its best public square, Il Campo. Tonight we'll visit and enjoy dinner at one of the town's proud contrade — 17 neighborhoods that compete for glory in the famous Palio horse races. Sleep in Siena (2 nights). Train: ¼ hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 12: Savoring Siena
This morning we'll take a meandering walking tour through this one-of-a-kind hill town. We'll tour the elaborate cathedral and learn how Siena's rich medieval history and rivalry with Florence shaped this city. We'll finish our morning in an artist's studio, learning about the centuries-old tradition of stained-glass making. Then you'll be well oriented for your free afternoon and evening to enjoy Siena, from its dramatic city hall tower to its well-respected enoteca (wine bar/museum). No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 13: Assisi and Wine Tasting
Let's make a modern-day pilgrimage to the hill town of Assisi where, in a time of unprecedented church wealth, St. Francis inspired a refocused spirituality through poverty, humility, and the beauty of nature in Umbria. As we learn about the life of the saint, we'll take a walking tour of the town and its beautifully-frescoed Basilica of St. Francis. Then we'll wind our way across Umbria to our agriturismo destination: a country hotel that is also a working family winery. We'll end our day amid the peaceful vines and olive groves, tasting several of our host's award-winning wines, and sharing a country-style dinner together. Sleep near Orvieto (2 nights). Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 14: Hill Town Italy
This morning we'll visit Umbria's grand hill town of Orvieto. We'll get oriented to sights around the cathedral square, including Signorelli's amazing frescoes in the Chapel of San Brizio and Italy's liveliest cathedral facade. Then you'll be free to wander through the medieval old town and its shops filled with colorful pottery. This afternoon we'll return to our agriturismo, with plenty of time for a countryside walk before dinner together. Bus: 1 hr. Walking: moderate.
Day 15: Ancient and Dolce Vita Rome
Today we'll drive straight to the Eternal City of Rome. We'll get oriented to the city's transportation system, then spend our afternoon on a walking tour through the ancient heart of Rome as a local guide tells us vivid tales of the larger-than-life Colosseum, the awe-inspiring Pantheon, and the birthplace of Ancient Rome: the Forum. Tonight we'll take a floodlit, fountain-splashing, la dolce vita stroll through the heart of Rome, soaking up the city's evening ambiance at the classy Piazza Navona and the magical Trevi Fountain. Sleep in Rome (2 nights). Bus: 2 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 16: Vatican Rome
We'll devote today to Catholic Rome. At the sprawling Vatican Museum we'll tour the seemingly endless collection of treasures as we make our way to the single work of art that dwarfs them all: Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. We'll then have an orientation to the remarkable St. Peter's Basilica, home to Michelangelo's moving Pietà. You'll have the rest of your day free to wander through this immense church, climb the dome if you're feeling energetic, and explore more of this part of the city on your own (don't forget to taste some refreshing gelato along the way). As it's our final night together, we'll have a grand dinner to share travel memories and toast new friends. Salute! No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 17: Tour Over After Breakfast
It's a breeze to reach Rome's airports by taxi or train. Your guide will help you with any post-tour planning, leaving you well prepared for the road ahead. Grazie e ciao!
Itinerary specifics subject to change.
Rick Steves tours are physically active!
This is an integral, essential part of the Rick Steves tour experience. On our Best of Italy in 17 Days tour — among other things — you'll need to happily...
- Carry/roll your luggage over uneven pavement (several blocks possible) and up stairways to reach your hotel; then up several flights of stairs to reach your room.
- Be on your feet, walking and standing for up to three hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- Be content with the possibility of sharing bathroom facilities at one hotel during this tour.
- After orientation and transportation lessons, be able to navigate towns and cities on your own.
We've put together some specific information on what you should know about this tour before you go. You'll also find more general information about "Getting Ready for Your Tour" on our Tour FAQ.
Sightseeing On Your Own
If you arrive in Italy before your tour begins, visiting Milan is a logical choice as we don't spend any time there during the tour. Use Rick Steves' Italy guidebook to get oriented. Ride the public transportation, try out a few words of Italian and get over your jet lag with lots of fresh air and exercise.
Here are suggestions for sightseeing in Milan: Leonardo da Vinci's newly restored Last Supper (reserve from home; details in Rick Steves' Italy guidebook) and Europe's third-largest cathedral, the Duomo. Milan is about an hour by train from Varenna, our tour's departure point, making it an easy pre-tour day trip.
The tour includes a Lake Como ferry pass on Day 2, allowing you to explore the many pleasant towns, such as Menaggio and Bellagio. But if you want more time to explore or hike, you may also want to cruise the lake before the tour begins.
Most tour members arrive a day or two before the tour begins — and those who don't, wish they had. This allows you ample time to get over jet lag and make the most of the first few days of the tour.
There is more than one way to get to and from your tour. We recommend talking to your travel agent about "open jaw" airline tickets (flying into and out of different cities). Both Milan and Rome are major transportation hubs, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy.
Flying within Europe can be reasonable. Ask your travel agent or check Rick's list of European budget airlines. For links to helpful rail and air websites, go to www.ricksteves.com/plan/links and look under "Transportation."
Read Rick's Guide to Eurail Passes and decide if your travel plans merit a rail pass (or contact our Rail Department for advice at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425/771-8303, ext. 214). You can get a rough idea of costs from the above guide or Rick Steves' Italy guidebook.
Prior to your tour departure, you will receive detailed directions on how to get from the airport to your first tour hotel, as well as contact information for your first and last hotels in case you wish to book pre- or post-tour hotel accommodations.
If you need more information about additional European travel or for specific questions about your tour, contact the Tour Department at 425/608-4217 or email email@example.com.
See a chart with monthly rain and temperature information for this tour.
While it is important to pack light, there is one item we'd like you to consider including when packing for this tour. There are some great opportunities for hikes in the Dolomites and the Cinque Terre. While hiking boots are not necessary, we recommend you bring a pair of comfortable walking shoes with soles offering good traction.
For ideas on what to pack, check Rick's Packing List and our Women's Packing List.
Tour Guide Raves
"Donald was an excellent guide. I was amazed that he was so knowledgeable about all aspects of the history, art, culture, and food of Italy. He was always making connections to help us understand. He was personable, witty, knowledgeable, a problem solver, punctual, very well prepared, and truly understood how to enhance our trip to the fullest."
— Marilyn in Oak Harbor, WA
"I thought that our guide, Karin, was amazing! She's an incredible asset to the Rick Steves' enterprise! One of the things I appreciated most about her was her knowledge of the language, history, culture, etc. of Italy. She gave us really fun and interesting language, culture and history lessons on the bus rides which made my experience in Italy so much more meaningful."
— Sarah in Gladstone, OR
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"My 'wow' moments are numerous! The day spent hiking in the Dolomites where my wife and I periodically just had to stop and turn slowly in a circle in utter amazement at the beauty of the mountains. The very hot but incredibly lovely day spent hiking between the little towns in the Cinque Terre. Looking at the statue of David or the sculptures by Bernini. Walking through St. Peter's Basilica. I could go on...truly there were so many!"
— Gary in Flagstaff, AZ
"The whole trip was a 'wow' for me. I enjoyed the group, loved the many places we visited, the history and sites were incredible, the food was great, and the Italian people were friendly. Probably the biggest 'wow' was seeing the ancient city of Rome — and how new cities were simply built on top of the old. Learning about the Siena horse races was also amazing and fun."
— Kirk in Edmonds, WA
"The gondola ride through the canals of Venice after dark was magical. I believe almost everyone on the tour participated. We had champagne, musicians, and basically the whole waterway to ourselves. It's an evening I will always remember."
— Kathleen in Palm Bay, FL
To see more comments on Rick Steves' tours, read through our tour member reviews.
Videos & More
This region is rich in history, art and culture. To help you get the most from your trip, we've put together this collection of travel resources from Rick's TV shows, radio interviews and articles, as well as recommended books, films and music.
Rick Steves' TV Clips & Shows
(For more Rick Steves' TV clips on this region, visit Rick on YouTube.)
- Roman Holiday (1953)
- La Dolce Vita (1961)
- Cinema Paradiso (1990)
- Il Postino (1995)
- Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Rick Steves' Radio Interviews
(For more radio interviews on this region, see Rick's Audio Europe™ files for iPod, PC & MP3.)
Rick Steves' Audio Tours
- Venice: St. Mark's Square, St. Mark's Cathedral, Frari Church, Grand Canal Cruise
- Florence: Renaissance Walk, Uffizi Gallery, Accademia & Michelangelo's David
- Rome: Pantheon, St. Peter's Basilica, Sistine Chapel, Colosseum, Roman Forum
Rick Steves Audio Europe™
- Opera: Puccini, Rossini, Verdi, Andrea Bocelli, Enrico Caruso, Luciano Pavarotti, Ezio Pinza, Three Tenors
- Classical: Vivaldi's Four Seasons
- Pop/rock: Pino Daniele, Dean Martin, Mina, Laura Pausini, Eros Ramazzotti
- Movie Soundtrack: Big Night
Rick Steves' Articles
(For more articles on this region, see Rick's Best Destinations.)
- Rick Steves' Italy
- Italian Days — Barbara Grizzuti Harrison
- Italian Neighbors — Tim Parks
- The Italians — Luigi Barzini
- Under the Tuscan Sun — Frances Maye
- Excellent Cadavers — Alexander Stille
- Romeo and Juliet; The Merchant of Venice; Much Ado About Nothing; The Two Gentlemen of Verona; and The Taming of the Shrew (among others) — William Shakespeare
- The First Man in Rome — Colleen McCullough
- I, Claudius — Robert Graves
- The Leopard — Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
- A Soldier of the Great War — Mark Helprin