Tight on time? This tour is Rick's personal "best of" distillation of our Best of Italy tour. Beginning with the "must see" sights of the Eternal City of Rome, your Rick Steves guide will help you experience the very heart of this remarkable country: the Tuscan hill town ambiance of Volterra, the pedestrian-friendly streets of Lucca, harbor-hugging villages of the Italian Riviera, and the amazing art of Renaissance Florence. Along the way, you'll enjoy Italy's distinctive culture, wine and cuisine. Join us for the Heart of Italy in 9 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 17 group sightseeing events • Ancient Rome walking tour • Colosseum tour • Roman Forum tour • Pantheon • Evening walk through Rome's piazzas including Trevi Fountain • St. Peter's Basilica • Vatican Museum tour • Sistine Chapel • Volterra walking tour • Guarnacci Etruscan Museum tour • Alabaster workshop • Wine tasting • Lucca walking tour • Orientation for "vacation" day on Italian Riviera • Renaissance Florence walking tour • Florence's Accademia (Michelangelo's David) • Uffizi Gallery tour...and more
- All group transportation from Rome to Florence
- 8 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
We'll have a get-acquainted meeting at 3 p.m. at our hotel in Rome. After an orientation walk through our neighborhood, we'll learn about the city's transportation system. Then we'll enjoy a fountain-splashing, la dolce vita stroll through the heart of Rome, soaking up the city's evening ambiance at the classy Piazza Navona, the remarkably-preserved, 2,000-year-old Pantheon and the magical Trevi Fountain before enjoying our first Italian dinner together at a favorite restaurant. Sleep in Rome (2 nights). No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 2: Vatican
We'll spend the morning at the sprawling Vatican Museum, where 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 awe-inspiring St. Peter's Basilica, home to Michelangelo's moving Pietà. You'll have the rest of the day free to wander through this immense church and climb the dome if you're feeling energetic or visit St. Peter-in-Chains Church (home to Michelangelo's magnificent Moses) — or climb to the top of the Victor Emmanuel Monument to enjoy a panoramic city view. No bus. Walking: strenuous.
Day 3: Ancient Rome and the Heart of Tuscany
We'll devote today to Ancient Rome. A local guide will take us on a walking tour through the ancient heart of Rome, telling us vivid tales of the larger-than-life Colosseum and the birthplace of Ancient Rome: the Forum. Then we'll leave Rome and drive to Tuscany, ending our day in the hill town of Volterra, enjoying a Tuscan feast together at a favorite local restaurant. Sleep in Volterra (2 nights). Bus: 5 hrs. Walking: strenuous.
Day 4: All Day in the Hill Town of Volterra
This morning we'll take a walking tour with a local expert who will make Volterra's traditions and history come alive. We'll also visit an alabaster workshop and tour the Guarnacci Etruscan Museum, one of Italy's best places to learn about this mysterious pre-Roman civilization. Then you'll have time to poke around the ancient lanes on your own. We'll regroup later this afternoon to learn about and taste some of the region's famous wines, followed by dinner on your own. No bus. Walking: moderate.
Day 5: Lucca and the Italian Riviera
Today we'll head west, stopping in the charming and prosperous town of Lucca, home town of Puccini. We'll take a walking tour of Lucca's elegant pedestrian streets and many Roman reminders, with free time to explore its impressive outer walls on foot or by bike. Later this afternoon we'll complete our drive to our seaside getaway, nestled along the harbor-hugging villages of the Italian Riviera. You'll have plenty of free time to explore before we gather this evening for dinner at a local family restaurant. Sleep in or near the Cinque Terre (2 nights, may be split between two hotels). Train: ¼ hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 6: Exploring the Cinque Terre
You'll take a "vacation from your vacation" today in our Mediterranean getaway. You may choose to hike the famous cliff side paths, 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 or vino, and catching up on your journal at an outdoor café. No bus. Walking: light to strenuous (your choice).
Day 7: Florence and David
Today we'll drive straight to Florence and take a Renaissance walking 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 tour at the Accademia Gallery to marvel at works of sculptural genius: Michelangelo's rough-hewn Prisoners and his greatest masterpiece, David. Then you'll be free to find a special trattoria for dinner on your own. Sleep in Florence (2 nights). Train: ¼ hr. Bus: 4 hrs. Walking: moderate.
Day 8: The Uffizi Gallery
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 masterpieces by Leonardo, Botticelli, Michelangelo and more. The afternoon is yours to visit more of the city's art-filled churches and museums, or browse the colorful markets. 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 9: Tour Over After Breakfast
It's a breeze to reach Florence's airport 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 Heart of Italy in 9 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 four hours, indoors and outdoors, in all weather conditions.
- Sleep with street noise and no (or weak) air conditioning.
- 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 Rome before the tour begins, 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 that we do not do as a group: Borghese Gallery (reservations required, closed Mondays); National Museum; Etruscan Museum; Santa Maria Maggiore; Testaccio neighborhood; Castel Sant' Angelo; day trips to Naples/Pompeii (very long day, worth an overnight); Tivoli (Hadrian's Villa, Villa d'Este). Most museums are closed Mondays. Confirm your sightseeing plans with any tourist information office.
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 Rome and Florence are major transportation hubs, making additional travel before or after your tour quite easy. Milan and Venice are both about three hours by train from Florence, our tour's end point. Siena is less than two hours by train from Florence. From Rome, Naples is two hours south.
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 email@example.com 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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 great opportunities for hiking in 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
"Lisa is a superior guide. We loved her stories as she told of the highs and lows of becoming a member of an Italian family. We looked forward to them every day. She has great knowledge of the best in gelato. She gently kept us on time, was considerate of our personal requests, communicated her love of Italy and its people, and provided us with experiences we would never have known without her."
— Kent in Aurora, CO
"I can't say enough about Alfio. His knowledge of the art and history of Italy were clearly evident, and his enthusiasm was contagious. Alfio kept our group on time and was very efficient. It was a pleasure having him as our guide, and it was really, really hard saying goodbye at the end of the tour."
— Soheila in Bothell, WA
Favorite tour memories from recent alums:
"It seemed like there was at least one 'wow' moment every day, but a couple stand out: seeing the Colosseum and St. Peter's Basilica for the first time (both were a lot larger than I imagined... pictures and videos just don't do justice to their enormity) and hiking the Cinque Terre trail and seeing Vernazza from the trail for the first time (it was just as picturesque as I imagined). We also thoroughly enjoyed the tandem bike ride on top of Lucca's wall."
— Frederick in Springfield, MO
"My favorite moment was hiking over the Cinque Terre. It was so beautiful and just such a unique place. I loved it!"
— Dotty in Green Harbor, MA
"My 'wow!' moment was definitely Ancient Rome... the Colosseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon! What an amazing sight! And our local tour guide made it all come alive with her detailed history and overall love of her home, Rome!"
— Nicole in Pleasant Hill, CA
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.)
- La Dolce Vita (1961)
- Cinema Paradiso (1990)
- Ciao, Professore! (1994)
- Under the Tuscan Sun (2003)
- 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
- 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
- The Italians — Luigi Barzini
- That Fine Italian Hand — Paul Hofmann
- Under the Tuscan Sun — Frances Mayes
- Stones of Florence — Mary McCarthy
- Decameron — Giovanni Boccaccio
- The First Man in Rome — Colleen McCullough
- I, Claudius — Robert Graves
- The Leopard — Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa
- The Birth of Venus — Sarah Duran