Italy in four weeks: best areas to stay and best things to do

Top areas to explore in Italy if you have four weeks in Italy to travel around, and where to stay. Locate on the interactive Italy map the best areas to stay in Italy, and use them as hubs for your day trips. 

Italy can be conveniently visited in four weeks, at a relaxed pace and with a lot of time for off the beaten path destinations.

If you are lucky enough to have one month to spend in Italy, or even more, your best option could be to identify three or four “hubs” from where to explore the country at a more relaxed pace. This will also give you the possibility of discovering destinations off the mainstream touristic destinations.

Therefore, I didn’t organize this Italy in four weeks page as a tour, but more as the areas worth exploring (in my opinion), with one or two “hubs” in each one where you can set up your base, and even rent an apartment or a country house. How many areas, and days in each area, will depend on your personal interest and aspirations!

Italy in four weeks travel map

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 1:  Venice region, Garda lake and the Dolomites

Italy in 4 weeks - Venice

The rushy travelers hardly see much more than Venice. It’s a pity, since this area has  much more to offer, included the most beautiful mountains in the world (in my opinion): the Dolomites.

Your highlights would be:

  • Venice, by definition
  • Verona, and possibly, Vicenza
  • The Garda lake
  • The Dolomites

You can use Venice or Verona as a Hub, or make stops  while transferring to Milan / Como lake (makes more sense from a logistic point of view).

From Verona (or from Venice) a 2-3 hours drive will bring you to the Dolomites.

Dolomites: in my view, the most beatiful mountains in the world! Bressanone, Ortisei, Corvara, Cortina. Indian Summer in October – November, gorgeous colors, fantastic sky slopes from December to April, great trails in the summer time..

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 2:  Milan and Como lake

Italy in 4 weeks

Milan is a good place to use as a hub to visit it’s many attractions and the surrounding towns. Main highlights would be:

  • Milan, Italian bustling capital of fashion, culture and business
  • Como lake, and its pearl, Bellagio (easy day trip from Milan)
  • Bergamo, hidden medieval jewel one hour train from Milan
  • Parma, home of Italian excellences such as Parmesan Cheese, Prosciutto Crudo (typicall ham) and Culatello

Milan is the logical hub of your exploring the region

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 3:  Cinque Terre and Portofino

Vernazza, the view from the castle

Cinque Terre are one of the highlights of a trip to Italy for most foreigners. The funny thing is that in general foreign tourist neglect what the Italians consider the region top destination: Portofino. Actually all the coast from  Portofino to Lerici deserves a visit, so if you have enough time, you could easily spend up to 5-6 days enjoying the area.

So here are the highlights:

Cinque Terre: 5 tiny colored villages (Monterosso,Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, Riomaggiore), clinging to steep hills, in front of a deep blue see: it’s a natural reserve and a Unesco heritage.

  • Portofino, posh and beautiful village, one of the main “dolce vita” spots in the ’50s. and San Fruttuoso medieval abbey, located in a secluded beach . You can only get there by boat or after a long hike.
  • Sestri Levante, picturesque Liguria village, with a beautiful small beach (the baia del silenzio) and a gorgeous promontory overlooking the sea
  • The “Golfo dei poeti” (poets’ gulf), with Portovenere and Lerici as main highlights.

If you plan to focus on Cinque Terre, then your hub could be Monterosso, otherwise Sestri is a very convenient option.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 4: Emilia Romagna

Italy in 4 weeks Bologna

This region is, mysteriously enough, out of the mainstream touristic itineraries, even though nearly all visitors cross it while travelling from Florence to Venice or to Milan.

But the few ones who will decide to dedicate a couple of days (or more) to this beautiful region will discover art treasures such as medieval Bologna, Renaissance Ferrara or, even more breathtaking, Roman Empire capital Ravenna, and its amazing 1500 years old mosaics (Ravenna and Ferrara are both Unesco sites). Emilia Romagna is also one of the Italian food capital, being home to Lasagne, Tagliatelle al ragù and world renowned Parmigiano cheese, prosciutto crudo and Balsamic Vinegar.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 5: Tuscany

Italy in 4 weeks Florence

It’s a must, obviously, and everybody has in mind highlights such as Florence, Siena and Pisa.

However, Tuscany is an enchanting region, with hundred hiddedn jewells that deserve not less than a week to be explored. Here are your highlights:

  • Start with the North, with Lucca , to be explored by bike along the longest renaissance city walls in Europe. Add a a quick trip to Pisa’s Campo de’ Miracoli and it’s leaning tower.
  • Then explore central Tuscany: Siena, romantic Monteriggioni, San Gimignano and its dozens medieval towers, Montalcino, home of the world renowned Brunello. Chianti could also be easily visited in one day trip from Florene or  from Siena
  • Don’t miss the Val d’Orcia, to the south: that’s the region you see on Tuscany postcards, cypresses dotting endless smooth hills, and indulge in Montepulciano and in Pienza, the “perfect” renaissance town.
  • Evenutally, leave the beaten paths and discover the Etruscan territory:  Pitigliano, Volterra and Tuscania. Natural SPA in Saturnia.

Florence is a good hub for Lucca, Pisa, Chianti and Siena, but to taste Tuscany flavor you should spend at least a couple of nights in the country side. Renting a car is highly recommended.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 6: Umbria

Italy in 4 weeks

Nearly as beautiful as Tuscany but as rich in history, culture and, less visited and, in my view, even more romantic. In other words: a fantastic off the beaten path destination!

Main highlights:

  • Perugia, its narrow medieval streets and its fascinating art museums
  • The delightfull small towns, full of history, art and beautiful scenery: Assisi, Todi, Spoleto, Spello, Gubbio. Orvieto.
  •  Civita Bagoreggio (“the dying city”), close to Orvieto, is an unbelievable romantic destination, totally out of the beaten path!

I would choose Assisi or Orvieto as my hub.

Have a look at my post “Best 20 things to sdo in Umbria“.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 7: Rome and the surrounding region

Italy in 4 weeks Rome

Rome deserves one week on its own. Refer to my many posts to learn more and to plan your itinerary. Have a look here.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 8: Naples and the Amalfi coast

Italy in 4 weeks Capri

What should I say? I’m so in love with this region, and I can’t believe that most travelers limit their visit to Pompei and to Sorrento. Similar to Sicily, the region has seen so many dominations across the centuries (Greeks, Romans, Normans, Frenchs, …) that it has developed a culture and a life style of it’s own, probably the closest to the “Dolce Vita” you may still find in Italy.

Here are your highlights:

  • Naples: yes, you will need to keep your eyes opened (but wouldn’t you do the same in New York or in Rio?), but the incredible art and cultural treasures of  it’s city center definitely deserve the effort!
  • Capri: beaty in it’s purest state.  Sip and aperitivo in the Piazzetta, walk down to the Faraglioni to admire sunset (and to dive into the deep blue water), indulge in a restaurant, waiting for a seafood spaghetti plate while sipping a glass of cold Greco di Tufo wine
  • Positano, Ravello, Furore and Amalfi: lovely hamlets built on unbelievable cliffs (don’t miss Villa Cimbrone terrace in Ravello!). Positano is my favorite.
  • Pompei and less known (therefore less crowded) Ercolano, for a dive into the Roman empire

Hard to find the best hub: I would personally spend a couple of nights in Capri, and 2 or 3 days in Positano. Sorrento is very conveniently located, but it’s not my favorite spot.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 9: Apulia – Puglia

Italy in 4 weeks Gallipoli

The “heel” of Italy, Apulia is surprisingly out of mainstream touristic itineraries;

Two main areas to consider:

  • In the Northern part, look for Polignano a Mare, Trani, Alberobello (to see the famous trulli), Castel del Monte, Ostuni. The main highlghts are the already mentiuonned Trulli (ancient conic stone houses, you can’t find them anywhere else) and the medieval monument such as the many cathedral and Castel Del Monte.
  • In the southern part (the so called “Salento”), look for  Lecce, Otranto, Gallipoli. Try to rent a car and to sleep in a Masseria (local ancient country house, built in white sandstone in the middle of endless olive trees plantations)

It’s not uncommon to swim in the see until the end of October.

Italy in 4 weeks hub # 10:  Sicily

Sicily is one of the most beautiful and cultural rich Italian regions. Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Normans, French, all have invaded the Island and left something of their culture. The result? An amazing cultural melting pot, and one of the best cuisine in Italy, with a taste of Middle East (don’t the Cus Cus alla Trapanese).

Highlights: Palermo, Siracusa, Noto, Ragusa, Piazza Armerina (awsome roman mosaics), Taormina. You can swim till early November, and again from the end of April.

For a true escape, consider spending up to one week in the Eolian islands. It’s a volcanic archipelago of seven islands, each one with its peculiar “character”.  My preferred one is Salina, the greenest one, but posh Panarea is delightful and on Stromboli you can climb up to the top of the active Volcano to see lava fountains at night. Avoid August, and you will discover Italy like it used to be 50 years ago, since the islands get crowded only in the very summer period.

Italy in for weeks: final note

Italy has much more to offer, and I know I’ve skipped a number of areas worth visiting (such as the Langhe in Piedmont, the Marche region, the Calabria, the Basilicata, …). My ambition was not to write a guide book of Italy, so had to make painful choices.. I’ll try to cover these areas in my future posts!

 

Enjoy your month in Italy!


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12 Replies to “Italy in four weeks: best areas to stay and best things to do”

  1. Great info! We are planing a one month trip to Italy during July/August this year. Are Torino and Sardegna not worthy of a visit?

    1. Hi Ramin, I’m happy you found my post useful.
      Turin is the town of the (former) Italian Kings dinasty. It can offer a beautiful city center and an amazing Egyptian museum. It’s not part of the mainstream touristic itinearries and, in my opinion, I would rather visit other towns (Bologna, Mantova, …)
      Sardinia has some of the best beaches of all the Mediterranean sea, and it’s one of my favorite sea destinations. Absolutely avoid it in August, when it gets hiper crowded and expensive, while early July is a good moment to spend time there. Sardinia has two soul: the North (“Costa Smeralda”), posh, windy and amazingly beautiful. More than large beaches, expect secluded coves and archipels, with amazing water colors and granit rock sculped by the strong winds. The south, more relaxed, large beaches and sand dunes (Porto Pino, Villasimius). The Island of San Pietro (main town: Carloforte) is a very relaxed and cheap place, with som ereally good beaches.
      Enjoy your stay!

  2. Hi again,

    Our second stop in Italy, after a week in Rome, will be in Naples ( 2 nights) + Positano( 3 nights). So I have a few questions:

    1. Whats the best way to get to Positano from Naples?
    2. Visiting Pompei – which base is better to visit from (naples or positano)?
    3. Which hotel would you recommend in Positano? And could you elaborate on things to do here and how to move along the coast?

    Your help is greatly appreciated!

  3. Hello! Fabulous site. We are planning 4 weeks beginning mid-September. Where do you recommend we start and end up based on weather during fall? Thank you. Have a wonderful day.

  4. Hi, we’re spending 4 weeks in Italy and wanted to know the best route to take.

    We’re traveling from Nice taking the train everywhere but driving in Tuscany.

    We’re visiting Milan, Como, Verona, Venice, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, Florence, Rome, Napoli, Amalfi Coast & Capri.

    Can you please advise the best route to take by train leaving Nice. Thanks!

  5. Hi Jean-Pierre……..my sister introduced me to your site this afternoon and I have been combing over it. We have been to Italy and done the Rome, Venice and Florence more than once. But, there are some sections we have missed. Portafino and Cinque Terre, Capri, Sorrento, Naples, the Amalfi Coast, Sicily and Sardinia. My birthday is in November; so, we are thinking October/November 2018. I don’t want to drive this time. I want to eat, drink, enjoy and make new friends…….!!! Any suggestions are very appreciated……..!

    1. Hi Linda, end of October / beginning of November is the beginning of Fall, so you must take weather into consideration.
      BTW, you didn’t tell me how many days you are planning to spend in Italy: if you have a couple of weeks, you may consider merging two of these destinations.

      – Portofino and Cinque Terre (and I would add the Golfo dei Poeti): one of Italian top coastal destinations, easy to be reached from Milan (direct train) and very easy to visit without a car. You can get a glimpse of it in a couple of day, and easily spend a week without getting bored. End of October weather may not be optimal, so question mark…

      -Capri and the Amalfi coast: one of my favorite regions, you could easily spend 2 weeks there, visiting the islands (including off the beaten path Procida), enjoying natural SPA at Ischia, trekking the Cammino degli Dei Path, enjoying food and scenery. Expect good weather (you may still swin at sea) and reasonable prices. Public transports are OK. Naples is an absolute jewel, not to be missed.

      – Sicily: it’s a fantastic island, with 25 centuries of history, gorgeous landscapes, lovely islands and beaches and arguably one of the best cuisines in Italy. Prices are very cheap compared with mainland Italy, but public transports could be more complicated, especially if you are targeting off the beaten path destinations. Highlights are Palermo, Siracusa, Ragusa, Catania, Taormina. If you look for out of time Mediterranean islands, then the Aeolian islands are a must (you can actually get there from Naples by boat, and combine the two areas)

      – Sardinia: the best beaches in Italy, with dramatic coast lines in the North. The season is not optimal for the North (very very windy, could be cold), while in the South it’s OK. Not much to do except nature, transports will be very complicated without a private car.

      Hope this helps!

      In case you would like a more structured advice, and get a complete, tailored made itinerary, what about considering my Tailored Italian Itinerary service? Just have a look, in case it could be of interest https://delightfullyitaly.com/italy-travel-itineraries/

  6. Hi Jean-Pierre.
    I tried to send you a message through this same link the other day but I’m not sure if it went through or not so thought I’d try again.
    My husband & myself are travelling to Italy (first time) arrive 24th Sept – 26th Oct, arriving & departing from Milan. We’d like to see Milan (2 days), Lake Como (1-2 days), Venice (4 days), Cinque Tere (2 days), Pisa (1-2 days), Florence (2 days), Tuscany (2 days), Rome (4 days), Amalfi Coast (2-3 days) and Croatia (Split & Dubrovnik) (6 days).
    We’re unsure which is the best way from Milan to go. Up to Lake Como then Venice, Croatia then ferry or fly to Italy and travel up through Italy from Amalfi Coast. OR from Milan, down to Cinque Tere, Pisa, Florence, Rome, Amalfi coast, over to Croatia (ferry or fly – not sure what the best option is here) then up to Venice, Lake Como, Milan. Considering we arrive late Sept we thought it might be best to spend those first few days/week at the northern end as the temperatures will no doubt get colder.
    We don’t really want to do any guided tours, we’re happy to do our own sightseeing but very interested in what your thoughts are on what the best route to take when we arrive, if hiring a car is best (would probably prefer this) and if the number of days at each will be sufficient.
    Sorry for the message……more info is best right.
    Hoping you can help some first time travelers.
    Trina.

    1. Hi Trina, nice to hear from you. You are right, I didn’t get your first message.

      September and October are excellent months to visit Italy, not too crowded, not too hot, good prices.
      The easiest way to go to Croatia is by taking a direct low cost flight from Rome to Split and then back from Dubrovnik to Rome. Ferry would take much more time, in my opinion.
      You are planning to spend 6 days in Croatia: unless you would like to spend some time on the beaches (in that case end October is probably too late), probably 3-4 days are more than enough.

      The way I would suggest you organize your tour is:

      – Milan
      – Milan – Como – Bellagio – Varenna – Milan
      – Milan – Venice (high speed train) – in 4 days you could also visit Verona and Garda lake, spending the night there would be cheaper)
      – Venice – Florence (high speed train)
      – Florence 2 days
      – Tuscany: better to rent a car, you could dedicate more time here, and maybe spend 1-2 days in Umbria (Assisi, Gubbio, Spoleto…)
      – Florence – Pisa by train (but try to stay in Lucca, much better than Pisa, a real hidden jewell
      – Lucca / Pisa Monterosso (Cinque Terre) by train – here you may spend 1 day more and visit Portofino and Sestri Levante
      – Train to Rome (5 hours)
      – Visit Rome (will depend on your Croatia flight schedule, flights are 2 or 3 times per week)
      – Low cost flight to Split (Volotea)
      – Bus to Dubrovnik
      – Low cost flight back to Rome
      – Train to Salerno, visit Amalfi coast (try to add 1 day for Capri)
      – High speed train to Milan
      – Back home

      In general, I wonder if adding Croatia to your tour wouldn’t complicate it too much. Split is interesting and Dubrovnik is really lovely, but maybe you could visit something more in Italy, such as Sicily or Matera + Apulia. More interesting in my view, and with less disruption on your schedule.

      There’s so many things to do and see in Italy, and logistics can be sometimes complex, especially for first comers. I can help you plan your trip, selecting the best and most charming hotels (consistently with your budget) and identifying the travel experiences that will make your Italian trip simply memorable. For 3 weeks or more itinerary I charge 219 €, more details on my travel advice page: https://delightfullyitaly.com/italy-travel-advice/

      Either way, happy journey to Italy!

      JP

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