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Rick Steves Best of Italy
By Rick Steves
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Hit Italy's can't-miss art, sights, and bites in two weeks or less with Rick Steves Best of Italy!
- Strategic advice from Rick Steves on what's worth your time and money
- Two-day itineraries covering Venice, the Cinque Terre, Florence, the Hill Towns of Central Italy, Rome, Naples, Sorrento, and the Amalfi Coast
- Rick's tips for beating the crowds, skipping lines, and avoiding tourist traps
- The best local culture, flavors, and more, including insightful walks through museums, historic sights, and atmospheric neighborhoods
- Trip planning strategies like how to link destinations and design your itinerary, what to pack, where to stay, and how to get around
- Over 500 full-color pages with detailed maps and vibrant photos throughout
- Suggestions for day trips to Milan, Lake Como, Pisa, Verona, and Padua
Experience Italy's Old World romance and New World excitement for yourself with Rick Steves Best of Italy!
Planning a longer trip? Pick up Rick Steves Italy, an in-depth guide perfect for spending more than two weeks exploring Italy.
THE BEST OF ITALY
Map: Top Destinations in Italy
THE BEST OF VENICE
THE BEST OF THE CINQUE TERRE
THE BEST OF FLORENCE
THE BEST OF THE HILL TOWNS
THE BEST OF ROME
THE BEST OF NAPLES AND THE AMALFI COAST
THE BEST OF THE REST
Designing Your Itinerary
Trip Costs per Person
Before You Go
Map: The Best of Italy in 2 Weeks
Travel Strategies on the Road
Bella Italia! Italy has Europe’s richest, craziest culture. It bubbles with emotion, traffic jams, strikes, crowds, and irate ranters shaking their fists at each other one minute and walking arm-in-arm the next. Accept Italy as a package deal—from the exquisite to the exasperating. It’s the sum of its amazing parts that makes it my favorite country.
Italy is the cradle of European civilization—established by the Roman Empire and carried on by the Roman Catholic Church. Here you’ll stand face-to-face with some of the world’s most iconic images from this 2,000-year-plus history: Rome’s ancient Colosseum and gleaming Trevi Fountain, Florence’s Renaissance masterpieces (Michelangelo’s towering David, Botticelli’s perfect Birth of Venus), and the elegantly decaying island-city of Venice.
Beyond such famous sights, simple traditions endure within a country that is modern, vital, and passionate. Join the locals for their ritual evening stroll—the passeggiata. Seek out homemade gelato, dodge motor scooters and pickpockets, and make time for il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing). Ramble through ancient rubble and mentally resurrect the timeless stones. Write a poem over a glass of wine in a sun-splashed village. Italy is for romantics.
THE BEST OF ITALY
This book focuses on Italy’s top destinations, from its thriving cities to its authentic towns. The biggies on everyone’s list are Venice, Florence, and Rome. But no visit to Italy is complete without seeing the countryside, from the coastal villages of the Cinque Terre to the hill towns of the central heartland. For a dose of southern Italy, dip down past Rome to gritty Naples, seaside Sorrento, historic Pompeii, and the scenic Amalfi Coast.
Beyond the major destinations, I also cover the Best of the Rest—great destinations that don’t quite make my top cut, but are worth seeing if you have more time: Milan, Varenna on Lake Como, and Pisa. When interesting sights or towns are near my recommended destinations, I cover them briefly.
To help you link the top sights, I’ve designed a two-week itinerary (see here), with tips for tailoring it to your interests.
Explore the back lanes and canals to find a Venice without tourists.
Ascend the Campanile bell tower for a sky-high view of Venice.
Hiring a gondolier can be worth the splurge. You’ll pay more at night, but the experience is dreamy.
Long an emblem of the city, fanciful masks capture the anything-goes spirit of Carnevale, celebrated with gusto in Venice.
Exotic inside and out, St. Mark’s Basilica sports bulbous domes topping a church slathered with gold mosaics inside.
Ride a vaporetto water bus down the Grand Canal—Venice’s grandest thoroughfare—passing gondolas, water taxis, and a parade of palaces.
Spanning the Grand Canal with style, the Rialto is Venice’s signature bridge.
Vernazza, the cover-girl town of the Cinque Terre, has long been my favorite.
Seek out the regional specialties: tegame (fresh anchovies with potatoes and tomatoes), pesto, and antipasti frutti di mare (mixed seafood).
Manarola poses for your picture.
Enjoy a stroll along Vernazza’s breakwater at sunset, when colors deepen and glow.
Cinque Terre kids use their town squares as backyards.
Spend a day hiking trails that connect the towns.
The most resort-like town of the Cinque Terre, Monterosso has the longest beach and best nightlife.
Florence’s cathedral, the Duomo, is topped with a strikingly graceful dome—thanks to architect Brunelleschi.
Michelangelo’s David, in the Accademia Gallery, symbolizes the Renaissance.
Palazzo Vecchio, on Florence’s main square, has a soaring tower you can climb.
The wide Arno River is spanned by the historic Ponte Vecchio, with central Florence on the left and the unvarnished Oltrarno neighborhood on the right.
The city is famous for having Italy’s finest gelato. “Artigianale” means it’s made from scratch.
You can reserve ahead for the Uffizi Gallery’s wonderful collection of Renaissance art, starring Botticelli’s beautiful Birth of Venus.
Adorable Civita di Bagnoregio, high atop a hill, is reachable only by a footbridge.
Pilgrims and art lovers come to Assisi’s Basilica of St. Francis, drawn by the saint’s divine message and Giotto’s expressive frescoes.
Tuscan cuisine is reason alone to visit. This chef serves cheese with tasty toppings.
Orvieto is famous for its ceramics, Classico wine, and cathedral (interior pictured here).
The Tuscan countryside offers sublime views.
During Siena’s Palio horse race, each neighborhood waves its flag and cheers wildly for its horse to win.
Conversation flows with Classico wine.
The facade of Siena’s Duomo is lively and colorful.
The much-admired Pantheon—which had the world’s largest dome until the Renaissance—is nearly 2,000 years old (and doesn’t look a day over 1,500).
Raphael’s School of Athens in the Vatican Museums embodies the humanistic spirit of the Renaissance.
In the Colosseum, gladiators fought wild animals and one another, entertaining crowds of up to 50,000.
Smiles are free at this Rome ristorante.
Brightly garbed guards at St. Peter’s Basilica take their work seriously.
At the Trevi Fountain, toss in a coin and make your wish to return to Rome. It’s always worked for me.
Michelangelo’s dome tops St. Peter’s Basilica.
Naples has a vibrant street scene.
Enjoy pizza in its birthplace—Naples.
Along the Amalfi Coast, picturesque villages spill down toward the Mediterranean.
Three generations straddle one motorbike.
Explore ancient Pompeii, the Roman town buried and preserved in volcanic ash for centuries.
Mount Vesuvius looms over Naples and the surrounding region.
In Milan, Leonardo’s Last Supper is compelling, even as it fades.
The peaceful village of Varenna on Lake Como whispers honeymoon.
Pisa’s famous tower leans out from behind the cathedral.
Approach Italy like a veteran traveler, even if it’s your first trip. Design your itinerary, get a handle on your budget, make advance arrangements, and follow my travel strategies on the road. For my best advice on sightseeing, accommodations, restaurants, and transportation, see the Practicalities chapter.
Designing Your Itinerary
Decide when to go. Italy’s best travel months are May, June, September, and October. Crowds aside, these months combine the convenience of peak season with pleasant weather. The heat in July and August can be grueling, especially in the south. Between November and April, expect cool weather, shorter hours at sights, and fewer crowds and activities.
Choose your top destinations. My itinerary (on here) gives you an idea of how much you can reasonably see in 14 days, but it’s easy to adapt it to fit your interests and timeframe. Romantics linger in Venice. The Cinque Terre is tops for hikers and beach fun. Art lovers are drawn to Florence and Rome. If rolling hills, charming towns, and wine tastings sound like paradise, you’ll find it heavenly to spend a week exploring Italy’s hill towns. Pilgrims make tracks to Assisi, while honeymooners hide out at Lake Como. Historians could marvel at Rome’s sights for days. Stretching out a southern loop from Rome—from a few days to a week or more—offers a lot of variety: Naples (Italy in the extreme), ancient Pompeii, jet-setting Capri, friendly Sorrento, and the wildly scenic Amalfi Coast, with the beach village of Positano.
Draft a rough itinerary. Figure out how many destinations you can comfortably fit in the time you have. Don’t overdo it—few travelers wish they’d hurried more. Allow enough days per stop: Figure on at least two or three days for major destinations.
Staying in a home base—like Florence or Sorrento—and making day trips can be more time-efficient than changing locations and hotels. Minimize one-night stands, especially consecutive ones; it can be worth taking a late-afternoon train ride or drive to get settled into a town for two nights.
Connect the dots. Link your destinations into a logical route. Determine which cities you’ll fly into and out of; begin your search for transatlantic flights at Kayak.com.
Decide if you’ll travel by car, take public transportation, or use a combination. A car is particularly helpful for exploring the hill-town region, where public transportation can be spotty. But a car is useless in cities, and it’s not necessary for connecting far-apart destinations (easier by train), unless you plan to make a lot of stops along the way.
If relying on public transit, you’ll probably use a mix of trains and buses. Trains are faster, but buses can reach a few places that trains can’t.
Allot sufficient time for transportation in your itinerary. Whether you travel by train, bus, or car, it’ll take a half-day to get between most destinations. To determine approximate travel times between your destinations, study the driving chart on here and check online train schedules at Trenitalia.it. Compare the cost of any long train ride with a budget flight; check Skyscanner.com for intra-European flights.
Plan your days. Fine-tune your itinerary; write out a day-by-day plan of where you’ll be and what you want to see. To help you make the most of your time, I’ve suggested day plans for each major destination. But take sight closures into account: Avoid visiting a town on the one day a week that its must-see sights are closed. Check if any holidays or festivals fall during your trip—these attract crowds and can close sights (for the latest, visit Italy’s tourist website, Italia.it).
Give yourself some slack. Every trip, and every traveler, needs downtime for doing laundry, picnic shopping, relaxing, people-watching, and so on. Pace yourself. Assume you will return.
Ready, set... You’ve designed the perfect itinerary for the trip of a lifetime.
Run a reality check on your dream trip. You’ll have major transportation costs in addition to daily expenses.
Flight: A round-trip flight from the US to Milan or Rome costs about $900-1,500, depending on where you fly from and when.
Public Transportation: For a two-week trip, allow about $350 for second-class trains and buses. You’ll usually save money by buying train tickets in Italy rather than purchasing a rail pass. In some cases, a short flight can be cheaper than taking the train.
Car Rental: Allow roughly $250 per week, not including tolls, gas, parking, and insurance (theft insurance is mandatory in Italy).
Budget Tips: You can cut your daily expenses by taking advantage of the deals you’ll find throughout Italy and mentioned in this book.
City transit passes (for multiple rides or all-day usage) decrease your cost per ride. Avid sightseers buy combo-tickets or passes that cover multiple museums. If a town doesn’t offer deals, visit only the sights you most want to see, and seek out free sights and experiences (people-watching counts).
Some businesses—especially hotels and walking-tour companies—offer discounts to my readers (look for the RS% symbol in the listings in this book).
Book your rooms directly with the hotel. Some hotels offer discounts if you pay in cash and/or stay three or more nights (it pays to check online or ask).
Rooms cost less outside of peak season (roughly November through March). And even seniors can stay in hostels (some have double rooms) for about $30 per person. Or check Airbnb-type sites for deals.
It’s no hardship to eat cheap in Italy. You can get tasty, inexpensive meals at delis, bars, takeout pizza shops, ethnic eateries, and Italian restaurants, too. Cultivate the art of picnicking in atmospheric settings.
When you splurge, choose an experience you’ll always remember, such as a gondola ride or a food-tasting tour. Minimize souvenir shopping—how will you get it all home? Focus instead on collecting wonderful memories.
Before You Go
You’ll have a smoother trip if you tackle a few things ahead of time. For more info on these topics, see the Practicalities chapter and RickSteves.com, which has helpful travel tips and talks.
Make sure your travel documents are valid. If your passport is due to expire within six months of your ticketed date of return, you need to renew it. Allow up to six weeks to renew or get a passport (www.travel.state.gov). You may also need to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS); for the latest, check www.etiasvisa.com.
- "The country's foremost expert in European travel for Americans."—Forbes
- "Steves is an absolute master at unlocking the hidden gems of the world's greatest cities, towns, and monuments."—USA Today
- “Every country-specific travel guidebook from the Rick Steves publishing empire can be counted upon for clear organization, specificity and timeliness."—Society of American Travel Writers
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- "His guidebooks are approachable, silly, and even subtly provocative in their insistence that Americans show respect for the people and places they are visiting and not the other way around."—The New Yorker
- "Travel, to Steves, is not some frivolous luxury—it is an engine for improving humankind, for connecting people and removing their prejudices, for knocking distant cultures together to make unlikely sparks of joy and insight. Given that millions of people have encountered the work of Steves over the last 40 years, on TV or online or in his guidebooks, and that they have carried those lessons to untold other millions of people, it is fair to say that his life’s work has had a real effect on the collective life of our planet."—The New York Times Magazine
- "[Rick Steves] laces his guides with short and vivid histories and a scholar's appreciation for Renaissance art yet knows the best place to start an early tapas crawl in Madrid if you have kids. His clear, hand-drawn maps are Pentagon-worthy; his hints about how to go directly to the best stuff at the Uffizi, avoid the crowds at Versailles and save money everywhere are guilt-free."—TIME Magazine
- "Steves is a walking, talking European encyclopedia who yearns to inspire Americans to venture 'beyond Orlando.'"—Forbes
- “…he’s become the unofficial guide for entire generations of North American travelers, beloved for his earnest attitude and dad jeans."—Outside Magazine
- On Sale
- Nov 7, 2023
- Page Count
- 528 pages
- Rick Steves