An Italian vacation has been on our must-do list for quite some time and I’m so grateful we were able to check it off this summer. Both my husband and I have been to Italy before but never together and due to it’s laid back and romantic culture, amazing food, and beautiful views, we’d been dying to return.
Since we would be traveling in the summer, we wanted to explore the coast so when planning, we went through the debate of Amalfi Coast vs Cinque Terre. It was a hard decision at first as both are known to be beautiful beach destinations, but we ended up opting for Cinque Terre because it was much cheaper for accommodations and it gave us access to Tuscany and Lake Como—two other places we’d been wanting to visit—without having to spend full days traveling around the country.
Here’s an overview of our itinerary and suggestions for each place we visited:
How long to go: 3 nights/2-3 full days is the perfect amount of time in Florence. If you are really into museums and plan to hit them all (there’s a lot), you may want more time.
Where to stay: Residence Hilda is a 2-minute walk from the Duomo and in a perfect location to be able to walk everywhere. It’s a smaller, boutique hotel and we were very impressed given the affordable price.
Things to do:
- Spend a day walking and exploring the city. It’s small enough to not need GPS to get around everywhere and the side streets are beautiful, so just get lost! Don’t miss the Piazza del Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and Mercato Centrale.
- Stop by the San Lorenzo Central Market and go up to the second floor for wine tasting, food sampling, or a quick meal. Outside you’ll find all sorts of vendors selling leather goods, pashminas, and souvenirs
- Watch the sunset at Piazzale Michelangelo
- Roam the Boboli Gardens
- Get out of town to explore Tuscany on a wine tour
Where to eat:
- Gusta Pizza- Great pitstop for lunch! Amazing, traditional pizza—very cheap too!
- All’Antico Vinaio- Long lines for famous Italian meat and cheese focaccia paninis *We loved the street this was on… so wander down there whether you get the sandwich or not! They have self-serve wine for €1, so grab a cup and wander from there.
- La Prosciutteria- Best cheese/meat board of my life. MUST GO for wine and apps.. or get a big board and it’ll be a meal!
- Ditta Artigianale- Great breakfast spot! Or stop by for coffee
- Zaza’s- My best friend’s fave from studying abroad! Good food and nice outdoor patio in the square. Reasonably priced.
- La Giostra- Good traditional Italian meal.
- Acqua al 2- A bit touristy but great meal with a pasta appetizer tasting that we enjoyed.
- La Carraira- The best gelato we had!
- La Terrazza Rooftop Bar- Great for a drink and views of the Duomo
How long to go: We were there 3 nights but could have easily spent 4-5. We were still able to do everything and be leisurely, but could have had a few more beach days!
Where to stay: Alla Marina in Riomaggiore was perfect. It’s a small family run hotel right on the harbor and was perfect location to access town, swimming in the harbor, and the train.
Things to do:
- Hike between the 5 villages—could be entire day if you do the whole thing or you could do parts on different days. Definitely go in the morning because it gets hot later on!
- Beach day in Monterosso
- Watch the sunset in Manorola
- Wine tasting at the Wine Experience in Vernazza
Where to eat:
- Restaurante Belforte- Amazing seafood, pasta, and views. One of the best dinners of the trip!
- Trattoria Dal Billy- Up on the hill in Manarola, great seafood pasta—we went here twice!
- Nessun Dorma- MUST GO! Amazing views, great food (get the bruschetta and a meat/cheese board), delicious drinks (sangria was great), and overall our favorite spot.
- Il Pescato Cucinato- Fried seafood in a cone, enough said.
- A Pie de Ma- Good happy hour/drinks spot with views in Riomaggiore- right by the train stop
- LunchBox- Casual lunch spot in Vernazza- good for salads (if you need a break from meat, cheese, and carbs) and great paninis (my husbands favorite). Good stopping point on your hike day!
How long to go: 3 nights was perfect for us. If you’re going to go longer, I’d recommend staying in a different town to see different parts of the lake, as it’s enormous and we didn’t see most of it. You could of course stay longer to just relax—would also be a great place to rent a house for a week with friends!
Where to stay: We chose to stay in Bellagio, but I’d also recommend staying in Varenna if you’ve trying to decide what town to stay in. We stayed at the Borgo le Terrazze which was fabulous. The views are honestly the better than anywhere else we went on the lake and the hospitality was great with a free shuttle into town and a pool overlooking the lake.
Things to do:
- Buy the day pass on the ferries and visit Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. A hour or two in each is sufficient to grab a coffee or bite and walk around to explore.
- Spend a day at a Lido (beach club). We went to Lido di Bellagio and it was great to lay out, swim, and just relax.
- Though we didn’t take advantage, you can easily rent boats or kayaks to get out on the water.
Where to eat:
- Enoteca Cava Turacciolo- Great wine bar! Excellent service with delicious wine recommendations. And of course, get the charcuterie board. (Bellagio)
- La Grotta- Good casual and inexpensive dinner spot- great pizza. (Bellagio)
- Osteria Quatro Pass- Amazing dinner spot, get the lobster pasta! (Varenna)
- Bar Nilus- Right on the water with great views- only went for drinks but the food smelled amazing! (Varenna)
- Alimentari da Caio- Great deli for traditional sandwiches or snacks for a picnic (Bellagio)
- Pizzeria Da Rida- If you have a car and are in/driving through Lecco—great and CHEAP pizza spot. It’s a true hole-in-the-wall and off the beaten path, but family run and delicious. We got 2 pizzas, 2 beers, and a water for €12! (Lecco)