How to Spend 12 Days in Italy - United Hub

How to spend 12 days in Italy

By Nick Harper

Home to so many of the world's great works of art, so much of its most historic monuments and such glorious gastronomy, it's little wonder millions of tourists flock to Italy each year.

What's also great about Italy is that it's quick and easy to drive between its key cities. To experience everything the country has to offer would take a lifetime, but give yourself 12 days and you can easily experience five of the country's most iconic cities. Because United flies to and from most of the cities mentioned, it's easy to shorten or extend the trip to suit your time. But here's what we'd suggest for the ultimate 12-day Italian road trip.

The duomo in Milan, Italy at night

2 days in Milan

Touch down in one of the few Italian cities that doesn't appear to be frozen in time. Milan is a more cosmopolitan and cutting-edge affair, befitting the city's status as the capital of finance and fashion. That isn't to say it lacks history — the grand marble Duomo, the masterpiece-packed Pinacoteca di Brera and the Basilica di Santa Maria delle Grazie will sate your historic hunger, the latter housing Milan's most famous mural, Leonardo Da Vinci's The Last Supper.

But this is a city fixed more on the future than the past, one where its history stands side by side with sleek, modern skyscrapers, vibrant bars and cutting-edge hotels. As a result, you can expect a more frenetic pace of life than you'll find further south.

The must eat Risotto alla Milanese con ossobuco — the classic Milanese saffron risotto with braised veal shank is elevated to a silky, smooth masterpiece at Ratanà in Isola.

The must stay Bulgari Milan ($) — a luxurious hotel in the tranquil artists' quarter. Also consider: NYX Milan ($); The Yard Milano ($).

The next leg Milan to Venice is an easy 173 miles, about a three-hour drive. Take the train and it's around two hours 25 minutes from Milano Centrale to Venezia Santa Lucia.

A canal street in Venice, Italy

3 days in Venice

Venice is La Serenissima — Italy's Most Serene Republic — a city of your imagination and a place beyond your wildest dreams. A treasure trove of glorious art and extraordinary architecture, of 150 canals and almost 400 bridges, you know the city from the photographs, movies and paintings made famous the world over. As you explore Piazza San Marco or take a tour through history down the Grand Canal, so much here seems reassuringly familiar. Yet nothing can prepare you for the for the reality of stepping out from the station to the site of a glittering canal and the dome of San Simeon Piccolo, with Venice's canals and lanes twisting out before you. At that moment, expect your heart to skip a beat as the reality and romance of La Serenissima hit home.

The must eat Fritto Misto — taking full advantage of Venice's lagoon location, this mix of fried fish usually includes squid, shrimp and moeche, a soft-shell crab available only in autumn and spring.

The must stay Aman Venice ($) — 24 luxury suites in a stunning 16th-century Grand Canal palace. Also consider: La Calcina ($); Palazzo Morosini degli Spezieri ($).

The next leg — Venice to Florence is 160 miles and about two hours and 40 minutes away by car. By train, Venezia Santa Lucia to Firenze Santa Maria Novella takes two hours and five minutes.

The duomo in Florence, Italy

2 days in Florence

The search for la dolce vita will lead you to Florence, the heart of Tuscany, the cradle of the Renaissance and the most beautiful of all the Italian cities. For art enthusiasts, the city has no equal. Its galleries and museums home to so many of the world's finest examples of Renaissance art, much of it housed at the breathtaking Galleria degli Uffizi. The pink, white and green marble facade of the iconic Duomo, or cathedral, is worth the trip alone — without even stepping foot inside its adjoining museum. But, with so many quirky boutiques, trendy cafés, restaurants and bars, not to mention the beautiful Tuscan countryside close by, there is so much more to the city than its glorious history. Indeed, a single visit will never do it justice.

The must eat Bistecca alla Fiorentina — the city's culinary calling card is a vast slab of T-bone steak rubbed with olive oil, chargrilled, seasoned and served al sangue — bloody.

The must stay Portrait Firenze ($) — central hotel offering luxury and astonishing views. Also consider: BBH Firenze ($); AdAstra ($).

The next leg Florence to Rome is 168 miles away, or three hours by car. If traveling by train, Firenze Santa Maria Novella to Roma Termini takes about 90 minutes.

The Colosseum in Rome, Italy

3 days in Rome

In existence for more than three millennia, no other city does history quite like Rome, from its classical ruins and places of worship, to the Renaissance palazzo and the Baroque fountains. You can't leave without having seen the Colosseum, the Pantheon, St Peter's Basilica, the Palatino and the artistic treasures of the Vatican museums. There's also the Roman Forum, the Spanish Steps, the Museo e Galleria Borghese and far too many others to squeeze in a single visit, so throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain to guarantee you return.

For all its history, Rome's past blends effortlessly with the present, through the chic boutique stores, the neighborhood trattorias and the vibrant street life that lingers long into the night. The whole city is a stage — and you have a walk-on role.

The must eat Cacio e pepe — one of Rome's most iconic pasta dishes is also one of its simplest: hand-rolled tonnarelli pasta topped with salty pecorino cheese and black pepper, stirred with pasta water to create a smooth, spicy, simple and sumptuous sauce.

The must stay Hotel Eden ($) — magnificently renovated icon hotel, located beside the Spanish steps. Also consider: Nerva Boutique Hotel ($); Hotel Martis Palace ($).

The next leg The drive from Rome to Naples is 140 miles and a little over two hours south. Taking a train from Roma Termini to Napoli Centrale in one hour and 10 minutes.

Naples and Vesuvius volcano in Italy

2 days in Naples

For the first-time visitor, the sights and noise of Naples can overwhelm the senses. But at its heart lies a charm and vibrancy that has to be experienced at least once in your life. In the city itself you'll unearth a UNESCO-recognized historic core, vast Romanesque piazzas, world-class museums, castles and a labyrinth of ancient lanes hidden beneath the neighborhood washing.

Just a short journey further on lies the ruined city at Pompeii and Mount Vesuvius, the brooding volcano that looks down on the city and the Bay of Naples.

The must eat Pizza — in the city of its birth, it's hard to find bad pizza. L'Antica Pizzeria da Michele is Naples' original pizzeria, where the options have always been and will always be a Margherita or a Marinara. Chow down on a slice of history.

The must stay Grand Hotel Vesuvio ($) — an understated icon overlooking the Castel dell'Ovo. Also consider: Micalò ($); Hotel Excelsior ($).

The next leg If you have the time, explore the jaw-droppingly beautiful Amalfi Coast or the Bay of Naples' three nearby islands of Capri, Procida and Ischia, the latter made famous by Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend. If your time has run out, fly home or on from Naples International Airport.

United now flies from New York/Newark (EWR) to Naples (NAP), in addition to Rome (FCO), Venice (VCE) and Milan (MXP). To explore further, you can also fly to Ancona, Bari, Bologna, Genoa, Florence, Pisa, Trieste, Turin and Verona with our Star Alliance™ member partner airlines. Book your Italian adventure at united.com or use the United mobile app.

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