2 Day Ubud Itinerary: Visiting Bali’s Spiritual Hub in Two Days

For the traveler in search of the perfect Balinese getaway, Ubud just might be the perfect destination.

It’s the cultural and spiritual hub of Bali, and there’s just so much to explore, you’re bound to fall in love. 

Art museums, waterfall hikes through lush jungles, and beautiful infinity pools give you so many options to fill your days and make your stay unforgettable. 

If you only have a couple days in Ubud to explore, the 2-day Ubud itinerary in this post is your short and sweet guide to get a little bit of everything! 

I’ve lived in Bali for almost two years now, and during that time, I’ve visited and shown visiting friends around Ubud countless times. Now it’s your turn!

Day One of Your Ubud Itinerary

Start your day with a walk in nature. 

Sunrise in the Campuhan Ridge Walk area of Ubud, bali, with the sky softly lit up in pastel shades as the day breaks

The lovely Campuhan Ridge Walk is popular with locals and tourists alike, and once you set out and see Ubud’s natural beauty, you’re sure to see why.

Of course, it’s best to go early – this 2-kilometer trek has no protection from the sun, so you’ll want to go before the sun’s too fierce — or else be prepared to sweat!

The best part of this walk might be that it gives you a beautiful opportunity to see the jungle environment surrounding Ubud without venturing far from town. 

At the end of the path, you’ll start to see small shops and warungs (local restaurants serving Indonesian food) where you can stop to cool off and refuel with a quick bite before heading back the way you came. 

Grab brunch at Zest.

vegan tofu scramble with lots of fresh food like guacamole, sweet potato, mushroom, hummus

After you finish your journey into nature, head just across the street to one of Ubud’s trendiest cafes, Zest.

This vegan gem offers an extensive menu and drink list, so you’ll be spoiled for choice. 

If you think you’re not into vegan fare, trust me, Zest will change your mind.

With sushi, pizza, burgers, and rice bowls (all plant-based of course), Zest leaves everyone happy. 

If you want a drink this early in the morning (and hey, you are on vacation, right?), their passion fruit and arak cocktail is sure to put you in the island mood!

Enjoy a relaxing spa experience.

a foot bath and foot massage in a bath with flowers in bali

After a super active morning, it’s time to relax. Bali Botanica Day Spa is nearby and offers massages, body scrubs, flower baths, and more. 

The treatment rooms overlook a beautiful river, so you can keep on basking in the calming atmosphere of the jungle environment.

It’s not too far, either: it’s just a 3 minute drive, or an 18 minute walk from Zest. 

(Speaking of getting around Ubud: If you haven’t rented a motorbike of your own, you can call one easily through the Grab or Gojek apps!)

They specialize in Ayurvedic treatments, as well as traditional spa offerings for skin, hair, and nails.

With so many options, you can simply choose your favorite and embrace your bliss!

Enjoy dinner with a sunset view over the rice fields.

Rice terraces in Ubud surroundings at sunset on the island of Bali with bright sunburst and clouds gathering overhead

After your relaxing afternoon in the spa, it’ll probably be time for dinner, and Cafe Pomegranate is the perfect place to see a sunset over the rice fields. 

It’s located on a small street only accessible by foot or motorbike, so don’t plan to show up in a car. 

The food choices are varied and international, from Indian curry to tacos, but the real treat is the view! 

Explore a bit of the Ubud nightlife scene.

Man's hand serving an orange drink with crushed ice and mint

The nightlife scene in Ubud is much quieter than the beach towns of Canggu, Uluwatu, and Seminyak, which have clubs pumping into the early hours of the morning. 

Ubud does have a row of bars downtown, often featuring a band playing live music from around 8 PM to 10:30 or 11 PM, and things often close down completely by midnight. 

If you’re interested in hearing some music or just grabbing a drink and people watching, Laughing Buddha Bar, L.O.L. and No Mas are worth checking out. 

If you are up later than that and are looking for a local spot, Lovin is one of the few places open late, and they often have live music being performed as well.

Day Two of Your Ubud Itinerary

Visit Kanto Lampo Waterfall.

woman wearing a black bikini in front of a roaring waterfall called kanto lampo near ubud, indonesia

While it may seem like it’s not worth venturing out of town on such a short Ubud itinerary, hear me out.

If there is one nearby attraction worth leaving Ubud for, it has to be Kanto Lampo Waterfall.

This stunning area is perfect for a refreshing dip in the water or a killer Instagram shot. 

It’s about a 30-minute drive outside of Ubud (hire a driver for the day — don’t use Gojek/Grab because the locals won’t let you pick up from there!), and you’ll have to pay a small fee to enter; it’s 25,000 IDR (about $2 USD) as of my visit there in 2024.

Make sure to bring your swimsuit!

stone face carved into a cave entryway, guarded by two figures, at the goa gajah temple in bali, indonesia not far from ubud and its waterfalls

There are a couple other waterfalls nearby, as well as the Goa Gajah Temple.

If you are interested in exploring other attractions in the area and you’ve got time to spare, you can absolutely make a day of it.

Just hire a driver for the day (ask at your accommodations for a good recommendation!).

Alternately, have a morning swim at Titi Batu Ubud Club.

coconut with paper straw and gardenia flower near a pool

If you don’t feel up for a morning drive, don’t worry. You can still start your day off with a swim by visiting Titi Batu Ubud Club

Complete with a giant pool and gym facilities (priced separately), you can lounge in the sun with a book or use their free Wifi to catch up on some e-mails and social media.

The in-house restaurant serves delicious smoothie bowls and sandwiches, and they even have a sauna! 

Have an Indonesian lunch.

purple rice with other indonesian foods at a local warung (indonesian food eatery)

After you get back to town, you can stop in for lunch at Urban Jungle Cafe and enjoy some local Indonesian eats — check out their special purple nasi goreng

Located above a tattoo parlor with the same owner, Urban Jungle is a friendly community spot with good vibes all around. 

Explore Ubud’s excellent art scene and Ubud Market.

Ubud Market with a woman preparing the island's trademark offerings with orange, pink, purple, white flowers and rice

No matter how you choose to spend your morning, let’s head to look at some art after lunch. 

Tonyraka Art Lounge is a modern gallery with constantly changing exhibitions housed in a lovely cozy setting.

Take some time here to admire different artwork and handicrafts before enjoying a warm cup of tea in their back garden. 

While you’re downtown, stop in at Ubud Market to see the many souvenirs and stalls to browse, or just wander around. Do bring cash and expect to haggle!

Have a delicious dinner, one of two ways.

vegan food in ubud with beautiful plating

Let’s switch it up for dinner and head to Kebun Bistro. It’s easily walkable from the market and serves a European menu with a great wine list. 

From Spanish tapas to French and Italian mains, everything on the menu is delicious.

If you’re in a group, I highly suggest trying to convince them to order a few things for the table and sharing. 

Since the space is fashioned after a European courtyard, you’re sure to forget you’re in Asia. Be sure to leave room for dessert – the pâtisserie offerings are to die for. 

If you’re more in the mood for a health retreat than a decadent French bistro (which is totally understandable), Sayuri Healing Food is a popular spot for plant-based meals that are as tasty as they are good for you. 

They also host community events such as Bahasa language classes and kirtan chanting on different nights, and you can choose to sit at traditional tables or on pillows or mats on the floor.  

***

Ubud has so much to do and see, and this itinerary has barely scratched the surface.

If you have the time, there’s more than enough to fill a week or even longer with rice terrace walks, yoga classes, and so much delicious food. 

I hope you enjoy this two day itinerary for Ubud, and that these couple of days in Ubud are the perfect way to kickstart your Indonesian adventure!

Your Perfect Amalfi Coast Itinerary: 5 Days on the Costiera Amalfitana [2024]

detail of the amalfi coast town of positano with mosaic roof and beach and hillside houses

Coastal breezes, fragrant lemon trees, and candy-colored houses perched on cliffsides overlooking cerulean seas… is there anything more Italian than that?

This is exactly what you’ll find when you visit Italy’s stunning Amalfi Coast, so of course, it’s really no wonder this cluster of seaside towns features highly on many traveler’s bucket lists!

Just a short jaunt from the city of Naples, the Amalfi Coast is a gorgeous destination on the southwestern coast of Italy — it’s the perfect summer destination if there ever was one.

view of the town of positano in amalfi coast, with an old-fashioned doorway with an arch and pots on the walls

It’s a place to explore at your own pace, taking the time to soak in the landscapes, indulge in the unbeatable cuisine, and truly enjoy life to the fullest.

If you’re planning to spend a few days around the beloved Costiera Amalfitana, as it’s called in Italian, then go for a slow-paced Amalfi Coast itinerary: there’s a lot to see and even more to do in this part of Italy!

This post was written by Gabi Ancarola, a full-time travel blogger and writer who currently lives in Crete (and blogs about it here), but spent over a decade living in Italy and traveling all around the country.

She’s here to share with you her expert advice for a flexible plan for how to spend 5 days in the Amalfi Coast itinerary — with unique, in-the-know hidden gems and alternative ideas to make the most of your trip.

It was last edited on December 29, 2023 to update the post for the 2024 travel season.

But First, Where is the Amalfi Coast?

beautiful seaside town of positano with colorful houses on the hillsides and brilliant blue water

Located in the Campania region, the stretch of coastline known as the Amalfi Coast is the part of Italy that overlooks the Tyrrhenian Sea on the Gulf of Salerno.

It is located on the steep southern end of the Sorrento Peninsula, of which the town of Sorrento is the main hub. 

The Amalfi Coast runs for about 25 miles (40 kilometers) starting in the famous town of Positano and ending in the small village of Vietri sul Mare. 

Along the coast, there are 13 different picturesque villages that you can discover!

From west to east, these charming Amalfi Coast towns are: Positano, Praiano, Furore, Conca de’ Marini, Amalfi, Atrani, Ravello, Scala, Tramonti, Minori, Maiori, Cetara, and Vietri sul Mare.

How to Plan Your Amalfi Coast Itinerary

a red and blue fishing boat in the water near the town of amalfi in the central part of the amalfi coast in italy

No matter where in Italy you start your itinerary, you will first need to reach Naples (Napoli in Italian) in order to start your Amalfi Coast tour. 

You can then decide whether to begin in the westernmost area (Sorrento/Positano) and make your way east.

Alternatively, if you are starting your Amalfi Coast itinerary from a Southern Italian destination, such as Salerno, it may make more sense for you to begin the trip in Vietri sul Mare and then move from east to west.

Personally, I think the best way to travel along the coast is to start in Sorrento which, although is not officially part of Costiera Amalfitana, is a picturesque coastal town worth seeing.

the charming town of sorrento located on cliffsides above the water

Following this route, you will end the tour in Salerno. From there, you either drive back or board a train back to Naples.

From Naples, you can even add an optional last stop in Pompeii (or the lesser-known hidden gem of Herculaneum – for a comparative guide, read this).

Of course, this itinerary also works the other way round: that is, from Salerno to Sorrento, and then back to Naples.

For the purposes of making this Amalfi Coast itinerary easy-to-follow, we’ll start in Sorrento.

However, as it is a day by day travel itinerary, you can easily start at the end, in Salerno, and just reverse things!

5 Day Amalfi Coast Itinerary: Day by Day Guide

Day 1: Sorrento and Positano

people walking around in the town of sorrento, italy north of the amalfi coast

Start your first day early in order to spend the morning discovering Sorrento!

This is the largest town in the area and there is plenty to do, however, we will limit our visit to a few of the most iconic landmarks.

After that, we will then move to the real Amalfi Coast after lunch, when we head to Positano.

Morning: Sorrento

yellow buildings in the main plaza in sorrento italy

Start by heading to the historic district of Sorrento’s Old Town. This is better seen early in the morning, as it is often overcrowded later in the day when tour groups arrive.

Take yourself on a little self-guided walking tour of Sorrento. Check out the beautiful, colorful houses dotting the winding alleys and then reach Piazza Tasso for a taste of the local culture.

Here, local residents like to gather to talk and spend time, so it’s a great place for people-watching from a charming café.

Right after, pay a visit to the adorable Villa Communale to admire the views over the Sorrento coast and Mount Vesuvius.

You can then walk to the Marina Grande, a historic fishing village with picture-perfect scenery everywhere you look.

Local tip: As an alternative to Villa Communale, you can check Bellevue Syrene, one of the most exclusive hotels in Sorrento — with a panoramic terrace open to everyone, although few people know this! The views from here are out of this world.

Lunch in Sorrento can be an unforgettable experience if you know what and where to eat!

The best place for lunch is around the Marina Grande. Choose one of the many family-run trattorias in the area and try the famous gnocchi alla Sorrentina or a selection of seafood-focused antipasti (starters). 

Not hungry yet? Worry not, you’ll be able to taste great food also in Positano!

Afternoon: Positano

town of Positano italy as seen from the water

You will probably arrive in Positano at the time of siesta!

Although this is a touristic town and most shops will still be open (especially in summer), the afternoon nap is still a thing in southern Italy.

Don’t fret — that means it’s the perfect time for casual sightseeing along the old, colorful alleys surrounded by a more quiet atmosphere.

If you feel like shopping, you can explore the town’s charming art galleries, artisan shops, and upscale boutiques.

If you prefer a more cultural experience, pay a visit to the Church of the Holy Virgin.

The town of Positano is quite small when compared to Sorrento, which means that you can move around easily and see the key sights in about an hour.

If you are a beach fan, instead, head directly to Spiaggia Grande located right at the foot of the village. You can spend some time relaxing and even sunbathe or go for a swim. 

In the evening, you can enjoy a pizza in one of the many restaurants on the waterfront. Don’t forget to have a limoncello after dinner, you won’t regret it! It’s a great digestive and is local to the region.

Day 2: Amalfi, Atrani, and Ravello

the small town of atrani italy with some cars on the road and a small beach and blue waters

Amalfi is a small and delightful town to visit, and it makes a good base for further exploration of the Amalfi Coast due to its central location!

Today we will devote the day to exploring Amalfi, as well as two other small villages on the Costiera.

Morning: Amalfi & Atrani

the town of amalfi in the amalfi coast itinerary

Wherever you’re based, you’ll want to make your way to the town of Amalfi as the first stop on your second day’s itinerary.

Walking around the old alleys of the settlement is the best way to start your day after a cappuccino and a cornetto (brioche) at any local bar.

Reach Amalfi’s Main Square to see Saint Andrew’s Cathedral, a fantastic church dating back to built in 987, with its imposing steps and mosaic facade.

Right after, check Amalfi’s Paper Museum — a unique can’t-miss attraction in Amalfi.

The local bambagina paper is an iconic local product given the long history of Amalfi as a national center of paper mills and top-quality handcrafted paper.

If you want, you can reach the nearby Atrani on foot! It will only take you about 10 minutes from the center of Amalfi. 

the umbrellas on the beach at atrani with the town in the background on the amalfi coast

Atrani is a tiny coastal town, which holds the record of being Italy’s smallest town!

It stands tucked away between two steep cliffs facing the sea. Since the town is so small, it’s not hard to visit, although the hundreds of steep flights of stairs can be a challenge.

If you feel that you’ll be better avoiding the hundreds of steps, then head to the coast!

Atrani’s shore is a magnificent place for photos, with the picturesque tiny homes clinging to the cliffs and the arches under the coastal road that plummet into the sand behind the beach.

You can check Atrani’s picturesque bay, or, alternatively, take a bus (or drive) up the mountains to discover Ravello.

Alternative: Morning or Afternoon Boat Tour from Amalfi

a boat going towards a natural arch off of the coast of capri

You can also take a boat tour and snorkeling tour from Amalfi, which is a great way to see the Amalfi Coast from a different perspective!

This tour brings you to several beaches and sea caves only accessible by boat, giving you the chance to explore sea grottos. The tour also makes two snorkeling stops where you can swim in beautiful waters without any crowds.

A few sights you’ll see along the way include the stunning Saint Andrew’s Grotto, Duoglio and Santa Croce beaches, Lovers Arch, the Furore ‘fjord’, the Runghietiello Grotto and beach, the Africana Grotto, and so much more!

There are two tours daily: one leaving at 9:30 AM and one leaving at 2:30 PM — so you can choose whatever works best for your day to customize this Amalfi itinerary to your liking.

Check details of this Amalfi boat tour itinerary here!

Afternoon: Ravello

terraces around ravello in italy's amalfi coast, a must stop on your amalfi itinerary

Dubbed the City of Music, Ravello is home to an important Auditorium and serves as the annual host of different prestigious music festivals.

The town is also known for its two imposing villas with medieval gardens, stunning views over the sea, and stunning architecture: Villa Rufolo and Villa Cimbrione

This exquisite mountaintop settlement is filled with manicured gardens, medieval streets, and ancient paths.

It boasts a lush green landscape as it is also home to a vineyard that stretches up and down the slopes of the hills.

When in Ravello, do not hesitate to visit a winery to taste some of the local varietals of grape that grow beautifully along the Amalfi Coast! 

Day 3: Furore and Vietri sul Mare

Today we will discover these two lesser known towns in the area, equally beautiful and representative of the Amalfi Coast as their more famous siblings like Positano.

Here’s your chance to get a bit off the beaten path and explore a more local side of Italian coastal life!

Morning: Furore

stairs leading to fjord of furore and the small beach and the water

Start the day early and head to Furore, home to a unique sight: the Fjord of Furore!

Not a true fjord, this sight is nevertheless fantastic: a hidden beach with magnificent scenery and a fantastic bridge offering breathtaking views of the Mediterranean.

You can access the beach cove by a designated trail or simply by heading to the arched bridge on the Amalfi Coast.

The imposing bridge stands at about 100 feet (30 meters) over the sea and creates one of the most spectacular landscapes that you can imagine!

Afternoon: Vietri sul Mare

the charming town of vietri sul mare with its famous church with the mosaic ceramic tower

You can now head to the end of the coastal highway and visit Vietri sul Mare, which is thought to be the oldest town along the Amalfi Coast and is absolutely worth visiting on any Amalfi itinerary.

Vietri is an important crafts center dedicated to the production of artistic ceramics, with its characteristically lively bright colors and original designs.

In Vietri, be sure to visit the Museum of Ceramics located in Villa Guariglia, featuring ceramics and pottery for everyday use, as well as typical Salerno ceramic arts and religious ceramic objects.

Another place to explore in Vietri is the imposing late Renaissance Church of Saint John the Baptist, with its unique dome and bell tower which are made of typical painted ceramics as well as ceramic and majolica interiors!

If you have extra time, you can also head to the gorgeous village of Conca de’ Marini where you can board a boat trip to visit the spectacular Emerald Grotto!

Day 4: Capri

gardens in upper capri with view of flowers, statue, and sea stacks below

One of the most magnificent destinations facing the Amalfi Coast is the small island of Capri!

While Capri is an island and thus not technically the Amalfi Coast, it is often combined with small towns on the coast on Amalfi itineraries.

While Capri is a place known for being a preferred summer destination for the international jet set, Capri has a lot more to offer than just luxury.

You can follow this itinerary or read my one day guide to Capri for more detail.

Morning: Arrive in Capri

colorful buildings and boats on capri harbor, an island off the amalfi coast

There are ferry boats several times a day connecting the mainland of Italy to Capri.

You can reach Capri from Amalfi, Sorrento, Positano, and even Naples and the ride is about €40 for a return ticket. Admire the stunning sea views as you make your way to the island.

Once on the island, get on a cable car to head up to Capri Town, the main city area.

Head to the Main Square for a walk and then visit the Gardens of Augustus, this is the perfect place to get amazing views of the Faraglioni.

Faraglione is the Italian word for sea stacks, a typical steep triangular rock near the coast, usually formed by erosion.

Capri’s Faraglioni, Scopolo, Mezza and Stella, are among the most famous sights of the Costiera!

You could also head up to Anacapri, another town on the island of Capri, for even better views over the Bay of Naples!

Alternative: Guided Tour of Capri

the green grotto of capri - not quite as famous as the blue grotto but worth a visit!

Alternately, if you want to leave the sightseeing and planning in someone else’s hands, you can opt for a guided tour of Capri from Sorrento!

This affordable day trip includes exploration of the Grotta Bianca and the Grotta Verde (White and Green Grottos — but not the Blue Grotto, although you can do that at your own expense!), as well as the Natural Arch of Capri, all by boat.

You’ll also get to see the Faraglioni and enjoy a swimming stop at Marina Piccola, as well as about 4-5 hours to explore the Capri at your own pace.

Book your tickets for a day in Capri from Sorrento here!

This tour is also quite similar, but it departs from Amalfi Coast towns such as Positano, Amalfi, and Praiano.

It also visits the Green and White Grottos (with an optional addition of the Blue Grotto on your own personal time) as well as swimming time at Marina Piccola and time to check out the sea stacks and town of Capri at your own speed (3-4 hours of exploration).

Book your tickets for Capri from Positano or Amalfi here!

Afternoon: The Blue Grotto

the intense color of the blue water in the blue grotto with a man in a small boat leaving the cave

Once you’ve checked out the gardens and faraglioni, and the nearby Via Krupp, go back to the Marina.

Here is where you can experience what might probably be the highlight of your trip, a boat tour to the incredible Blue Grotto!

These impressive sea caves feature dazzling light effects created by the blue waters and the interplay of light coming into the cave.

Depending on your budget, you can book a group tour (€15-25) per person, or pay a higher fee for a private tour on a gozzo boat (about €100 for a private boat, convenient if you are traveling with more people and not solo). These typical Capri boats will provide an authentic experience!

You can book your tour of the Blue Grotto online here, but note that you’ll also need to pay an additional €14 fee for entrance to the Blue Grotto — this cost only covers transportation to the grotto, not to enter it.

Day 5: Choose Your Own Adventure!

a town on the amalfi coast

On your last full day on the Amalfi Coast, you have many different options.

You can go back to the towns that have impressed you the most — perhaps you want to spend more time in Positano and use this day to walk the Path of the Gods before indulging in some more limoncello and tasty seafood.

Alternately, you can explore other coastal towns of the Amalfi Coast such as the gorgeous Maiori and Minori.

Finally, you can start making your way back to Naples with a day trip to Pompeii. Let’s see these possibilities!

Option One: Hike the Path of the Gods

Especially if you’re traveling in summer, it is a good idea to do this hike early in the morning, so it is a good idea to get an early start to avoid the worst of the summer sun.

Known in Italian as il Sentiero degli Dei, the path is an 8-mile (13-kilometer) roundtrip hiking trail that connects the villages of Bomerano and Nocelle.

It’s a rather intense hike. Although it’s rated moderate on AllTrails, expect nearly 2,500 feet of elevation change along the 8-mile out-and-back route.

I suggest reading this excellent guide to the Path of the Gods to help you plan your day if you choose this option!

You can also go with a guided tour like this one if you prefer company while you hike and to make sure you’re staying safe.

The whole hike usually takes about 5 hours if you go back the same way you came, but you can also just go one-way.

Remember that in order to get the best views, it is better to start from Bomerano and make your way to Nocelle — that way, you’ll get that stunning view of Positano at the end of the hike when you descend!

Don’t forget to carry enough water (I suggest a backpack with a hydration bladder inside it, so you can be sipping from it as you hike), wear appropriate hiking clothes, apply adequate sunscreen and sun protection, and of course — wear proper hiking boots.

Option Two: Maiori and Minori

the charming seaside town of maiori in italy with a sunflare

Maiori is a quiet historic town known for hosting the biggest beaches in the Amalfi Coast, including the gorgeous Erchie Beach with its magnificent tower overlooking the sea!.

Located between Amalfi and Ravello, Maiori is better known for its history as a seaside Roman baths and summer resort.

When in Maiori, don’t overlook the Norman Tower located over the main beach that dates back to 1563 and which was once known as the Torre dell’Angolo

Another place to visit in Maiori is the Saint Nicholas Castle, a mysterious fortress from the eleventh century, on top of a hill with gorgeous views over the bay

Next, make your way to Maiori’s sister village, Minori.

The best way to get there is via The Lemon Path (Sentiero dei Limoni)! This ancient footpath runs between Maiori and Minori, offering breathtaking views of the Amalfi Coast.

The path is a fairly easy hike, it is about 1.2 miles (2.5 kilometers) long each way and takes about an hour to hike, though there is a decent amount of elevation change.

Minori is an unpretentious little town with a beautiful beach and a history stretching back millennia, likely back to Etruscan times.

The colorful village has a relaxing and calm atmosphere and it is a perfect place to spend a half-day enjoying a lesser-known side of the Amalfi Coast.

This unassuming fishing town hosts a splendid ancient Roman villa from the first century AD, Villa Marittima Romana, one of the most important ancient sites on the whole Amalfi Coast.

The villa, which was probably the seaside residence of an influential Roman senator, features a beautiful open-air atrium with a central pool and dozens of mosaics and frescoes.

Option Three: Day Trip to Pompeii

the pathway through the ruins of pompeii in italy

If you feel you’ve seen enough of this stunning coastal area and want to start making your way back to Naples, you can devote the last day of your itinerary to visiting the important ruins of Pompeii, locally known as Pompeii Scavi.

Note that Pompeii is closed on Mondays, so don’t take this option if it’s Monday!

You can reach Pompeii by car or, even faster and easier, by train. However, I strongly recommend taking a day tour so you can have the important historical context that you need to make your trip to Pompei even more impactful.

To get to Pompeii, take the Campania Express train. It will take you about half an hour from Naples to Pompeii (or about 20 minutes from Sorrento).

The Campania Express is a special train along the Circumvesuviana train line with stops only at tourist sites. These trains run from March to October and the tickets are about €6 (from Naples train station) or €4 (from Sorrento train station). 

You can book a fantastic 3-hour tour via Take Walks or a shorter 2-hour tour via Get Your Guide, both of which include skip-the-line tickets and a knowledgeable, licensed tour guide.

Alternately, you can self-guide when you arrive, or you can also buy an entry ticket with an audioguide if you like to go at your own pace.

detail of some of the ruins of pompeii including vases and stone walls

Covering a surface of about 440,000 square meters, Pompeii was an actual entire city before its devastation, complete with streets, temples, squares, villas, theaters, baths, and shops.

Honestly, it would take a few days to explore the entire site of Pompeii completely, but you can get a pretty good idea of it on a day trip.

To get a general glimpse of the former buried city, you can follow a short itinerary that features the most important sites and that will easily give you a general picture of how life was in this ancient Roman settlement.

The best way to visit Pompeii is by relying on an organized tour that has already figured out the best sights, as they can provide you the most context which will bring the ruins of Pompeii to life.

If you just want to self-guide your own Pompeii tour, be sure not to miss the following sites (all tours will cover these in-depth, as well):

  • The Large Theater and the Odeon: two theaters in the same area, the first probably devoted to the performance of plays and the second one boasting incredible acoustics.
  • The Garden of the Fugitives (Orto dei Fuggiaschi): an old quarter named after bodies of 13 victims that died as they were trying to escape from the volcano eruption.
  • The Lupanar: the city’s brothel was with small cells and erotic frescoes, the building is easy to find by following the phallic symbols on facades of nearby buildings.
  • The Villa of Mysteries: a captivating and mysterious villa that probably belonged to a powerful family, located outside the city walls overlooking the sea.
  • The House of the Faun: one of the largest residences in Pompeii (around 3,000 square meters) with special areas for the servants.
  • The Forum: a large square with triumphal arches, public buildings, the basilica, the market, temples and other buildings. This area hosted the main civic, religious, and commercial activities.
view of pompeii with mt vesuvius in the background with ruins

Other options for this final day include full-day guided tours that also include a trip to Mt. Vesuvius — the volcano which caused all the destruction that lays before your eyes at Pompeii.

If you want to also visit Mt. Vesuvius, it’s best to do so on a guided tour that combines both sites to make transportation markedly easier. I recommend either this tour of Pompeii and Mt. Vesuvius leaving from Naples, or this one that departs from either Naples or Sorrento.

Book your full-day trip of Pompeii and Vesuvius from Naples or Sorrento here!

How to Get to the Amalfi Coast

rooftops and church dome with mosaic tiling in the fishing villages of the amalfi coast at sunset

The easiest and smartest way to get to the Amalfi Coast is to first reach Naples.

You can swiftly get to Naples by train from virtually any other Italian city. There are also frequent buses from Rome to Naples, which takes about 2.5 hours.

If you’re traveling from another European city, keep in mind that many low-cost airlines fly directly to Naples!

Once in Naples, you can either rent a car (recommended if you want the most flexibility with this Amalfi Coast itinerary) or take public transportation to get you around the Amalfi Coast (recommended if you’re uncomfortable with driving narrow coastal roads or are on a strict budget).

If you choose to rent a car, I recommend renting a car only once you arrive in Naples.

Even if you’re visiting other Italian cities beforehand, you likely won’t want a car in most Italian cities, but it’s a great option once you arrive in Naples and plan to hit the Amalfi Coast.

Not sure where to get the best price on your rental? Whenever I’m traveling Europe, I always use Discover Cars to find the best deal — they search over 500 car rental agencies (including little-known, destination-specific ones) to find the best price for your rental.

Check rental prices and availability from Naples Airport here!

If you’re not planning to drive, you’ll be relying on a combination of trains, buses, and potentially private cars in order to get around during your Amalfi Coast trip.

If you’re going west to east, I suggest taking the train from Naples to Sorrento, and then taking the bus or a private car to Positano to start your Amalfi Coast itinerary.

Alternately, if you’re going east to west, take the train from Naples to Salerno and then take a bus or a private car to Vietri Sul Mare.

How to Get Around the Amalfi Coast: Travel Tips & Key Things to Know

bridge on the amalfi coast going over water below and sea in the distance

The only land route along the Amalfi Coast is the State Road 163 (Strada Statale), from Positano to Vietri sul Mare.

You can rent a car and drive along the coast, taking the opportunity to make stops whenever you want.

This is what I strongly recommend, as long as you’re a confident driver! Taking an Amalfi Coast road trip offers you the most flexibility and ease.

Note for Americans (and other places where automatic cars are standard): Many rental car companies in Italy have fewer automatic cars in their inventory and many more manual cars. If you don’t know how to drive manual, or you just prefer automatic, you’ll want to book an automatic car as early as possible, so you can be sure to get one!

Another note about driving in Italy: If you’re not from the EU, there is a chance you will have to show your International Driving Permit. I didn’t have to the last time I rented a car in Italy, but there’s always a chance you will, so err on the side of caution and have yours ready.

It only costs $20 and will save you a hassle — especially if you’re pulled over and are asked to show your IDP. Fines can be costly — several hundred euros costly — if you don’t have one and are caught driving without it. Lesson one of Italy travel: tickets are expensive, so avoid them at all costs!

You can also travel along the Amalfi coast by bus. There are tickets valid for a 45-minute ride or a 90-minute ride (€2.40 or €3.60).

There are also one-day tickets and three-day tickets (€7.20 or €18). These last two are the best options for an extended Amalfi Coast itinerary like this one!

Tickets are normally purchased at the tabbachino (tobacco shop), bars, and at the giornalaio (newsstand).

Always ask for directions the bus stop when you purchase the ticket as there are no official bus stops (public transit can be confusing in Italy, hence my exhortations to rent a car!)

the amalfi coast town of amalfi town as seen from the water with white and colorful buildings on a sunny day with some clouds

Finally, you can travel by ferry. There are a few perks to traveling by ferry: it is a convenient way to move around from one town to the other, there are fewer crowds, and of course, the views are spectacular!

Ferries, however, stop in just a few of the coastal towns, including Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi, Minori, Maiori, Cetara, and Salerno.

Prices range from €9 to about €20 per ride, so this can get more costly than taking the bus, but it is less crowded and more scenic.

Tickets can be purchased at the ticket booths in town or near the ports.

One final note about getting around: If you’re prone to motion sickness at all, you’ll want to bring Dramamine for your travels around the Amalfi Coast!

Whether you travel by car or bus (winding roads with steep curves) or ferry (choppy waters), there’s a high chance of motion sickness if you are at all prone to it.

A little Dramamine will do you huge favors if you have strong motion sickness. If you prefer a more natural option, the non-drowsy ginger Dramamine is a great alternative.

When to Visit the Amalfi Coast

the beautiful beach in positano with its telltale umbrellas and blue sea and lots of small boats

The southern area of Italy is an ideal destination for summer!

During the hottest months of the year, you are more likely to enjoy this itinerary for the Amalfi Coast if you’re doing it by ferry.

The weather is often hot, but the seas are calm and it is also easier to visit extra places such as Capri. Take into account that in summer (high season) prices are higher and places overcrowded.

Autumn, spring, and winter will be better for those who prefer to drive or travel by bus along the coast.

If you had to pick one time, I’d say spring is the ideal time to visit: the temperatures are not extreme, making it easier and more pleasant to move around, and it is less crowded in spring than in fall.

However, the water will be colder than in fall, since it won’t have had the chance to heat up all summer long, so it’s not the best for swimming.

In general, the Amalfi Coast has a Mediterranean climate, with long and hot summers, while winters tend to be short and not so long — although there is always a slight chance of snow in the winter, so it’s definitely not beach weather!

Which City to Base Yourself in for an Amalfi Coast Itinerary

minori beach on the amalfi coast

The first answer would be that you should pick either Positano or Amalfi as your home base, since it is relatively easy to move west or east from there.

However, let’s explore these and other options in detail — and if you want even more detail, I have a full guide to where to stay on the Amalfi Coast, including accommodation suggestions for the 13 best Amalfi Coast towns!

Positano

Many consider Positano the prettiest of all the towns in the Amalfi Coast, plus it has the most guided tour options and accommodations.

However, prices tend to be high all year round in Positano… and not only when it comes to accommodations, but also food, restaurants, and entertainment.

If you can afford to splurge, then definitely book a hotel here as it’s the best option if price isn’t a concern!

LUXURY | Hotel Villa Franca is one of the most luxurious hotels along the entire Amalfi Coast — and staying here comes with an eye-watering price tag. However, you do really get the best of the best: two fine dining restaurants, a rooftop pool with mouth-dropping views, the ultra-luxurious O’Spa Wellness Center with a hammam, and spacious rooms with incredible views.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

MID-RANGE | Hotel Conca d’Oro is a great choice for a luxurious but not outrageous hotel in Positano. Right in the center of town, the room has spacious and beautifully-designed rooms with a minimalist eye for elegant detail. Most rooms have balconies with sweeping beautiful views and the terrace is a to-die-for place to watch the sunset.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

BUDGET | Relais Il Sogno de Positano is one of the more affordable options in Positano, although I would hesitate to call it truly ‘budget’. The rooms are vibrant, colorful, and spacious, with great views of the sea in the distance. It is a bit far from the main town area, which isn’t a bad trade-off considering the huge difference in price tag between this and other options in Positano.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

Sorrento

the red rooftops of the buildings in sorrento italy and the harbor and blue sea and cliffs in the distance

Personally, Sorento is my favorite town in the area, and it really doesn’t matter if it is not technically part of the Amalfi Coast.

Regardless of whether it’s part of the Amalfi Coast or not, you should absolutely see Sorrento during your trip!

Besides, staying in Sorrento will allow you to visit extra places at the end of your Amalfi Coast tour, including a day trip to Pompeii, Naples, and even the small islands of Capri, Procida, or Ischia.

As another pro in favor of staying in Sorrento, consider that Sorrento is bigger than the other villages, offering more accommodation options and better services, and yet the town remains small and charming.

However, keep in mind that if you choose Sorrento as your base, it will be necessary to wake up very early every day in order to move around and take advantage of the day.

In fact, Sorrento is quite far from most of the eastern towns on the coast, so that is something to keep in mind.

If you choose Sorrento, it may make more sense to spend a portion of the itinerary in Sorrento, and a portion elsewhere like Amalfi.

LUXURY | Grand Hotel Royal is the most elegant option in Sorrento, with a private beach with free parasols and sunbeds for its guests. The hotel also features its own private gardens filled with palm trees and other lush plant life. There are several on-site fine-dining restaurants as well as a stunning pool with sweeping views of the Gulf of Naples and Mt. Vesuvius.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

MID-RANGE | Accademia 39 is a charming boutique guesthouse is a lovely property right in the heart of Sorrento, just over 500 feet from Leonelli Beach. The design of the hotel is very whimsical and unique, with fun vintage details in the rooms. Its outdoor areas evoke the Amalfi Coast with lemon trees, yellow detailing, and stunning terraces with views over Sorrento.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

BUDGET | Il Palazzetto is a fantastic option with a rather affordable price tag. It has charming rooms set in 16th-century building right in the middle for Sorrento, just 350 feet from Piazza Tasso. The rooms are basic but clean, and a daily breakfast is included.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

Amalfi

the charming town of Amalfi, Italy with beach, mountains in the distance and charming cityscape

This might sound like the best idea, since it is located more or less in a central position, letting you reach every village with a relatively short ride.

This is the best option also when you are not driving and plan to move around with buses or ferries.

However, when it comes to accommodation, prices are also high since it is a very touristic area — but it also does have some of the best luxury options, too!

If you are trying to save some money during your trip, it can be a good idea to stay in smaller towns or to change accommodation, at least once during your five days in the Amalfi Coast as you move along the coast.

LUXURY | Borgo Sant’Andrea is technically located in Conca dei Marini, but it’s just a short walk away from Amalfi. This is one of the most luxurious hotels of the whole of the Amalfi Coast. It boasts many impressive amenities, plus one of the best infinity pools on the entire coastline. The rooms have sea views that will drop your jaw.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

MID-RANGE | Hotel Aurora is a lovely mid-range option just a short walk from the town of Amalfi, about a 7-minute walk away from the town’s beach. The hotel has its own private beach, as well as a lovely garden area with blooming bougainvillea plants. Some rooms have stunning sea views either from windows or balconies, and there is a breakfast terrace with great views of the Bay of Naples.

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

BUDGET | Villa Maria Luigia is a great pick for an affordable place to stay near the town of Amalfi, about a 20-minute walk from town and a 2-minute walk from the nearest beach. The rooms are clean but basic, but guests rave about the hospitality and the view from the terrace!

Check prices, availability, and reviews here!

Alternative small towns for you to stay include:

the charming seascape of ravello on the amalfi coast with red flowers, an old church, terraced landscape, and tree with water with boats below
  • Ravello: This popular town along the Amalfi Coast has a ton to offer, and it is also home to one of the nicest luxury hotels in all of the Amalfi Coast! For a stunning luxury stay, consider Villa Cimbrone, which quite literally looks like a castle!
  • Praiano: This is a small village with a nice beach and quite good places to stay, perfect if you are driving. Tramanto d’Oro has rooms and amenities that would be double or even triple the price in Positano or Amalfi, so if you want luxury digs without the price tag, this is a great choice.
  • Minori: Another gorgeous seaside village with a large and very pretty beach, also great for driving. It has affordable and charming guesthouse options like Antica Rheginna which has gorgeous rooms for a reasonable price.

More Than 5 Days on the Amalfi Coast?

If you have more time — or if one of the days on this Amalfi itinerary didn’t quite sound like your cup of tea — you can add on or swap out one of these destinations.

Ischia 

the charming island of ischia in italy

This volcanic island located off the coast of Amalfi can be a cheaper and less-crowded alternative to Capri!

The island is certainly bigger and offers plenty to see, such as the Castello Aragonese, dramatically located on a rocky island linked to Ischia Ponte by a narrow bridge. 

Next up are the Hot Springs of Ischia, the volcanic island has over a hundred thermal springs with therapeutic waters.

You can choose to check these thermal baths in local water parks or luxurious spas. There are also thermal springs in Sorgeto Beach that you can enjoy for free! 

And if you’re in the mood for a quaint little town, then check Ischia Porto, a popular place to explore, starting with the charming Corso Vittoria Colonna, ideal for some shopping and grabbing either an espresso or some authentic and delicious gelato!

Salerno

the large town of salerno italy with churches harbor and more

If you prefer the lifestyle of a bigger town rather than the quaint villages with a tranquil atmosphere, then Salerno is a good place to visit. 

You can discover the Duomo of Salerno, a Romanesque church built back in the eleventh century.

Another place to visit in town is Villa Comunale di Salerno with its terrific landscaped garden, sculptures, exotic trees, and a small pond.

Finally, towering above the city, the Medieval Castle of Arechi stands 300 meters above the sea dominating the Gulf of Salerno.

Naples

famous galleries and buildings in the main downtown area of naples (napoli) italy - a good place to stop at the beginning or the end of your amalfi coast itinerary

The biggest and most important town in the Campania region is Naples, and it can be an excellent additional destination to add to your Amalfi itinerary if you can spend more time in the area!

Here, you can explore Piazza del Plebiscito, with the Royal Palace and the Basilica.

You can also visit the National Archaeological Museum or the fantastic, sixth century Castel dellOvo, the oldest remaining fortification in town.

And when it’s dinner time, nothing better than a slice of Neapolitan pizza (Naples is famous for its many delicious pizzerias) or a delicious portion of sweet and creamy pastiera napoletana.

One Day in Barcelona: Expert Guide for 24 Hours in Barcelona

view of the opera house in barcelona with a barely-leafy tree in front of it on the main ramblas street

Trying to see any city in a day is probably an act of madness.

But if you only have 24 hours to spare, the good news is Barcelona isn’t a hard one to try to sightsee in.

All in all, Barcelona has all you need to blitz a day of sightseeing.

It’s a pretty compact city, it has excellent public transport, and a lot of attractions are concentrated in a small part of town.

With one day in Barcelona, you have no hope of seeing it fully: but you do have a shot at getting a good impression of the city.

a modernist building of a former hospital turned into an art deco beauty in gaudi-esque style by another famous barcelona architect, in barcelona

After living in Barcelona for over a decade, I’ve helped many friends see the city, no matter how much time they have to visit — and here are my top picks for what you should prioritize with only one day in Barcelona.

Unfortunately, that means some things had to go (sorry, Park Guell, you’re beautiful but save it for another visit!)

Here’s my guide to seeing Barcelona in a day.

Start at the Plaça de Catalunya and Las Ramblas.

View of Square of Catalonia in Barcelona, with pink flowers and a fountain and statues and buildings in the background on a cloudy day

An obvious place to start, this square at the top of Las Ramblas is served by the Catalunya metro stop.

Or if you are coming straight from the airport, like if you’re visiting Barcelona on a layover, you could get the A1 Aerobus here!

Talking of transport, given that our one day Barcelona itinerary is going to be busy, the best ticket to buy is the T-Dia, which gives you unlimited travel on public transport for the day.

metro sign in barcelona in the plaza de catalunya metro stop area

The square is huge and monumental, definitely worth exploring for photo opportunities among its statues of lions and ancient heroes.

There are also some flagship stores around, notably the famous El Corte Inglés department store.

Las Ramblas are the real draw, however.

Probably the most famous road in Spain, this mile-long avenue has a wide central pedestrianized area, ideal for a leisurely stroll.

La Rambla street. The most popular street in Barcelona early in the morning. Almost empty. Spain

Local’s note: you can call this street its official name, La Rambla, but it is technically a series of a number of streets (Rambla de Canaletes, Rambla dels Estudis, etc).

That’s why many people also talk of it in the plural, i.e., Las Ramblas (Spanish) or Les Rambles (Catalan).

It is touristy, and in peak season you might find yourself accosted by people selling trinkets or waiters touting their restaurants, but it is still an unmistakeably magical walk.

My tip as a local is to make sure you look up! A lot of the buildings are really beautifully decorated or have eye-catching rooftops – something of a recurring theme in this town.

On a one-day trip, I wouldn’t put pressure on myself with any must-sees along Las Ramblas, but one obvious highlight would be La Boqueria, a fruit market about five minutes’ walk down the street from Plaça Catalunya, on the right-hand side.

view of a person visiting la boqueria market in barcelona

Barcelona is filled with lively “mercats”, market buildings, often with ornate roofs, where locals shop for fresh produce.

La Boqueria is the city’s most famous market, and is therefore much more of a tourist trap, but there is still good produce to be found.

Plus, customers who are happy to shop around and compare prices instead of going to the first place will be rewarded for their patience!

A little further down on the same side of the road is the Teatre de Liceu, the city’s sumptuous opera house.

Teatre de Liceu on the rambla, a popular tourist landmark in barcelona, a beautiful opera house

Ravaged by fire in 1994, it has been back in operation since 1999 and hosts both classical and occasionally popular music.

It’s a nice idea to walk through its elegant lobby and enjoy it!

A possible stop for a morning coffee would be next door at the Café de l’Òpera, an establishment which opened in 1929 and looks for all the world like it has been plucked out of a period drama.

On the opposite side of the road you will see the turning for Carrer de Ferran.

By downtown’s Gothic standards, this is positively a wide street, and something about its lampposts and many aged shop façades always fills me with a sense of warmth and romance.

Unusual view of the iconic Plaça Reial square (Plaza Real) in Barcelona city center, during a sunny day of January. Usually this is one of the most bustling places of the Gothic Quarter

A right-hand turn from Carrer de Ferran will take you through Plaça Reial, an immaculate, classy square which lives up to its “royal” billing.

The basic advice here would be to follow your nose: this is Barri Gòtic, which is an area designed to get lost in.

As long as you basically go in the same direction as the Rambla, you won’t mess with our itinerary, and the essential magic of this area is the sensation of the unexpected.

Here, streets wind in unpredictable directions, and the most elegant boutiques occupy cave-like holes in the wall.

Your mission is simply to soak it in!

Visit the Passeig de Colón and the Port.

Passeig de Colom street and The Columbus monument (or The Colon) in Barcelona, Spain with amazing palms and clear blue sky.

Whether you make it back to the Rambla or not, making your way downtown will spit you out on Passeig de Colón, which is Catalan for Columbus.

Christopher came to Barcelona after his first voyage to the new world, to report his findings.

Today, he is honored with a huge statue at the foot of Las Ramblas, with the mountain Montjuïc providing an equally photogenic backdrop.

Crossing the road from Passeig de Colón takes you to Barcelona’s main port, Port Vell.

View of the Port Vell in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain, on a sunny day

If you follow the port around to the left, you will come across a strip of fancy restaurants in front of the Museum of the History of Catalonia.

This part of town is great for people-watching – and yacht-watching!

Some of the biggest vessels in the world – improbably luxurious, huge things – moor here.

Enjoy some beach time.

the w hotel in barcelona with the barceloneta beach in the foreground

Continue in the same direction, downtown as from Las Ramblas, and you will arrive at the beach.

To the right you will see the sail-like W Hotel, and in that direction there is a growing number of posers doing Venice Beach-like shows of strength if that’s your scene.

However, apart from a few high-end beach bars, there is nothing more to see at this end.

Behind the hotel is the more functional end of the port, so I recommend you focus most of your energies heading in the opposite direction.

view of people out on the sand enjoying the beach of barcelona

The beach in Barcelona is largely artificial, but it still makes for a pretty killer view!

Sandy and wide and full of people, just walking along the seafront is a pleasure.

If you are looking for a dip or a sunbathe, as a general rule the further you get away from the port, the better – for both water quality and space.

Seafood paella with glass of wine in seaside cafe,port of Barcelona

Or alternatively, if your stomach is starting to grumble, a paella by the beach is a bit of a tradition!

Paella is actually an invention from Valencia, further south on Spain’s east coast.

Technicalities aside, it’s still popular in Barcelona, and you can find some good (if pricey) places just a sea breeze away from the sand.

View at the towers and the Peix (Fish by Frank Gehry) in Port Olimpic, the Olympic harbor in Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain

One landmark to help you out in your search is Frank Gehry’s El Peix sculpture.

You will find some famous paella spots before (Marina Bay and Agua) and after (La Fonda, Barnabier and El Cangrejo Loco) Gehry’s loveable, larger than life rendering of a goldfish.

Visit the famous Sagrada Familia.

the sagrada familia of barcelona with water in the front

Time to head to one of Barcelona’s most famous sights, the Sagrada Familia.

Tip — any bus with a V in the name refers to the vertical routes that take you up and downtown!

From the beach, we are going to the Passeig Maritim bus stop and taking the V21 to La Sagrada Familia.

Even if churches aren’t really your thing, this basilica is a must-see, not least because it is a constantly changing monument. 

vaulted ceiling of the la sagrada familia church

Indeed, if this is not your first visit to Barcelona, some of the wow-factor comes with noting how much it has been altered over time.

Tickets to go inside are steep (see skip-the-line ticket costs here), so it’s worth doing a Google image search before splashing out.

If you do want to check out the interiors – which, to be fair, are pretty stunning – make sure you book in advance.

Explore the Diagonal area and have dinner.

casa de pedrera in barcelona with its wavy facade and stone roof

From Sagrada Familia, take the blue metro line to Diagonal and head for the Passeig de Gràcia exit.

This street is as graceful as its name suggests – you will find any number of designer stores down here, and more importantly, two of Gaudí’s masterpieces.

Not far from the metro station is Casa Milà, also known as La Pedrera (“The Stone Quarry”), on the left-hand side.

Far more sensual than the name suggests, this corner-building is impossibly curvy and sinuous, as though it was melted before being kneaded into shape.

Casa Batlló, just three blocks down, is totally different.

Casa Batlló whimsical architecture on a sunny day with no clouds in the sky in late afternoon with mosaic walls

This was Gaudí’s overhaul of a tall, narrow building and its colorful motifs are much more reminiscent of the architect’s work at Park Güell.

For dinner, this area offers a ton of options.

For tapas, I would recommend Cervecería Catalana, a right-hand turn off Passeig de Gràcia in Carrer de Mallorca 236.

It gets busy, so you might have more luck at its sister restaurant, Ciutat Condal, located at the bottom of Rambla Catalunya, which runs parallel to Passeig de Gràcia.

Spain Restaurant Bar Coffee shop sign Tapas restaurant

Another glamorous option on Passeig de Gràcia itself is El Nacional (Passeig de Gràcia 24), a self-styled “gastronomic multi-space” where you can try specialities from all different parts of Spain.

Its vibe at nighttime also makes it a fine spot for a cocktail after you’ve had dinner elsewhere.

Talking of drinks, the high-end option to finish the night would be to head to the rooftop bar of one of the city’s hotels, such as Hotel Majestic on the corner of Passeig de Gràcia and Carrer de Valencia. 

But don’t feel obliged to blow your budget in a fancy place – one of the glories about this area (and indeed Barcelona in general) is stumbling across a bar.

Wherever you go, you are likely to find beer and wine for a reasonable price, and mind-blowingly large shots of liquor in any mixer you order! Cheers!

2 Day Canggu Itinerary: A Quick Introduction to Bali’s Nomad Paradise

surfboards for rent on a canggu beach in bali

Travelers and digital nomads in search of a ultra-hip hot spot in Bali need look no further than Canggu, on the west coast of Bali. 

It’s located just 40 minutes north of the airport, making it the perfect hub for travelers. 

What will you find in Canggu? All the fun and buzz you could hope for, right in the middle of the party paradise of Bali. 

But don’t worry! Even with all that going on, we still lead pretty relaxed lives here! 

What truly made me fall in love with Canggu was the fact that there’s  endless options and opportunities, whatever your interest or mood might be.

rice field landscape in canggu bali with lots of buildings around it for cafes and other shopping opportunities

Need to unwind and recenter yourself with some meditation and yoga? You’re in the right place.

More in the mood to sweat it out at a boxing gym and live the excitement of attending a Fight Night? Canggu’s got you covered. 

How about salsa dancing, board game cafés, and high-end co-working spaces? Yep, you guessed it, it’s all here. 

To top it all off, you’ll have no shortage of great places to eat during your stay, as Canggu is full of top-quality restaurants from every cuisine imaginable. 

I’ve spent the last 2 years living in Bali and I’m so happy that Canggu is the place I get to call home. So, keep reading, and let me show you with this Canggu itinerary.

Day One of Your Canggu Itinerary

Wake up with yoga.

view of several people in a yoga clas in bali with views of nature outside in an open-air studio

As you probably know, yoga is one of the top reasons people come to visit Bali.

Even if a whole spiritual retreat isn’t exactly your thing, check out a class or two at Samadi Wellness Community

The class you take will depend, of course, on the day and your personal preferences, so check their website for a fully updated schedule to see all the options.

Personally, I love starting my Tuesdays and Thursdays with Abdi’s chakra flow class. 

This beautiful space hosts many daily classes in the shala, and features an outdoor cafe as well as two stores with yoga apparel and grocery products. 

Grab a coconut after class and you might even see some chickens walking around the property!

Samadi also hosts a Sunday market with different shopping stalls, as well as monthly events such as tea ceremonies and ecstatic dance, so be sure to check that calendar when planning your stay! 

Have a delicious breakfast at Front Cafe.

breakfast in bali with french toast and bananas

For a fantastic breakfast, head on over to the nearby neighborhood of Pererenan, just a quick 5 minute motorbike ride away.

This area slightly north of Canggu has some incredible cafes and restaurants, and is quieter than busy Batu Bolong and Berawa streets. 

Front is a little bit tucked away, but this little hidden gem with great coffee and breakfast fare is absolutely worth a visit.

They close up shop around 3 in the afternoon, so be sure to come in the morning to enjoy their offerings! 

Whether you’re in the mood for a breakfast burrito or a smoothie bowl, they’ve got you covered with their tasty fare.

Bonus perks include fast WiFi (perfect for those of us who work online!), and some of the best coffee in Canggu. 

Receive a blessing at Tanah Lot Temple.

Ocean view of Tanah Lot temple in Canggu area of Bali, which has the temple set literally on an island in the ocean, with waves receding around low tide

Since you’re already up in Pererenan, let’s keep going a bit further north to experience Tanah Lot Temple – a traditional Balinese temple literally situated in the ocean. 

Be sure to check the tides before you visit (this is a good resource) and plan your trip for low tide so you can walk out to the small island. 

As a sign of respect, remember to cover your shoulders and legs with a sarong.

Then, cross the sea to the temple grounds and receive a blessing by a local priest!

Have lunch at Zali.

traditional lebanese food like a chicken wrap with hummus

Let’s stop off again in Pererenan on the way back from Tanah Lot for a meal at Zali

This Lebanese fusion place has a delicious array of small plates and mezze, as well as larger portions for when you’re really hungry.

The hummus and babaghanoush are highly recommended by me!

I once had a friend visit me in Bali, and after our first meal here, he loved this restaurant so much, he ate there almost every day!

Unwind at a local spa.

a foot bath and foot massage in a bath with flowers in bali

The incredible Amo Spa is a favorite destination to unwind in the Canggu area. 

This beautiful building is home to experts in massage, hair care, nails, waxing, facials and more. You can even get a tarot reading here! 

All the massages are done in private, comfortable rooms with your choice of scented oil for ultimate relaxation.

It’s my absolute favorite place to go on the island for a treatment! 

Amo also has a sauna and ice bath downstairs that you can purchase a day pass to, plus a cafe serving healthy and delicious meals and snacks so you can really take your time and unwind. 

Have a delicious dinner at a local warung.

food at a balinese cafe with beautiful portions

The tasty Warung Sika is just up the road for some local Indonesian food sure to please both your stomach and your wallet. 

You can order off the menu, or I recommend going up to the counter and trying a few different things behind the glass for a well balanced meal.

Just point at what looks good to fill your plate, and you’ll get some rice to go with it!

Go out for drinks and dancing.

Man's hand serving an orange drink with crushed ice and mint

The nightlife scene in Canggu is pretty popular, so there’s a lot to choose from. A good bet to start the night is Black Sands Brewery

This casual but trendy spot is the perfect place to meet friends to catch up or maybe even play a card game.

It’s open-air, mostly outside, and the spacious setting is perfect for a relaxed night out. 

They also serve food in case you need a snack, and are open until 12. 

If you want to go to a proper club for some dancing, Vault is a fun one!

It’s located in Berawa underground in an old converted bank vault, hence the name. 

On Wednesdays and Saturdays they play hip hop, and Fridays are for house and techno, so no matter what your preference is, you’re bound to hear something that’ll get your body moving. 

Day Two of Your Canggu Itinerary

Take a beach walk or a surf lesson.

Surfers of all abilities play in the warm waters of Batu Balong, Bali

Canggu is on the west coast, which means lots of beaches and lots of surf.

While these beaches aren’t the best for swimming with the waves crashing close to the shore, they are great for taking a walk or learning to surf. 

You can head down to the shore to take a lesson!

You can easily rent a board and find an instructor willing to teach you the basics. It’s one of the most popular pastimes in Canggu after all.

Batu Bolong Beach is usually the most popular for beginner’s surfing in this area, while Berawa is a bit quieter. 

Seaweed Restaurant on the beachfront is a great place to chill on a beanbag with a coconut for a front row seat to the surfing action — but don’t eat yet, because one of my favorite Bali restaurants is next up!

Have brunch at Milu by Nook.

Smoothie bowl served inside of a coconut bowl with mango and strawberry and seeds and coconut shreds in Bali

Did all that surfing (or surf-watching) leave you hungry? Milu by Nook is sure to cure you of that! 

They have a range of different cuisines, from local favorites to lots of Western dishes, with plenty of vegan and vegetarian options. I love their pulled pork sandwich and their bahn mi! 

The scenery is beautiful as well. If you sit outside, there’s a lovely green garden area sure to brighten your day. 

Check out a famous beach club.

potato head beach club in bali area

One of the big draws in the Canggu area are the beach clubs.

Sunset time is the best to see a beautiful view over the water, but they are also popular for relaxing by the pool during the day or partying in the evening. 

Located in nearby Seminyak, one of the most popular options is the upscale Potato Head Beach Club.

Drinks are pricy here, but they’re delicious, and the amenities are great.

When it comes to beach clubs in Canggu, Finn’s Beach Club on Berawa Beach is probably the most famous. There are multiple pools to swim in, while you eat, drink, and relax.

If you want a sun bed to lounge on, there is a minimum spend, so it’s best to go with a few friends to share the cost.

But don’t worry — you use this charge on their delicious sushi and cocktails, or anything else on their menu. 

La Brisa is another beach club up the coast in Echo Beach.

The design is stunning, an old wooden boat theme with low lighting.

La Brisa is a bit calmer than the flashy Finn’s. They also host a Sunday Market here every week with nice shopping!

If you like to stay up on the latest trends, Atlas Beach Club is for you.

This new addition to the Berawa coastline is the biggest beach club in the area and brand new.

They host a kecak fire dance every evening at 6, so you can experience some traditional Balinese culture in between DJ sets. 

Whichever beach club you decide to check out, cheers to a beautiful sunset over the waves of the Bali Sea!

Enjoy dinner on the sand.

bali warung food with shrimp chips and a noodle stir fry with egg

With a sunset view like this, why would you want to leave? Times Beach Warung on Echo Beach is a great spot for a bite. 

It’s a great middle ground, with relaxed beach vibes (you can keep your toes in the sand if you choose, or hop up into their covered deck area) and a nice menu.

I always enjoy their fish of the day. You can people-watch (and dog-watch) and soak in the beauty of the area.

Tuscany Road Trip: The Perfect 5 Day Tuscany Itinerary

the beautiful road leading to the val d'orcia in tuscany italy, with cypress trees flanking a narrow, winding hillside town

Rolling hills with perfect rows of manicured vineyards, hilltop towns with medieval architecture, and some of the best food you’ll find in all of Italy: these are just three of the reasons to take a Tuscany road trip.

While you can go on day trips to Tuscany from Florence, the best way to explore the scenic Tuscan countryside is to rent a car and drive through it yourself!

Planning your Tuscany trip last minute? Here are some helpful tips!

🚗 Renting a Car: I always book through Discover Cars since they look through 500+ agencies including small local ones — picking up at Florence airport will have the best rates.

🛌🏻 Suggested Accommodations for this Itinerary:
– Night 1 in San Gimignano:
Hotel La Cisterna (mid-range) or Hotel Bel Soggiorno (luxury)
– Night 2 in Siena:
Borgo Grondaie (mid-range) or Residenza Palazzo Borghesi (luxury)
– Night 3 in Montepulciano:
La Terrazza de Montepulciano (mid-range) or Palazzo Carletti (luxury)
– Night 4 in Arezzo:
Ghibellino B&B (mid-range) or Chimera Tuscany Resort (luxury)

A Tuscany road trip will take you through some of the most beautiful villages and medieval towns in Italy, with lovely historical centers, beautiful churches, and spectacular castles.

Cozy narrow street decorated with colorful flowers in the charming town of Pienza in Tuscany, a small and historic village.
The beautiful town of Pienza is a must on any Tuscany road trip!

Whatever season you visit Tuscany in, this picturesque region will reward you with spectacular views and unforgettable experiences.

To help you ensure you won’t miss any must-see sights, I put together an itinerary with some of the best spots to visit on this road trip through Tuscany.

In just 5 days in Tuscany, you’ll be driving through the region’s most beautiful cities and villages, tasting great local wines, and — perhaps most importantly — enjoying delicious food!

All you need to do is book your flights and rent your car, and you’re ready to fall in love with Italy’s most charming region — I’ve done all the legwork for you!

What to Know Before Planning your Tuscany Road Trip

The road leading to the La Foce gardens in the southern part of the Val d'Orcia, with cypress trees on both sides of the road
Driving in Tuscany brings you to beautiful places, like the road heading to La Foce Gardens in Val d’Orcia.

Before getting into this Tuscany road trip itinerary, it’s worth covering a few practical details you should be aware of.

Driving in Italy is not without its quirks, so here are the most important things to keep in mind before driving through Tuscany!

Hopefully, these tips will help you plan the Tuscan road trip of your dreams.

We also suggest reading this guide to renting a car in Tuscany before your trip, as it gives helpful driving tips for the region.

🚗 Best Tuscany Rental Car Prices: Discover Cars
This search engine not only looks at the typical rental car agencies (which can be $$$), it also looks at local, small Italian agencies that may offer better deals. Their pricing is straightforward (no bait-and-switches) and they offer free cancellation if you need it.
➜ Check rental prices in Tuscany with Discover Cars here!

Best Time for a Tuscany Road Trip

Winding road to a village in Tuscany with mustard flowers lining the fields in the springtime.
Tuscany road trips are perfect for summer or fall — summer can be busy and hot!

Tuscany is beautiful any time of the year but the ideal time for a road trip is either late spring or autumn.

Although in summer the region is also beautiful, the months of July and August are also the busiest, so you’ll risk finding many places crowded and everything pricier.

Plus, everything is hot, hot, hot, and most of the joys of a trip in Tuscany is spending time outdoors.

Whether it’s sitting on patios that overlook vineyards sipping local Chianti or wandering through an ancient city street…. none of that is fun when the temperatures are so high you feel like you’re melting!

Spring is a great season to enjoy beautiful landscapes, with flowers blooming and the typical Tuscan hills covered in all shades of green.

The temperatures are also pleasant if you visit in late April and May, and as long as you prioritize the early part of June, June is still a good month to visit.

Colorful autumn vines with red, yellow, and orange leaves on the grapevines in the wineries of Tuscany
Autumn is a great time to do this Tuscany itinerary!

Since Tuscany is famous for its wines, autumn is also a great time to visit the countryside and enjoy wine tasting in Tuscany while admiring the hard work that goes into getting ready for the harvest season.

Best of all, the temperatures are still pleasant from mid-September to late October, and the crowds get smaller, so the season is perfect for a road trip!

If you’re wondering whether you could do a road trip in winter, the answer is yes.

However, it can get quite cold, the landscape is not nearly as pretty, and you’ll also find some restaurants and museums closed for the season.

On the bright side, you’ll find lower prices and no crowds — it may be worth it, but I don’t think it’s the best time of year.

Driving in Tuscany

A woman hanging out of the passenger window to take in the view from a Tuscan road
Driving in Tuscany is pretty easy if you know a few key things beforehand.

Driving through the Tuscan countryside doesn’t pose any particular issue.

Even as a foreigner, you should have no problem getting around — as long as you have an international driving permit (IDP).

You’ll mostly be driving along regional roads, but from time to time, you may take the highway, which has tolls.

You shouldn’t expect to pay much, but having some coins always with you can be handy.

Most tollbooths take credit or debit cards too, but sometimes you may not have this option, so don’t get caught off guard!

Even if you visit Tuscany in winter, which is not a popular season for road trips, you shouldn’t worry.

Temperatures rarely go below 0°C (32°F), and snowfall is uncommon, so there are no particular hazards when it comes to driving in Tuscany in winter.

Wine Tasting and Driving in Tuscany

Outdoor tasting of white wines with vineyards in the background
No road trip to Tuscany is complete without trying its wines — responsibly, of course!

No trip to Tuscany would be complete without some wine tasting, of course!

But if you’re road tripping in Tuscany, you need to be aware of both laws regarding alcohol consumption and driving and, of course, your safety (and the safety of others on the road with you!)

According to Italian law, you can drive with a maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.05% if you are over 21. Younger drivers are not allowed any alcohol if driving.

While the BAC depends on various factors, from your gender to your weight and whether you drink on a full or empty stomach, a good rule of thumb is to minimize your alcohol consumption as much as possible.

Here are some charts that help you calculate your BAC, so you can know how many glasses of wine you can safely consume before driving.

The bottom line is, while alcohol is always better avoided before driving, by law, you can have a glass or two of wine with your meal and drive, depending on a variety of factors.

If you’re traveling with a partner or group of friends, this is ideal as you can take turns for who can wine taste and who is the designated driver throughout the trip.

Where to Begin Your Tuscany Road Trip

View of the Duomo in Florence from the other side of the Arno River, with the Duomo visible and other towers, and hills in the background
Florence makes the most natural starting point for a Tuscan road trip.

The best place to start your road trip around Tuscany is the region’s capital and biggest city, Florence — plus, it’s just a marvelous city to visit as well, home to sites like the Statue of David and the Florence Duomo.

Be sure to dedicate at least one day in Florence before exploring Tuscany, unless you’ve been there before and feel like you’ve already covered the city!

The international airport Firenze-Peretola has flights to and from many European cities, making it a great place to start your road trip.

Furthermore, you’ll find plenty of high-speed trains going to Florence from all the other big cities in Italy.

A train ride from Milan only takes two hours, while Rome is just over one hour and a half away.

While you could base yourself in Florence and just do several day trips, a Tuscany road trip allows for far more freedom and way less back-and-forth trips.

How Many Days for a Tuscany Road Trip?

Interior of a car in Tuscany overlooking a winery with a white building and mountains in the background
You can take however much time you like, but I recommend 5 days in Tuscany (or more)!

You could easily spend two weeks driving around Tuscany, and you’ll still come across new, wonderful places — that’s the marvel of this region.

On the other hand, you could potentially cut this road trip significantly, and you could even condense this itinerary down to a three-day road trip to see some of the main sights.

However, anywhere between five and seven days for a Tuscany road trip is a good option.

This way, you don’t have to rush and you still get to see the most important places.

As written, this Tuscany itinerary takes five or six days, depending on whether you spend one or two nights in Siena — a city so marvelous it deserves a little extra time.

You can combine this itinerary with a two or three-night stay in Florence before or after the road trip.

You may also want to spend a few nights in a Tuscany villa with a private pool, perhaps at the end of your Tuscany road trip, to really soak up some relaxation before you leave!

I won’t cover any attractions or activities in Florence in this article, but you can find a dedicated post about the best landmarks in Florence and a three-day itinerary to discover the Tuscan capital.

You can combine them in any way that makes sense for your trip!

Day 1: Florence to San Gimignano

Leave Florence, with an optional stop at Castello di Poppiano.

External view of the medieval castle of Poppiano on the Via Chiantigiana
Make an optional stop at the Castello di Poppiano – but reserve a tour ahead of time!

Start your trip around the gorgeous Tuscan countryside in the morning, bright and early so that you don’t miss out on any of this trip’s glory!

The first day of your road trip in Tuscany is dedicated to exploring the picturesque Via Chiantigiana.

This scenic road unfolds through the undulating hills and vineyards known for producing the grapes for the famous Chianti wine, and it’s an exquisite start to your road trip.

As you drive out of Florence, you can have an optional stop, but it requires a prior reservation, so be sure to look into it before starting your trip. Check the website here.

Roughly 45 minutes from the center of Florence, Castello di Poppiano is a medieval castle belonging to the Guicciardini family since the late 12th century.

Amazingly, the family still owns the castle, passed down through the generations, and now they run guided tours with wine and olive oil tastings — delicious.

If you wish to join a tour of Castello di Poppiano, make a reservation at least two days before.

You can choose between a shorter one-hour tour and a longer two-hour one that includes access to the tower terrace and a bigger tasting with wine, oil, and food.

I do suggest the two-hour tour if you can make it work, but if you don’t have time, one hour is okay, or you can skip this stop entirely.

Head to Greve in Chianti.

The charming village of Greve in Chianti in the Tuscany region of Italy, with green hills in a lush part of the year
Stop in Greve in Chianti for a tasty lunch.

After your visit to Castello di Poppiano, make your way to Strada in Chianti, where you’ll join the Via Chiantigiana (SR222).

Drive south along the picturesque road for about 15 minutes to reach your next stop, Greve in Chianti.

A popular stop along the Via Chiantigiana, Greve in Chianti is a cute town where you can stop for a walk around, and enjoy a delicious lunch.

Where do I recommend? Depends on what you want, but Ristorante Pizzeria La Cantina is a popular stop for tasty pizza or traditional Tuscan dishes served with a glass of Chianti.

Move on to Castellina in Chianti.

The stone facade of the Church of San Salvatore in neo-Romanesque architecture style, located in the heart of Castellina in Chianti in Tuscany
Spend the afternoon exploring the charming Castellina in Chianti.

After lunch, continue driving south to the next town on Via Chiantigiana, Castellina in Chianti.

In the small historic center, visit the lovely Church of Saint Salvador and the Archaeological Museum of the Chianti Area.

Note that the museum is closed between January and March and only opens on certain days in November and December.

The area around Florence in winter does shut down a bit, so keep that in mind if planning an off-season road trip to Tuscany.

Make a brief stop in charming Poggibonsi.

panorama in the old town of Poggibonsi, italy, in the town square with a spire, clock tower, church, and other old historic buildings on the piazza
Make a brief stop in Poggibonsi en route to San Gimignano.

Your next stop before your final destination for the day is the town of Poggibonsi, less than half an hour from Castellina in Chianti.

The town is an important stop along the Via Francigena pilgrimage route and has a rich history dating back to the Neolithic period.

Stroll around the old town, check out the medieval Castello della Magione, and visit the Fortezza di Poggio Imperiale.

The town is small but charming, so you only need about one hour — that’s enough to check out the main sights before moving on to your final destination of the day, and settling in for some well-deserved rest at your hotel.

End the day in lovely San Gimignano.

view of the city of san Gimignano with its medieval stone towers protruding from the rest of the skyline of the hillside town
The medieval town of towers, San Gimignano is your final destination today.

Finally, drive to San Gimignano, one of the most picturesque towns in Tuscany.

This town is known for its wine production and charming streets, but it’s even better known for its many towers — 72, if I want to be precise.

Aim to arrive before sunset so you can climb one of the towers and enjoy a spectacular view from above!

Torre Grossa is the tallest in the town, but the effort to climb its many stairs will reward you with the best views.

For a different, less crowded option, you could alternately pay a visit to the twin towers, Torri dei Salvucci.

Other popular landmarks in San Gimignano are the iconic squares Piazza della Cisterna and Piazza del Duomo, great people watching spots in town.

In terms of landmarks, make time to visit the Duomo Collegiata di Santa Maria Assunta as well as the history museum, Tower and Casa Campatelli.

Visit all the attractions you can in the afternoon before heading for dinner: I recommend Ristorante Bel Soggiorno or Ristorante San Martino 26.

Since you’ll be sleeping in San Gimignano, you may leave some things for the following morning, before continuing your road trip.

Day 2: San Gimignano to Siena

Finish up in San Gimignano and (optionally) make a visit to Certaldo.

Tuscan medieval village of Certaldo Alto in the province of Tuscany, with orange buildings and brick road and historic towers

Spend the morning of your second day exploring the sights you didn’t get to see in San Gimignano.

However, be sure you leave a few hours before lunchtime so that you’ll have enough time for this jam-packed day ahead.

For the first stop of the day, the town of Certaldo, you’ll need to backtrack north for roughly 20 minutes… but I promise it’s worth it!

If you’d rather spend more time in San Gimignano, you can skip this stage and start driving later to the next attraction, Volterra.

If you choose to visit Certaldo, you’ll be rewarded with the picturesque sights of its medieval center, located in the upper town.

Catch the funicular to reach the upper town, and visit the main landmarks, including Palazzo Pretorio and Chiesa dei Santi Jacopo e Filippo.

The medieval town of Certaldo is also home to Boccaccio’s house, the birthplace of Giovanni Boccaccio, famed author of the Decameron.

The house is now a museum and offers lovely views of the Tuscan countryside.

Head to Volterra for lunch.

The stone walls and terra cotta roofs of Volterra Italy, in the Tuscan countryside, a must-stop on this Tuscany road trip itinerary

Whether you visited Certaldo or chose to spend extra time in San Gimignano, either way, next we’ll head to the town of Volterra.

The hilltop Tuscan town features well-preserved Etruscan walls around its gorgeous medieval center.

The landmarks you shouldn’t miss are the Cathedral of Santa Maria Assunta, the 13th-century Palazzo dei Priori, and the Roman Theatre.

Wander around Volterra’s picturesque alleys and charming squares and stop for lunch.

Try delicious sandwiches at La Sosta del Priore or enjoy a traditional Tuscan meal at La Taverna della Terra di Mezzo.

Head to Chiusdino and its famous abbey.

General view south side of the magical ruins of Saint Galgano Abbey, in the springtime with lush grass and trees
Don’t miss the abbey ruins outside of Chiusdino!

After lunch, drive to Chiusdino, another delightful Tuscan village with a compact but beautiful medieval town.

Explore the small village and visit the Church of San Michele before continuing your drive toward Siena.

An optional stop just outside Chiusdino is the Abbey of Saint Galgano.

This Gothic-style 13th-century abbey stands roofless in the middle of the Tuscan countryside. The abbey is close to the road, so it’s easy to stop by for a short visit.

Head to Siena to end the day.

View of the famous striped facade of the church in Siena as seen from a rooftop terrace area as an aerial view over the city

Finally, drive to Siena, where you can spend one or two nights, depending on how much time you have reserved for this Tuscany itinerary.

The city is full of amazing landmarks, so you can easily spend more than one day exploring its main sights.

Nevertheless, if you’re short on time, you can check out the most important landmarks in just half a day, if you have to.

Keeping this as just a half-day stop would keep this as a 5-day Tuscany itinerary, but if you spend another day in Siena, that will make this a 6-day road trip.

If time is short, spend the rest of your afternoon and evening exploring the historic center of Siena, revolving around the iconic Piazza del Campo.

The imposing Gothic-style Palazzo Pubblico and the iconic Torre del Mangia tower over Piazza del Campo, and both are must-visits even if you have a short time in Siena.

Just a few minutes away, in Piazza del Duomo, you’ll find the Romanesque-Gothic Duomo di Siena known for its striped marble façade — one of the most beautiful churches in Italy, which is high praise.

End your evening in Siena with a traditional dinner at Osteria Il Carroccio or Osteria degli Svitati, both serving delicious Tuscan dishes.

(Optional) Additional Day: Siena

Explore the town of Siena, on your own or with a tour.

Palazzo Pubblico's gothic facade with archways, red stone, and a large campanile bell tower with a clock on it, in an empty piazza
If you can swing it, spend an extra day in Siena!

If you decide to spend a second day in Siena, there are plenty of landmarks to explore and activities to do.

You can take advantage of the fact that you won’t be driving and go on a wine-tasting tour.

Choose between staying in Siena and joining a local tour like this Siena: Food and Wine Walking Tour or exploring the nearby countryside on this half-day Educational “Vine, Wine, & Life” Tour & Tasting.

Spend the rest of the day exploring Siena and visiting more beautiful landmarks.

In Piazza del Campo, climb to the top of the Tower of Mangia for sweeping views of Siena’s historic center.

The climb up the 87-meter tower can be challenging, but the view is one of the best in town.

Another cool observation point is the so-called Facciatone.

You’ll climb on top of the façade of what was supposed to be an additional nave to the Duomo di Siena but was never completed.

The incomplete project is now known by its literal term, Facciatone, meaning big façade.

Aerial View of Duomo di Siena from Facciatone
An epic view of Duomo di Siena from Facciatone!

Outside the historic center, visit the 16th-century Fortezza Medicea to enjoy the view of Siena from a distance.

Not far from the fortress, the Basilica Cateriniana San Domenico houses several relics of Saint Catherine of Siena, the patron saint of Italy, together with Francis of Assisi.

The most important relic is the saint’s mummified head — creepy but very cool, as long as you don’t mind a little macabre sightseeing!

These landmarks and activities should keep you busy for a whole day in Siena, but if you have extra time and you enjoy visiting museums, you can check out the museum of Santa Maria della Scala, housed in a former hospital.

For your last dinner in Siena, check out the scenic SaporDivino Restaurant or the beautiful terrace of Ristorante Tar-Tufo.

Spend one more night in Siena before you continue your Tuscany road trip.

Day 3: Montalcino to Montepulciano

Make your way to Montalcino.

The ancient Italian town of Montalcino, view as seen from the city tower.

From Siena, start driving south toward the small town of Montalcino, better known for its signature wine, Brunello di Montalcino.

On the way, you’ll pass through Buonconvento, another lovely town with a small but charming historic center.

Park the car and go for a short walk along the few narrow streets that make up the little town.

Roughly 20 minutes south of Buonconvento, you’ll reach Montalcino.

The hilltop town offers panoramic views of the surrounding Tuscan countryside, one of the best views you’ll see on this Tuscany road trip.

The best views are from the Fortress of Montalcino, a 14th-century fortress at the highest point in town.

Medieval fortress of Montalcino, Tuscany, one of the places to stop in this historic Tuscan village

You can walk all around the fortress walls for a small fee and even check out a wine shop inside.

The small medieval center of Montalcino has other beautiful viewpoints and a few more landmarks worth visiting, including the Palazzo dei Priori and the Cathedral of the Holy Savior.

If you’re looking to buy a bottle of Brunello di Montalcino, you’ll find many wineries and wine shops in town to bring home this delicious Tuscan souvenir!

Make a stop at the Val d’Orcia Scenic Spot.

Panoramic view of a farmhouse near Asciano with Val d'Orcia hills in the background.

From Montalcino, you’ll head to Pienza… but not without making a stop at one of the most famous photo spots of Tuscany!

You’ll need to drive for about half an hour to the east to reach Pienza, one of the most beautiful towns of the Val d’Orcia, and your stop for lunch.

But first, plug in Val d’Orcia Scenic Spot to your Maps app or navigation device — this is where you’ll want to stop for that iconic photo of Tuscany that may have inspired this trip in the first place!

Head onwards to Pienza.

the charming old town of pienza italy with red stones and trees and church

Once you reach Pienza, it’s time for lunch — your stomach is probably growling at this point.

In the charming Piazza di Spagna, the cozy osteria Sette Di Vino serves heartwarming dishes in an old-fashioned setting.

After lunch, explore the small historic center of Pienza and visit the Pienza Cathedral (Duomo di Santa Maria Assunta) and the beautiful Palazzo Piccolomini.

Near the cathedral, you’ll also find a few viewpoints to admire the rolling Tuscan hills stretching in the distance.

End the day in Montepulciano.

Palazzo Comunale (Town Hall) in Piazza Grande, Antique Montepulciano town
End the day in Montepulciano – wine tasting and exploring!

Finally, drive to your last stop for the day, Montepulciano.

Like many towns in the region, Montepulciano also gives its name to a wine variety, so a wine tasting is in order!

Once you reach Montepulciano, you’ll be done driving for the day, so you can relax, explore the town, and check out one of the many wineries.

De’ Ricci Cantine Storiche is smack in the historic center of Montepulciano and offers great tours of their cave cellars, along with wine tasting. You can join the wine tasting before or after exploring the town.

A few sights you shouldn’t miss are the gorgeous Fortezza Medicea and the Piazza Grande.

The famous piazza is encircled by impressive buildings like the Palazzo Nobili-Tarugi, Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo, and the Cathedral Saint Mary of The Assumption — all worthy of a stop!

End the day with a delicious dinner in Montepulciano before heading to your hotel for a good night’s sleep.

I recommend Rosso Rubino Trattoria and La Pentolaccia: two great options for genuine local dishes that use the flavors and ingredients of the region.

Day 4: Chianciano Terme to Arezzo

Make a brief stop at the Sanctuary of the Madonna.

San Biagio, a Renaissance Greek cross central plan church outside Montepulciano

Start your second to last day of the Tuscany road trip by visiting the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Biagio, just outside Montepulciano.

A gorgeous example of Renaissance art, the sanctuary is a must-see for anyone passing by Montepulciano.

For a small fee, you can admire the beautiful artwork inside the church and get an audio guide.

Head to Tuscany’s beloved thermal baths.

Steam rising from hot springs in Theia Thermal Baths in Tuscany
The Theia Thermal Baths are a nice place to pause, soak, and restore. Photo Credit: Stefano Cannas via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0)

Next, drive to Chianciano Terme for a relaxing time at the stunning thermal baths in town.

The Theia Thermal Baths feature four outdoor pools and three indoor ones with thermal water coming from the Sillene spring, so long known for its beneficial properties that it’s been used since the Etruscan times!

Reserve your access to the thermal baths in advance and enjoy a few hours in the pools overlooking the Tuscan countryside, relax in the sauna, and maybe get a massage in the wellness center.

You can stay for lunch at the on-site restaurant or drive to your next destination.

Make your next stop in Cortona.

The wide staircase leading up to the Cortona Cathedral in the heart of the old historic town of Cortona

Less than one hour north of Chianciano Terme, Cortona is another delightful town known for its Etruscan heritage.

If you’re a history geek, the Accademia Etrusca is a great spot to learn about the town’s history and admire Etruscan artifacts.

The historic town of Cortona is full of beautiful churches, including the Cortona Cathedral and the small Church of St. Nicholas, jam-packed with beautiful paintings.

Around the main town square, Piazza della Repubblica, you’ll find charming historic buildings and many restaurants.

If you didn’t eat at the springs, you can stop here for lunch at the cozy Osteria del Teatro, a place I highly recommend.

End the day in Arezzo.

the main square Piazza Grande with the medieval church and buildings, in the old town of the ancient Italian city of art, Arezzo

After exploring Cortona, it’s time to drive to Arezzo, where you’ll be spending the last night of your road trip around Tuscany.

On a hill in the eastern part of Tuscany close to its neighboring region of Umbria, Arezzo was an important city for the Etruscan civilizatio, until it was later conquered by the Romans.

The city is best-known for its medieval churches and buildings and the ever-present Medicean Fortress.

The top sights in Arezzo are the medieval Arezzo Cathedral and San Francesco Basilica, two must-visit religious sites.

If you want to keep exploring, visit the National Museum of Medieval and Modern Art, people-watch on the gorgeous Piazza Grande, and of course spend some time enjoying the Fortezza Medicea with its surrounding park.

To end a full day of activities and exploring, enjoy a tasty dinner at Teorema del Gusto or Il Covo dei Briganti, then spend the night in Arezzo.

Day 5: Arezzo to Florence

Stop at the little town of Anghiari.

The charming village of Anghiari near Arrezzo with cobblestone and stairs

On your last day exploring Tuscany, it’s time to drive back to Florence, but not before exploring two more gorgeous Tuscan towns on the way.

Your first stop is the charming town of Anghiari, only half an hour from Arezzo.

Anghiari is famous for being the location of an important battle between Florentine and Milanese troops in 1440, back when Italy was divided into several states.

The battle was later meant to be depicted on a mural in the Palazzo Vecchio in Florence by Leonardo da Vinci, but he never completed it.

You can learn more about the battle and the town’s history at the local museum, Museo della Battaglia e di Anghiari.

Wander for a while around the small medieval center and along the old town walls (N’tra Le Mura D’Anghiari) to enjoy beautiful views and check out the charming squares, medieval buildings, and beautiful little churches.

Make a final stop in Poppi before returning to Florence.

Poppi medieval village and castle panoramic view on a beautiful spring day

After visiting Anghiari, drive for around one hour north to reach the last town on this Tuscany itinerary, the picturesque Poppi.

The town is home to the medieval Castle of the Earls Guidi, the beautiful Church of San Fedele, and the Monastery of Camaldoli.

If you choose to have lunch in Poppi, you should try the delicious, heartwarming cuisine of La Taverna del Castello, right in the town center.

After lunch, start driving back to Florence, roughly one hour and a half from Poppi.

In Florence, you can leave your rental car and, if you have extra time, spend a few more days visiting the many landmarks and museums of the Tuscan capital.

How to Plan the Perfect Sintra Itinerary for 1 to 3 Days

Pena Palace in Sintra - Portugal - architecture background

Nestled in the lush Sintra-Cascais Natural Park north of Lisbon, the town of Sintra is known for its gorgeous fairytale palaces, the most renowned being the hilltop Pena Palace with its brightly colored towers.

I visited Sintra four or five times while living in Lisbon, and I can tell you that it’s a continuous discovery! Every time I went back, I stumbled upon spectacular new places.

Planning your trip to Sintra in a hurry? Here are my quick picks:

🛏️ Where to Stay
Chalet Relogio Guesthouse (historic mansion designed by Luigi Manini, who designed Quinta da Regaleira)
Tivoli Palacio de Seteais (top luxury stay in Sintra, in an 18th century palace)
MouraLua (affordable private rooms close to the train station)

🏰 Best Activities
1. Skip-the-line tickets to Quinta da Regaleira
2. Skip-the-line Pena Palace tickets
3. Skip-the-line Moorish Castle tickets

History lovers will find plenty to gawk at here, since its home to the UNESCO-designated site called the “Cultural Landscape of Sintra.”

Aside from the Pena Palace, the UNESCO site includes iconic landmarks like Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace, two other must-sees on a Sintra itinerary!

The gray stonework facade of the Quinta da Regaleira palace with lots of spires, architectural details, a statue in front as well as trees.

The impressive historical landmarks juxtaposed against beautiful nature make Sintra a must-see destination for anyone’s Portugal itinerary.

You can visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon or spend a few days discovering the impressive landmarks and hiking trails.

This 1 to 3 day Sintra itinerary is structured in an additive fashion, with the main sights clustered on the first day.

This way, you can explore the main highlights of Sintra on the first day, if that’s all you have.

The next two days of this Sintra itinerary move through less popular – though just as beautiful! – palaces and landmarks during the following days, if you can stay longer. 

How to Get to Sintra

The white and red Sintra train station with azulejo-style mosaic paneling on the walls of the train station on a sunny, partly cloudy day.

The easiest way to reach Sintra is by train from Lisbon.

Trains depart at 15 to 30 minutes intervals from both Rossio Station and Oriente Station.

Rossio Train Station is Lisbon’s central station, right by Rossio Square, while Oriente is outside the city center, in the direction of the airport.

Train tickets from Lisbon to Sintra cost just €2.30, and you can buy tickets at the machines in the train stations.

Depending on which train you leave on from Lisbon, ride takes between 40 and 50 minutes from Lisbon to the Sintra train station.

You could rent a car and visit Sintra that way, but it’s not the most convenient (parking at Sintra’s sites is limited!) unless you will continue onwards on a Portugal road trip from there.

How Many Days to Spend in Sintra?

View of the coastline and the Atlantic ocean as seen from three yellow archways, part of the architecture of the famous Pena Palace

Although Sintra is pretty small, most palaces are big and have vast parks worth exploring.

While you could visit Sintra on a day trip from Lisbon and see the highlights, two days in Sintra is a better option to explore the most important landmarks in Sintra without rushing.

Allowing for three days in Sintra will let visit all the palaces thoroughly, get to know your way around Sintra, try various restaurants, and even go on a hike or two.

If you can eke out the time on your itinerary, three days is enough time to truly get to know Sintra.  

Getting Around Sintra 

The downtown of Sintra in summer, with people walking around and enjoying the sights of downtown, a view of a castle visible high atp a hill

Public transportation in Sintra is easy to use and a good idea if you want to save money.

The local bus company in Sintra, Scotturb, has two routes that will help you reach most places around town.

Bus 434 goes to Pena Palace, passing by the Moorish Castle (Castle of the Moors).

Bus 435 does a circular route, with departure and arrival at the train station, passing by Quinta da Regaleira and Monserrate Palace.  

You can get a 24-hour hop-on hop-off ticket for €11.50 that allows you to take any bus as many times as you want — this can be helpful

Alternatively, buy one-way or return tickets, which cost upwards of €4 each.

You will be able to get to many places by walking — just keep in mind that there are many a steep hill in Sintra, and what seems like a short walk can be quite a hike!

The 24-hour ticket makes sense on the first day to get to Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira.

For the other days, you can either walk or buy individual tickets.  

Where to Stay in Sintra 

View of a road on a hill going down through the city center of Sintra, with old-fashioned buildings and a church or palace like building in the background.

You have plenty of accommodation options in Sintra for every budget.

If you visit in summer, book well ahead of your trip. Sintra is a popular destination in summer, and many places may get fully booked or raise their prices in summer.

I always returned home to Lisbon and didn’t spend the night, but here are a few accommodation options I’d recommend:

Budget: For a cheap stay in the heart of Sintra, Moon Hill Hostel offers bunk beds in small dorms for just four people, with a delicious breakfast included. If you prefer having your own room, MouraLua has affordable private rooms just a 10-minute walk from the train station.

Mid-range: The unique Chalet Relogio Guesthouse is housed in the historic mansion designed by Luigi Manini, the same architect who designed Quinta da Regaleira. The guesthouse is in a beautiful location, immersed in nature, on the road that leads to Pena Palace.

Luxury: The stunning Tivoli Palacio de Seteais is the most scenic and unique place you can stay in Sintra. Located in an 18th-century palace, the 5-star hotel features a swimming pool, a spa and wellness center, a tennis court, and an on-site restaurant.

Day 1: Highlights & Top Palaces

Visit the marvelous Quinta da Regaleira.

View of some of the grounds of Quinta da Regaleira, a popular landmark in Sintra, with a rounded arch stone walkway with three pillars amidst gardens

Whether you arrive in Sintra straight from Lisbon in the morning or have settled in the night before, your first stop is Quinta da Regaleira.

The palace usually opens at 10 AM, so if you start your day earlier, explore the town for a bit and have breakfast. I recommend Casa Piriquita for coffee and delicious Portuguese pastries.

Head to Quinta da Regaleira right when it opens at 10 AM to avoid the crowds. Buy your ticket online to avoid standing in line at the ticket office.

Book skip-the-line tickets with an audioguide here!

A beautiful ornate fountain with mosaic work in the gardens of Quinta da Regaleira, one of the most famous landmarks of Sintra

The impressive palace was built at the end of the 1800s and designed by the Italian architect Luigi Manini, who also contributed to other buildings in Sintra.

The mix of architectural styles, from Gothic and Renaissance to Manueline and even Roman, contributes to an impressive palace with pinnacles and gargoyles decorating the façade.

After exploring the palace indoors, head to the garden to discover beautiful fountains, grottoes, lakes, and benches with intricate decorations.

Stroll around the gardens and visit the Regaleira Chapel with its beautiful frescoes and stained-glass windows.

Finally, don’t forget the pièce de resistance of the gardens, the Initiation Wells!

View from down below in the Initiation wells, looking up towards the sky, seeing some trees overhead as well as a spiral staircase built into the stone well

These were historically used for ceremonies and initiation rites — but now, they’re a popular Instagram spot!

Several tunnels connect the grottoes, caves, and initiation wells.

The larger initiation well features a spiral staircase with arches, an impressive sight to admire from both the bottom and the open top. 

Take a tasty lunch break.

Bacalhau (codfish) with olives, garlic, parsley and hard boiled egg, a portuguese classic dish.

From Quinta da Regaleira, head back to the historic town center for lunch.

If you want a quick bite, try a sandwich or a salad at Cantinho Gourmet.

For a proper sit-down lunch, head to Bacalhau na Vila and choose one of the many codfish dishes.

Aim for an early lunch to start your afternoon visit early. You’ll want to set aside the rest of the day for this one!

Admire the colorful Pena National Palace (Palacio Nacional da Pena).

Pena Palace in Sintra - Portugal - architecture background

Dedicate most of the afternoon to visiting the Park and National Palace of Pena.

The stunning hilltop palace towering over the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, with its bright colors, towers, and terraces, is one of Portugal’s top landmarks.

Before you even arrive, you’ll understand why it’s worth visiting as you see its iconic red-and-yellow facade from afar!

This is the most popular tourist destination in Sintra, so be prepared for crowds.

View of the iconic red clock tower in Pena Palace, with roman numeral clock face and four spires atop the clock tower

Buy your tickets to the Pena Palace online to save time and avoid long lines — remember, this attraction gets incredibly crowded!

Pay attention to the entry time you choose, as that is when you need to enter the palace.

Book your skip-the-line Pena Palace tickets here!

From the park entrance to the palace, you have roughly half an hour of walking up a steep hill, so be prepared — this is why I told you to wear comfortable shoes!

I recommend you visit the palace interior first, and explore the gardens later.

One way of entering the Pena Palace, with beveled architecture, flag of Portugal, archway and some people walking into the building

Pena Palace is one of the Seven Wonders of Portugal, not to mention a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

The palace was built as a royal summer residence in the second half of the 19th century after the 1755 Great Lisbon Earthquake destroyed the monastery that was previously located here.

The palace features a big yard with arches overlooking the park and several towers, terraces, and walkways to admire the view.

Inside the palace, you can visit the royal rooms with their original furniture.

Discover the Garden of the Countess of Edla.

While exploring the park of Pena Palace, remember to visit the Garden of the Countess of Edla too.

The chalet and gardens were designed by Elise Hensler, a Swiss-born opera singer and actress, and the second wife of King Ferdinand II.

She created them refuge for herself and King Ferdinand II, as well as to have a place to nurture her passion for botany.

The visit to the chalet and garden is included in the Pena Palace ticket, so make sure not to miss them!

Hike to the High Cross.

The high cross of Pena Palace park located on a hilltop near Pena palace, with a great view of Sintra below

Another must-do in Pena Palace Park is hiking to the High Cross.

You need to hike up for about 20 minutes from the palace or half an hour from the Chalet.

It’s worth it, though — your efforts will be rewarded with a spectacular view of the national park and Pena Palace emerging from the trees!

It’s a great place for some snapping some perfect photos of the fairytale castles of Sintra.

Spend the rest of the afternoon exploring more of the park before getting back to Sintra, either by bus or walking. 

Enjoy a traditional Portuguese dinner.

Typical Portuguese meal of grilled sardines, potatoes and salad with white wine and soup

Back in Sintra, end your day with a traditional Portuguese dinner.

For tasty, heartwarming Portuguese dishes, try Apeadeiro.

If you’re looking for a fancier restaurant, Incomum serves refined dishes that you’ll eat with your eyes — all at very affordable prices.

Head back to your accommodation in the town center for a good night’s sleep after a full day, or alternately, head back to Lisbon if you were just visiting on a day trip.

Day 2: Moorish Architecture

Hike to the Moorish Castle.

The stairway to the Moorish castle in Sintra, with the red and yellow architecture of the distinctive Pena Palace visible far off in the distance

Start the day with a Portuguese breakfast at Padaria Saloia before heading to your first visit of the day, the Moorish Castle (Castelo dos Mouros).

If you can, take the hiking trail to reach the castle — this is the best option, in my opinion, since the hike makes reaching the castle all the more exciting!

The Caminho de Santa Maria trail starts by the Church of Santa Maria and goes up to Pena Palace, passing by Castelo dos Mouros along the way.

Note that the climb to the castle is steep and it can take up to one hour to hike it, so be sure to bring water, especially in summer.

If you don’t feel like walking, you can take the bus to Pena Palace and get off one stop before the palace.

From there, it’s a short and pleasant walk to the castle.

Walls of the Castelo dos Mouros (moorish castle) with view over the fields of Sintra and distant city view

The Moorish Castle was built by the Moors between the 8th and 9th centuries and surrendered to the Christians after the conquest of Lisbon in 1147.

The castle is now part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site and a popular place to visit while in Sintra.

You can pre-book your entry ticket here! Alternately, you can add on an audioguide to your skip-the-line tickets.

You can walk along the castle walls to admire a panoramic view of the surroundings all the way to the Atlantic Ocean.

You’ll even get a nice view of the colorful Pena Palace!

Visit Villa Sassetti.

Views of Villa Sassetti in Sintra, with view over the city from a hilltop, circular tower with arches and mosaic and stonework

On your way back toward Sintra, take a short detour to visit the beautiful Villa Sassetti.

There is a path that connects the Moorish Castle with Villa Sassetti, but this was recently closed. You can check if it has reopened by the time you get there.

If the path is closed, you can walk down Caminho de Santa Maria or take the bus.

Villa Sassetti is at the beginning of Estrada da Pena, the road leading to Pena Palace.

Although you can’t visit the villa inside, it’s still a beautiful building to admire from the outside.

Take a lunch break at Casa das Minas.

Portuguese sandwich called a bifana against a backdrop of azulejo (white and blue) tile

On the way to Villa Sassetti, you’ll pass by Casa das Minas, where a plaque simply states: “welcome to paradise”. You’ll quickly see why!

Enter the beautiful garden to reach what looks like a private house.

This is actually is a music and art school, but they also have a terrace with a few tables and chairs, and they serve simple yet delicious food.

The first time I visited this place, it didn’t even show on Google Maps. Now you can find it, but it’s not marked as a restaurant!

Don’t miss the chance to enjoy a meal on the wonderful terrace, all while admiring a gorgeous view.

Visit Monserrate Palace.

View of Monserrate Palace from the outside, archways and terrace and a circular dome, with red roof and green grass outside the palace

After lunch, catch bus 435 to Monserrate Palace, another one of Sintra’s royal palaces.

This charming and eclectic palace is probably the most unique of all the palaces in the Cultural Landscape of Sintra UNESCO site!

The palace is predominantly done in the Mudéjar and Moorish architectural style, alongside elements of Romanticism and neo-Gothic.

Book your skip-the-line tickets to Monserrate Palace here!

Ornate gold-toned interior of the Monserrate Palace in Sintra, with lots of archways and light streaming in through an open door, and mosaic floor

The result is a gorgeous, ornate palace surrounded by palm trees and tropical plants. The whole setting makes you feel like you landed in a fantasy world!

The palace area, with its beautiful garden and verdant hills, is magical, especially in spring and summer.

The palace doesn’t take much time to visit, but you could spend an hour if not more exploring the beautiful gardens!

Have petiscos (tapas) or dinner in a medieval pub.

Variety of different portuguese tapas called petiscos, fried fritters, meatballs, sausage and similar small bites

For an alternative dinner, head to Casa do Fauno, a pub in medieval style playing Celtic music and serving craft beer and mead!

The pub also serves simple dishes like cheese and cured meat boards or sandwiches to go with your beer.

If you’d rather sample more Portuguese dishes, try the petiscos (Portuguese tapas) at Tascantiga

Day 3: Off the Beaten Path

Visit Palacio Nacional de Sintra (Sintra National Palace).

Two conical spire-type buildings on top of a castle with ornate windows and a blue sky and trees

Start your day with a visit to the National Palace of Sintra, a beautiful place right in the heart of Sintra.

Also known as Palácio da Vila (Town Palace), this medieval palace served as a residence for the Portuguese royal family from the 15th century to the late 19th century.

Often overlooked in favor of the other more famous landmarks, the Palace of Sintra is also included in the same UNESCO World Heritage Site and holds great historical significance.

The palace, like the Moorish Castle, dates back to the Islamic occupation of the Iberian peninsula.  

The palace combines many architectural styles, including Gothic, Mudéjar, Moorish, and Manueline.

Statue in the interior courtyard of the national palace of sintra, with archways and mosaic on the walls

The most iconic palace features, including the Moorish windows and the huge conical chimneys, date back to the reconstruction of the early 15th century under King John I.

You can save money and skip the line by buying tickets online!

The entrance fee gives you access to the rooms (with the design preserved true to the period), the lovely palace gardens, and the courtyards.

From the palace, you also get to see beautiful views of Sintra!

Visit Palácio e Parque Biester.

The newly opened Biester palace and park, with the moorish castle in the distnace

Next up, head to Palácio e Parque Biester, just a 10-minute walk from the Sintra Palace.

This privately-owned palace only opened to the public in 2022, so it’s still fairly unknown to most visitors!

Biester Palace belonged to a wealthy merchant and playwright, Ernesto Biester.

The Art Nouveau building displays beautiful frescoes, paintings, and other period art. You can visit the palace on your own for a €10 entrance fee or pay extra for a tour guide.

Have lunch in Sintra or Queluz.

Fish with skin on, salad with tomato and carrot at an outdoor portuguese restaurant

Your lunch spot depends on what you choose to do in the final afternoon of this Sintra itinerary!

You can head to Queluz Palace, a 20-minute train ride from Sintra, or hike to the Convent of the Capuchos.

If you stay in Sintra, try Villa 6 for Portuguese cuisine or A Praça for a tasty vegetarian meal.

If you go to Queluz, stop by Retiro da Mina, less than 5 minutes from the palace.

Visit Queluz Palace or Convent of the Capuchos.

The quiet, calm convent of the capuchos with a fountain and an old chapel made of stone

But how to pick?

Choose the Convent of the Capuchos if you prefer staying in Sintra, being in nature, and hiking.

Opt for Queluz Palace if you’re up for discovering a sumptuous Rococo palace which was the former summer palace of the Portuguese royal family.

To get to the Convent of the Capuchos, take bus 435 to Monserrate Palace and hike for roughly one hour to reach a small convent immersed in nature.

Both the hike and the visit to the convent are peaceful experiences. Furthermore, the convent is not a very popular sight in Sintra, so you won’t find the usual crowds!

View of pink facade of Queluz palace outside of Sintra, portugal with symmetrical architecture and manicured garden with statues

To visit Queluz Palace, take the train towards Lisbon, get off at Queluz, and walk for around 10 minutes.

To enter the palace, you can buy the tickets in advance here!

Queluz Palace and its gardens are big, so expect to spend at least two to three hours wandering around.

Checking out the interior of the palace, you’ll visit sumptuous ornate rooms like the Ballroom or the hall of Ambassadors and smaller private apartments.

One significant room is the King’s Bedroom, where King Pedro IV, the first emperor of Brazil, was born and later died of tuberculosis.

After visiting the indoors, spend some time exploring the beautiful gardens, with the stunning fountains, sculptures, and flowers.

Have a final dinner in Sintra or head back to Lisbon.

Night view of Lisbon city center with lit-up avenues and tagus river in the distance.

Enjoy one last dinner in Sintra before heading back to your accommodation, or head back to Lisbon if you don’t plan on sleeping in Sintra.

If you need more restaurant options in Sintra, check out Romaria de Baco or Tacho Real, both serving delicious Portuguese dishes like codfish and octopus.

Here ends this 1 to 3 day Sintra itinerary! It’s a packed one, but I’m sure you’ll enjoy it!

What to Know Before Visiting Sintra

The red and yellow structure of the Pena Palace building in Sintra, near Lisbon, seen on a hill from a higher vantage point from afar.

The first thing you should know before visiting Sintra is that you will be walking — a lot!

Even if you take public transport to move around town, you should still expect to walk a lot when exploring the immense palaces and parks.

My first piece of advice is to wear comfortable shoes and bring plenty water and snacks so you don’t have to interrupt your day!

Secondly, you need to be aware of the weather. The temperature in Sintra is always a few degrees lower than in Lisbon.

However, because there’s a lot of climbing and walking involved, you should dress in layers in any season so you can peel off layers if you get hot as you walk around.

Finally, given the popularity of the main palaces in Sintra, expect a lot of visitors nearly year-round.

Your best chance to avoid long waiting times — or missing out on some of the main attractions entirely — is to book your tickets online, especially for Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira.

Best Time to Visit Sintra

The historic Sintra Palace, white with two triangular spires, atop a hill in the middle of Sintra Town, on a sunny day visiting the city.

You can visit Sintra all year round without any real restrictions — the weather in Sintra never gets too bad as to shut everything down.

In fact, your goal is to visit the palaces, you may even find winter a better time to avoid crowds, which can get extremely chaotic during peak season!

The only thing you need to pay attention to are the palaces’ opening and closing times, which differ depending on the season.

Summer is probably least-advisable season to avoid the huge crowds flooding Lisbon and its surroundings.

Weather-wise, however, summer is a great option since Sintra tends to be slightly colder than Lisbon, making for a nice city escape.

For the best balance of good weather and fewer crowds, visit in early spring (I love visiting Lisbon in March) or late autumn.

While temperatures may be lower, Lisbon tends to have sunny weather most of the year.

Mid-March to early April and October are the best months, even better if you visit during the weekdays!

The Perfect Lake Garda Itinerary for 3 to 4 Days

view of the castle in lake garda's sirmione town

Stunning lakeside villas, candy-colored houses fringing a turquoise blue lake, pristine hills surrounding the lake… no, we’re not talking about Lake Como here, we’re talking about a more hidden gem, Lake Garda.

Northern Italy’s Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, but it’s often given short shrift, with more attention paid to the flashy Lake Como.

While Italian locals love Lake Garda, it’s a little less-known by international tourists, who flock straight to Como’s lakeside towns — leaving Garda and its lovely waterfront towns blissfully under-visited (relatively speaking, of course).

Planning your Lake Garda trip in a hurry?

🛏️ Best Places to Stay in Garda
Gardone Riviera: Hotel Bella Riva (mid-range) or Grand Hotel Fasano (luxury)
Riva del Garda: Hotel Luise (mid-range) or Lido Palace (luxury Hapsburg palace!)
Sirmione: Hotel Casa Scaligeri (mid-range) or Grand Hotel Terme(luxury)

🛥️ Best Lake Garda Activities
1. Garda wine tasting tour from Lazise 
2. Sirmione boat cruise with Prosecco
3. Bardolino olive oil factory tour and tasting

🚗 Getting Around Lake Garda
When renting cars in Italy, I always look through Discover Cars — it searches 500+ agencies including small local Italian ones!

Plus, Lake Garda is incredibly central in Northern Italy. An hour from Milan, 30 minutes from Verona, an hour and a half from Venice… Lake Garda is as accessible as it is stunning.

Tranquil lake scenery in Lake Garda, Italy with tree-covered hills and mountains in the distance

While sure, you could get a small sense of the lake from just a day trip, Lake Garda deserves better.

With handfuls of pastel-colored lakeside villages to explore and spectacular nature, you should give yourself a few days to properly enjoy a Lake Garda itinerary.

Having lived in Italy for over a decade, I traveled all across the country; even after all I’ve seen, I can tell you from my personal experience, Lake Garda is one of the best places to see in Northern Italy.

Ideally, you could do this Garda itinerary as a road trip in either spring or fall.

While Lake Garda is gorgeous year-round, summer crowds are overwhelming and can take away from the quiet lakeside charm it offers.

In winter, on the other hand, it can get quite cold (Northern Italy gets colder than you’d expect), and many places are closed for the entire winter season.

colorful springtime flowerbed in Riva del Garda, on the lake front, with one pink bbuiling visible, people along the walkway

How much time does a Lake Garda itinerary require? It varies greatly depending on what you’re looking to do.

Even with a week visiting Lake Garda, you wouldn’t run out of things to do, exploring the villages and enjoying the water sports the lake offers. However, I know this likely isn’t realistic for most time-pressed travelers.

Realistically, three to four days in Lake Garda is enough to see the lake’s picturesque villages and visit the most important landmarks.

The itinerary below is for a 3-day Lake Garda road trip, but I’ve included the possibility of adding an extra night. Depending on how much time you have, you can adapt this itinerary to your needs.

I’ll cover the must-see villages and landmarks along the lake and include a few extra activities to make your Lake Garda itinerary even more fun.

Getting Around Lake Garda

tunnel at gardesana road, lake of lake garda. view to garda lake while driving through a tunnel on a two-lane road

This itinerary is designed to be self-driving, so the best way to get around Lake Garda is with a rental car.

Don’t be overwhelmed by renting a car and driving in Italy — once you know a few simple rules, it’s not too bad.

This itinerary for Lake Garda starts in Desenzano del Garda, making Verona a great airport to fly into.

Bergamo is the second-closest option, with Milan‘s airports not too far behind.

Any of these airports are a good option for where to pick up your rental car and start your Lake Garda road trip.

When renting cars in Italy, I always pick Discover Cars to search for the best deals for multiple reasons. 

In short, it has the widest selection, the clearest prices, the best cancellation policy, and the most affordable full coverage insurance (not mandatory, but a fantastic idea for peace of mind, especially since it starts at just $7/day — far better than you’ll get at any rental agency counter).

🚗 Best Italy Rental Car Prices: Discover Cars

This search engine not only looks at the typical rental car agencies (which can be $$$), it also looks at local, small Italian agencies that may offer better deals. Their pricing is straightforward (no bait-and-switches) and they offer free cancellation if you need it.

➜ Check rental prices in Italy with Discover Cars here!

Day 1 of Your Lake Garda Itinerary

This itinerary begins in Desenzano del Garda, in the southwestern corner of Lake Garda, and ends in nearby Sirmione.

Desenzano is easy to reach from Milan, Verona, and Venice, making it a convenient starting point for our Lake Garda road trip.

Alternatively, if you’d rather start in Sirmione, you can absolutely take the reverse path for this Lake Garda itinerary.

Explore Desenzano del Garda.

Desenzano del Garda harbor, small boats reflecting in the water, red, blue, orange and yellow buildings on the lakefront harbor area of the town where you start your lake garda itinerary

The charming Desenzano del Garda is home to multiple museums and historical landmarks, so you could easily spend the entire morning or more here just soaking up all the local history.

If your timeframe only allows you to choose a few highlights, visit the Castello di Desenzano di Garda and Villa Romana di Desenzano di Garda.

The hilltop castle with sweeping lake views is a must-see, as long as you visit while it’s open. It welcomes visitors from Tuesday to Sunday from May to September. From October to April, it’s only on weekends.

The archaeological museum Villa Romana features beautiful mosaics and ancient statues dating as far back as the first century BCE. You can visit the villa and explore at your own pace for just a 4€ fee.  

After visiting these two main attractions, spend around an hour walking around the charming historic center, exploring the lovely marina, and enjoying the stunning lake views.

You can stop off for a quick lunch in Desenzano or start driving north toward Salò.

If you decide to stay in Desenzano for lunch, you’ll have a ton of great options available.

Try Osteria Vinostè or Hosteria Croce D’Oro for a proper lunch, or grab a quick, tasty pizza at La Bella.

Stop by Padenghe sul Garda. 

Padenghe sul Garda situated at Lago di Garda in Italy, castle in the top of the hill town and then villas on the face of the lake front

Along the way toward Salò, you can make two additional stops, if time permits.

The first one is in Padenghe sul Garda, a small town where you can visit a beautiful hilltop medieval castle.

The town is less than ten minutes from Desenzano, and the castle visit won’t take more than an hour.

Back in the Middle Ages, Padenghe Castle was an important stronghold. Within its walls, there’s a small hamlet where people still live today. 

You can even spend the night in the small bed and breakfast within the castle!

Entrance to the castle and a chance to explore the charming medieval hamlet are free of charge.

Admire the Rocca di Manerba.

view of Lake Garda from Manerba Rock, with hill and trail with view of lake and towns along the lake around the edge of the lake shore, and some rock formation as part of the park

Another beautiful stop along the coast, just 15 minutes north of Padenghe sul Garda, Rocca di Manerba is a small archaeological park sitting on a cliff face looking out over the lake.

You can drive up to a parking lot just a short walk from the site and follow an easy trail to reach the spectacular panoramic view.

If you have enough time, or just want to prioritize a longer visit to this beautiful setting, you can also walk along the trails near the archaeological site for more gorgeous views.

Visit Salò.

Salò - beautiful village at lake Garda, Italy, lakefront pastel buildings with pale yellow, pale pink, and soft beige facades, palm trees, sunny day

Depending on how much time you spend in Desenzano and whether you make the extra stops along the way, you’ll get to Salò either just in time for a late lunch or in the afternoon.

If you choose not to have lunch in Desenzano, you’ll also find many options in Salò.

High-end restaurants like Osteria Felter alle Rose, Locanda del Benaco, or Magnolia Restaurant are widespread here.

For a less upscale but still tasty meal, head to Gallo Rosso.

Salò is the ideal town to simply walk around and enjoy the beautiful views of the lake.

Stop by the lovely Duomo di Santa Maria Annunziata and stroll along the lakeside promenade.

You can also relax on one of the many little beaches and enjoy the view.

Depending on how much time you have left before sunset, you could also hit the hiking trails just north of town to enjoy the view from Belvedere Isabella or La Corna.

Alternatively, for a more relaxed activity, check out the art and science collections at MuSa – Museo di Salò.

Drive to Gardone Riviera.

Traditional street and beautiful houses facades in Gardone Riviera at Garda Lake, with a brilliant pink-flowered tree and orange and green-shutter building and old fashioned stone buildings in the background

End your first day of this Lake Garda itinerary by driving to Gardone Riviera.

You’ll likely get here by the end of the day, with more than enough time to enjoy dinner and get a good night’s sleep before continuing the road trip.

You can explore the historic center, enjoy an evening stroll along the lake, and leave all the sightseeing for the following morning when you’ll be rested and refreshed.

For dinner, try the refined dishes at the scenic Giardino dei Limoni or head to the delicious and unfussy H2O Bistrot Gardone, or settle in for a traditional meal at the wonderful Emiliano.

Where to Stay in Gardone Riviera

Budget: Hotel Du Lac

For a budget-friendly option that won’t disappoint, Hotel Du Lac offers a lakefront view right on the Lungomare.

It has a stunning panoramic patio, and for a special stay, you have the option to upgrade to a unit with a balcony complete with a beautiful lake view.

While the rooms are small, they offer comfortable and roomy beds with air conditioning. Note that the bathrooms are nice, clean, and renovated, but feel a bit small. Something’s gotta give at that price!

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Mid-Range: Hotel Bella Riva

The lakefront Hotel Bella Riva has an artsy design with loads of personality, taking inspiration from Klimt everywhere from the lobby to the headboards of the beds. The bedrooms are spacious and luxe, with lovely soaking tubs.

There’s also a stunning sun terrace with an outdoor pool and sun loungers, facing the lake for a breathtaking view.

While you won’t find spa amenities here, it’s a fantastic choice for a something upscale yet not totally budget-depleting.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Luxury: Grand Hotel Fasano

The luxest option is Grand Hotel Fasano, a stunning lakefront hotel with a gorgeous outdoor swimming pool overlooking the water, perfect for jaw-dropping photographs to make everyone back home envious.

Perhaps their coolest feature is the luxurious spa which drew inspiration from ancient Roman baths, featuring an indoor pool, a hot tub, and a Turkish steam room among other amenities.

It’s actually two buildings in one: a modern building and the historic, renovated 19th century Villa Principe; no matter where your room is, it’s bound to be luxurious, with vintage furnishings and a royal feel reminiscent of an old palace.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Day 2 of Your Lake Garda Itinerary

Explore Gardone Riviera.

Vittoriale degli italiani palace at Gardone Riviera in Italy, with bright yellow architecture and gardens with a few people in the frame on a sunny day visiting the town of gardone riviera as part of a lake garda itinerary

The top must-see landmark in Gardone Riviera is the Vittoriale degli Italiani, a massive complex of buildings and gardens, once the home of Italian novelist Gabriele D’Annunzio.

You’ll need to set aside a couple of hours to visit the impressive complex and D’Annunzio’s house and fully appreciate the magnificent settings.

The extravagant complex includes an amphitheater and a retired cruising warship.

You can walk around the complex and the beautiful gardens on your own, but visiting D’Annunzio’s house itself is only possible on a guided tour, which is included in the entry ticket and takes place at regular intervals.

If you have enough time, you can also enjoy strolling around the lush Botanic Garden André Heller and admire the variety of plants, the beautiful sculptures, and the charming ponds. 

Once you’re done exploring Gardone Riviera, it’s time to keep driving north.

Stop in Gargnano.

The picturesque town of Gargnano on Lake Garda with bright red, white, blue shutter architecture with tons of plants in terra cotta planters

You’ve got the choice here between stopping off for lunch in Gargnano or just driving straight to Limone sul Garda.

Gargnano is a lovely little town known for its beautiful villas, charming lakeside promenades, and picturesque historic center.

If you make a short stop in Gargnano, you can explore the lovely town and have a delicious lunch at Trattoria S. Martino – le 3 oche or Osteria Civico 20.

One more cool thing you can do in Gargnano is to visit the imposing Villa Bettoni.

You can wander around the beautifully landscaped gardens and get a guided tour of the villa’s interior.

Drive to Limone sul Garda.

The colorful lakefront town of Limone sul Garda with bright pastel colored architecture on the bright blue lake with one boat taking tourists from town to town on lake garda

Limone sul Garda lies towards the lake’s northern end, about 20 minutes from Gargnano and 40 minutes from Gardone Riviera. 

If you didn’t stop in Gargnano for lunch, take some time here to enjoy a tasty meal on the stunning terrace with lake views at Ristorante Pizza Incontro or the charming Osteria Da Livio.

Limone sul Garda offers several gorgeous activities and hiking opportunities. Since you’ll likely be short on time, you can take it easy and simply explore the picturesque historic center. 

If you want to stay a little longer, visit the Limonaia del Castèl, a lovely museum featuring terraced lemon groves and an exhibition dedicated to lemon trees.

To enjoy lovely lake views, walk along the pedestrian way south of the town center.

This newly built promenade follows the ancient trail that once connected Limone sul Garda to other towns through the southern mountains.

Back in the day, this trail and the boat access were the only ways to reach the town. 

Drive to Riva del Garda.

Riva del Garda, Italy. Old town and medieval tower Torre Apponale early in the morning, bright red, yellow, and orange architecture with mountain background

In the afternoon, drive for about 15 minutes from Limone sul Garda to reach Riva del Garda, the northernmost town on the lake.

The town is famous as a destination for practicing watersports, relaxing at the small beaches, and hiking in the nearby hills.

If you have time left in the afternoon, visit Rocca di Riva, a medieval fortress that now houses the archaeology and art museum known as MAG Museo Alto Garda

For spectacular views of Riva from above, climb the Torre Apponale in the historic center.

Another great place to catch some amazing views is the hilltop Bastione di Riva, connected to the town center via a mountain cable car.

Before heading to your hotel for a good night’s rest, have dinner at one of the many delightful restaurants.

Try Bella Napoli for a tasty Naples-style pizza, or head over to Al Volt if you’re up for some fine dining.

For a laid-back choice, Panem is a great alternative for tasty sandwiches or a simple charcuterie board with a glass of wine.

Where to Stay in Riva del Garda

Budget: Villa Bellaria

For a homey, family run B&B check out Villa Bellaria, with a mix of rooms and full self-catering apartments. Some rooms have balconies with great views!

You can borrow free mountain bikes to explore the area, or just enjoy the quiet atmosphere outside the town’s old walls.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Mid-Range: Hotel Luise

The boutique Hotel Luise is just a 5-minute walk from the lake and a short distance from town. Some pluses include their outdoor pool, free parking, and free bike rental amenities.

Each room is bold and unique, with individualized looks with funky wallpaper and design elements inspired by themes like geography, the underwater world, and more. Some rooms even have a bathtub!

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Luxury: Lido Palace

If it’s good enough for the Hapsburgs, Lido Palace is probably good enough for you! Lido Palace is a luxury 5-star hotel that is part of the exclusive Leading Hotels of the World group.

Housed in a Belle Époque former Hapsburg palace, the interior has been beautifully renovated to modern standards, with extra-large beds and luxe-minimalist design.

The spa, with its indoor pool, sauna, Turkish bath, and salt room, is a particular delight; its outdoor pool with stunning lake views won’t disappoint, either.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Day 3 of Your Lake Garda Itinerary

The third day of this itinerary is dedicated to exploring Lazise, Peschiera del Garda, and Sirmione.

However, Lazise offers plenty of activities, so if you’re able to spend an extra night on the lake, you can sleep there and head toward Sirmione the following day.

Drive through Malcesine and Bardolino.

Malcesine on Garda Lake, with giant mountains behind a brightly colored town with red, blue, yellow buildings and lots of boats in the marina of the lakefront town, part of a Lake Garda itinerary

On your way from Riva del Garda to Lazise, you can stop in Malcesine and Bardolino, two picturesque towns on the eastern lake shore.

Both of them are filled with gorgeous historic centers and beautiful landmarks. 

If you only have three days for the trip, continue driving to Lazise. Otherwise, you can spend the morning exploring these two towns, as they’re located only half an hour from each other.

The main attraction in Malcesine is Castello Scaligero, a gorgeous castle sitting on the lake shore and boasting spectacular gardens.

If you’d prefer to explore the nature around Malcesine instead, catch the cable car to Monte Baldo and hit the hiking trails.

Further south, Bardolino is a small town that’s most notable for its wine production, especially Bardolino wine.

To learn more about wine production and taste delicious local wine, get a tour of Zeni Museum

If you’re up for a bit more time spent in town, another interesting local museum is Museo dell’Olio, where you can learn about olive oil production.

Visit Lazise.

The picturesque town of Lazise on Lake Garda, with red, yellow, lime-green, orange, pink buildings, and small motor-powered boats moored in the town's small marina harbor area

If you stop in Malcesine and Bardolino, aim to get to Lazise by lunchtime, so you can have the entire afternoon to explore the town and join a few activities.

If you chose instead to drive straight to Lazise, you should be there no later than mid-morning. From Riva del Garda, it takes roughly one hour to Lazise.

Since Lazise is that it’s Italy’s most visited lakeside town, you’ll find plenty of accommodations and countless activities to do. 

Depending on the time you can afford to spend in Lazise, you can do one of these activities.

Option One: Winery Tour with Garda Wines and Food Tasting

This two-hour activity is great if you don’t have much time in Lazise, but still want to learn about excellent wine production in the area.

The activity includes a guided tour of the Bergamini Vini winery and tasting the most famous Garda wines paired with cheese and cold cuts!

Book this two-hour Garda wine tasting tour here!

Option Two: Biodynamic Farm Tour and Natural Wine Tasting

This tour allows you to discover a biodynamic farm and learn about natural farming processes that allow artisans to create food and wines without chemicals or artificial interventions. 

You’ll get to admire the vineyards, explore the cellar, and of course taste delicious wines with an assortment of cheese and cold cuts.

Book this biodynamic farm and natural wine tasting tour here!

Option Three: 2-Hour Guided Trike Tour

If you’re up for a fun activity in Lazise, consider joining this trike (three-wheeled motorcycle — much easier and safer to ride!) tour to explore the hills surrounding Lazise.

It’s a unique and exciting way of exploring the area and enjoying spectacular lake Garda views.

Book this Ryker tour here!

If you stay in Lazise for the night, you’ve got many restaurant options for both lunch and dinner. 

One spot you have to try in town is Cozzeria, serving various preparations of mussels, along with other fish dishes.

Other great options are Porta Lion for fine dining and La Piadina di Zia Sofia for a quick bite.  

If you’ll be continuing your road trip instead, drive to Peschiera del Garda for lunch.  

Have lunch in Peschiera del Garda.

Colorful houses, architecture view with boats and geranium flowers. Little town harbor of Peschiera del Garda, a must-visit on a Lake Garda itinerary

The charming Peschiera del Garda is better known for its impressive defensive walls.

In fact, they are the reason for which the fortified town became a UNESCO World Heritage Site. 

The best thing to do in Peschiera del Garda is to walk around the small historic center and check out the fortifications.

For lunch, try one of the restaurants in the town center. Pasta Salame and Gistrò Cucina&Pizza are both great options.

If, on the other hand, you want to take a break from Italian cuisine and kick back with some familiar fare like a tasty burger, head to Osteria in Strada.

Stay in Sirmione.

peaceful scene at sirmione castle with light falling on the castle fortification structure, there's a moat and an alleyway winding around the moat, water is a pretty turquoise blue

Finally, drive for about 20 minutes to Sirmione, where you’ll end your road trip.

If you decide to take a little more time and spend an extra night in Lazise, you’ll have more time to enjoy Peschiera del Garda and Sirmione. 

Otherwise, you can enjoy exploring this last stop for a few hours in the afternoon. Luckily, Sirmione is quite small, so you can walk around in a couple of hours.

Explore the small but delightful historic center of Sirmione and visit the imposing Castello Scaligero to enjoy beautiful lake views. The castle features an ancient drawbridge connecting it to the southern part of town.

From the historic center, walk towards the tip of the peninsula. You’ll walk by the villa of the famous singer Maria Callas and the lovely medieval stone church of San Pietro in Mavino

Once you reach the shore, you can relax on the small pebble beach Spiaggia Lido delle Bionde and enjoy the lake view.

At the very tip of the Sirmione peninsula, you can explore the archaeological site of Grotte di Catullo.

Grotte di Catullo (translation Grottoes of Catullus) in Sirmione, with turquoise-blue lake behind it, and ruins of stone wall villa from a roman era building

This place was once an ancient Roman villa that looked over the lake, casting an imposing silhouette. Now, it’s an archaeological museum that showcases the regional history.

Depending how much time you have in Sirmione, you can join one of the many guided lake tours departing from Sirmione, like this Scenic Afternoon Boat Cruise.

The 4-hour boat ride is a spectacular way to explore Sirmione’s surroundings and enjoy wonderful views of the lakeside villages from a different perspective.

The tour passes by Rocca di Manerba, Salò, and Gardone Riviera, including time to swim in the lake on a private island!

Book this scenic Sirmione boat tour here!

End your trip by spending the night in Sirmione or driving on, either back to your initial departure point or your next destination if you’re continuing on a larger Italy road trip.

From Lake Garda, you’re in a prime position to continue onwards for a few days in Venice, a short Milan itinerary, a few days in Lake Como, or even a weeklong Dolomites road trip for some more nature time.

Where to Stay in Sirmione

Budget: Hotel Pace

For a beachfront budget option, there’s Hotel Pace, located on the beach near the old walled city of Sirmione.

This is a small old-fashioned Italian hotel, though luckily, there are perks like A/C; still, don’t expect things like an elevator (be prepared to carry your luggage)!

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Mid-Range: Hotel Casa Scaligeri

Located inside the old city walls of Sirmione, Hotel Casa Scaligeri is a charming option that won’t break the bank.

Despite its Old Town setting, the hotel’s rooms are modern and stylish, inspired by clean geometric lines, warm lighting, natural wood, and white linens to create a welcoming but un-busy atmosphere.

The property even has a handful of private loungers with beach views, perfect for soaking up the Lake Garda views in privacy.

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

Luxury: Grand Hotel Terme

Just a short walk from central Sirmione, Grand Hotel Terme is unique for offering a stunning pool with thermal waters, complete with hot-water shower-like jets where you can have mineral-rich water rush over you. It even lights up beautifully at night, perfect for a night swim.

There’s also a private spa area for relaxing, complete with a glass-wall sauna so you can admire the views of the lake while they sauna, as well as a hot tub also with lake views.

The rooms themselves are great too, large and spacious with minimalist design, but the real draw is the spa amenities and thermal waters this hotel has, unique to this part of the Lake Garda region!

Check availability, prices, and reviews here!

3 Days in Lake Como: Itinerary for a Dreamy Italian Lake Getaway

Many visitors end up visiting the lakeside city of Como, especially as a day trip from nearby Milan or Venice.

However, many travelers fall in love with the tranquil atmosphere of the Como area overall, deciding to spend 2 or even 3 days in Lake Como

And it’s no wonder — Lake Como is one of the most scenic lakes in all of Europe, with crystalline blue waters framed by the towering snow-capped Alps behind them.

As if the natural beauty wasn’t enough, Lake Como is fringed on all sides with beautiful colorful houses that cascade down the hillsides towards the lake, creating an even more beautiful sight.

Flowers from a flowerbox overlooking the lakefront of Varenna with colroful yellow, red, and white houses and the lake of Lake Como with mountains in the background.
The charming waterfront of Varenna, an important Como town

No wonder Lake Como is so beloved by big-name celebrities that even the likes of George Clooney have settled down here!

If you find yourself among these more transfixed travelers, then bookmark this in-depth 3 day Lake Como itinerary to make the most of your time!

Planning your Como trip in a hurry? Here are my quick picks.

> Best Activities from Como
1.
8-Hour Tour & Boat Cruise of Bellagio, Lugano, & Cadenabbia
2. Como Evening Food and Walking Tour
3. Pasta and Tiramisu Cooking Class in Como


> Where to Stay in Lake Como
1. Hotel Villa Cipressi (Varenna villa hotel)
2. Grand Hotel Tremezzo (luxury hotel across lake from Bellagio)
3. Hotel Borgo Antico (mid-range hotel in Como near harbor)

I wrote this Lake Como travel guide as someone who lived in Milan for nearly a decade!

During that time, I made several trips to lakeside towns alongside Lake Como and Lake Garda during my time living in Italy, and this Como guide is the result of the many years of those trips!

How to Get to Lake Como

Getting to Lake Como By Train

The Milan train station with its rounded open-window style train station with a train on the faraway track and an electronic train schedule

Located near the Italian-Swiss border, about 50 kilometers from the cosmopolitan city of Milan, the city of Como is an important centerpiece of the Lombardy region.

Milan is the typical departure point for Como since it’s so close. Plus, Milan has a ton of interesting landmarks worth spending a day or two exploring, especially the Milan Duomo.

Departing from Milan is also the easiest way to reach Como, with a train ride that takes less than an hour. 

Book train tickets from Milan to Como here!

Once you’re in the city of Como itself, you can continue to use public transport to visit nearby villages. 

There’s a public ferry service, Navigazione del Lago di Como, that together with the regional and local train systems will cover all your needs.

Here’s a short list of how long it takes to reach Lake Como by train from other popular Italian destinations:

Search all train tickets in Italy via Omio for the best rates and easy mobile ticketing!

Getting to Lake Como by Car

road along Lake Como, winding along the lakefront with beautiful lake views and historic homes and buildings next to the roadside

Driving to Como from Milan is also an option, and the roads are certainly scenic once you reach the Como area.

However, be forewarned that both Milan and the region between Milan and Como are important industrial centers with heavy traffic at all hours.

Additionally, the Bergamo Airport on the main route between Milan and Como has become a popular hub for low-cost European flights and that adds significant delays to the area’s heavy car traffic.

I wouldn’t rent a car in Italy specifically to go from Milan to Lake Como.

However, if Lake Como is part of a larger Italy road trip, such as one that includes the Dolomites, then it makes sense to continue having a car for the entirety of the trip.

Not sure which company to rent with? I always pick Discover Cars to search for the best deal for car rentals in Italy for multiple reasons. 

In short, it has the widest selection, the clearest prices, the best cancellation policy, and the most affordable full coverage insurance (starting at $7/day — way better than you’ll get at the counter!).

🚗 Best Italy Rental Car Prices: Discover Cars

This search engine not only looks at the typical international rental car agencies (which can be $$$), it also looks at local, small Italian agencies that may offer better deals.

Their pricing is straightforward (no bait-and-switches), their full coverage insurance is the cheapest around, and they offer free cancellation if you need it.

➜ Check rental prices with Discover Cars here!

Getting to Lake Como by Bus

You can also get to Lake Como by bus. There are a few long-distance buses connecting Milan and Como, such as FlixBus.

However, with those facing the same high traffic mentioned above, nothing beats the train when it comes to short and long distance travel in the Milan and Lake Como area.

The Best Time of Year to Visit Lake Como

historic pinkish beige church with belltower on the lake with trees and mountains behind it.
The charming town of Lenno along Lake Como

Winter tends to be very cold in the north of Italy, which makes it the right season for beating the crowds and finding slightly cheaper accommodation prices.

However, unless you’re a masochist (or a Finn), you likely won’t find yourself jumping in the cold lake waters anytime in the winter!

For those traveling on a budget, fall is the second best option. Weather is milder, although it can be rainy, and prices in tourist-centric areas remain on the lower side.

Although summers tend to be quite hot even in northern Italy, the nearby presence of the lake mitigates high temperatures. 

There are a few beaches on the shores of the lake which offer umbrellas, loungers, and other shady space and provisions for cooling down. 

However, this is when Como is at its most crowded and touristy, and high prices match the high demand.

Spring is undoubtedly the best time to explore the streets and alleyways of the villages near Como, navigate the lake, and take in the magnificently blossoming landscapes and amazing views. 

Although both summer and spring tend to feature higher price tags even in budget hotels, booking at least six months in advance can help guarantee better prices, especially in terms of accommodations.

Your 3 Day Itinerary for Lake Como

Day One of this Lake Como Itinerary: Como’s Historic Center

Explore the historic center of Como.

Como city's historic center with a picturesque view of the square Vittoria and its medieval tower called Porta Torre.

The best thing to do during your first day in Como is to get acquainted with the city center of Como, particularly its pedestrian areas and shops. 

As you start to explore Como, you’ll soon find its laid-back vibe encompasses the whole region.

Head directly to Piazza Vittoria, where you can admire the Monument to Giuseppe Garibaldi and marvel at the imposing city walls surrounding the center of the town; they date back to the Middle Ages! 

In the same area, you’ll find one of the main accesses to the city’s old district, through the gorgeous Porta Torre

Once through the gate, you can spend an entire morning wandering the historic district’s alleys and squares.

Start the day by enjoying traditional Italian cappuccino with a cornetto in the main square (a classic Italian breakfast!) before continuing further.

The city of Como is known, in fact, for its plethora of cafés, bars, and traditional ristorantes, and not just by the lakeshore! 

There are interesting boutiques that are great not only for souvenirs but also for unique artisan goods and high-end Italian fashion brands. 

It’s a great shopping spot for people toting wallets of any weight; whether your budget is more Fendi or Forever 21, you’ll be able to find beautiful items for you if you hunt for it!

Explore the area around Piazza San Fedele and Piazza del Duomo.

Beige stone facade of Cathedral in Como city (also known as the Duomo) with a church building, archways, and a belltower. Some people in front of the church during the middle of the day.

Not far from Porta Torre, you can easily find your way towards Piazza San Fedele, which may be the most picturesque square in Como – a high distinction in a city full of beautiful piazzi

This trendy meeting point was once a humble market for buyers and sellers of wheat; now, it’s where young locals meet up before heading out for a night on the town. 

Here is one of Como’s best-known landmarks, the Basilica of San Fedele, which is an impressive Romanesque church dating back to 1120. 

After a visit to this church (allocate about half an hour), continue walking to Como’s main square, Piazza del Duomo.

Here, you will be amazed by the beauty of the city’s cathedral, Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assuma, also known as the Duomo di Como

You’ll be amazed at its beauty and its balanced mixture of architectural styles, ranging from Romanesque to Gothic.   

The main place of worship in town, the cathedral is dedicated to the Assumption of the Virgin. 

The building itself was constructed between the 14th and 17th centuries and it has been described as one of the most important religious structures in northern Italy. 

Its unique facade has an impressive rose window and an elaborate portal.

Back outside in the same square, take a look at the gorgeous Old Town hall known as Broletto di Como with its picturesque facade.

Walk the lakeside promenade.

A wrought-iron fence separating the lungolago (lakefront promenade with trees) and the lake. There are houses and settlements on the other side of the lake.

Next, you can head to the lungolago, or lake promenade, for a stroll along the waterfront where magnificent yachts, catamarans, and fishing boats are all docked. 

It’s a beautiful place to walk, relax, and take advantage of the area’s ample photo opportunities. It’s where you’ll find the best view of the lake in Como.

Grabbing lunch, gelato, or an Aperol spritz by the lake is also a must, but once you’ve fueled up, it’s time for other afternoon exploration! 

Spend the afternoon checking out historic villas and museums.

Yellow facade of Villa Olmo on the outskirts of Lake Como with red flowers in the springtime in front of the villa and grassy lawn.

Venture into the outskirts of the city of Como where you can visit Villa Olmo, an interesting residence dating back to the 18th century.

Checking out the historic villas of Como offer both incredible views of the lake and insight into the opulent lifestyles of wealthy families who once lived there.

There are many residences to visit, and most of them feature art exhibitions as well as breathtaking botanical gardens. 

Keep in mind that the villas are not always open in autumn months and remain closed in the winter.  

Some of the once-famous residences are today off-limits to the public, as they have been transformed into private hotels. 

There are also a few museums in Como that are rather interesting.

One option is to check out the Paolo Giovio Archaeological Museum

It’s situated inside a medieval palace that once belonged to a local noble family. 

Here you can see a collection featuring Egyptian and Greek artifacts as well as local archaeological findings dating as far back as the Paleolithic era.

The Giuseppe Garibaldi Historical Museum is connected to the archaeological museum and both can be visited within the same afternoon. 

Check out the views above Como via the Brunate funicular.

A very steeply graded railway with a red train car working its way up the track, with views of the city of Como below it.

Finally, you can take the funicular up to the small village of Brunate to enjoy some of the most stunning views in the area.

Departures are every 30 minutes and take about 7 minutes to reach the village of Brunate via an extremely steep track — we’re talking a 55% gradient!

In Brunate, you’ll find all sorts of stunning Art Nouveau villas in this charming village over 700 meters above sea level, all with stunning views of the Alps and lake behind you.

End the day with a food tour or cooking class.

Person hand-making egg pasta with a pasta machine

If you’d like to learn how to make your own Italian dinners, why not try your hand at making pasta and tiramisu?

This cooking class starts at 5 PM, giving you plenty of time to cook up an Italian feast (enjoyed with wine, naturally)

Check availability and pricing of this cooking class in Como here!

Prefer to leave the cooking to the experts?

Try this evening food and walking tour that departs at 6 PM during high season (lunch only during low season).

This mouthwatering tour includes staples of Lombardy cuisine, like pizza, polenta, sciat (a local savory cheesy street food), nuvola (a sweet, soft fruit cake stuffed with apricot jam), and more.

Check availability and prices of this food tour here!

Day Two of this Lake Como Itinerary: Nearby Lakeside Villages

The villa carlotta on the lakefront with boats in front of it -- a beautiful white building with a dome-like structure in front of it and historic beautiful gardens
Villa Carlotta in lovely Menaggio

I’ll give you two options for the second day of this Como itinerary.

The first way is a self-guided tour through Varenna, Bellagio, and Menaggio, three charming, easy-to-reach towns connected via ferry on Lake Como.

The second way is a guided day tour that takes you across the Swiss border to Lugano for a chocolate tasting, before visiting the lakeside villages of Cadenabbia and Bellagio and then taking a panoramic lake cruise.

Whichever you pick, you’re in for a treat! I’ll outline the self-guided itinerary first, then after, I’ll detail what the day trip alternative offers.

Start the day in Varenna.

The town of Varenna as seen from the water with orange, yellow, and other colorful houses on the lakefront, and a large clock tower with red steeple, and mountains behind it.

While not as opulent as Como nor as photogenic as nearby Bellagio, Varenna has a gorgeous lakeside promenade or Riva Grande lined with traditional houses, small cafeterias and ice cream parlors.

Most importantly, it’s connected to the city of Como, as well as to Milan, Lecco, and other nearby villages by just a short train ride. 

Varenna may appear like there’s not much to do; however, you can explore steep, cobbled paths and narrow streets, some of which offer remarkable views of the lake and mountains.

You might also take some time to visit the local church built in the fourteenth century in honor of Saint George.

Another interesting point in town is Castello di Vezio, although getting there requires a bit of a hike. The views of the lake are worth the effort!

From Varenna, you can take a short day trip to gorgeous Piona Abbey, a priory built in French Gothic style that dates back to the seventh century, located on the Lecco bank of Lake Como.

Spend some time in the stunning village of Bellagio.

A view on the lakefront (lungolago) of Bellagio, with ornate and colorful buildings on the lakefront, as well as waterfront restaurants, and a clocktower belonging to a church above the Bellagio skyline.

The next logical stop when exploring the area is Bellagio, arguably the most aristocratic village in the area.

(Keep the word “aristocratic” in mind if you’re on a budget and intend to buy souvenirs there.)

To reach Bellagio from Varenna, board the ferry at the lakefront. The ferry also carries cars, so if you’re driving around Lake Como, this won’t be a problem. 

Keep in mind, though, that Bellagio is small and dense, so you don’t actually need a car to visit. 

The steeply cobblestoned alleys of Bellagio wind past ornate villas and through tree-lined neighborhoods with artisan shops at every corner. 

There are also incredibly beautiful small houses with pastel-colored facades, as well as historic villas like the 19th-century Villa Melzi (with its stunning gardens).

Do wear comfortable shoes, as the passages and roads of Bellagio are steep with well-worn stones which are especially slippery!

Pay a visit to the charming village of Menaggio.

The waterfront town of Menaggio with a tower with a clock and a bunch of flags along the waterfront and hills in the background

Take a ferry ride once again to discover the last village of the day: Menaggio, a tranquil town directly across Lake Como from Varenna.  

Menaggio is another tranquil but spendy settlement by the lake, and while it’s bigger than the previous two scenic villages, it’s a picturesque area with a wider range of dining options. 

Why not splurge by booking a table next to the lake, for a delicious pasta meal and a glass of fine Italian wine?

Alternate Day Two Itinerary: Guided Lake Tour

The old town of Lugano in Switzerland with view of Lake Como and mountains behind it and steeple of church
Why not visit Lugano while in the area?

Another good way to visit the area is a guided cruise around Lake Como cruise, where you can take in panoramic views of Lake Como while enjoying the stunning scenery around you.

This boat tour includes the nearby Swiss city of Lugano in its itinerary. That’s right, you can pop over to Switzerland for a day — how cool is that?

If you don’t like to DIY, this day trip will take all the stress out of figuring out transport for you with a stunning boat cruise meets guided tour. 

This day trip will bring you to two countries (!!) and three gorgeous lakeside settlements: Bellagio and Cadenabbia in Italy and Lugano in Switzerland.

The historic village of Cadenabbia on the lakeside of Como with historic church and old buildings

This tour starts with a comfortable bus ride along the lake perimeter to the Swiss city of Lugano, where you’ll enjoy Swiss chocolate tasting and a walking tour of the stunning city center.

Afterwards, you’ll stop in the village of Cadenabbia, a favorite amongst international royals, including English queens and Russian tsars!

Next, board a boat to reach Bellagio, where you’ll have free time to enjoy this scenic town (perhaps the most scenic in the Como region!).

Finally, you’ll take a panoramic cruise on the lake, seeing the lakefront historic Art Nouveau villas and their landscaped gardens along the way. 

🛥️ Suggested Tour: 8-Hour Tour & Boat Cruise of Bellagio, Lugano, & Cadenabbia (4.6/5 stars, 100+ reviews)

This tour and boat cruise includes stops in Lugano, Switzerland (plus a chocolate tasting!) as well as the Italian villages of Bellagio and Cadenabbia.

Enjoy guided tours of Lugano and Cadenabbia, free time in Bellagio (with lunch at your own expense), and finally a panoramic boat cruise of Lake Como before returning to the town of Como.

Check prices and tour availability here!

Day Three of this Lake Como Itinerary: Lecco

Explore Lecco’s literary history.

The town of Lecco with its harbor and church with clocktower and mountains behind it

Although not as internationally famous as Como, Lecco is well known for being an important setting in one of Italy’s most important books, The Betrothed (or I Promessi Sposi in Italian). 

This magnificent novel by Alessandro Manzoni is mandatory reading in Italian high schools and universities. 

As a consequence, one of the most popular places in Lecco is Villa Manzoni and its Manzonian Museum

Both properties once belonged to the famous author’s family, and they now exhibit manuscripts, furniture, and other interesting objects related to the author’s life.

Wander along the lungolago.

Town of Lecco on Como Lake waterfront and church view on a brilliant sunny day

Also in Lecco, you can enjoy a fantastic waterfront (lungolago) lined with wooden seating.

Several bars and restaurants are perfect for lunch or dinner, but there are also interesting piazzas, unique statues, and traditional alleyways to explore. 

Don’t forget to look around at the fantastic historic villas which have been lovingly restored and transformed into gorgeous, modern homes.

Check out the Torre Viscontea.

Lecco is not only about its important literary history!

Another important town landmark is the Torre Viscontea. It once belonged to the Visconti family, which ruled the Lombardy region for centuries. 

The tower is part of an impressive fortress dating back to the fourteenth century. It was built under the orders of Azzone Visconti, who intended to make a fortified village out of Lecco.

Although most of the fortified walls were demolished by occupying Austrian forces in the late 1700s, the tower remains standing.

It was recently transformed into a museum and exhibition center that hosts temporary collections of local artists. 

Ancient stone cannon balls are still displayed at the building’s entrance, a reminder of the museum’s origins as a fortress.

Where to Stay in Como

Tremezzo: Grand Hotel Tremezzo

Facade of the luxurious Grand Hotel in the town of Tremezzo

This is where you’ll find the most stunning luxury hotel in the entire Como area: Grand Hotel Tremezzo.

Tremezzo is located across the lake from Bellagio and down the road from other charming Como villages like Lenno with its stunning Villa Balbianello (you may recognize it from Casino Royale!)

Indulgent in every sense of the word, Grand Hotel Tremezzo features spacious rooms with spa-quality marble baths (including marble soaking tubs!).

But it also has its very own gorgeous hammam-style spa complete with sauna, Turkish steam baths, spa treatments, and a solarium.

There’s an outdoor pool on the terrace with sun loungers, but then there’s also another pool located on a dock right on the lake. Talk about a pool with a view!

Como: Hotel Borgo Antico

Hotel Borgo Antico is a gorgeous mid-range 3-star hotel only ten minutes on foot from the center of Como and just steps from the lake’s harbor. 

The property features elegant rooms with air conditioning (essential in Italian summers, yet not a given!), as well as a delicious Italian-style breakfast buffet. 

Best of all, it’s so close to the Como San Giovanni Train Station, making it a fantastic home base for any Como itinerary.

Varenna: Hotel Villa Cipressi

the brilliant yellow-hued mansion of Villa Cipressi (now a hotel) viewed from villa monastero at Varenna in Lake Como

While it’s the best area to stay when visiting Lake Como, because of easy access to the  train station and ferry, Varenna has more limited accommodation options. 

One of the best places to stay is Hotel Villa Cipressi— a stunning boutique hotel located in a historic Como villa, maintaining its aristocratic charms and gorgeously manicured gardens.

Just adjacent (literally, a 50 meter walk!) to another historic mansion, Villa Monastero, Hotel Villa Cipressi enjoys one of the best locations in town, central and with stunning lake views.

The hotel has maintained many of its original details — ornate inlaid ceilings, exquisite floor tiling, decorative archways and pillars.

Its rooms maintain some of those details, particularly the stunning original ceilings, but with relevant updates for modern comforts, like luxe-minimalist furnishings, A/C and heat, and spa-quality bathrooms.

Lecco: NH Lecco Pontevecchio

Also less crowded than the city of Como, Lecco is a relaxing and quiet place to stay. 

The charming hotel NH Lecco Pontevecchio features gorgeous mountain and lake views just a 5-minute walk from Lecco’s historic center and close to Lecco’s train station. 

Rooms are elegant and spacious and best of all, they all come with air conditioning (again, not a given anywhere in Italy!). 

Guests also have access to amenities such as a delicious buffet breakfast and electric bike rental.

‼️ DON’T FORGET TRAVEL INSURANCE ‼️

While exploring Como, you’ll want to be sure you’re covered against any incident that may happen during your stay.

I always cover my trips with SafetyWing Nomad Insurance because it’s affordable (starting around $11/week).

It covers both medical emergencies (illness, accident, injury, etc., including Covid) and travel interruptions (delays, cancellations, lost baggage, etc.)

Check out policies on SafetyWing here

Your Ultimate Sardinia Road Trip: 7 Days in Sardinia Itinerary

brilliant blue waters in sardinia on a beach or cove

Home to dreamy white-sand beaches, turquoise waters that rival the Caribbean Sea, adorable seaside villages, and exclusive clubs and restaurants, Sardinia is a dream summer destination that everyone should visit once in their lives.

What better way to explore this wonderful island than on a Sardinia road trip?

Once you rent a car and start driving along the dramatic coast of Sardinia, you’ll find cheerful small towns and postcard-perfect beaches that will make you never want to leave.

The beautiful Maladroxia beach with curving, white sandy shoreline on Sant Antioco island of Sardinia

Planning a Sardinia itinerary can be a bit overwhelming — I mean, where should you go when literally everywhere is beautiful?

I’m here to help — I lived in Italy for 15 years and count Sardinia as one of my favorite places in the country.

Give or take a day, here’s a 7-day Sardinia road trip itinerary that will give you a sensible (and stunning) route through the island’s best sights. 

From off-the-beaten-track villages to the most popular resort towns, smaller islands off the Sardinian coast, and spectacular beaches with crystalline waters, there’s so much to see and do.

So, let’s dive in… literally. Those waters are calling your name!

What to Know Before Planning a Sardinia Road Trip

beautiful resort town of arbatax in sardinia with bue waters and stunning landscape and blue waters

Before getting into the details of this road trip itinerary around Sardinia, let’s go over a few things you should know when planning your trip.

Just a little bit of pre-planning will ensure your Sardinia road trip goes off without a hitch.

When to Road Trip Sardinia?

coastal area in a beach town in sardinia

As you might imagine for a Mediterranean island paradise, the best season to explore Sardinia is summer.

The sun is shining, the water is just refreshing enough to escape the heat, and the beach bars and clubs are open for the season.

However, you should also be aware that July and August can be super crowded, with schools closed and most people taking time off from work.

If you’re not a fan of packed beaches and restaurants and long lines for attractions, you’re better off better avoiding these months.

But what’s a good work-around if you still want summer weather?

June and September are good months to enjoy great weather with slightly smaller crowds, especially the first half of June and the second half of September.

Don’t expect empty beaches, but you’ll definitely have a little more breathing room, especially during the weekdays.

no one on the beach in sardinia in san giovanni a small pristine beach area

If you really want to make sure you won’t have to deal with crowds, you could even plan your road trip for the month of May.

The weather is already beautifully warm, without the sticky summer heat, and people are still working or studying, so the only busy times may be the weekends.

Let’s be real: a road trip around Sardinia in winter doesn’t really make much sense since the most important attractions on the island are the beaches and gorgeous coastal walks. 

If you ask me, the earliest suitable month for a road trip would be April and the latest, October.

Driving in Sardinia

Sardinia landscape with an empty road and brilliant blue and dark azure waters in the sea, with dramatic coast scenery

Unlike in many big cities in mainland Italy, driving around Sardinia is pretty chill. You just need to ensure you have an international driving permit (IDP), and you’re good to go. 

The roads are pretty smooth for most of the island, except for the smaller islands, where you may encounter dirt roads that get a bit bumpier.

If you visit during the peak season, expect to find traffic, especially on the northern coast, the most popular area in Sardinia.

Luckily, though,the traffic is likely to be the biggest issue and you won’t find any other difficulties driving around.

Finally, be aware that Sardinia has no highways. On the downside, this means you’ll need to drive slower and may encounter more traffic, but on the bright side, you won’t have to pay road tolls.

How Many Days for a Sardinia Road Trip?

The famous La Cinta beach overlooking the island of Tavolara, with white sandy beach and soft blue water, broken into two parts by the beach

The island is pretty big so if you wanted to really explore it all, you’d need at least a month, and even then, there’d be more to see. 

But, unless you’re blessed with unlimited time to travel, you probably only have a couple of weeks of vacation to plan your trip. 

Don’t worry, though! I’m happy to report that even if that’s the case, you can still make it work.

The most popular area to explore in Sardinia is the northern coast, home to the famous stretch called Costa Smeralda, resort towns, and wonderful beaches. 

While this also means the area can get crowded, it’s absolutely still worth exploring. You just won’t find the same landscapes, crystalline waters, and dreamy beaches in the south, except for a few special spots.

You can explore most of the island’s northern part, as well as a few inland and southern cities in roughly one week. 

The itinerary below takes eight days, with the possibility of skipping a few steps if you only have six or seven days in Sardinia instead.

Anything less than six days would mean rushing through without really taking time to enjoy your trip, and where’s the fun in that?  

Where to Begin a Sardinia Road Trip

Cozy street in Olbia, Sardinia, a man walking down an otherwise empty street, with white buildings and mountains in the background

Given that the main area to explore is the north, starting the trip in Olbia or Alghero probably makes more sense, especially since the two cities are both served by international airports. 

However, the main airport on the island is near Cagliari, in the very south of Sardinia.

Most people arrive on the island here (and rent their car here), so this will be your departure and arrival place for this itinerary.

If you choose to start your vacation directly from the north, you can easily adapt the itinerary since most of the places we included are in the northern half of the island. 

When it comes to booking a car rental, I always pick Discover Cars when renting cars in Italy to search for the best deal.

Not only do they show you the best rates, they also offer some of the cheapest full-coverage insurance (around $7/day, typically).

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➜ Check rental prices in Sardinia with Discover Cars here!

Without further ado, here is a day-by-day Sardinia itinerary to explore this wonderful island on a memorable road trip.

Day 1: Drive from Cagliari to Alghero

Explore the lively capital city of Cagliari.

The lively capital city of Cagliari, with a marina, colorful houses in shades of yellow, red, pink, and orange all built into a hill. The sky is clear and sunny and the water appears calm.

Start your Sardinia road trip from Cagliari, where you can spend the morning exploring the historical town before driving north. 

Cagliari is the capital of Sardinia and features a lovely historical center. While you could easily spend a couple of days exploring the city and visiting its museums, you can see the main sights in just a few hours, which means more time exploring the rest of the island.

Visit the beautiful 13th-century Duomo di Cagliari, pass by the imposing Bastion Saint Remy, and climb to the top of the medieval Torre dell’Elefante for sweeping city views. 

Before leaving, stroll around the lively Piazza Yenne and be sure to have lunch at one of the nearby restaurants. The small restaurant S’Istrìa is great for delicious traditional dishes.

Make a little detour to Bosa.

the colorful inland town of bosa on the riverfront with colorful houses and a hill with ruins

When you’re ready to get on the road from Cagliari, start driving north towards Alghero.

After roughly an hour and a half of driving, you’ll reach the town of Macomer, where you can take a quick detour towards Bosa

A colorful hilltop town on the Temo River, Bosa is considered one of the most beautiful Sardinian towns.

Spend some time exploring the historical center of Bosa, then climb to the Castle of Serravalle to enjoy a gorgeous panoramic view. 

You can visit the castle or spend some time admiring the view from the panoramic terrace. For another lovely scenic view of Bosa, drive along the Strada Statale 129 on the opposite riverbank.

Make your way to Alghero.

waterfront of alghero in sardinia, with colorful houses on the seaside with a sea wall and sunny sky

From Bosa, you’ll need to drive roughly one hour to reach Alghero.

Famous for its Catalan heritage, Alghero is a beautiful city with a lovely old town encircled by old defensive walls. 

Spend the afternoon exploring the historical center with the gorgeous Catalan-Gothic Alghero Cathedral, the many defensive towers, and the lively squares and alleys.

Before sunset, climb the cathedral’s bell tower for a beautiful view of the city and harbor area.

For dinner, sample traditional Sardinian dishes at Trattoria Lo Romanì or L’Incontro Restaurant.

You can spend one or two nights in Alghero. If you plan on spending only one night, aim to arrive early to give yourself a little more time to explore the city. 

If you stay for a second night, you can take advantage of the second day to explore the beautiful surroundings of Alghero, which we’ll cover on day two.

If you only have 7 days in Sardinia, skip this next day or abbreviate it and condense it into Day 3.

Day 2: Alghero and Capo Caccia

Start your day by going to Capo Caccia.

The stairway leading to the Neptune's Grotto, in Capo Caccia cliffs, near Alghero, in Sardinia

If you choose to spend a second day in Alghero, there are plenty of activities to try and wonderful places to see.

Start your day by heading to Neptune’s Grotto, a marine cave in Capo Caccia, roughly 30 minutes from Alghero.

You have two options to visit the caves. Drive to Capo Caccia and descend the many steps of the impressive Escala del Cabirol or catch a boat from Alghero.

(Heads up! If you choose to drive there, you have to book your visit online.) 

As an alternative, you can take one of the many boats departing regularly from the port of Alghero and sailing straight to the cave if you don’t want to deal with all those steps (or if your mobility needs make that not possible).

Although the many steps to access the caves may be intimidating, driving to Neptune’s Grotto will allow you to see other scenic spots around Capo Caccia, in the Regional Natural Park of Porto Conte

Explore the Porto Conte area.

Cala Dragunara shore on a clear day in Sardinia, a small little cove with some reddish rock and beautiful beach and turquoise water

Once you’re there, hit the hiking trails to discover beautiful viewpoints and tiny coves with crystalline waters.

Check out Cala Dragunara, stop by Belvedere Foradada to admire the view of Isola Foradada, and hike to Torre de la Penya.

You can easily spend half a day exploring the natural park, so bring some snacks or pack a lunch.

If you’d rather have lunch in the area, you can find a few restaurants near Cala Tramariglio and Spiaggia di Mugoni.

If you’re not sure where to eat, La Nuvola and Le Ninfe are both good options.

Hike or enjoy some beach time before exploring the archaeological area.

Stone ruins of a Nuragic settlement, the people who lived on Sardinia in the past, and green landscape on a partly cloudy day

Before heading back to Alghero, you can explore the hiking trails and gorgeous beaches near Torre del Llatzeret.

If you want to spend a few hours at the beach, Platja del Llatzeret and Le Bombarde are both sandy beaches with lovely turquoise water.

One last attraction to check out in the area is the archaeological site known as Nuraghe Palmavera.

Sardinia is full of Nuragic settlements dating back to the Bronze Age, and this fascinating trip back in time is located only 15 minutes from Alghero’s center.

Have dinner and spend the night in Alghero.

A nighttime stroll in the waterfront area of Alghero, with some lights on, and just a few people on the street.

Back in Alghero, enjoy delicious seafood at Ristorante Il Cenacolo 2 or Terra Bistrot.

After dinner, wander around Alghero’s charming old town to enjoy the lovely views by night.

Day 3: Sassari and Stintino

Head to the beautiful city of Sassari.

Day three of your Sardinia road trip starts off back on the road, driving from Alghero to the nearby city of Sassari, just over half an hour away. 

Sassari is the second-largest city in Sardinia by population as well as one of the oldest, so it’s rich in historical landmarks, museums, and art galleries.

Spend a few hours in Sassari to explore the old town, and visit the Saint Nicholas Cathedral, the Ducal Palace, and the Church of Saint Mary of Bethlehem

If you want to stay in town for lunch, Il Vecchio Mulino is a cozy place for traditional (and delicious!) Sardinian dishes.

Head to the tip of Sardinia, Stintino.

the view of the islands off the coast of stintino, one which has the ruins of an old tower, and another one off further in the distance in sparkling blue sea.

After exploring Sassari, keep driving towards the northernmost tip of Sardinia, to the coastal town of Stintino

This area is known for its enchanting beaches, the most famous ones being La Pelosa and the smaller La Pelosetta

The beaches face the small Isola della Pelosa, with its iconic 16th-century tower, and the larger Isola Piana.

Along the eastern coast, from Stintino to Capo Falcone at the northernmost tip of the island, you’ll find several wonderful little beaches and coves, any of which would make a wonderful spot to stop off and enjoy the sunshine. 

Caletta di La Pelosa, Spiaggia del Gabbiano, and Spiaggia Punta Negra are all great spots for sunbathing, swimming, and snorkeling in stunningly beautiful turquoise waters.

Pick a beach to spend a relaxing afternoon, or drive along the coast and check out the gorgeous views and hidden coves.

The western coast is rocky and has no beaches, but it offers several impressive scenic points, especially for sunsets over the beautiful Mediterranean.  

Picturesque old port town of Stintino, Sardinia, with boats in the harbor and colorful houses on the land

After exploring the natural landscapes around Stintino, head to the small town for dinner.

Try the seafood at Trattoria Opera Viva or Ristorante Lina di S.Maddau

Once you’ve had a delicious meal, spend the night in Stintino and rest up, because tomorrow’s an early start!

Day 4: Asinara National Park

Catch a ferry to Asinara National Park.

Start your day as early as possible by heading to the port to catch a ferry to Asinara National Park

This is an optional step on your Sardinia road trip but totally worth including in the itinerary if you have enough time.

If you only have seven days in Sardinia, you can choose between Day 2 and 4 of the itinerary, depending on what is more appealing to you.

Asinara is a smaller island just off the northwestern coast tip of Sardinia, entirely occupied by the Asinara National Park established in 1998. 

In past lives, the island, also known as Devil’s Island (Isola del Diavolo), has served as a quarantine location, a prison for war prisoners during World War I, and a prison for mafia members and extremists during the period of the political turmoil of the 1960s and 1970s.

Not exactly the most peaceful of histories — but it’s quite scenic now.

Legend has it that the island was initially called Herculis Insula by Ancient Romans because they believed the Greek hero had created it. 

According to the tale, Hercules grabbed the tip of the northwestern peninsula and pulled until he detached a small part.

As he took hold of the piece of land, Hercules squeezed it until he created a narrowing in the middle of the island.

Legends and history aside, Asinara as it stands now is a wonderful destination for a day trip from Porto Torres. 

Boasting dramatic cliffs, gorgeous white sand beaches, and unbelievably turquoise waters, this is a must-see for beach, sailing, and snorkeling enthusiasts. 

Landscape view of ancient jail constructions at Fornelli in the Asinara National Park

Catch the ferry from Stintino to the tiny port of Fornelli, at the island’s southern extremity. The ferry ride takes less than half an hour, and there are multiple daily departures. 

Plan to spend the entire day exploring the island, so plan ahead and bring a picnic lunch with you! 

There are only two places to eat on the island, both in Cala d’Oliva. If you choose to have lunch there, La Locanda del Parco Asinara is your best choice.  

There are many ways to explore the island of Asinara, including walking, renting a bike or small electric car, or using the public transportation available from July to September.

Alternatively, you can join a sailing tour of the island.

No matter how you explore the island, don’t miss the charming little hamlet Cala d’Oliva, the harbor of Cala Reale, the gorgeous beaches of Cala Sabina and Cala Sant’Andrea, and the stunning views from Fortezza del Castellaccio

three cute albino white donkeys, residents to the island of Asinara

On the island, you’ll also get to see the adorable albino donkeys, which supposedly gave the island its current name. (The Italian word for donkey is asino.) 

There are some non-albino donkeys too, but the white donkeys are what makes the island famous!

Once you’ve explored the Asinara National Park, head back to Stintino. Here, you have two options. Either stay a second night in Stintino or drive half an hour to Porto Torres

If you choose the latter, have dinner at Ristorante Pizzeria San Gavino, then enjoy a stroll around the small town before settling in for the night.  

Day 5: Costa Paradiso

Start the day by driving to Castelsardo.

View of the beach of Castelsardo with the colorful buildings going up the hill and the castle at the top of the town

Your fifth day of this road trip around Sardinia is dedicated to exploring most of the island’s northern coast.

From Porto Torres, drive east along the coast toward your first stop of the day, the lovely coastal town of Castelsardo.

The picturesque Castelsardo is built on a small promontory topped by the medieval Castello dei Doria.

To enjoy a gorgeous view of the town, go to Torre di Frigiano, near the harbor. 

After that, head into the old town to wander around and explore for a couple of hours.

Visit the castle and the Cathedral of Saint Anthony Abbott and explore the many alleys and stairways. Head to Parco Lu Grannadu to enjoy beautiful coastal views. 

If you’re starting to feel hungry, try the seafood dishes at Il Cormorano for a delightful lunch.

Move on to Costa Paradiso.

Stony walk path in Costa Paradiso in Sardinia, Italy, with a wooden handrail on a stony path with brilliant blue waters with one boat

Once you’re done exploring, get back in the car and drive for about one hour to Costa Paradiso.

The name of this small village, which translates to Paradise Coast, is evocative of the natural beauty of this whole area, with stunning little beaches and impressive rock formations. 

The best way to enjoy this area is to relax on one of the many beautiful beaches, swim in the crystalline waters, and maybe even go snorkeling to admire the underwater scenery.

Some of the most beautiful beaches around Costa Paradiso are Spiaggia di Cala li Cossi, Cala Sarraina, and Tinnari.

Spend a few hours at any of these before driving to another scenic location, Capo Testa.

Admire the beauty of Capo Testa and Palau.

Sunset at the Capo Testa lighthouse in Sardinia, the sun sinking into the horizon with orange streaks and lighting up the clouds, the lighthouse silhouetted in the rocky foreground.

A small peninsula connected to the main island by a narrow strip of land, Capo Testa boasts impressive panoramic views, cool rock formations, and lovely walking paths around the lighthouse.

This area is perfect for unforgettable sunset views, so take in the sunset here before moving on to our final stop.

Wrap up your day by driving to Palau, where you can have dinner and spend the night.

The harbor area of Palau has many great restaurants, so you won’t have a hard time finding a spot for dinner.

Il Ghiottone and Il Kalamaro are among the most popular restaurants for pasta dishes and seafood.

Day 6: La Maddalena

Take a day trip to La Maddelena.

The coastal town of La Maddelena on the islands of the same name

On day six, you can enjoy another optional day trip to the La Maddalena archipelago, easily accessible by ferry from Palau.

If you’re short on time and can’t fit everything in, you can choose between Asinara Island and La Maddalena. 

The ferry ride only lasts 15 minutes, so you’ll arrive in no time at all and have a full day to explore the gorgeous islands. 

The port is in the small town of La Maddalena, so you can start by strolling along the charming Via Amendola.

This is also where you can join boat tours around the island if you’d rather enjoy its beauty from the waves.

Unlike Asinara, La Maddalena is connected to Palau by large ferries that allow you to board your car if you wish to do so.

While public transportation is available around the island during the summer months, driving by car will allow you to see much more.

As you may imagine, La Maddalena is better known for its spectacular beaches and natural landscapes. 

Start driving clockwise along the coast from La Maddalena town to pass by Spiaggia di Punta Tegge, Cala Francese, Spiaggia di Bassa Trinita, Spiaggia dello Strangolato, Spiaggia del Cardellino, and Spiaggia di Cala Spalmatore

Cala Francese in La Maddalena island on a road trip around Sardinia

To the southeast, cross the bridge to Isola Giardinelli (another island in the archipleago) and check out Spiaggia Testa del Polpo and Spiaggia Giardinelli.

Note that most restaurants on the island are in the town of La Maddalena proper, so have lunch before exploring the rest of the island or pack some food if you’d rather spend the day at the beach.

I recommend Ristorante Caprera and Ristorante Anima Lunga: both are great options for a delicious lunch in La Maddalena.

Depending on how much time you have and whether you prefer driving to various spots or settling in for a day at one beach, you can also cross to the nearby Caprera Island, connected to La Maddalena by the Caprera bridge. 

Beach of Cala Coticcio on Caprera island in Sardinia, with crystal clear water, rock formations, and brush

One of my favorite spots is in the northern part of Caprera, where you can park your car and walk to Cala Napoletana and Spiaggia di Punta Crucitta.

Recommended Tours:

If you’d rather take a break from driving (and who could blame you?), you can also join a guided full-day tour of La Maddalena from Palau. 

Check out this affordable La Maddalena Archipelago Full-Day Trip by Boat or this Island-Hopping Sailing Tour with Lunch, so you don’t need to think about a thing.

After spending a whole day exploring La Maddalena, go back to Palau.

You can spend a second night here or drive ahead to Porto Cervo, only half an hour away.

Day 7: Porto Cervo and Costa Smeralda

Start the day exploring Porto Cervo.

the beach town of porto cervo with stone walkway and buildings

Located along the famous Costa Smeralda, Porto Cervo is better known as the party hotspot in Sardinia, with exclusive clubs like Billionaire or Just Cavalli

However, there’s much more to discover along the coast near Porto Cervo, so even if you’re not on the guest list, you can still enjoy this area.

Pack your lunch and head to the first spot for the day, Baja Sardinia, just a 10-minute drive from Porto Cervo. 

Belvedere Baja Sardinia will reward you with gorgeous coastal views, while Spiaggia Tre Monti is a lovely sandy beach where you can spend a few hours sunbathing.

From the main beach of Baja Sardinia, take the panoramic walk to Batteria Battistoni, a former military battery.

If you didn’t pack lunch, grab something in Baja Sardinia before driving to Capo Ferro to enjoy more breathtaking coastal views. 

Explore the old lighthouse and enjoy some beach time.

Capo Ferro cape lighthouse in Sardinia, Italy, on the edge of a cliff with stairs leading down to it, surrounded by clear blue water

Check out the old Capo Ferro Lighthouse and stop by Spiaggia Cala Granu to swim in the turquoise water.

You can spend the rest of the afternoon at one of the beaches south of Porto Cervo.

Spiaggia del Grande Pevero is the most famous in the area and while it absolutely lives up to the hype, it can get quite crowded during peak season.

Further south, Capriccioli is another area filled with wonderful beaches, although these tend to be packed in summer as well. For a more secluded beach, head to Cala Liccia to really relax.

In the evening, drive back to Porto Cervo, where you can have dinner and check out one of the many clubs if you’re in the mood for a party. 

The shopping mall Promenade du Port has many restaurants serving delicious food, like Elit Promenade Cafè or Cibò.

Day 8 of Your Sardinia Itinerary: Nuoro and Villasimius

Make your way back, stopping in Nuoro.

Santa Maria della Neve cathedral on a sunny day in Nuoro, as you wrap up this Sardinia road trip

On the last day of your road trip around Sardinia, you’ll be driving back south toward Cagliari. 

Along the way is the city of Nuoro, one of the largest in Sardinia, where you can stop off to explore and stretch your legs.

The city is also known as the “Sardinian Athens” due to its cultural and historical importance.

But just before reaching Nuoro, you can visit one of the most impressive archaeological sites in Sardinia, the Complesso Nuragico e Nuraghe di Noddule

The site is a meaningful testimony of the prehistoric settlements all over Sardinia, featuring multiple nuraghe, the striking ancient megalithic edifices scattered all across the island.

After admiring the nuraghe, head to Nuoro for a lunch break. Sample delicious Sardinian street food at Panelentu or enjoy a hearty meal at Il Rifugio

After you finish eating, take a bit of time to just wander around the city center for a while before hopping back in the car to drive south.  

Make one final stop in Villasimius.

the town of villasimius and its beautiful beaches with a strip of sand separating two water areas

From Nuoro, you can either drive straight to Cagliari, where you can leave your rental car and end your road trip, or have one last stop in Villasimius to spend the night before going back to Cagliari.

Villasimius is one of the most popular beach destinations near Cagliari, worth seeing if you have enough time.

The town is less than one hour from Cagliari, so it’s an easy stop to add on the way back.

If you stop here, check out Spiaggia di Punta Molentis and Spiaggia di Porto Giunco.

If you’re up for a short hike, explore the trails around Capo Carbonara.

Back in Cagliari, leave your car and spend any time you have left exploring the city!