If you are planning an Italy vacation, this itinerary, which includes Milan, Florence, Tuscany, Cinque Terre, Venice and the Alps is a perfect guide for a week in the country.
For our 15th-anniversary trip to Italy, we flew into Milan and spent one week in the country. I found it incredibly helpful to read other blog posts about vacations to Italy, so thought it might be useful to provide overview of our trip. I hope you enjoy reading this – even if you aren’t planning a trip to Italy soon.
After much consideration, we decided it would be best to do five nights in Florence and two nights in Milan. This allowed for us to have a home base, which greatly reduced the stress of going to new cities AND dealing with luggage. Though we each only had a carry-on bag and a backpack for our Italy vacation, it still was a lot to shlep around. (I highly recommend packing cubes if you are planning a long-trip and just want to have a carry-on. Read more here.)
Having a home base was a terrific decision, and one I would recommend to others considering how to plan an Italy vacation. Thanks to the trains and tours, day trips are very easy to plan.
Day 1: Arrive in Milan and travel to Florence
We flew into Milan, arriving at 6:30 in the morning. After going through customs, we immediately bought train tickets to go to Florence. Though tired from traveling, taking the train allowed us to maximize time at that early hour in a way that made a lot of sense. Trains are quick, affordable, and easy in Italy. I would not recommend renting a car unless you are wanting to go to a lot of less touristy places.
Since we planned to stay in Florence for five-days, we booked an AirBNB. The pricing was comparable to a hotel, but we had a lot more space and comfort in a Florence apartment. It also had a washing machine, which greatly reduced what we needed to pack! If you don’t have an AirBNB account, use my referral link to get $40 off your first booking when you sign up. For other Italian AirBNB recommendations, check out this post by Stephanie Howell, who lived in Italy for two years with her family.
We arranged with our AirBNB host to drop off our luggage, though we weren’t able to check in until the afternoon.
One of my only regrets of our Italy vacation was not booking something for us to do that first afternoon, such as a guided tour of Florence or visiting one of the museums. I kept the day open, not knowing how we would be feeling, if we would have a major delay, etc. While this makes sense, I wish I would have booked something once we got to Florence. Because everything ran on time, we could have done a tour that first day, which I think would have helped us acclimate to the city and break up some of our later days. Keep this in mind when booking your own trip!
Because we had the day open, we explored Mercato Centrale, an outdoor market in Florence, saw the outside of the Duomo and appreciated all the fountains and statues in the city. While we booked our May trip in January, I did most of the planning for it just a few weeks before we left. Had I planned further out, I could have probably gotten us tickets to go to the top of the Duomo, which is supposed to be spectacular. We did really enjoy just walking around the outside of it though. Pictures don’t do it justice.
We also visited the Museo delle Cappelle Medicee, which was so beautiful I cried.
Florence is incredibly walkable and simply wonderful to explore.
Day 2: Day in Tuscany
A friend recommended a 700-year-old farm in Tuscany that she had taken Accidental Tourist’s pasta making class. We were so glad we booked the experience. Accidental Tourist is one of the oldest pasta making classes in Tuscany and it was fantastic. We learned how to make pasta, and then had a wonderful multi-course Italian lunch that included the pasta we had made. They offer both lunch and dinner classes. The lunch classes were a bit cheaper, which is why we did it, and it was the perfect way to start our day.
After the morning class, we were picked up by Marco from WithLocals. This was one of our favorite experiences in Italy. One of the reasons it was so special was that it was so NOT touristy. We were with Marco for four hours and during that time we visited a monastery built in 890 (Il Monasteri di S. Michele A Passignano), the town of Greve and Buscola, a farm that grows olives and makes incredible olive oil.
Read more about WithLocals and get $15 off your first tour here.
Day 3: Day in Florence
If you go to Florence, both of these are hands down, MUST DOs. The Uffizi art gallery is incredible. Definitely book a guided tour for this museum – do not go by yourself. I know it is an expense, but I truly believe you will miss SO much doing it on your own. You will not be able to appreciate the history, detail, and richness of the art. We booked a tour with Art Viva and had an incredible experience.
We also booked a tour to see The David and I do not think this was necessary. You will still appreciate the incredible wonder of David without a guide. That said, having a guide got us into see the David much more quickly.
Day 4: Day in Cinque Terre
A day trip to Cinque Terre should be on your must-do list for an Italy vacation if you are going to be in Northern or Central Italy. We booked a 12-hour tour, which included all five cities (Cinque Terre means five lands) and it was worth the long-day and sore leg muscles (we walked 26,000 steps). I cannot do the views, the architecture, the water and the magic of it justice. It simply must be experienced. If the weather is warm, be sure to bring a swimsuit to take a dip in the water! I booked a tour with Viator and had a very positive experience.
Day 5: Day in Venice
Originally, we were going to do a day in a small city in Tuscany, like Siena, Lucca or San Gimignano, which many people raved about. Pisa was also nearby, but many told me that literally the only thing to do in Pisa is take a picture with the leaning tower. Thanks to our WithLocals tour with Marco, we decided that we had gotten a feel for those types of cities, so we decided last-minute to take a train to Venice for a day trip. This choice was one of the best decisions of our trip. In fact, if I were to do a do over, I think I would stay overnight in Venice because I loved it so, so much. In a word, Venice is magic. It is iconic Italy, full of romance, art, and boats.
We started out day in Venice with a three-hour walking tour with a WithLocals guide. We enjoyed WithLocals so much on day 3 that we knew it would make our limited time in Venice the best it could be. It was definitely the right decision. One of our favorite experiences of the trip was visiting a mask shop, owned by one of the most respected mask makers in all of Venice.
Of course, riding a gondola on the canals was also a must. A 25-30 minute ride during the day is 80 euros. In the evening, the same ride is 120 euros.
We also took a boat to the famous Murano, known for its blown glass. We also wanted to visit Burano, but it would have cut it too close with our train schedule.
Day 6: Day in Milan
Honestly, Milan was a bust, though we couldn’t have necessarily planned for this in advance of our Italy vacation. I had read that there wasn’t much to see in Milan, skip Milan, etc. etc. We figured since we were flying in and out of Milan, we should do a day of sightseeing there. Well, the day we scheduled to do that there was a huge military event in town. Streets were blocked, and we literally couldn’t get in to see anything. We spent a large part of the day trying to get places and not being able to. The good thing was that we had been go-go-go so much of the trip, that we were able to fit in some much needed relaxation.
Day 7: Day in the Alps
Anyone who is going visit Northern Italy must add a day-long train trip into the Alps. I have written a full-post about this experience here. This was our last day of our vacation and was really the best end to it! Not only was it one of our favorite experiences, but it was low energy, which meant we were not exhausted before traveling home the next morning.
I’ll admit, I was a bit paralyzed when I started planning our Italy vacation. It was my first time visiting the country and I wanted to not make any “mistakes.” The truth is, the country is gorgeous and the people are kind, so you can’t go wrong. I hope though that this overview of the schedule we put together might help as you put together your own trip.
Other posts about our trip to Italy
On September 14, Target is celebrating two decades of Design for All by bringing back some of its most-loved products from twenty iconic design partners. The full-collection will be online, and all stores will at least have some of the collection. (Affiliate links are used in this post.)
From Target’s website:
Target is opening its archives and reissuing iconic pieces from 20 past design partnerships in an anniversary collection of nearly 300 items spanning apparel, accessories, home décor and kitchen essentials.
The reissued products are the same designs, prints and colors as the original collection items, and will be available in Target stores and on Target.com beginning Sept. 14, while supplies last.
Prices range from $7- $160, with most pieces under $50. I’m especially excited about the Lilly Pulitzer, Isaac Mizrahi and Phillip Lim.
Shop the full collection here.
This post is sponsored by Best Buy.
We have been looking at doing some upgrades on our home and honestly, it has been overwhelming. In my research, I learned that Best Buy offers free in-home consultations.
Best Buy will come to you, at your convenience, with answers and advice to all of your tech questions. I can’t believe this service is free. With this service, Best Buy’s trained in-home advisors answer questions about Wi-Fi, smart home, appliances, home theater, and more. They can also provide recommendations, a personalized plan for the right solution and support if you decide to invest in products or technology. No project is too big or too small.
Here’s a sampling of some of the products available at Best Buy that could be recommended during an in-home consult.
Eero Mesh Wifi System:
comes with three eeros and is made for homes with 3-5+ bedrooms. Each eero is tri-band and uses TrueMesh technology to enable great WiFi performance and reliability no matter how many devices you use in your home. And with eero’s app, you can set up your system in under 10 minutes, share your network with guests, and manage family screen time from anywhere.
Ring Video Doorbell 2:
See who’s at the door and monitor your home when you’re not there with this video doorbell. The 2-way audio lets you listen and talk to anyone on your property, right from your mobile device. Plus, you can easily recharge the battery with the included power pack.
GE Profile Wall Oven:
Cook a meal for a whole family with this GE Profile™ Series 30″ built-in convection double wall oven. Each oven provides 5 cu. ft. capacity with true European convection to prepare your large dishes in optimal conditions. Use a 7″ touch display to simply program the oven with precision cooking modes that provide simple instructions, then automatically adjust the temperature and cook times to deliver perfect results
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Sharing tips for saving money at Target is one of my favorite things to do! I hope that you have watched my new video on 10 tips for saving money at Target. If not, check it out below.
10 Tips for Saving Money at Target
Leverage Target’s price match policy
Target will price match local competitors and certain online retailers, including Amazon.com and Walmart.com. According to Target’s website: “price matches may be requested at time of purchase or within 14 days after purchase. The full list of online competitors includes: Amazon.com, BedBathandBeyond.com Bestbuy.com Barnesandnoble.com Buybuybaby.com Costco.com CVS.com Diapers.com Petco.com Petsmart.com SamsClub.com Sears.com Staples.com Ulta.com Walgreens.com Walmart.com Wayfair.com
Look for opportunities to earn free gift cards when you buy products that you love
Target will often do promotions like buy 2 items, get a $10 gift card. These promotions are a great opportunity to stock up on home essentials like diapers, paper products and toiletries.
You can also stack coupons with these promotions to save even more.
Sometimes the Pharmacy will offer coupons for flu shots or transferring a prescription.
Shop online and use in-store pick up or direct shipping to avoid impulse buying.
Shopping online definitely will help you steer clear of those tempting areas like the dollar section and clearance end caps. Also, I often find Target.com to have better online prices than a lot of other retailers. This is especially true if you are using your 5% discount with your Red Card.
Bring reusable bags
Don’t forget to bring reusable bags when you go to Target. Target will give you 5 cents off your purchase for each bag you bring in.
Pay attention to deal cycles
The BIG clearance mark-downs are cyclical. For instance, the big toy clearance typically happens at in late January and the end of July/early August (on a Thursday) every year. Mark your calendar and start paying attention to mark-downs prior to the sale.
Look at how low the price is
There is misinformation out there that if a price ends in 4, that this is the lowest the price will go. This is not true. You need to look at if the item is marked down 30% off, 50% off or 70% off. If the item is marked down to 70% off (and isn’t seasonal) then that is as low as it will go. Clearance stickers also say in the top right corner how low the mark-down is, just in case you aren’t good at mental math!
Ask an employee to check for back stock
If you find a great deal, or you know of a great deal, but you don’t see it on the floor, ask an employee if they are willing to check the stockroom for the item. I have known people to get BOXES worth of clearance items because the items were not stocked on the floor.
Watch the weekly ad for sales/coupons
The weekly Target ad is the best way to see everything on sale in the store for the week. You can look at it online here. Once in a while they will have an exclusive tear out coupon, so those weeks are a good week to pick up a Sunday paper and get one. Sometimes guest services will have extra copies too.
Use the scanners throughout the store
The scanners are a great way to find unmarked sale/clearance items, or items that are priced lower than what is stickered. I always feel like I won a contest when I discover a seasonal clearance item that isn’t in the seasonal section – ha!
Leverage in-store bonus coupon events
At various points during the year, Target will do special incentive for shoppers to earn coupons on future purchases. For instance, at back to school time, anyone who spent $15 on back to school products got a 20% off coupon to use on a future purchase. Another example – Target also does a car seat trade event annually (going on now). Simply bring in an old car seat and Target will give you a 20% off coupon to use on a new car seat.
I hope this helps you save the next time you shop at Target. When you’re there, be sure to pick up a copy of my book Stretched Too Thin: How Working Moms Can Lose the Guilt, Work Smarter and Thrive. It’s now available in paperback at your favorite Target or on Target.com.
Bonus Target shopping hack – use shipt
Also, for those weeks when you don’t have time to make your Target run, you can use shipt to do your shopping for you. The best part? Your shipt shopper brings your items right to your house. Use this referral link to get 50% off your first year (only $49). It’s one of the best things I have done for myself – saves me time and money. (Shipt also shops at lots of grocery stores and Costco!)
How do you save money shopping at Target?
When you want to give a thoughtful gift that will have a lasting impact, consider giving a gift book or journal. Below are the best gift books. These books are beautiful and meaningful + many are 50-70% off on Amazon right now. Shop now and stock up! (As an Amazon affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases at no cost to you)
Best Gift Books
100 Days to Brave: Devotions for Unlocking Your Most Courageous Self: Bravery is something most of us could use a bit more of. Annie Downs’ encouraging writing is perfect for pretty much everyone.
The Path Made Clear: Discovering Your Life’s Direction and Purpose: I love this book. It’s interior is exquisite and the content is even better.
Be the Gift: Ann Voskamp’s gift book is full of beautiful photos and an empowering message — that even in the depths of our own brokenness God can use each of us to be a gift to someone else. (out of stock right now, but you can order at this low price to lock it in)
The Magic of Motherhood: The Good Stuff, the Hard Stuff, and Everything In Between: For the mom that could use some encouragement and hope in the midst of everyday life, this is a perfect gift.
The Book of Comforts: Genuine Encouragement for Hard Times: I always keep a few of these books on hand in case someone loses a loved one or is going through a hard time. The Book of Comforts is a beautiful four-color book of readings that offer biblical consolation and encouragement in seasons of trial and grief. Scripture selections are accompanied by brief devotions, alongside designed Scripture passages and photography.
The Year of Living Happy: Finding Contentment and Connection in a Crazy World: I love giving Alli’s book as a gift to others. With 100 inspirational devotions, beautiful art, and journaling pages throughout, this gorgeous devotional offers practical ways to make your life happier day by day.
GraceLaced: Discovering Timeless Truths Through Seasons of the Heart: This book is full of stunning watercolor art and encouragement for readers in any circumstance to become deeply rooted in God’s faithful promises.
I’d Rather Be Reading: A wonderfully fun gift for the bookworms in your life. Perfect on its own, or to tuck into a gift basket.
One Line A Day: A Five-Year Memory Book: A compact little journal that anyone can do. Just write one line a day and you’ll have a cherished keepsake for years to come.
The Bucket List: 1000 Adventures Big and Small: This full-color guide to fun, fantastic, and life-affirming activities features an eclectic range of ideas such as self-improvement, sports-related endeavors, natural wonders, cultural experiences, culinary delights, and more. A perfect gift for a travel lover featuring an around-the-world, continent-by-continent listing of beaches, museums, monuments, islands, inns, restaurants, mountains, and more.
I hope this list of the best gift books inspires you to give the gift of a book to someone you care about.