12 day Italy Itinerary: Hidden Gems and Famous Places

12 day Italy Itinerary: Hidden Gems and Famous Places

Last June, I joined my parents on part of their campervan trip: we were going to travel 12 days in Italy together! Since it wasn’t our first visit to Italy, I devised a 12 day Italy itinerary with a mix of famous and off the beaten path spots. Although we did this trip with a campervan, you can easily use this 12 day Italy itinerary as inspiration for your own Italy itinerary and stay in hotels or Airbnbs.

Day 1: from Milan to Cinque Terre

Start your itinerary in Lombardy and arrive in Milan in the morning of your first day. The first destination on our Italy trip was the famous Certosa di Pavia, 30 kilometres from Milan.

Tip: You can extend your 12 day Italy itinerary by arriving one day earlier to include more time in Milan.

This monastery is one of the most pretty buildings of the Italian Renaissance. Its façade is stunning. You can easily admire this piece of architecture for half an hour without having been inside the church. Entrance to the church is free of charge and the interior just as stunning. The monastery was founded in 1396. However, the building continued until the 16th-century. There’s a motorhome parking in the regular parking for the monastery.

Facade of Certosa di Pavia
Facade of Certosa di Pavia, the first stop on our 12 day Italy itinerary

Next, it’s time to continue south to Levanto, which you could call the gateway to Cinque Terre. There are several campings, hotels and also a hostel (Hostel Ospitalia del Mare) in Levanto. We stayed at Camping 5 Terre for 2 nights. In the evening, you can explore Levanto, which is a charming village as well.

Day 2: Hiking Cinque Terre

Our second day was devoted to hiking Cinque Terre. Unfortunately, it was raining in the morning. Therefore, we took the train to Monterosso al Mare around 1 pm. Hiking Cinque Terre is an incredible experience. The hike is stunning, but at some places a little tough if you’re not an experienced hiker. Be prepared with this Cinque Terre packing list. We also spent some time exploring the 5 villages. All 5 Cinque Terre villages (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore) are stunning. However, my favourites are probably Vernazza and Corniglia.

Vernazza, one of the 5 Cinque Terre villages
Vernazza, one of the 5 Cinque Terre villages

If you don’t fancy hiking, it’s possible to explore the villages using public transport as well. The train stops at every village. Nevertheless, part of the beauty of Cinque Terre are the stunning views of the coastline you get while hiking. Moreover, the trains are extremely busy during the summer months. You can also decide to hike part of the trail, for example, the path between Monterosso al Mare and Vernazza.

Day 3: Exploring Southern Tuscany

On the third day, we continued our journey south. We’d planned only one night in Tuscany because we’d been to most of the main attractions of Tuscany before (such as Florence, Pisa etc.).

Tip: Extend your 12 day Italy itinerary by including a day trip to Florence, Pisa or Siena.

On this trip to Italy, we decided to explore 3 villages in southern Tuscany. Firstly, we made a stop in Pienza. Nowadays, this historic little town is famous for its pecorino cheese. In addition, the origin of this town is quite special. In 1405, Aeneas Silvius Piccolomini was born in Pienza (then still called Corsignano). When he became Pope Pius II he decided to rebuild the entire town as the perfect Renaissance town and renamed the town Pienza after himself.

View of the Val d’Orcia in Southern Tuscany
View of the Val d’Orcia in Southern Tuscany

After having explored Pienza, we continued to Montepulciano, a medieval village situated on a hill. Whereas Pienza is famous for its cheese, Montepulciano is famous for its wine. Make sure to taste some. The village has a great medieval atmosphere. When you’re walking the streets that climb until you reach the Piazza Grande, you can easily imagine being transported to the Middle Ages.

Medieval streets of Montepulciano
Medieval streets of Montepulciano

At the beginning of the evening, we reached Chiusi. It was time for a quick visit to its archaeological museum. The museum is small but has several interesting artefacts that have been discovered in the area. Chiusi itself is less pretty than Pienza and Montepulciano. However, it’s also less touristy. Because we couldn’t find a suitable parking for campervans, we slept in Ficulle on a parking for campervans. Click here for more information.

Day 4: Orvieto

Orvieto is famous for its jaw-dropping duomo. Since we visited Orvieto on a Sunday, we didn’t have to buy an entrance ticket to visit the Duomo. However, this also meant that we couldn’t visit the stunning Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio up close. The chapel has beautiful 15th-century frescoes by Luca Signorelli. Fortunately, we could catch a glimpse of the frescoes from a short distance.

Duomo of Orvieto
Famous chapel of Orvieto Duomo
Duomo of Orvieto
Chapel of the Madonna di San Brizio

On the same square as the Duomo, you can visit several museums: the archaeological museum, the Museo Emilio Greco and the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo di Orvieto. On the Piazza del Popolo, you can find Palazzo del Capitano del Popolo (or “The People’s Palace). This building, completed in the 13th century, used to be the seat of power and a meeting place for the people of Orvieto. We had planned to visit the Etruscan Necropolis as well. Unfortunately, there was a sign on the gate that it was closed that day.

After Orvieto, we continued south to Rome. We were staying at Roma Village Camping for 4 nights. In the evening, we hopped on the train from Roma Aurelia to Roma San Pietro and explored Trastevere, a neighbourhood with a great atmosphere.

Day 5: Rome part I

In my opinion, Rome is the most beautiful city in the world and a 12 day Italy itinerary isn’t complete without visiting the Eternal City. I have been to Rome many times and visited both famous attractions and hidden gems. However, my parents hadn’t been to Rome before. Therefore, I was showing them around. We had planned 2 days for Rome.

View over part of the Imperial Fora near the Colosseum and Forum Romanum
View over part of the Imperial Fora near the Colosseum and Forum Romanum

On the first day, we visited several churches, among which the San Clemente and Santo Stefano Rotondo. Moreover, we visited the Colosseum and Forum Romanum. After we had visited the Capitoline Hill, we continued to the Piazza di Spagna and Piazza del Popolo. Read my 2 day Rome itinerary to find about our days in Rome in more detail.

Day 6: Tivoli

Instead of exploring Rome on 2 consecutive days, we opted for a day trip to Tivoli in between. Tivoli is located some 30 kilometres from Rome. We decided to leave the campervan at the camping and travel by public transport. However, getting there by public transport wasn’t easy. Our first stop was the Villa Adriana, actually 6 kilometres from Rome. This Roman villa, built by the Roman emperor Hadrian was enormous and very impressive. My favourite parts of the villa were ‘the canopo’ and the Maritime Theatre.

Villa Adriana
The canopo of the Villa Adriana

After staying around 3 hours at the site of the Villa Adriana, we took a bus to Tivoli. From the city centre, you can walk to Villa d’Este. Unlike the Villa Adriana, this villa dates to the Renaissance. The villa is decorated with frescoes. However, it’s the garden that makes this villa a must-visit. The fountains are absolutely stunning and the garden is lovely.

Day 7: Rome part II

On day 7 of our 12 day Italy itinerary, we set out to explore Rome once more. First, we went to the Vatican where we visited Saint Peter’s Basilica. After that, we went to Castel Sant’Angelo. From the Castel Sant’Angelo, we walked alongside the Tiber until we reached the Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum of Augustus.

View of Saint Peter's Basilica from Ponte Umberto I
View of Saint Peter’s Basilica from Ponte Umberto I

The Ara Pacis and the Mausoleum are only a short distance away from Piazza Navona, one of the most lively squares in Rome. Moreover, a trip to Rome isn’t complete without visiting the Pantheon and the Fontana di Trevi. The last attraction on our 2 day Rome itinerary was the Vatican Museums. Although it was my second visit to this museum, I was still in awe of the number of treasures you can find in this museum. Moreover, the Sistine Chapel will never fail to impress me!

Day 8: Narni and Todi, hidden gems of Umbria

The last part of our 12 day Italy Itinerary was kind of off the beaten path. While many visitors to Italy explore Tuscany, Umbria is only rarely visited. However, since we had visited Tuscany before, we decided to spend some days in Umbria. We started in Narni, one of the most charming villages I’ve visited in Italy so far. It’s situated on a hill. The best activity in Narni is getting lost in the narrow streets.

Narni
Narni

On the same day, we visited Todi. Once more, this town is a medieval village. On the Piazza del Popolo, you can find the main attractions of Todi. One of them is the cathedral of Todi, dedicated to the Annunciation of the Virgin Mary. Inside the church, you can find a 16th-century fresco by Ferrauù Fenzoni depicting the Last Judgment. It’s inspired by Michelangelo’s Last Judgment in the Sistine Chapel and it isn’t hard to see the similarities! You can find two elegant palazzos dating from the 13th century on this square as well. After we’d explored Todi, we continued to Spoleto where we stayed for the night on a motorhome parking.

Day 9: Spoleto and Montefalco

Early in the morning, we set out to explore Spoleto. Already in Roman times, Spoleto was a city of some importance. Nowadays, there are still various Roman remains you can discover in Spoleto, such as the Roman theatre (1st century AD) and the Arco di Druso e Germanico (23 AD). Since I’m a student of Classics, I tried to explore several Roman ruins on our 12 day Italy itinerary.

Duomo of Spoleto
Roman remains in Spoleto
Duomo of Spoleto
Roman remains in Spoleto

Moreover, the exterior of the Duomo is beautiful, there are lovely narrow streets and there is a fortress looming over the village. There are also enough places to eat as well. We stayed until after lunch and could probably have stayed longer if we’d bought the Spoleto card which provides free access to many attractions in Spoleto. Even though we hadn’t bought the Spoleto card, I visited a Roman house and the archaeological museum.

In the afternoon, we continued to Montefalco. Montefalco is a walled town with several old churches. Unfortunately, most of them were closed. The Piazza del Commune is the heart of the town. There are various places where you can eat and drink in Montefalco. We stayed the night at a motorhome parking with some amazing views over the Valle Umbra.

Day 10: Bevagna and Spello

Just 10 minutes from Montefalco, you can find another lovely Umbrian village: Bevagna. This village may have been the prettiest one we’ve visited in Umbria. This tiny walled village doesn’t really have one main attraction, but it has charming narrow streets and it’s nice to wander around.

Narrow streets of Spello
Spello Umbria
Narrow streets of Spello in Umbria, the off the beaten part of our 12 day Italy itinerary

After visiting Bevagna, we continued to Spello, some 10 kilometres from Bevagna. The most famous attraction of Spello, the Santa Maria Maggiore, was unfortunately closed because of restoration work. It’s supposed to have stunning frescoes. In the village, there were flowers everywhere, which made the town very pretty. Spello is a medieval town with some Roman remains as well, just like Spoleto. Like most villages in Umbria, it’s best explored wandering around. We spent the night at camping Green Village Assisi, from which we could make out Assisi in the distance.

Day 11: Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis

Assisi is the birthplace of the St. Francis of Assisi. Assisi is a charming town built on a beautiful location. The city is very popular with pilgrims, especially on a Sunday. However, even when you’re not a Catholic or religious at all, Assisi is still worth a visit.

Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi
Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi

The highlight of a visit to Assisi is the Basilica di San Francesco in Assisi. This church actually consists of 2 churches: an upper and lower church. The Lower Church was structured as a large crypt which supports the Upper Church. Famous 13th-century painters, such as Giotto, have painted frescoes inside the churches.

Other things to do in Assisi include the Piazza del Commune where you can find a stunning Roman temple turned church. Moreover, towering above Assisi, you can find the Rocca Maggiore. From this fort, the views over the Valle Umbra are amazing.

Day 12: Head back to Milan to conclude your 12 day Italy itinerary

On the last day of our 12 day Italy itinerary we had to head back to Milan because I had booked a return flight from Amsterdam to Milan. Initially, we’d planned to visit Cortona as well. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to visit this town in the end.

Read more: A 5 day Lake Garda itinerary, discovering Italy’s northern lakes.

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Alternative 12 day Italy Itinerary

12 day Italy itinerary

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