Maybe you want to see other parts of Italy without having to book a hotel and find a way to get there. We all like easy, which is why I LOVE day trips/tours.
We chose to make Rome our home of the week for a few reasons, there’s so much to do in the city alone, and also all roads lead to Rome! We figured it would be a great middle ground for all the surrounding areas we also wanted to explore.
Day tours are a great option because it takes the stress of having to book transportation and the ‘best things to do’ into an already tight itinerary. It’s so convenient to leave everything to a local company that already has access and knowledge of great restaurants, activities, and places of interest. Also, sometimes it can be very personable if you book a small or even private tour (just expect high prices). I book day tours on almost all of my trips because it gives you more of a feeling that your getting out there and seeing more than just the city you chose to stay in.
I’m gonna flat out say, I’m making this blog post because I don’t recommend driving in Italy, and neither did the locals I talked about it with. They’re quite aggressive drivers and it can be scary if you’re not used to it. This is my opinion, if your confident or have drove in the country before, feel free to drive to any of the places on my list!
For those of you who arn’t familiar with Tuscany, it’s a central region of Italy famous for its wine, renaissance art, and food. It’s home to famous cities like Pisa and Florence. For this instance, I am just referring to the Tuscan countryside. It’s a destination people from all over the world visit to unwind, drink some wine, and gawk at never ending hills that consist of stunning historical buildings and vineyards. We booked our tour through City Wonders that offers a round trip service, lunch, wine, and tour for about US$150. You can find the tour here.
While the thought of stepping out of a tourist bus gives me anxiety and the ‘oh-no’s’, I did it. This is the only time I did it, but it was surprisingly wonderful. Im telling you, our tour operator had the microphone, a flag, and everything. So touristy and not the real Tuscan experience, I know. What really made this tour though, was the stop at Fattoria Pulcino a Montepulciano. Before I get into that, I will explain what we did and didn’t like, and where we went throughout our whole day.
We started the day with an early 7am meet-up in Piazza del Popolo (gorgeous plaza, great spot for lunch). It was December and 40 degrees outside, we were freezing but excited for the day ahead of us. The tour guides split everyone up onto two buses, and we were promptly on our way into the Tuscan hills. Our first stop was in the town of Montepulciano. We did like the town and the history provided by the tour guide, although you do not get time to explore by yourself. We maybe got 10 minutes to run into a shop and buy a souvenir, which was a bummer considering it was Christmas time and there was an impressive Christmas market in the town square. We walked through the market but nobody really had time to look and buy anything. The town was gorgeous, though, and you are taken to a look out that provides great views of the countryside.
Right outside of Montepulciano was the restaurant mentioned earlier, Fattoria Pulcino a Montepulciano. This was when the tour starts to feel more relaxed and you get more of a personal experience (as personal as a huge group gets). The restaurant has seating for tours, and smaller tables for anyone that wants to stop in for a bite. We were given appetizers, pasta, desert, and of course wine! If you are part of the tour they will give you the overall history and look of the restaurant and take you down into the cellar to see how they make their wine. The reason I describe this as the best part of the tour was simply because of the food. The heavenly and homemade traditional Tuscan, Italian food. I might also add that I am strictly a white wine drinker, but the red wine I had here was being drank like it was water. I was so impressed and brought back by simply how good the slice of tomato on my bread was. You could actually taste what a true tomato is suppose to taste like, and drizzle with some balsamic, you’re done. I promise it changes Italian food for you and you soon realize why Italians are so particular with their food!
Now that everyone is loosy goosy from the several glasses of pristine wine, we are taken to a church on the countryside for bathrooms and pictures, then finally to the town of Pienza. In Pienza is where you are given time to roam freely and wonder the streets of a picturesque Tuscan town. We spent our time wondering through shops, getting gelato, and also headed to the edge of the town to sit along a cliff and lookout into the setting sun. A perfect end to a long day.
Pompeii is a MUST. You hear me?
I was extremely excited to see Pompeii, it was a childhood dream of mine, and I was blown away by how much there actually is to see. Imagine hyping something up, and still being blown away. All the reviews of Pompeii are full of people saying how surprised they were of how much they learned, how much there was to see, and how beautiful it was. It’s safe to say you will be surprised how miraculous this ancient Roman city is.
If you’re not familiar with Pompeii, it’s an ancient city that is preserved due to the explosion of Mount Vesuvius. This volcano famously towers the nearby city of Naples and Pompeii. People, animals, and buildings were all frozen in time as the ash mixed with weather conditions, coating an entire community. It’s really terrifying but really cool for understanding this era in human history.
We visited Pompeii through this tour here, it was a stop on our way down the Amalfi coast but we still got the full Pompeii experience. When we showed up, we left our driver and we’re handed off to a tour guide that has been giving Pompeii tours for decades. Not only that, but his father was also a Pompeii tour guide, and now his son is a Pompeii tour guide. What can I say, Italians are very passionate about where they come from.
We learned all about the people, their culture, what an average day was, and it was easy to imagine how they lived their life’s because so many buildings were so well preserved. I mean, the paint on the walls was still in excellent condition. We strolled past ancient restaurants and houses, and the crazy thing is that they are still discovering new parts of Pompeii even to this day.
We went during the off season, which was around Christmas time and a newly discovered building was opened up to attract more tourist. They only had it open for a week, but it was so neat seeing how the historians restore the paint and study the ruins. We actually got to see paint that had never been restored or studied (or currently was), with the roof on the building still intact.
There are several day trips from Rome that offer Pompeii, our itinerary was packed and for us it was the best option to also include the Amalfi coast the same day. If you decide to take our option, it’s an early morning with a 6:30am meetup! You can check out these day tours from Rome to Pompeii, as well:
3. Vatican City
Although Vatican City is smack in the middle of Rome, it is not apart of Italy and does require a day’s time to go through everything this tiny country has to offer. We did not book a tour in advance, we actually bought a tour on the street about 10 minutes before our tour of the Vatican started, but we also attended Christmas Eve Mass with Pope Francis, a once in a lifetime experience – I will eventually write about my experience seeing the Pope, make sure to subscribe at the bottom of the page to get a notification.
I don’t recommend spending the extra money to get a private or small group tour because the Vatican museums are one of the most visited museums in the world, it’s gonna be crowded no matter what. I mean back to back packed. It’s best to save money, and go with a cheap tour with good reviews. On our tour, we were shown the Vatican grounds, the museums, and the Sistine Chapel. Our tour guide had a flag and a microphone that spoke into everyone’s headsets. It sounds unnecessary, but these headsets are CRUCIAL because of how many people visit, you will not hear your guide if more than 2 feet away. I saw plenty of people without headsets and did not get to understand what they were looking at, make sure your tour has this option!
Don’t let the crowds scare you off from spending the day in Vatican City. There are places to eat and relax inside the countries walls, and after a long morning of museum strolling, you will want to just hang out. It’s beautiful and all the history in this small area makes you feel, I don’t know, holy. Jokes, but really. I don’t recommend missing out on the Vatican while in Rome.
4. Amalfi Coast
We got very, very lucky when we did this day tour. As I mentioned earlier, I don’t recommend driving in Italy, and this is why –
On our way from Pompeii down the Amalfi coast, we drove through the city of Naples and the traffic was, to say the least, insane. Everyone pointing their cars to each other, front bumper to front bumper, not going anywhere. Everyone yelling at each other, getting out of their cars, not following signs. We all found it amusing because well, we weren’t driving! Our driver explained that in Italy, signs are suggestions and most people drive how they want.
*This was my experience, obviously not everywhere in Italy will have the same traffic we saw in Naples.
Anyways, this delay caused us to hit Positano just in time for the sunset, which was not planned. A dream. The tour guide gave us about an hour to explore Positano on our own, which was just enough time to run down to the beach, take our Instagram worthy pictures, and buy some souvenirs. We did also stop in the town of Sorrento for a delicious lunch at a local restaurant up on a hill, viewing the blue Mediterranean waters. Our lunch included a fried bread, pasta, dessert and of course, wine. The restaurant owner was incredibly friendly and we all sat at a large table, making it easy to get to know the other people in our small group from around the world.
It was probably our favorite day in Italy, our tour guide was funny and personable. He told us all about his daughter that is going to school in the United States and we bonded on the fact that my family is from Mexico and he actually lived in Mexico for several years!
We took several videos of our drive, and as we drove the spiral roads down the coast, every turn had another beautiful cliff or scenery to capture. Lemons growing everywhere.
It really is as dreamy as they say, driving or walking down the streets of any Amalfi coast town is a dream come true. If you plan on staying in this area of the country one day, I think any town on the coast would be just as magical as Positano. Save some money and stay in Sorrento or Ravello and take taxis or shuttles to nearby towns. Also, another tip to save money is to go in the winter months. It’s a pleasant 60-70 degrees. You can’t swim in the ocean, but the views are just as beautiful as the summer months.
Our tour also included Pompeii, as stated earlier, and I could not find any tours that did not include it. The tour we took can be found here.
5. Florence and Pisa
This is the only one on the list we have not done. The reason I put both Florence and Pisa together is because the tours available from Rome typically include both cities, and they are both in nearby Tuscany. Italy does have high speed trains that offer both Florence and Pisa as destinations from Rome, but you will not have the luxury of a tour guide, and will most likely be rushed.
Pisa is, of course, famous for its leaning tower but it also has some amazing art, and beautiful churches to see. As for Florence, there is endless amounts of museums, art galleries, and gorgeous architecture. Florence also has a great culture and has a charming feel to it if you want to stroll the streets and grab some gelato.
Here are some day tours from Rome that I found to both destinations:
I hope my list is helpful in your planning to the perfect Roman holiday! It’s totally possible to see more of Italy while staying in the central capital city.
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