Iconic Italy: Venice, Florence, Rome

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A weeklong foray into Italy's beloved cities.

Italy's most iconic cities are beloved for their history, culture, cuisine, art and the importance placed on la dolce vita. Rome, Florence and Venice, however, each has its own distinct personality and traditions, and deserve at least a few days of exploration.

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Day 1-2: Historic Rome

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Whether it's your first or fifteenth visit, Rome is all about exploring the city's fascinating balance between old and new. Tour in the ancient quarters with guided visits to the Colosseum, Forum, Ara Pacis and Pantheon. Once some relics of the Roman Empire have been covered, the next day can be about understanding the city's importance in the Medieval and Renaissance eras. Visits should include St. Peter's Basilica and the Sistine Chapel in Vatican City, Galleria Borghese and Piazza Navona. Save time to embrace modern-day Rome, and check out the Maxxi Museum and Macro contemporary art museums, as well as shops like Re(f)use and Soledad Twombly's atelier. Of course, dining is of extreme importance in Rome. Favorite restaurants include Aroma, La Buvette, Babette, Open Colonna, Antico Arco and Le Mani in Pasta.

Day 3-4: Artistic Florence

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Take the train from Rome for Florence (several departures each hour) and book a seat on a fast train, on which the journey takes one-and-a-half hours. Often referred to as a "living museum," Florence is a city that should be explored by foot. Begin at the Galleria dell'Accademia, home to Michaelangelo's David and then walk south to the Palazzo Medici Riccardi, a former palace belonging to the important Medici family. Stop for lunch at the city's oldest restaurant, Buca Lapi, then stroll to the nearby Duomo, a multi-colored marble marvel. Climb the steps of Giotto's Campanile (bell tower) for an incredible view of the city and see the Baptistery's Gates of Paradise by Ghiberti, which took the artist over twenty years to create. Continue south across the Arno and walk through the serene Boboli Gardens, particularly relaxing on warm days. Have dinner at local favorite Osteria Delle Tre Panche, mainstay Trattoria Cammillo, or La Giostra, famous for its Pecorino and pear ravioli.

Shoppers will delight in Via Tornabuoni's Italian fashions and the traditional shops in the Oltarno area. True devotees should book ahead to visit the Ferragamo Museum, home to the well-traveled heels of Audrey Hepburn and Marlene Dietrich. Good lunch options are the chic Trattoria 4 Leoni or the cozy Il Santo Bevitore. Cross the touristy but beautiful Ponte Vecchio and save at least two hours to explore the Uffizi, housing treasures by Botticelli, Caravaggio and Titian. After getting your art/city fix, head out to Fiesole, a hilltop town 15 minutes outside of Florence, where the 15th-century Belmond Villa San Michele offers spectacular views. Stay for dinner and spend the night at this dreamy hotel.

Day 5-7: Romantic Venice

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Take the train from Florence to Venice (a two-hour trip) and arrive at the world's most unique station framed by the lagoons. Among the world's most romantic destinations, Venice is one of those rare cities where you want to get lost on purpose. The buzzing Grand Canal divides the city and at least an hour should be spent touring by private launch or vaporetto. Aperitif hour lasts most of the afternoon; favorite spots include Harry's Bar (where the Bellini was created) and Naranzaria. Top choices for dinner comprise the classic De Pisis, with sweeping views of the Grand Canal, the classic Cip's Club, or local favorites Da Fiore or Antiche Carampane.

The best sightseeing begins and ends in Piazza San Marco, the undisputed center of the city. Visit the basilica and campanile and spot countless winged lions, St. Mark's symbol. Tour the Doge's Palace, then head to Venice's two most important art museums, the Gallerie dell'Accademia and the Peggy Guggenheim Collection. For contemporary art, visit François Pinault's Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana. Lunch spots of note include La Rivisita, La Piscina and Il Refolo known for its pizza. A lovely way to spend an afternoon is to tour Venice's islands, including Murano, Burano and Torcello, where you’ll find the stunning Santa Maria dell'Assunta cathedral. For an afternoon pick-me-up, get a scoop of gelato from Gelateria Alaska (tip: try the ginger), or do a bit of shopping. Memorable keepsakes include paper goods from Antica Legatoria Piazzesi, children's toys from Signor Blum, Venetian masks from MondoNovo, and glass from L'Angelo del Passato and Massimo Micheluzzi.

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