How to choose between Day Trips and Overnight Trips in Italy

It’s a good idea to know that you won’t be able to see everything on your Italy trip. But, it doesn’t mean you should stop trying to squeeze in more sights and places. This is something we all do. It’s something I do every time I travel. One of the inevitable questions in this process is whether or not you can squeeze in a few days to broaden your travel horizons.

Day trips are a favorite of mine and they often feature in my itineraries for Italy. However, questions I received recently about day trips have made me reconsider my options – for myself and for you.

Is it a day trip or an overnight trip? This is the question.

Venice || creative commons photos by

Turinboy (left)


halbag (right)

A few readers wrote to ask if they should include City X in their Italy trip. Or if they should just spend a night there. Although my responses felt like gut reactions based on the itinerary and the city, there are factors that I consider when answering. I haven’t even thought of them before.

Some places are only suitable for day trips so you can easily add them to your itinerary. For example, attractions like Tivoli and Pompeii are not places that you can stay the night. This question is not about cities. Cities can be day trips destinations and can easily become home bases for a few nights.

Italy Explained’s goal is to help you make better decisions about your trip. Since everyone travels differently, I am less likely to recommend one way or another. I will also share my thoughts on what you should consider when deciding whether to spend a night or more in a particular place, or whether it is best to treat it as a one-day trip.

As always, the decision is up to you.

The Case for Day Trips

Hotel Changes

When planning an itinerary, my rule of thumb is to plan at least two nights in each place I stay. I don’t like packing and unpacking on vacation. It takes up too much of my vacation time and can be tiring.

My travel time is limited. Sometimes, I don’t want to make a day trip into a overnight trip, even if it’s for just one night. Although this may not seem like a major issue to you, it is important to mention because it is easy to forget how much time it takes to travel between cities and hotels each day.


Budget travelers may find it difficult to travel overnight in a city where the lodging options can be so expensive. This is why Venice is such a popular day-trip city. Although I love Venice, I won’t mind spending a few extra dollars to enjoy it for a night or two. Not everyone is as passionate about this crazy city.

If you are weighing your options and feel that an overnight trip is too costly for you, I recommend still taking a day trip to the destination. You won’t regret it. In most cases, a day trip is better than none at all.


You don’t have to wander aimlessly looking for museums or places to eat if you decide to book an organized day trip. It’s easy to plan ahead and pick a tour that covers all the highlights.

An organized day tour is a good idea for destinations that have many things to see or do.

There’s not much to do

Doing some research before you go to a destination is a good idea. You’ll be able to determine early if the list of things that you would like to see or do is too long. This does not mean the entire list of things you want to see or do, but the items that are most important to you.

Spending more than one day to visit two museums is not worth it. You might become bored. You might not want to go to a small town with little to no activities other than a stroll through the historic centre.

The Case for Overnight Travels

Take a look at another side of a place

It’s not uncommon for me to add a day trip or two to an itinerary. Then, I start to think about how I might extend it into an overnight trip. Although it doesn’t always work out, I am usually motivated by the desire to see a city before and afterwards day trippers.

If a place is popular for day trips, it means that it can be a good candidate for overnight travel. This is because the place’s character changes at night as the last cruise ship or train leaves. It’s my favorite way of experiencing a place. The only way to do this is to spend the night there.

If you spend a little longer with a city, you just might be surprised at what you discover.


It’s possible to do a lot in one day. I don’t think so. It’s possible to do a lot with a day trip, especially if you book an organized tour and/or purchase tickets in advance for museums or attractions so that you don’t have to wait for the line.

It’s just that I don’t move at such a speed very often. Even though I was traveling in my 20s, I don’t think I did. I certainly don’t do that now. Yes, I can hustle when I need to, but it’s not something I would like to do. It will take me two days to see what others can see in one day, but that’s okay with me.

You might feel dreadful if you spend too much time lulling between tasks. It’s important to remember it.

There is so much to do

The flip side to the “Not Much to Do” item is that if you have a long list of things that you want to see or do in a particular place, it’s likely that a day trip won’t suffice.

If a small town where you can only walk is your idea of heaven, you might want to spend a few days in that town. It’s all about what you do with a place and not what the guidebook suggests.

Reverse Day Trip

This is a fun way to approach the question: why not spend the night in a potential day trip destination, and then take a day trip? Although this is only possible if you plan to stay for a few days, it allows you to explore the city and visit another nearby location, as well as enjoy the evenings and mornings at a busy day trip destination.

My first visit to San Gimignano in Tuscany, a hill town that is a popular day trip destination, was in 2005. I stayed for 4-5 nights in a hotel within the city walls. It was the perfect reason to convert to “stay overnight in city day trips” and I was there even after the buses had left the first day. But it got even better. Day trips to Cortona, the Chianti countryside, and a return to San Gimignano each night were all available. It was simply delightful.

How do you make your decision?

These are the things that I think about when making travel decisions and when answering reader questions. But, I would love to hear what motivates you to spend the night there or to visit for a few days. Please let me know what you think!

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