With such a range of options it’s often difficult to work out what to see and do, and what you can leave till your next visit.
So here’s our handy guide to the must-see sights of both cities, with a few insider tips to help you get the best of them:
Don’t miss the Rialto Markets
Not just for foodies, the Rialto Markets are a brilliant place to experience something of local Venetian life. Split into the Eberia (vegetables) and Pescheria (fish), head there with your camera at about 8am to experience things in full swing.
Ride a Gondola on Venice’s Grand Canal
Yes, it’s touristy, and queuing with a dozen other boats to get under the Rialto Bridge can make you feel a little bit like you’re at a theme park, but it’s also the best way to take in Venice in all it’s gorgeousness. Watching the gondoliers banter and argue about who has right of way is an experience in itself.
Spend a day at the Lido
Venice isn’t thought of as a beach destination, but actually, the Lido is a great option for those who want to combine sightseeing with a bit of relaxation. Way more relaxed and generally less frenetic than the main islands – the Lido has a charming, French Riviera-like vibe.
Hit the Ghetto
Bizarrely, most tourists who visit Venice stick to the city’s most famous, and most crowded, district of San Marco. For a slice of real life, head to the Ghetto, with its simpler architecture, excellent restaurants and less frenzied feel.
Ride the No1 Vaporetto
Our insider tips for those looking to do Venice on a budget is to ride the No 1 Vaporetto from Piazzale Roma to Venice Lido. For a fraction of the price you’ll travel the length of the Grand Canal, passing all the key sights including the Rialto and St Mark’s Square.
Relax by The Spanish Steps
Climb the 135 steps leading from Piazza di Spagna and you’ll find the pretty church of Trinita dei Monti at the top. Made famous by Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday, this is a great place to grab a gelato and sit in the sunshine. Literature lovers shouldn’t miss John Keats’ house, located at the bottom right of the steps.
Beat the crowds at The Colloseum
Arguably the most impressive building in Italy – the Colloseum is the ultimate symbol of Roman power. Prebook online or buy a combined ticket for this, the Palatine and the Forum from Via di San Gregorio. You’ll beat the queues and get to see the all three sights for a lot less hassle.
Climb the Cupola at St Peter’s Basilica
Apparently one of the largest churches ever built, St Peter’s famous dome, designed by Michelangelo in 1546 dominates Rome’s skyline and can be seen from far and wide across the city. You can climb the Cupola’s steps if you fancy the exercise, but there’s also a lift, and the view at the top is spectacular.
Hit The Roman Forum
Making sense of the Forum, Roman centre of commerce and justice is best done with a guide. If your budget can’t stretch to that, download a free podcast before you go.
Sample the Gelato
Rome can get pretty hot in the summer, which is the perfect excuse to get to know the city’s gelaterias. San Crispino near the Pantheon is the real deal – unique flavours and natural ingredients. Another great option is Gelateria del Teatro near Piazza Navona.