The Best Road Trips in Italy
Ahh Italy, where else can you chow down on gelato while dodging stiletto clad women on Vespas?
From towns filled with amazing history, to incredible azure-blue coasts, Italy offers stunning scenery that can be accessed easily with a rental car
. Despite its size (you can drive from Milan in the north to Reggio Calabria in the south in a little over 13 hours), there is a lot to do, as well as loads of places where you can stop and take in what each region of the country has to offer.
Speaking of regions, there are 20 regions throughout Italy, and within them, you can find everything from verdant vineyards and cliff-side villages, to ancient ruins and sandy beaches. But accessing some of the more remote areas can be difficult if you don’t have your own car. That’s why getting behind the wheel in la bella Italia is the best way to see all that Italy has to offer.
Hop into your Fiat or Alfa Romeo and get ready to experience what it’s like to live like an Italian, at least for a little while.
Take in the Spectacular Views Driving Along the Amalfi Coast
If it’s the most breathtaking coastal views that you’re after, you definitely need to take a road trip along the Amalfi Coast. Just picture it: cliff hugging roads, unique villages and awe-inspiring natural landscapes. What’s not to like?
One way to begin your journey is to start off in Naples, and then follow a scenic path around Mount Vesuvius. Take a tour of Salerno, Sorrento, and Positano, and be sure to have your camera ready at every turn as you take in Italian life while leisurely exploring the area.
Another option would be to start off in Salerno, which is the southern pathway to the coast. Make your way to Vietri sul Mare so that you can take in what this small town has to offer. As you make your way to the coast, be prepared for some challenging driving, as the road becomes narrower and the curves get tighter, but hey, that’s the only way to see the most dramatic views the Amalfi Coast has to offer.
Best Road Trip Pit Stops on the Amalfi Coast
Before you know it, you will be in Amalfi, the seaside village where you can check out Cattedrale di Sant’Andrea prior to heading into Ravello, where you can enjoy lunch at one of the eateries while taking in the unforgettable scenery of beautiful gardens. Then, when you’re ready, you can head to Positano, with its colourful houses and steep hillsides, before heading to Sorrento, which is a popular destination for tourists.
If you are planning on stopping and staying for longer along the Amalfi coast, consider the secluded Monastero Santa Rosa, which is a restored 17th century monastery with views of the Mediterranean. Alternatively, you might wish to stay at the popular Le Sirenuse, which used to be a summer home for nobility, or the glamorous Belmond Hotel Caruso, which dates back to the 11th century.
Go Wine Tasting in Tuscany; Get Your Fill of Art in Florence
One of the most attractive locations in Italy, Tuscany offers the ideal destination for those hoping to leisurely drive while taking in the natural beauty on all sides.
Start in Florence and make your way to Orvieto in the Umbria region. Stop to check out the fine art that’s found throughout Florence, at places like the open-air museum, Piazza della Signora, or the well-known Uffizi Gallery (book your tickets in advance here
to make sure you don’t miss out). You could even just stand in awe of the Renaissance architecture by heading to Ponte Vecchio, Giotto’s Bell Tower, and, of course, the Duomo (a.k.a. Cattedrale di Santa Maria del Fiore). Then, hop back in your car and make your way south towards Chianti wine country, stopping for a wine tasting experience at Enoteca Falorni
in Greve, which features more than 100 wines that you can try. Relaxing with a glass of delicious wine in Tuscany…what could possibly be better?
Best Road Trip Pit Stops in Tuscany
From the Chianti region, you can make your way through Greve and Strada towards Siena, which is a medieval city featuring the 12th century Piazza del Campo and the Duomo. Then, if you wish to explore areas that are even farther south, you can drive to Montepulciano, Montalcino, and Val d’Orcia to experience the breathtaking countryside and immerse yourself in nature. Points of interest include the Palazzo del Comune in Montepulciano—make your way to the top of this tower and be amazed by the views that unfold before you. Bibbiano Castle, which dates back to the 9th century (wow!) is definitely worth stopping for in Montalcino. And as far as Val d’Orcia goes, well, it’s all about the landscape. If you picture rolling hills, farmhouses, and vineyards when you think of Tuscany, you can see that image come to life by going to Val d’Orcia.
During your road trip in Tuscany, you can even stay the night in castles. Check out Castello di Ama in Gaiole
, or stay at Castello Banfi il Borgo
in Montalcino to feel like royalty. And for one of the most popular restaurants in the region, consider indulging in a delicious meal at Re di Macchia in Montalcino or Officina della Bistecca in Panzano to fuel up.
Touring the Island of Sicily
Sicily is a quick ferry ride from the Italian mainland, but it has its own vibe, its own dialect, and its own unique history. There, you can also take in views of the Mediterranean Sea, as well as indulge in cuisine that’s full of flavor and fresh ingredients.
One way to see some of the main attractions that Sicily has to offer is by starting off in Catania, where you can explore the historic centre and fuel up with a tasty meal prepared fresh. Then, you can make your way to the famous Mount Etna, which is the tallest mountain in Italy that’s found south of the Alps, and the tallest active volcano in Europe. Also be sure to stop off as Taormina, a gorgeous seaside town that will form the basis of your most drool-worthy posts on social media. Finally, you can conclude your trip in Messina. All along the way, be sure to stop off at local cafes and shops, and explore ruins and monuments to take in the past and present culture of this spectacular island.
Another option would be to make your way to Syracuse from Catania, as you will find the Parco Archeologico della Neapolis there, and you can also walk through Ortygia, with its baroque streets. The Hotel Gutkowski
is a great choice for an overnight stay as well. From there, you can drive to Noto, which is known for having the island’s most beautiful street, known as Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Stop in at Caffé Sicilia for some almond milk granita before heading to Modica, which is a town that’s famous for its yummy chocolate.
Nature lovers will thoroughly enjoy driving from Palermo to the Zingaro Nature Reserve to relax on some of the country’s best beaches. Staying in San Vito Lo Capo, a seaside village, is a also great way to rejuvenate yourself. Other fabulous places to stay include 7 Rooms Villadorata
and Verdura Resort
Make Your Way from South to North
If you want to see as much of Italy as you can, you can drive your way up from the south to the northern part of the country and stop off at several locations along the way.
One way to do this is by starting off in Rome, exploring all of the historical sites and Vatican City, while taking your time enjoying the tasty cuisine and maybe even spending some time at one of the nearby beaches. Give yourself at least two days to explore Rome, as it would easily take you a lifetime to see all the art, architecture, design and fashion on offer.
From there, you can head north to explore Tuscany and Florence, and then you can make your way to Pisa, where you will be able to take some photos of the famous Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Next up, check out the markets of Bologna before diving into the natural splendour of the gorgeous Apennine Mountains, Lake Santo, and Lake Baccio. Then, head to Cinque Terre, which is one of the most beautiful coastlines in the country, characterised by a rugged landscape and picture-perfect colourful architecture.
Finally, spend a day exploring Turin before heading up to Milan, the exciting city that’s home to the famous Duomo di Milano, Sforza Castle, and plenty of opportunities for shopping, dining, and eating gelato. And, if you want to go even farther, you can take a drive up to Venice, the beloved city on the water that is a must-see while you are in Italy.
Drive with Confidence While Exploring Italy
Whether you choose to head into the Tuscan countryside, explore the island of Sicily, stick to the Amalfi coast, or anything in between, a road trip through Italy is sure to be exciting, and you might even find it hard to leave one destination as you make your way to the next. But before you head off, here are a few things to keep in mind as you plan your Italian road trip:
- Arrange to get your international driving permit in order to rent a car, and to show police if you’re ever stopped during your journey.
- If you can’t drive manual transmission, be sure to ask for automatic when you rent your car.
- Italians drive on the right side of the road, and right hand turns at red lights are illegal.
- If you see signs that read “zona traffico limitato” or “zona pedonale,” it means cars aren’t allowed. If you come across an inverted white and red triangle at an intersection, it means you don’t have the right of way.
- All roads have speed limits that you need to adhere to in order to avoid a ticket. Look for signs with a white and red circle featuring a number that indicates kilometres per hour (kph). Generally, speed limits are 50 kph in cities, 90 kph on open roads, 110 kph on major roads, and 130 kph on the Autostrada.
- Driving in the cities, like Florence or Rome, can be hectic. You might find it easier on your nerves if you find parking outside of city centre and then hop on public transport to get to where you need be.
To be sure that you can drive with confidence, no matter what terrain you find yourself traversing, consider getting car rental insurance
that includes super helpful roadside assistance, such as the options offered by RentalCover
. In this way, you can explore remote parts of the country with greater peace of mind. Plus, our rental car insurance costs up to 50% less than what you’d pay at the rental company, and most of our policies bring the excess down to zero with fewer exclusions. This means you’ll have more money to spend on petrol to fuel your car, and pizza to fuel yourself.
Ready to See Italy by Driving through it?
One of the best ways to get to know Italy is by driving yourself through it. Get a rental car and a handy GPS (plus a backup map), and then set off on the adventure of a lifetime. You’ll be able to make your way to the most popular destinations, on your own time, and you might even stumble upon some lesser-known gems as well. Whether you’re driving on winding roads overlooking the Mediterranean coast or going deep into the countryside, when you opt to go on a road trip, you’ll be able to see all of the things that make Italy such an exceptional destination for travellers.