There is something pretty special about Italian road trips. If you are brave enough to tackle the crazy hot-headed local drivers and the tight twists and turns and narrow laneways, then you are in for a treat.
Yes, Italy road trips are not for the faint-hearted or the newbie drivers, but you cannot deny that road trips in Italy are pretty spectacular. With the perfect blend of sophisticated culture, mind-blowing scenery and delicious food and drink.
Yep, those close calls with a reckless scooter and that time you took 30 minutes to manoeuvre yourself out of a tiny alley your sat nav somehow led you down, will be worth it! Trust me!
The hardest thing will be choosing your Italy road trip as there are so many beautiful driving routes through this stunning country. I’m currently visiting Italy for the 4th time during which time I will be taking two more Italian road trips (I just can’t get enough…)
So based on my experience with Italian road trips, I decided to create 5 perfect Italy road trips which you can easily take in your annual leave ranging between 3 days and 2 weeks.
Here are 5 of the best Italy Road Trips you need to steal to add to your Italy bucket list..!
What you can expect from this article...
- 1 Overview of the best Italy road trips
- 2 The 5 Best Italy Road Trips
- 3 Top Tips for Enjoying an Italy road trip
- 4 Read Next…
Overview of the best Italy road trips
- #1 Sicily – 10-14 days – old towns, beautiful beaches, history, islands and active volcanoes
- # 2 Italy icons – 10-12 days – Rome, Pisa, Milan, Venice – ancient ruins, history, culture, shopping, romance and buzzing nightlife.
- #3 Northern Italy – 12-14 days – Cinque de Terre, Lake Garda, Dolomites, Venice – cute coastal towns, beautiful lakes, spectacular mountains and finished off with some romance in Venice.
- #4 Tuscany – 4-7 days – Florence, Chianti wine region, Sienna and Val’ D’ Orcia Tuscan countryside – beautiful cities, cute villages, rolling hills, stunning scenery and wineries.
- #5 The Amalfi Coast – 3-5 days – Sorrento, Positano, Amalfi and Capri – postcard-perfect beach towns, sophisticated boutique hotels and restaurants, designer shopping and beach time.
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Now let’s look at those Italy road trips in a little more detail…
The 5 Best Italy Road Trips
Italy Road Trip #One – Sicily
Sicily is famous for its beautiful cities, stunning beaches and most of all for being the best place in Italy for foodies. You will also find Mt Etna here, an active volcano you can see gently smoking away, and plenty of historical archaeological ruins. For one island, it packs a lot of punch!
Top attractions on a Sicily road trip…
- Mt Etna
- Zingaroo National Park
- Valley of the Temples
- Baroque cities
An overview of your Sicily road trip itinerary
Fly into Catalina and begin your Italy road trip by heading to Taormina, a seriously beautiful old town with cobbled alleys and shed loads of character. Take the cable car to visit Isola Isabella beach or visit the ancient and well-preserved amphitheatre overlooking Mt Etna!
Your next stop is to visit the iconic Mt Etna. You can choose between a variety of day trips, some of which visit various villages and markets on the way and show you a snapshot of Mt Etna where you can admire the lava trails. Others where you can actually hike up Mt Etna. Either way, you cannot miss iconic Mt Etna off your 10 day Sicily itinerary!
From Mt Etna, head toward Cefalu. This was possibly my favourite town in Sicily with charming cobbled alleys and a beautiful beach with the most perfect aquamarine water.
From Cefalu, make your way to Zingaroo National Park and enjoy a hike to one of the many beautiful beaches before winding up in Trapani on the west coast of Sicily.
Trapani is a great springboard for visiting Favignana island, a tiny place which you can easily explore by bike in one day. Spend a relaxing day cycling between beaches before catching the ferry back to the mainland. Alternatively, you could book a sailing trip and visit a few islands in one day.
Wind your way towards the Valley of the Temples where you can spend a day exploring these giant ancient monuments.
For your last few days in Sicily, spend them exploring the Baroque towns in the Southeast of Sicily, Ragusa being my favourite. I’d also recommend spending a few hours at Marzamemmi, a gorgeous little fishing town with some incredible restaurants and spending your last afternoon in Syracuse exploring the old part of the town, Ortigia.
Italy Road Trip #Two: Italy Icons
If you are a city girl (or guy) then this is the Italian road trip for you! This Italy Icon road trip ticks off some of the most popular cities in Italy allowing you to soak up the history, culture and traditions of this beautiful country.
Top Attractions on this Italy Icon road trip
- Visit the Vatican City
- Visit the many ancient archaeological sites in Rome such as the Colosseum and Roman Forum
- Take a Selfie at the Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Hit the shops in Milan or see a football game
- Check out Al Duomo in Milan
- Take a gondola ride in Venice and get lost in the canals
- Visit colourful Burano
An overview of this Italy Icon road trip
Spend your first 4 days in Rome, soaking up the atmosphere in this beautiful hectic city. Explore the many archaeological monuments, amphitheatres, fountains and piazzas. Make sure you take some time just to sit outside a cafe enjoying an aperitif and watching life go by. You must also allow one day for enjoying the Vatican museums and Sistine chapel – make sure you get a queue jump ticket really early – the queues can be insane!
Read more about Rome:
After you’ve had your fix of Rome, spend a day or two in Pisa. Pisa is famous for the Leaning Tower of Pisa where you must visit for that iconic photo! But it’s also a really lovely city which is not quite as busy as Rome so you can spend time just soaking up the atmosphere. From Pisa, you can also take several day trips up to Cinque de Terre, to Elba island or into Tuscany where you can enjoy the stunning scenery and delicious wine!
Next, spend at least one day in Milan. Milan is famous for both football and shopping so try to make time to browse the shops or enjoy a game in the famous stadium. Football’s not really my thing so you’d be much more likely to find me exploring the boutiques! You should also make time to visit the Cathedral of Santa Maria Nascente, also known as Al Duomo, which is one of the most spectacular cathedrals in all of Italy! Again it’s definitely worth getting a skip-the-queue-ticket well in advance.
Spend your final 3-4 days in Venice, one of the most romantic cities in the world. You should plan to get lost in Venice. Spend hours wandering the tiny cobbled alleys with no direction and stumble across little at galleries, shops, delicious eateries and enjoying the beautiful Canal system which makes Venice so famous. You can’t leave without enjoying a gondola boat trip up the canals (though don’t expect it to be cheap!) A day trip to colourful Burano would also be a great way to end your trip.
Italy Road Trip #Three : Northern Italian Gems
This is the perfect Italy road trip for any country bumpkins amongst you. This route will take you through colourful seaside towns, into the stunning snow-capped mountains and lakes of Northern Italy and will end in charming Venice.
Top attractions on this Northern Italy road trip
- Hike the beautiful Cinque de Terre trail
- Take a boat trip along the coast of Cinque de Terre to see it from another angle
- Visit the charming towns and villages around Lake Garda
- Enjoy the spa at Sirmione where you can watch the sunset over Lake Garda
- Visit the lovely town of Trento which has somehow escaped mass tourism which affects other parts of Italy.
- Take hikes amongst the lakes and mountains in the Dolomites region.
- Enjoy wine tasting in Trentino
- Enjoy the canals and colourful streets in Venice and Burano.
An overview of this Northern gems Italian road trip
Start in the Cinque De Terre with a few days in the picture-perfect colourful villages which rise steeply from the dramatic coastline, accessible only by train and boat. A public footpath connects the 5 villages which make up the Cinque de Terre and hiking between the villages is a great way to explore.
Make sure you stop for plenty of pizza, prosecco and gelato along the way and savour your time, people watching from restaurants lining the coast. It’s also worth taking the ferry at least once so you can see it from another perspective!
Spend one night in Sirmione found at the most southern tip of Lake Garda. This beautiful old town is home to a castle directly on the water and the most incredible spa whee you can sit in a jacuzzi until midnight watching the sunset over Lake Garda and then the stars come out. Bliss.
Spend your next day traversing Lake Garda, stopping at little villages and viewpoints along the way, winding your way north to Trentino.
Trentino will be your base for exploring the lakes, vineyards and Dolomites mountains. I would recommend staying in the capital city of the region, Trento, where you’ll find a laid back old town with cobbled alleys, a charming castle and a cable car with views over the whole valley. Spend a few days in Trentino, visiting wineries, castles, lakes and taking short hikes to enjoy the spectacular scenery in Northern Italy.
Learn more: How to plan a perfect weekend in Trentino
Your final stop on this northern Italy road trip is Venice. Spend a few days exploring the canals, laneways, churches and restaurant scene in this romantic city. Make time for a day trip to colourful Burano.
Italian Road Trip #Four: Florence and Rural Tuscany
Tuscany is possibly one of the most beautiful places in Italy and therefore makes for a great place to road trip in Italy! Expect to see rolling hills, tiny ancient walled villages sitting on hilltops, fields of colourful poppies and pretty vineyards where you can sample the wine or take a wine tour. Try not to plan too much as the beauty of a Tuscany road trip, is stopping wherever you fancy.
Top attractions on this Tuscany road trip in Italy
- Visiting the Duomo in Florence
- The birds-eye views from one of the many towers in Florence
- Wine tasting in the chianti region
- Pienza – possibly the cutest village in Italy!
- Driving the scenic Val D’Orcia route where there are instagram – perfect views in every direction!
Overview of this Tuscany road trip
Start this road trip in Tuscany, one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Visiting the Duomo is a must but definitely get queue jump tickets as the queues were insane! I’d recommend spending two days in Florence in order to see most of the highlights.
Your next stop is the Chianti wine region where you should stay in an agriturismo and spend your days’ wine tasting and visiting the cutest of hilltop villages.
From there, you should spend a few days driving the Val D’Orcia – one of the prettiest driving routes in Italy. You will recognise many viewpoints which appear on postcards across Italy here and if you’re a photographer, you should definitely factor in a few early mornings for sunrise photoshoots.
Make time to visit Pienza – this is my favourite town in all of Italy. Never have I seen such a colourful town brimming with flower arrangements ad overlooking the beautiful Tuscan hills.
Read more | A 5 day Tuscany itinerary
Italian Road Trip #Five: The Amalfi Coast
Road tripping along the Amalfi Coast isn’t without its challenges – narrow roads, hairpin bends, expensive and scarce parking and congested roads! But it’s also one of the prettiest road trips you can take in Italy and remains one of the most popular p[laces to visit in Italy, or for that matter, Europe!
The colourful houses are framed by dramatic cliffs overlooking pretty beaches and a turquoise ocean. It is like something straight out of a movie! So hectic as it may be, a road trip along the Amalfi Coast is worth it every time!
Top attractions on an Amalfi coast road trip
- Beautiful Capri Island
- Positano beach
- The view from Ravello
- The beach at Amalfi town
- The viewpoints all along the beautiful coastline.
Overview of this Amalfi Coast Italian road trip
Spend 3-5 days winding along the coast road from Sorrento to Amalfi stopping off at postcard-perfect villages and towns and viewpoints along the way. Visit Ravello for the most stunning view from its gardens, visit the charming pebbled beach at Amalfi. Enjoy shopping in Positano and visit the local beach (Fornillo Beach) for some rest and relaxation.
Make time to take a boat trip to Capri, the island of the rich and famous. Take a boat trip around the island and visit the Blue grotto where the water glows the brightest blue colour. Then take the chairlift to the town of Capri and visit the Gardens of Augustus where you will find some of the most spectacular viewpoints.
If you have just 3 days in the Amalfi Coast then base yourself in Positano. If you 4 days or more, I would suggest you stay for 2 nights near Sorrento then have 2 nights in Positano.
Top Tips for Enjoying an Italy road trip
Italian road trips are a brilliant way to see the country and you will have no shortage of things to do or places to see. The scenery will be stunning and well worth the effort of hiring a car. However, driving in Italy isn’t always easy. With narrow roads, hairpin bends, limited parking and many erratic fiery Italian drivers on the roads lane hogging and getting worked up at roundabouts!
But the tips below should help you have a successful road trip in this stunning country. For more of an insight into what it’s like to drive in Italy, you can read my article about driving in Sicily.
Tips for renting a car in Italy
- I’ve rented several cars in Italy and it hasn’t always been a stress-free experience! My best experience so far was with Europcar and I highly recommend organising your car hire through them. It was very straightforward and they even offered me a free upgrade.
- Do not buy your insurance through the car hire company, it will always work out more expensive. Instead, use icarhireinsurance.com. For a fixed fee (which is a fraction of the car hire insurance costs,) you can get Europe wide cover for an entire year meaning that you can take more than one road trip for less than one trip would cost you if you bought it directly!
- Don’t hire a GPS – they’re expensive. Use your phone in a phone vent holder and download the relevant map on maps.me app which works without the internet.
Tips for driving in Italy
- Always keep some loose change and a few small notes ready for road tolls – there are a lot of them!
- Rent the smallest car you can as roads in Italy are often narrow and there are plenty of lane hoggers – especially on the Amalfi coast.
- For road trips on the Amalfi coast, always allow longer than google maps thinks you will need! You can’t drive these roads quickly!
- Don’t forget to check that your accommodation offers free parking before you book! Booking.com allows you to filter out hotels without parking.
- Leave a local newspaper in your car to look less like a tourist and be less likely to get your car broken into!
Tips for booking attractions on your Italian road trip
- Since you’ll only have a few days in each place, it’s best to book your tours in advance, especially your skip-the-queue tickets as these sell out quickly for popular attractions and will save you a lot of time and stress.
- I use ‘Get Your Guide‘ to book day trips, tickets and tours for the sheer variety of options available in almost every city in Europe.
Packing for an Italian road trip
- Pack light as you will be taking your belongings into each hotel and moving every few nights
- Pack a vent phone holder s you can use your phone handsfree as a sat-nav.
- Suitcases are easier to travel with in Italy as you’ll be packing and unpacking frequently.
- Italians dress stylishly. If you don’t want to stand out as a tourist, now is your opportunity to wear pretty sundresses, floaty skirts and smart sandals. However, I also carry some leggings and hiking boots for the occasional hike.
- Make sure your shoes are really comfy as you’ll be doing a lot of walking on all of these 5 Italian road trips!
If you want to explore Italy but don’t fancy taking a solo road trip, you could consider joining a G Adventures tour and leave the driving and organisation to someone else! It’s also a great way to meet people…
Articles about Italy…
- A 10 Day Sicily road trip itinerary
- The perfect 3 day Amalfi Coast itinerary
- Planning the perfect weekend in Trentino
- A 4 days Rome itinerary
- Visiting Rome in winter
- Driving in Sicily
Articles about Europe…
- 13 of the best road trips in Europe
- The ultimate Europe bucket list
- 15 of the best city breaks for couples in Europe
Hopefully you’ve found an Italian road trip to inspire you amongst this list and have a better idea about how to plan your road trip in Italy!
Which of these Italy road trips do you fancy taking? Tell me in the comments below and feel free to ask questions!
In the meantime, here are some pretty pins for your Pinterest bards so you can come back to this article later…