Best Italian Road Trips: 14 Super Dreamy Routes

Italian road trips are the best. Whether you love strolling through cities, towns, and villages or exploring the country’s natural scenery, Italy never disappoints. The views will always be dreamy, the culture will always be fascinating, and the food will always be delicious.

With so much beauty in this country, it can be difficult to decide which area to choose for your scenic drive, so here’s a roundup of the best road trips in Italy that will hopefully help you make this almost impossible decision.

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Looking for the best Italian road trips? Here are 14 road trips in Italy for your travel bucket list inculding itineraries and tips!

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BEST ITALIAN ROAD TRIPS ON THE MAINLAND

PUGLIA

By Marek from Indie Traveller

Route: Circular starting in Bari.

Days: 7.

Puglia is a highly underrated region of Italy that’s just made for a road trip. It’s filled with ancient history, cute coastal towns, and great regional culinary delights, though without the crowds often found on the tourist trail elsewhere in Italy.

Start in the port city of Bari, then drive a circle around the Puglia peninsula (recognizable as the ‘heel of Italy’s boot’). The ancient city of Lecce, often billed as a kind of mini-Florence but without the crowds, is a must-stop along the way.

The true delights, though, are the small towns with white plastered houses along the coast, such as Monopoli and Otranto, many of them boasting old Venetian fortresses and some of the best beaches in Puglia.

Best scenic drives in Italy - Puglia
Puglia. Photo: Indie Traveller

Looping back to Bari, be sure to stop by Alberobello. It’s a town known for its ‘Trulli’ – small conical buildings that were once used as farmhouses, but these days often function as little holiday homes. Staying in a Trullo is a unique experience you can’t have anywhere else.

Puglia is a wonderful region to explore – in particular by car as public transport can be lacking. Do take care when driving; the Italians around here are known to be quite reckless drivers at times!

Be sure to check out these tips for a road trip in Puglia, along with some of the best places to stay.

A city in Puglia
Lecce. Photo: Indie Traveller

NORTHERN ITALY: LAKES GARDA, COMO, MAGGIORE, AND ORTA

Route: Circular starting in Milan.

Days: 7.

Northern Italy’s lakes are an ideal European road trip destination (especially if you want to spend fall or spring in Europe).

From colorful coastal towns to relaxing beaches to natural landscapes, this area offers an interesting mix of things to do and see.

This one-week Italian lakes road trip can easily be extended to 10 or even 14 days if you want to visit a few more places or spend some time resting by the lakes.

Borghetto sul Mincio Lake Garda
Travel through Italy by car – Borghetto sul Mincio

Rent your car at Milan’s airport and head to Lake Garda, the largest in the country. Dedicate at least 3-4 days to this lake and explore towns like Limone, Sirmione, Malcesine, Bardolino, and Borghetto sul Mincio.

Don’t miss the mesmerizing turquoise Lake Tenno, situated only a few miles away from Garda’s northern coast.

Continue to Lake Como, which is mostly known for its luxurious lakeside villas. Towns like Varenna and Bellagio are its crowning glory, but there are plenty of hidden gems waiting to be discovered in the area.

Cannobio Lake Maggiore
Cannobio

The third lake, Lake Maggiore, is the one that often gets overlooked, yet visiting it is one of the best things to do in northern Italy.

Base yourself in Stresa, and visit places like the nearby Borromean Islands (easily accessible by ferry or boat) and the lesser-known Cannobio.

Before heading back to Milan, be sure to stop at the charming Orta San Giulio on Lake Orta.

SOUTHERN ITALY

By Nicole from Adventures of Nicole

Route: Circular starting in Naples.

Days: 15 days (13-17 days is comfortable).

In a perfect mixture of off-the-beaten-path and well-trodden classics, this Southern Italy road trip takes in the hidden gems and most-loved stops in the regions of Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Calabria.

Starting from the capital of Campania, Naples, take a day or so to explore the historical sites that the city has to offer.

Grab some arancini, pizza fritta (fried pizza), and sfogliatelle, and make sure to drop into Gino Sorbillo’s pizzeria for one of his famed pizzas.

After your whirlwind visit to Naples, head south and spend 2-4 days on the Amalfi Coast.

Explore the gorgeous towns of Positano, Amalfi, Atrani, and Ravello that seem impossibly clung to the side of the mountainous coast that appear to tumble into the sea.

Continuing south from the Amalfi Coast, you’ll enter the little-visited region of Basilicata and on to two of the most beautiful places in all of Italy – Castelmezzano and Pietrapertosa. These side-by-side towns are built right into the Lucian Dolomites.

From Castelmezzano, you’ll journey deeper into Basilicata to Matera.

Once the ‘shame of Italy,’ the troglodytic city has risen from the ashes to become a European Capital of Culture. Among the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world, don’t miss the fascinating caves of the Sassi di Matera.

Heading into Puglia, you’ll visit the bizarre conical-roofed Trulli of Alberobello, the gorgeous caves of Grotto dell’Poesia, and the thermal baths of Santa Cesarea Terme before heading back into Basilicata to explore the nature of Pollino National Park en route to Calabria.

In Calabria, you’ll laze on the beautiful beaches in and around Tropea and explore the untamed beaches and cave of Grotto dell’Arcomagno.

Head back north to Maratea, your jumping-off point to the little-known cousin of Amalfi – the Cilento Coast, where you’ll wrap up your road trip before turning your car back in up in Naples. Plan your own Southern Italy road trip here.

Castelmezzano Southern Italy
Castelmezzano, Southern Italy. Photo: Adventures of Nicole

DOLOMITES

By Krisztina from She Wanders Abroad

Route: From Ortisei to Cortina d’Ampezzo.

Days: 4-5.

If you want to discover one of the most beautiful areas in Northern Italy, you have to plan a road trip to the Dolomites for your next vacation!

It’s best to explore the Dolomites in a car, so you can either bring your own if you live nearby or rent a car at the airport when you arrive in Italy.

Although there are no international airports in the area, bigger airports such as Venice, Bergamo, or Milan are only a few hours away from the Dolomites. This makes it easy to visit the region, even if you are coming from overseas.

The Dolomites cover more than 140,000 hectares, so you can spend several weeks exploring the area without getting bored, but if you only have a shorter amount of time, 4-5 days are enough to discover the highlights.

Since the best places to visit in the Dolomites are quite far from each other, it’s best to choose two bases for your road trip from where you can explore the nearby area with less driving.

In the first part of your road trip in Italy’s Dolomites, stay in Ortisei, which is a cute little town located in Val Gardena.

From there, you can visit the famous Alpe di SiusiLago di Carezza, the Seceda ridgeline, and the picturesque church of Santa Maddalena in Val di Funes.

Cortina d’Ampezzo is one of the most popular places to stay, and it will be the perfect base for the second half of your Dolomites road trip as you can easily reach the Instagram famous Lago di Braies or the iconic three peaks at Tre Cime di Lavaredo from there.

It’s best to stay at least 2 nights at each place to have time to properly explore the nearby areas!

Alpe di Siusi Dolomites
Alpe di Siusi, the Dolomites. Photo: She Wanders Abroad

ROME TO FLORENCE

By Tiffany from A Girl and Her Passport

Route: Rome to Florence.

Days: 5.

Traveling from Rome to Florence is probably one of the best driving routes in Italy. This road trip takes you through the gorgeous countryside of Umbria and Tuscany.

road trip from Rome to Florence is very short if you want to make no stops along the way, but where is the fun in that! You can make the trip in as little as two days or make it a longer trip of up to five days. 

Most people will rent a car at the Rome airport, so if you want to see the city first, you should do this before renting a car. You can plan a short itinerary of just 24 hours in Rome, but the Italian capital has so much to offer, that it would be best to spend at least 4 days in Rome.

Once you leave the city, head to the Parco di Monstri – this outdoor sculpture garden is unlike any art you might have seen, and it has a slightly creepy history.

In Umbria, there are several cute towns to visit that have fascinating histories. Amelia, supposedly the oldest Umbrian town, has 11 feet thick walls and winding alleyways to explore.

Assisi is the hometown of St. Francis and has many stunning churches to visit. The view from the Rocca Maggiore castle is one of the best in Italy. Tuscany brings its own beautiful villages, including Siena and Cortona, from ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’ fame.

Be sure to watch where you park in these towns as the parking can be restricted to residents only. Usually, there is a public car park on the outskirts of town. Most of all, take time to enjoy the scenery of this stunning road trip from Rome to Florence.

Assisi village
Assisi. Photo: A Girl and Her Passport

TUSCANY

By Dhara from It’s Not About the Miles

Route: Circular starting in Florence.

Days: 7.

One of the best scenic drives in Italy is a trip through Tuscany. On a 7-day road trip Tuscany itinerary, you can cover the best places to visit in the region, enjoy the art and architecture, take great photos, and enjoy fabulous food and wine along the way.

Begin your trip with 1 or 2 days in Florence, the capital of the region and the cradle of the Renaissance.

In Florence, climb to the top of the Duomo for fabulous views, wander the streets of the historic center (a UNESCO World Heritage Site), and take in the sunset from Piazzale Michelangelo. Don’t forget to gorge on gelato!

From Florence, head southeast, to the lesser-visited but very beautiful towns of Arezzo and Cortona. With beautiful architecture and lively main squares, these small towns will charm you.

Your next stop is Siena, possibly Italy’s most famous hill town. Its Duomo is magnificent, as well as its Piazza del Campo, one of the largest squares in Europe and one of the prettiest piazzas in Italy.

From Siena, move on to the scenic Val d’Orcia, where you can stop at old historic abbeys, small picturesque hill towns, and even one of the best hot springs in Tuscany.

Do make time to sample the local pici pasta and famous local wines, and visit some vineyards as well!

On the western side of your loop around Tuscany, you will visit San Gimignano, with its famous medieval towers, and Lucca, famous for its medieval city walls (though you’ll find plenty of other things to do in Lucca).

You can also stop in Pisa, to see the famous Leaning Tower, before you head back to Florence.

Montepulciano Tuscany
Montepulciano, Tuscany. Photo: It’s Not About the Miles

BOLOGNA APENNINES

By Lori from Travelinmad

Route: Circular starting in Bologna.

Days: 2-3.

If you’ve visited the over-touristed cities in Italy like Venice, Florence, and Rome and are seeking somewhere without crowds, base yourself in Bologna, rent a car, and road trip the Bologna Apennines.

The small towns, scenic wilderness areas, and incredible historic sites are all within a one-hour drive from Bologna.

The Bologna Apennines are south of the city and easily accessible. Use a GPS to explore winding roads with overviews around nearly every bend.

One of the best things to experience is the incredible local food. The small hamlets all have one or two great places to eat.

On a weekend drive a pleasant 28 miles from Bologna, is the mysterious Rocchetta Mattei, a 19th-century fortress with a fascinating past and wild architecture. You’ll need a reservation, but that’s easy to do at the tourism office in Bologna.

Along the same road is the 13th-century sparsely habited village of Borgo La Scola. It’s quiet and interesting… and you might even get to chat with one of the few residents.

You’ll find the town of TolΓ© fascinating with its incredible murals and artworks lining the narrow lanes. And don’t miss the town of Vignola and its amazing castle, the Rocca di Vignola. The entrance is free, and if you’d like a tour in English, you’ll need a reservation.

If you’re looking for offbeat Italy road trip routes, the Bologna Apennines are definitely slow travel at its best.

Rocchetta Mattei - Bologna Appennines
What to see when driving through Italy – Rocchetta Mattei. Photo: Travelinmad

NORTHERN ITALY: VENETO AND TRENTINO REGIONS

By Emily from London City Calling

Route: Circular starting in Verona.

Days: 10.

Starting and finishing in Verona, this 10-day northern Italy road trip will let you see the best of the diverse regions of Veneto and Trentino, with their many historic cities, beautiful lakes, and dramatic mountainous scenery.

Start your trip in the romantic city of Verona, known for its connection with Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, followed by a couple of days in the neighboring Lake Garda, famous for its turquoise waters and quaint lakeside towns.

A leisurely few days in the sunny Veneto region is a perfect place to start your Italian road trip route.

From the south of Lake Garda, drive to the lake’s northern shore where you’ll enter Trentino, one of Italy’s most northerly provinces.

Here you can spend a few days nestled within the dramatic scenery of the Dolomites, either in the charming city of Trento or out hiking, kayaking, and caving your way around the region’s beautiful nature.

Next, head back down to the Veneto region and spend your last couple of days exploring Venice, Italy’s famous floating city, and Treviso, home of the tiramisu.

Venice can be difficult to visit on a road trip given that cars can’t enter the island, however, you can either leave your car in Treviso and get the 30-minute train to Venice island or park at one of Venice’s designated car parks and jump on a boat into the historic center.

Finally, head back to Verona, just an hour’s drive away from Venice, to end your trip back where you started.

Verona
Verona. Photo: London City Calling

LE MARCHE

By Val from My Italian Diaries

Route: from Ancona to Ascoli Piceno

Days: 5

Le Marche is a beautiful region in central Italy, stretching along the Adriatic coast.

Its fabulous landscapes in all shades of green and yellow rival those of neighboring Tuscany, while its historic hamlets and glitzy beach towns are a joy to explore.

There’s a lot you can include on your Le Marche itinerary, but with five days at your disposal, you can cover quite a few highlights.

Start in Ancona, the region’s capital, with a lively harbor, interesting museums (including one specially designed for visually impaired people), and a splendid hilltop cathedral.

The next day, head to the Mount Conero National Park, where you’ll find pristine beaches immersed in natural beauty and enchanting little towns like Sirolo and Numana.

On day 3, visit Loreto, home to one of the most important pilgrimage sites in Italy – the Holy House of the Virgin Mary – then reach the beautiful hilltop town of Recanati, where everything speaks of his most famous resident, Giacomo Leopardi, one of Italy’s greatest poets.

Spend the next day in Fermo, another fabulous hilltop town where highlights include Roman cisterns, amazing churches, and a fascinating piazza lined with historic palaces.

While you’re there, don’t miss the gorgeous hamlet of Torre di Palme, known as the “balcony of the Adriatic”, and the magical old town of Grottammare Alta, a bit further south.

Finally, reach Ascoli Piceno to admire its stunning Piazza del Popolo, lined with medieval buildings and historic establishments, and feast on olive all’ascolana, the region’s delicious stuffed fried olives that were born here.

Le Marche, Italy
Photo: My Italian Diaries

NORTHWEST ITALY

Route: Circular from Milan.

Days: 7-8.

Looking for more ideas for your Italian self-drive holidays? Another way to see northern Italy with a car is by exploring its northwestern regions, including Lombardy, Liguria, and Piedmont.

After spending a day in Milan, it’s time to hit the road and head to the city of Pavia to marvel at the Visconti Castle, the Cathedral of Pavia, and its beautiful streets.

Continue to Genoa for a couple of days. You can visit the Royal Palace Museum, admire the San Lorenzo Cathedral, stroll along the UNESCO-listed Via Garibaldi and its famous palatial buildings, and enjoy dozens of other landmarks, museums, and activities.

Spend some time in the charming small city of Asti, and head to Turin for about two days in which you should visit the Egyptian Museum, Palazzo Reale, Palazzo Madama, Villa della Regina, and Borgo Medievale.

Before going back to Milan, make a final stop in the small city of Biella and the nearby Burcina Park and Sanctuary of Oropa, the largest and most important sanctuary dedicated to the Virgin Mary in the Alps.

Read:

Mole Antonelliana building in Turin
Turin

SOUTHERN ITALY + SICILY

By Talek from Travels with Talek

Route: Naples to Palermo.

Days: 10.

My road trip in Southern Italy was one of the coolest I’ve ever taken. We started off in Naples and headed south to Sicily ending in the beautiful capital city of Palermo.

All told the trip took 10 days, but it is the type of journey that you could extend to whatever you want depending on your interests.

In Naples, the best thing to do is to eat pizza and visit the Archeological Museum.

On to Matera, a land of mysterious caves where people live and work underground. Further south we crossed into Sicily via car ferry, quite the experience navigating the narrow aisles on a ship with a car!

The island of Sicily is magical. Taormina, one of the first cities you reach when you cross the strait, is a medieval treasure; Agrigento has the Valley of the Temples and the excavated Roman palace, Villa Romana del Casale, with its perfectly preserved collection of mosaics dating from Roman times.

One of the most impressive sights is the cathedral at Monreal, but the absolute gem of Sicily is its capital, Palermo.

Wandering the city’s narrow streets and food markets (which are a great way to eat and experience Sicily on a budget) and visiting the fascinating architectural mishmash of its cathedral and Norman palace was an unforgettable experience.

Agrigento
Agrigento. Photo: Travels with Talek

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BEST ITALY ROAD TRIPS: SCENIC ISLAND ROUTES

SARDINIA

By Marvin from Part Time Passenger

Route: Circular starting in Olbia.

Days: 5-10.

Sardinia, the second-largest island in the Mediterranean Sea, is an excellent road trip destination – for various reasons. If you think you’ve seen a fair share of beautiful Italy, this Sardinia road trip will elevate your dolce vita to the next level.

The local Sards will not only welcome you with open arms, but will fix you up with some of the best Italian food around, including baked goat cheese, homemade ravioli tossed in sage butter, and fresh seafood. 

From the impeccable beaches of the Costa Smeralda in the north to the surf spots in Oristano, across the central mountains, to the sandy bays of the Costa Rei, Sardinia is an incredibly diverse destination.

With constantly changing scenery, it’ll be hard to be bored. And the best part: the main routes are easy to navigate and dotted with an abundance of stop-over opportunities.

While you could technically drive from north to south in 3-4 hours, you should at least (!) arrange for 5 days on the island.

Olbia, located in the north-eastern tip of Sardinia and served by various airlines, is a good starting point. From here, work your way around the coastline. 

Venturing offshore to La Maddalena islands, watching the sunset in beautiful Castelsardo, or catching that perfect wave in Capo Mannu, are just some of the things that will keep you busy here.

Lovers of all things history and culture will enjoy roaming the colorful alleys of the former Spanish enclave Alghero or the many piazzas of Cagliari, the island’s busy capital. Sardinia simply has it all.

Sardinia
Sardinia. Photo: Part Time Passenger

WESTERN SICILY

By Katja from Places and Notes

Route: Circular starting in Trapani.

Days: 7-10.

On this awesome Western Sicily road trip, you will visit some of the island’s best historical sites, sandy beaches, cute villages with traditional wine cellars, vibrant cities, salt pans dotted with windmills, lush countryside, and much more.

Start your adventure in Trapani, spend the first day getting to know the laid-back Sicilian way of life, and take a trip to the medieval village of Erice the day after.

Continue towards San Vito lo Capo, a wonderful white sandy beach bay with a mountain backdrop, perfect for a relaxing day at the seaside. On the way to Palermo, you can stop by at Segesta archaeological site and Monreale monastery.

Palermo
Palermo. Photo: Places and Notes

Palermo is Sicily’s largest, loudest, and most chaotic city, but it sure is worth spending a day or two visiting all the sites and indulging in Sicilian cuisine.

While heading south towards Agrigento and its impressive Valley of the Temples, make sure you visit Corleone, a smaller town famous for its connection with some of the most powerful families of the mafia.

Unwind in San Leone at the beach and explore another one of Sicily’s best spots, Scala dei Turchi white cliff.

The last part of this trip before returning to Trapani takes you to Marsala, a charming wine area and a natural reserve with salt evaporation ponds, which are especially lovely at sunset.

This trip can begin in either Trapani or Palermo since there are international airports in both cities and is doable in seven days, but can be extended to ten.

Scala dei Turchi Sicily
Scala dei Turchi. Photo: Places and Notes

EASTERN SICILY

By Annabel from Smudged Postcard

Route: Circular starting in Catania.

Days: 10 or more.

One of the best drives in Italy, this exploration of Eastern Sicily takes in a wide variety of sights. Flying into Catania, it is worth spending a day learning about this beautiful Baroque city and its relationship with nearby Mount Etna.

From Catania, it is an easy drive south to Syracuse where highlights include the stunning Piazza del Duomo and the Ancient Greek and Roman remains at the Archaeological Park.

If you’re taking a road trip in Sicily with kids, be sure to watch a show at the traditional puppet theatre.

From Syracuse, it is a short drive to the Val di Noto region of Sicily, home to some appealing cities including Modica and Ragusa, both perfect for foodies.

Heading inland from the Val di Noto, you reach Caltagirone with its impressive terracotta staircase. Not far from there is the highest regional capital of Sicily, hilltop Enna with far-reaching views across the countryside towards Mount Etna.

The final leg of this road trip through Italy’s biggest island passes the smoldering volcano before reaching the pretty clifftop town of Taormina.

Here, you will find a perfectly positioned Greek-Roman amphitheater with views looking out towards the sea and Mount Etna. There’s a cable car down to the pebbly beach and enough restaurants and cafes to fill a lifetime of holidays.

Etna view from Taormina
Views of Mount Etna. Photo: Smudged Postcard

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About Or Amir

Hey, I'm Or! I'm a passionate traveler with a severe coffee, chocolate, and pastry addiction (or any other carb for that matter). Obsessed with anything Spain-related, I'm always planning my next trip (and the excitement alone can bring tears to my eyes, not that it's difficult to make me cry).

12 thoughts on “Best Italian Road Trips: 14 Super Dreamy Routes”

  1. I’m loving these road trip ideas! I’m wishing I could teleport myself to Europe now and start the adventure. Ahh well, I will definitely keep these ideas in mind for the future! Those Italian Lakes are calling my name…

    Reply
    • Oh, teleporting myself to other places is my dream superpower πŸ˜› You’ll love the Italian lakes – their colorful towns are right up your alley πŸ™‚

      Reply
  2. What a beautiful country! I’ve travelled through Tuscany and the Veneto but definitely need to explore the Northern Lakes and Sicily. We usually cope with driving in the country (although the smaller roads do have those anxiety inducing ditches on either side) then chicken out and go for a park and ride when we get close to the bog cities.

    Your fabulous photos make me want to go back again soon!

    Reply

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