Unsurprisingly, Italy is one of the most visited countries in the world. Thanks to its delicious cuisine, historical sites, breathtaking countryside, and beautiful beaches, there is no shortage of things to do in Italy.
This Italian road trip itinerary will take you from north Italy to the south, past breathtaking coastlines, through beautiful countryside, and even taking in an island or two. Wander through charming villages and admire mountain scenery while discovering Italy at your own pace.
You can take this trip by road or train. Personally, I love train travel in Italy, but I understand it’s not for everyone.
Tips for driving in Italy
The best part of driving in Italy is being able to travel at your own pace. However, it is important to be aware of the driving norms in Italy so you can be prepared.
Italians have a reputation for driving recklessly. Whilst this is true in some cases, as it is anywhere in the world, I find driving in Italy is usually a pleasant and safe experience.
Driving in Italy can be an exciting and rewarding experience, allowing you to explore the country at your own pace, but practices can differ from what you’re used to.
Driving in Italian cities can get chaotic, and traffic congestion is commonplace. If this makes you uncomfortable, consider using public transportation when entering cities instead.
Here are some tips for driving in Italy:
- The minimum driving age is 18.
- Italians drive on the right hand side of the road.
- Keep an eye out for ZTL Zones; these are restricted traffic zones. Cameras monitor these areas and often include the historic part of the city centres. Find a parking lot outside these areas and take public transportation or walk to your final destination.
- Never use your mobile phone whilst driving, and always wear your seatbelt.
- Roundabouts are commonplace in Italy. Traffic inside the roundabout has the right of way, and you should yield to vehicles already in the circle.
- Italy has an extensive network of toll roads on the autostrade. Have cash or a credit card ready for when you exit the toll.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at pedestrian crossings (crosswalks).
- Italian drivers are assertive when driving. Be confident but cautious.
Taking the train in Italy
- Choose the Right Ticket Type:
- Frecciarossa, Frecciargento, and Frecciabianca are high-speed trains that connect major cities. Regionale and InterCity trains offer slower but more cost-effective options.You must travel on the correct train for the ticket or risk receiving a fine.
- Buy Tickets in Advance:
- Many trains in Italy are in high demand, especially in the peak travel season and peak travel times of the day. I advise that you pre-book tickets to secure your seat, especially on high-speed trains.
- Buy your tickets online through the Trainline app. You can check train times and services while keeping your tickets within the app.
- Validate Your Ticket:
- Physical tickets, especially for Regionale trains, must be validated before boarding the train, or you risk a fine. Validation machines are usually located on the platforms. This is another reason I recommend buying tickets online; you will be given a QR code instead and don’t need to worry about validation.
- High-speed and reserved-seat tickets are often pre-validated and don’t require additional validation, but always check this at the station.
- Arrive Early:
- Arrive at the train station 15 minutes before your train so you have ample time to navigate the station layout, find your platform, and buy a ticket if you still need to do so.
- Reserved Cars:
- Make sure you sit in the correct seat if you have a seat reservation, or the train guard will reposition you.
- Refunds and Exchanges:
- Most tickets are non-refundable. Check the refund policy before you travel, and always double-check which train you are booking before you pay. In Italy, tickets must be used on the correct train.
Days 1-3 – Genoa
Situated on the northern Italian coast, Genoa is a great place to start an Italian road trip. With regular domestic flights and flights to European destinations, it’s easy to get to. If you travel from outside Europe, I recommend flying via London or Amsterdam.
The city offers a bustling energy and historical charm, with narrow medieval streets, grand palaces, and a captivating maritime past. Squares hide amongst tall buildings, surrounding beautiful churches and offering plenty of coffee stops along the way.
The city centre is UNESCO-listed with beautiful landmarks such as the Cathedral of San Lorenzo and the Palazzo Ducale.
Things to do in Genoa
Discover the city on a self-guided walking tour, taste delicious pasta and Tiramisu with a local chef, or take in the Rolli Palaces UNESCO Site on a guided tour.
Discover the iconic village of Portofino, known for its colourful buildings, luxury yachts, and stunning coastal beauty.
The cheapest way of visiting Portofino is by train, departing from Genova Piazza Principe Station, taking on average 30 minutes. Costing less than €5, the train will drop you in Santa Margherita where you can take a short bus ride into Portofino itself.
If you want to experience the beautiful coastal views on the way to Portofino, take a boat tour, in which you can also experience the beautiful town of Camogli also and spend some time at the beach at San Fruttuoso.
Explore Boccadasse, a beautiful fishing village within Genoa. Boccadasse comprises a colourful selection of crooked houses around a natural inlet, lived in by local fishermen and traders.
Days 3-5 – Cinque Terre
Make your way down the breathtaking Ligurian Coast from Genoa to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre has evolved from a fairly unknown destination into one of Italy’s most iconic sites with 3 million visitors per year. Each village offers postcard worthy scenes and a beautiful rocky coastline, making it a beautiful and unique place to visit in the Mediterranean.
The most convenient way to travel from Genoa to Cinque Terre is by train. Each of the five villages offers its own train station so you don’t need to worry about finding buses or taxis between the villages.
If you are driving, I recommend staying in Monterosso, which is the most car-friendly Cinque Terre village. Once settled in your accommodation, travel between the towns by train or boat.
Using the Cinque Terre train
The Cinque Terre Express train stops at each village, taking only a few minutes between each station. The line runs between La Spezia and Levanto in Sestri Levante.
In peak season, the Cinque Terre trains run on average four times per hour. One-way tickets cost €5 for adults and €2.50 for children aged 4-11 years old. Buy your tickets at the station or via the Trainline.
What are the 5 towns of Cinque Terre?
Monterosso is the largest village in Cinque Terre, it is also home to the most established hotel, Hotel Porto Roca. Monterosso has the largest beach in Cinque Terre, equipped with umbrellas and sun loungers.
My favourite village in Cinque Terre, Manarola stands on a rock 70 metres above sea level. The small harbour contains a boat ramp and a tiny piazza surrounded by multicoloured houses overlooking the sea.
Corniglia is the least visited of the five villages, mostly due to its position atop a hill rather than down by the water’s edge. Visitors will have to climb up 382 steps from the train station into the village, or there is a shuttle that will take you for €1.50.
The tiny port of Vernazza is surrounded by vibrant buildings and a charming piazza abuzz with restaurants and ice cream shops. The village boasts a steep backdrop of olive groves, some say these olives produce the finest olive oil in Italy, so why not taste some when visiting?
If you are looking for a place to enjoy sunset, Riomaggiore is the village for you. A bustling village with a number of great restaurants, Riomaggiore is a great place to visit.
Days 5-7 – Florence
Welcome to Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance and one of the most cultural cities in Europe. The city’s rich history, unparalleled art and significant historical treasures have beckoned travellers for hundreds of years. Travellers can drive the 2 and a half hour journey from Cinque Terre to Florence, or take the train from one of the Cinque Terre villages with a change in Pisa.
Florence is a city that perfectly bridges the gap between old and new. Drawn in by its cultural landmarks, travellers can enjoy awe-inspiring galleries, the works of Michelangelo, culinary delights, and beautiful gardens.
Things to do in Florence
Book a timed entry ticket to Michaelangelo’s David in the Accademia Gallery. Please aim to arrive as early as possible as it can get crowded! Another great gallery is the Uffizi Gallery, where it is also recommended to pre-book your ticket so you can skip the queue.
If you want an excellent Florence city tour without getting too exhausted, try out an eco-friendly gold cart tour. An audio guide is included so you can learn more about the significance of the city’s famous sights.
Take in breathtaking panoramic views from the top of Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore and access Brunelleschi’s Dome. Another must-do in Florence is Palazzo Vecchio, the town hall. Explore this magnificent building with a guided tour and hear stories all about its long past.
One of the most incredible experiences in Florence is the sunrise hot air balloon ride. Perfect for a special occasion, celebration or proposal, this magical balloon ride soars over the Arno River, where you can admire the Brunelleschi Dome and the city’s red roofs. You later venture out towards the Tuscan hills, over vineyards and olive groves, with beautiful views in every direction. A wonderful breakfast with the pilot perfectly completes the experience
Finish your trip with a River Sunset Cruise with a Live Concert. The boats are fully electric, departing from Via Lungarno Diaz, travelling to The Bridge of Grace, and passing underneath the Ponte Vecchio, the Ponte Santa Trinita and the Ponte alla Carraia. The one-hour tour benefits either from a live singer or violinist, depending on which day you come.
Days 7-9 – Tuscany
With sun-kissed landscapes and a timeless allure, it’s no wonder those who travel to Tuscany will fall in love. Rolling hills stretch between historic towns that remain frozen in time, whilst rustic villas and farmhouses spread across the countryside.
Tuscany is where you will benefit most from having a car, especially if you want to explore its rural corners. I recommend staying a few nights in a borgo, a group of houses and/or barns on a hilltop, which have now been restored into breathtaking hotels and holiday rentals.
Where to stay in Tuscany?
When you have only a handful of days to discover Tuscany, you may be hard-pressed on deciding where you should stay. Your options include small Tuscan villages, countryside farmhouses, or staying in one of the main towns such as Siena.
Just over an hour by car, or an hour and a half by train, Siena is of the most beautiful cities in Italy. This beautiful medieval city is surrounded by the rolling hills that draw in millions of people a year.
In the centre you will find Piazza del Campo, a beautiful square famous for hosting the Palio run each year. The piazza is filled with restaurants and small boutique stores, alongside a bell tower that dominates the skyline.
From Siena you can enjoy a number of day trips such as San Gimignano which is a favourite of mine, Montalcino, Buonconvento, Asciano, and Volterra.
If you like wine, you will like Chianti. Tuscany is one of the Europe’s best wine regions with Chianti being one of the most well known wine producers.
Tucked away in the hills between Florence and Siena, Chianti is home to numerous award-winning vineyards and villas. The area is characterised with stunning landscapes, rolling hills, picturesque vineyards, and charming villages. I would recommend taking a wine tour or cooking class whilst in the area.
There are gorgeous hotels in Chianti such as La Pietra Del Cabreo just one kilometre from Greve. Located in a quaint Tuscan farmhouse, La Pietra Del Cabreo has been renovated to provide beautiful accommodations from which to explore Tuscany from.
If you are looking for a hotel with incredible personal service, look no further than La Rimbecca Greve, a once medieval farmhouse, with warm décor, original wooden beamed ceilings, and beautifully rustic interiors.
Lastly, for a hotel in Chianti with some major wow factor, COMO Castello Del Nero is sure to take your breath away. This five star Tuscany hotel is surrounded by miles of uninterrupted countryside, boasting world-class dining, holistic wellness, and interiors that will make you think you’re staying with the royals.
Val d’Orcia, a part of Tuscany so beautiful it has graced thousands of Italian postcards and is a must stop on any Italian road trip itinerary.
The area is renowned for its stunning and timeless landscapes and picturesque medieval villages, becoming a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2004.
There are numerous hotels in Val d’Orcia, it happens to be home to the Rosewood Castiglion del Bosco, voted as one of the most beautiful hotels in the world.
Guests at the Rosewood can expect to find one of the best-preserved estates in Tuscany, with 42 suites, a rich sense of authenticity, and with heritage features, antique furnishings, and local textiles.
Days 9-11 – Rome
One of the most famous cities in the world, it would be criminal not to stop at Rome on an Italian road trip. Stepping into Rome is like stepping back in time. The city is steeped in millennia of history that seamlessly weaves its way into modern day life. Rome boasts exceptional art, ancient ruins, a vibrant culinary scene, and thousands of stories from times gone by.
It takes around 2 and a half hours to drive from Siena to Rome. Taking the train from Siena to Rome takes between 3 and 4 hours with one change in Florence. The train from Florence to Rome direct takes an hour and a half.
Things to do in Rome
There are hundreds of things to do in Rome, so much so you will never feel like you have fully seen the city. This part of the itinerary is totally up to you, and dependent on how many days you can set aside to explore the city.
For first timers in Rome, as cliché as it sounds, I recommend visiting the Colosseum on a skip-the-line tour. The Colosseum Arena Floor & Ancient Rome Fast Track Tour will give you access to a restricted area of the Colosseum & see a partially reconstructed section of the arena floor. You will also have access to the Roman Forum on this tour. I advise to book a morning slot in summertime due to extreme temperatures in July and August.
Enjoy early entry to the Museums of the Vatican, Sistine Chapel & St Peter’s Basilica. This tour includes a guide who will take you through the most iconic site of Rome/Vatican City, the early morning access means escaping the midday crowds.
If you enjoy Italian art, I highly recommend the Borghese Gallery on a skip-the-line ticket. Explore the vast art collections at your own pace, discovering the works of artists such as Bernini, Canova, Caravaggio, and Titian.
Witness the dark side of Rome on a Crypts & Catacombs Tour. Take in the eerie Capuchin Crypt, lined with the bones of 4,000 Capuchin Monks before visiting the Basilica San Martino ai Monti and Chapel of Our Lady of Carmel.
The Pantheon is one of the most visited landmarks in Rome o why not book a skip-the-line entry ticket. The Pantheon is known for its groundbreaking architectural design, including its enormous dome and remarkable oculus.
Visit the Palazzo Doria Pamphilj. This historic palace is located in the heart of Rome. It is renowned for its remarkable art collection, opulent interiors, and its status as one of the few aristocratic residences in Rome that is still privately owned. Buy your tickets direct to get the best price, you can buy them via their website here.
Pressed for time? Explore the Imperial City Tour by Golf Cart and save your legs some steps. The tour stops at Rome’s top attractions, including the the Roman Forum, the Colosseum, Circus Maximus, and the Pantheon.
If you have some spare time, head to the Church of Saint Ignatius of Loyola. Inside you can find one of the largest frescoed vaults in the world, extending over a length of over forty meters.
For something lighthearted and fun, take part in a Spritz and Spaghetti Traditional Cooking Class. During the class you will learn how to make three Italian Cocktails whilst making make Italian pasta from scratch.
Where to stay in Rome
The best budget hotel in Rome: Just 10 minutes walk from Piazza Navona at 15 minutes from the Trevi Fountain, Design 18 Charming Rooms is one of the best budget hotels in Rome. Rooms are well sized and comfortable whilst staff offer friendly service and even an Italian breakfast.
The best mid-range hotel in Rome: Inconspicuous from the outside, Parisii Luxury Relais is a small boutique hotel with large, beautifully decorated guest rooms. Located 5 minutes from the Spanish Steps and the Trevi Fountain, it is in an excellent location to explore the city on foot.
The best luxury hotel in Rome: Did you know there is a Six Senses Rome? A peaceful haven in a busy city, the Six Senses Rome offers a state-of-the-art signature spa, suites with their own terraces, and two eateries.
Guest rooms and suites feature stylish modern furnishings in earthy tones such as greens, pinks and terra cotta. Throughout the building guests can expect to find many original features such as the magnifient grand staircase.
Days 11-14 – Amalfi Coast
Getting to the Amalfi Coast from Rome is pretty straightforward both by car and rail. It takes around 3 and a half hours in the car or just over 2 hours by train to Salerno where you can take a bus or a taxi into the Amalfi Coast itself.
The Amalfi Coast is one of the most beautiful and well-known coastlines in Italy. It is located in the Campania region, just south of Naples and stretching out into the Mediterranean. Think dramatic landscapes, picturesque towns, some of the most luxurious hotels in Europe, and breathtaking sea views.
Where to visit on the Amalfi Coast
Positano: A timeless town cascading down the cliffside, Positano oozes an enchanting beauty. Known for its pastel coloured houses, Positano has become the most glamorous place to stay in the Amalfi Coast.
Amalfi: Amalfi is the largest town and the one that gives this slice of coast its name. The town is well-connected with a regular bus service so makes a great base to stay.
Atrani: Just a ten minute walk from Amalfi town, Atrani is a similar but quieter alternative. Known for its larger beach, Atrani is filled with tightly packed buildings above tunnelled walkways.
Ravello: Located within the hills, Ravello is the place to go for peace and tranquility. Ravello has been sprinkled with palatial villas, dreamy gardens, magnificent views and a romantic atmosphere that has been drawing in writers and artists for over 100 years.
Praiano: A great place to retreat if the crowds of Positano get too much, Praiano is a few bends of the coast from more well-known Positano. There isn’t a large town centre, instead an imposing domed church where villagers congregate.
Getting around the Amalfi Coast
I know this is part of a wider Italian road trip itinerary, but now is the time to ditch the car. Or at least find a safe spot to park it. The Amalfi Coast gets particularly congested in summer time and due to the nature of the towns, parking is difficult.
Amalfi Coast by bus
If you have travelled on the train to Salerno and you are looking to get the bus to the Amalfi Coast, you must exit the station and head to the bus terminal. You will find this located on via Vinciprova which is around 10 minutes walk from the station. Look for the Sita buses which run almost hourly to the Amalfi Coast.
The journey from Salerno to Amalfi town takes 75 minutes and costs €3.40, you can buy tickets at local retailers and you must get your ticket stamped once on board.
There are also regular services from Sorrento to Amalfi. Just south of Naples, Sorrento is a northern transport hub for the Amalfi Coast with regular trains to Naples. The buses from Sorrento to Amalfi depart from Piazza Giovanni Battista De Curtis, near Circumvesuviana Station. The bus takes around an hour and a half, costing €6.80.
You can download the Sita bus timetable here.
I would also recommend download the Unico Campania app here, this app will give you live bus timetables and if you have a European credit card, you can buy your tickets via the app.
It is important to note the regularity of the buses will depend on the seasons. During peak season (May to September) the buses pass frequently between 6am and 9:30pm, later on a weekend. When you arrive at your destination, make sure you check the last bus back to your destination so you don’t miss it.
Due to traffic problems along the coast, buses are often late. Just wait at your stop until it arrives, it will show up, I promise!
Amalfi Coast by ferry
Ferries are the quickest and most scenic way to get around. The inter-town ferry service runs between April and October. If you are visiting in early spring or late autumn, be aware that ferry schedules can change due to adverse weather conditions and can sometimes be suspended.
The port of Amalfi is connected with Naples by ferry as well as other destinations on the Amalfi Coast including Positano, Cetara, Vietri sul Mare, Maiori and Minori, as well as Sorrento. From April to October there are ferry services from Salerno and Capri. The connections with Ischia only run during the summer.
Popular ferry routes on the Amalfi Coast:
- Naples to Amalfi – 1-2 hours
- Positano to Amalfi – 20 minutes
- Sorrento to Amalfi – 1 hour
- Salerno to Amalfi – 30 minutes
- Ischia to Amalfi – 2 hours
- Amalfi to Capri – 1 hour
- Cetara to Amalfi – 25 minutes
Things to do on the Amalfi Coast
Explore the towns: Enjoy ice cream in Atrani and go shopping in Positano. There are some beautiful towns on the Amalfi Coast so don’t forget to explore them!
Hike the Path of the Gods: One of the most popular hiking trails on the Amalfi Coast, the Path of the Gods, a 5-mile long trail between Positano and Praiano. Trek along cliffs and soak in incredible views, passing alongside archaeological remains.
Head to a beach club: Spend the day by the water in one of the many great beach clubs on the Amalfi Coast. Arienzo Beach Club in Positano is highly rated, offering beach attendants, a selection of signature cocktails, wine and beer, delicious food, good music and cliff jumping.
Spend the day on Capri: Capri is a favourite amongst Italy lovers and can absolutely be included on an Italian road trip itinerary… despite not needing a car!
Expect to find an abundance of lemon trees, shops filled with the most gorgeous hand-painted ceramics, towering limestone cliffs, and sparkling blue waters.
You can take a private boat trip from Amalfi to Capri, or simply catch the ferry. I recommend enjoying a boat trip that will take you around the island and offers snorkelling and swimming opportunities aboard a traditional Amalfitan Gozzo boat.
Where to stay on the Amalfi Coast
Close your eyes guys, hotels on the Amalfi Coast are some of the most expensive in Italy. However, that doesn’t mean cheaper accommodation doesn’t exist, you just have to look a little harder and be more savvy with where you stay.
That being said, if you are partial to a bit of luxury, this is the place to really indulge!
Where to stay in Positano
Positano is a beautiful place to stay in. There are ample restaurants, cafes, boutique shops and breathtaking hotels. Positano is definitely on the higher end of the pricing scale but if you are happy to splash out, it is well worth the price tag.
Air Bnbs in Positano: Casa San Nicola is a newly renovated one bedroom apartment with unobstructed views over the bay.
The best 5* hotels in Positano include Le Sirenuse, an 18th century summer villa that belonged to the Sersale family; Hotel Villa Franca with an incredible rooftop pool, and the exceptional Villa Treville.
If you are wanting to stay somewhere smaller or perhaps more budget friendly, there are plenty of holiday rentals and Air Bnbs in Positano, but you will need to get them booked up early! Panoramic Villa La Scalinatella is a charming three-bedroom property in the heart of Positano.
Villa Sofia is a romantic apartment with incredible views over the sea and its own private terrace. Casa San Nicola is a newly refurbished one-bedroom apartment in the San Nicola neighbourhood of Positano.
Where to stay in Praiano
Close to Positano, Praiano is a beautiful little village that offers a similar experience to its neighbour but at a cheaper price.
Casa Angelina is the ultimate 5* hotel in Praiano, offering luxurious but minimalist accommodation sitting atop the cliffs and boasting top-level gastronomy.
Where to stay in Ravello
A stay in Ravello is one that will stay in your memory forever! The Belmond Caruso Hotel and Villa Cimbrone are two of the most beautiful hotels on the Amalfi Coast. Both 5* hotels offer superb levels of service, stunning suites, and the some of the best views in Campania.
Hotel Giordano is an early 19th villa with a beautiful terrace shaded by centuries-old magnolia trees. For an intimate and authentic stay, La Moresca is home to just 9 guest rooms with superb views, located within a historical piazza.
Where to stay in Amalfi
Sitting on Amalfi’s promenade and beach, Hotel Marina Riviera is housed in a prestigious 19th-century building that has been renovated to reflect the area’s Mediterranean style.
2km down the coast is Hotel La Ninfa. Starting at £104 per night guests can enjoy incredible views over the beach and 9 art deco themed guest rooms.
How long do you need for a road trip in Italy?
There is a lot to pack into Italy so unless you have unlimited annual leave, I would set aside 10 days-2 weeks for an Italian road trip. I wouldn’t expect to see the whole county in this time, but you can really get stuck into a specific region such as Liguria or Tuscany. Alternatively, pick a coastline and travel up or down it.
Is it easy to road trip in Italy?
Yes, Italy is so easy to get around. You can choose to hire a car or use the rail network instead.
How do I plan a road trip in Italy?
Identify a key region you want to travel. Don’t try to pack too much in. Spread your time between city and countryside/coast and make sure you reward yourself with some time to relax because sightseeing can be tiring!
Use Google maps if you are planning on driving so you can see the distances between each location. If you are planning to tavel by train in Italy, use the Trainline app to plan and book your trains.
What is the best month to travel to Italy?
I would recommend June or September for an Italian road trip. These months offer beautiful weather but less crowds than in July and August. October is also lovely, with a small risk of rain but cooler temperatures to make sightseeing a pleasant experience.