With snow-topped peaks, rugged coastlines, rolling green countryside and everything in between, car hire in Italy is a great way to explore everything the country has to offer. Taking a road trip in Italy is more than just a means to an end; with landscapes this beautiful, the journey itself becomes the destination.
Plan your Italy road trip in Tuscany
While the iconic cities of Florence and Siena are best enjoyed on foot, if you’re going to see anything of the “real” Tuscany in between, hiring a car is a great way to go.
The winding Via Chiantigiana is easily one of the prettiest road trips in Italy and well maintained, besides making for a comfortable and easy drive.
The landscape here is peppered with picturesque natural landscapes, castles and fortified towns, and while it’s entirely possible to squeeze the drive into just one day, you’re going to want to take full advantage of the region’s abundant vineyards. Overnight stops are a must!
Heading south out of Florence along the smooth and straight Via Senese will take you out onto the Via Chiantigiana, where the first stop is Greve in Chianti, the gateway to the region.
After a stroll in the main square, take a detour to the west and the charismatic walled town of Montefioralle, perched on a hilltop. Make sure you have your camera at the ready!
From there, it’s back to the main trail, through the town of Panzano – the ideal place to stop for a bite to eat – and the historic Castellina. Finally, weaving your way through the thick forest, you’ll head west to the ancient wine-producing town of Gaiole. Here you can enjoy the fermented fruits of the land at the nearby Castello di Brolio castle with its very own wine shop. Chin chin!
All road trips lead to Rome
What could be better for a road trip in Italy than following in the tracks of an ancient Roman road?
The Via Cassia, running all the way from Florence to Rome, is fringed with cypress and pine trees and many more twists and turns than its Roman roots might suggest.
At around six hours’ drive time from Florence, there are plenty of highlights and worthwhile detours along the way to break up the journey.
Heading south from Siena, it’s around 30 miles of good road to the Etruscan town of San Quirico D’Orcia where medieval ruins, the alluring vistas from its hilltop location and the quiet retreat of the Leonini Botanic Gardens will tempt you off the road.
Further south as you pass through the commune of Abbadia San Salvatore, follow the signs for another ancient road, the Via Francigena, which was once the main route to Rome for pilgrims setting out from Canterbury to visit the tombs of St Peter and St Paul.
For a breath of fresh air, make a stop at Lake Bolsena, or carry on south to the ancient town of Sutri, standing on the edge of Bracciano National Park.
All these attractions and more await on the long road to Rome.
Enjoy your road trip in Italy on the Neapolitan coast
The sun kissed towns and villages dotted along the Neapolitan coast are the perfect invitation for a lazy trip with plenty of stops for a seafood lunch or a real Italian ice cream.
Explore Naples, the cultural capital of southern Italy, then hop in the car to see what else this photogenic coastline has to offer.
For the quickest route from Naples to Pompeii, hit the Autostrada A3 Napoli-Reggio Calabria. Those with time on their hands may prefer to take the coastal roads with scenic views all the way across the Gulf of Naples. Cruise the Via Litoranea for a host of excellent restaurants for every budget. Whichever you choose, there’s no way you’ll miss the looming presence of Mount Vesuvius as you pass by.
Make the most of the vast expanse of archaeological remains at Pompeii, hauntingly preserved, with an overnight stay and bear in mind that many hotels in the area also offer free parking.
From Pompeii, it’s less than an hour along the coast to Sorrento, with its maze of charming streets lined with shops and cafes. The seafront terrace of the Foreigner’s club is the perfect location for a filling lunch, with views that you won’t find anywhere else.
Then, those with nerves of steel can carry on around the headland to Amalfi, where a heart-stopping narrow cliff road hugs the twists and turns of the precipitous rock to round off a thrilling, once-in-a-lifetime road trip in Italy.
An Italy road trip with a difference in Sicily
It may look small, but little Sicily is packed with things to see and do and hiring a car is the best way to visit all of the major sights at your own pace.
Two days in topsy-turvy Palermo is more than enough to get a taste for the place before you strike out east by car along the pretty coastal road, a motorway of sorts.
The traditional route through the middle of Sicily via the A-19 is currently closed and looks unlikely to reopen any time soon.
Happily, the alternative is the beautiful, if slightly slower, SS120, a local road that winds its way through the island’s rugged peaks and green valleys. Break for lunch in Cerda where the homely cuisine of the Trattoria Nasca 2 features an ingenious array of artichoke dishes.
By the time you hit Tremonzelli, you’re back on the Autostrada and it’s plain sailing all the way to Catania, where you can park in the port and take the shuttle to the centre for a stroll around the Piazza del Duomo square.
Then it’s just a 40-minute drive along one of the most spectacular roads in Sicily to the south side of Mount Etna. At Rifugio Sapienza you’ll swap your car for a cable car to cover the rest of the sensational journey to the top. Get ready for your first glimpse of the awe-inspiring crater, road trips in Italy don’t get much more explosive than this!
Explore the lakes with the ultimate Italy road trip
What do you get when you combine a landscape of lakes, mountains and forests with excellent Autostradas and an 80mph speed limit?
It’s the recipe for a fantastic road trip in Italy’s Lake District.
While the local roads around the lakes themselves can tend to be twisty and narrow, the major roads linking one to the next are a dream for any road trip enthusiast.
Milan makes a great jumping-off point for road trips in northern Italy. From here it’s an easy hour-long drive up the Statale 36 to Lecco and then on to Bellagio, the pearl of Lake Como along the shores of the lake itself.
Bellagio is one of the best places to spend the night, with brightly coloured houses overlooking the lake and mountains.
Heading southwest towards Lake Magiorre, the brand new A36 motorway saves you the trouble of heading back into Milan, dropping you straight onto the lovely A8 – the “Road of the Lakes” – leading up towards the elegant town of Stresa.
Take the time to enjoy a boat ride out to Isola Bella Island, almost entirely covered by the luxurious palace and gardens of the Palazzo Borromeo. Back on the A8, you can carry on west into the colourful woodlands of Val Grande National Park, for the grand finale to your road trip in the Italian lakes.