Best Italy Road Trips for Slow Travel
07 August 2023
Italy has its fair share of epic road trips that meander gently through a landscape weaving a thousand colors. Unbeatable sea views, hills basked in late afternoon sunshine, discovering hidden villages, historic monuments, and delicious food. When it comes to a go-slow, switch-off, and unwind kind of vacation, this country has perfected the art, and there is no better way to get under the skin of its beautiful landscape than on an Italian road trip.
Admittedly, driving through Italy can be an intimidating prospect for some. The bustling cities, narrow, winding roads, and fearless Italian drivers can rattle even the most seasoned road-tripper. However, hiring a knowledgeable driver and tour guide through Scott Dunn takes the stress out of navigating unfamiliar roads or thinking about parking, allowing you to pause and give your undivided attention to the exquisite sights.
How Many Days Do You Need for a Road Trip in Italy?
To appreciate the unhurried nature of traveling in Italy you need at least a week for your road trip. But to add more stops and spend longer at destinations, you might like up to two. Whatever time you have available, we will put together an amazing itinerary, including where to stop for meals, activities, and where to sleep.
How to Plan Your Italy Road Trip
Planning an Italian road trip requires a bit of careful consideration, and that is where our travel experts come in. But before you speak to them, you might like to start thinking about how your dream trip could look.
Perhaps the most important question to ask is where do you want to go? Italy boasts a plethora of scenic routes, from the breathtaking Amalfi Coast to the rolling hills of Tuscany and the picturesque lakes. Think about which destinations will align with your interests, whether it's indulging in culinary delights, exploring ancient ruins, or immersing yourself in art and architecture.
Next, think about how long you and your traveling companions (especially if they’re children) are happy to sit in a car for. Some of our itineraries have shorter distances between stops, while for others you could be driving for several hours. And in the same vein, how long do you have for your road trip in Italy? If it’s only a week, you’re better off looking at some of the shorter itineraries, which allow you to fly in from one location and out of another, unless you’re happy hopping from one place to the next quite quickly.
Assess the season that you’re traveling in and weather conditions too. Italy’s climate varies across regions, choosing the right time to visit could make or break your vacation, especially if you plan to drive through mountainous regions or in coastal areas. Avoid peak tourist season (July and August) if you prefer a more tranquil experience. Spring and fall bring beautiful blue skies and sunny days without the roads being too busy.
Accommodation is vital during your road trip. Determine the type of lodging that suits your preferences, whether it's an all-bells-and-whistles five-star hotel or something smaller and more boutique, this will dictate which destinations work as overnight stays for you. If you are looking for five-star Grand Dame hotels, you will need to make your stops in the bigger cities and more popular tourist sites. For charming, rustic farmhouses, you will want to stop somewhere rural.
Lastly, delve into the cultural and historical highlights of each destination. If there are particular festivals that you’d like to see or seasonal foods that you’d like to try you will want to plan your Italian road trip around them to truly embrace what makes this country so special.
The Best Northern Italy Road Trips
In the north of Italy, you’ll find the stunning Dolomites, charming lakes, and chic cities of Milan and Venice. This is the perfect part of Italy to combine nature and culture.
Venice to Cortina d'Ampezzo
Length: 1 week
Why we love it: This particular driving tour of Italy combines the romance of Venice with the beauty of the Dolomites, it’s perfect for short trips, and as good for couples as it is for adventurous families.
Fly into Venice for a few nights feeling like you’re in a movie as you walk between the streets of arguably the most beautiful city in the world. Take in all the churches, palazzos, and art galleries, and enjoy cocktails and cicchetti on the canals. Your driver will collect you after your stay in Venice as you don’t need a car there. From here you could push directly on to Cortina d'Ampezzo but for a more relaxed trip, stop for a few nights on the way in Alpe di Siusi, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, 5,900 ft above sea level, with stunning views of the Dolomites. Then head on to Cortina. In winter, the glamorous town is filled with skiers but in the summer, it’s all about hikes and bracing mountain air.
Where to stay: There are plenty of hotel options in Venice, but we love the Baglioni Hotel Luna, stay at Adler Mountain Lodge to see the best of Alpe di Siusi, and when you reach Cortina, Cristallo Hotel is the most iconic hotel in the area – loved by Frank Sinatra!
Milan to Lake Como
Length: 5 days
Why we love it: This route gives you a taste of lakeside living and a stylish city stay. Great for young couples.
Lake Como is the most picturesque of Italy's northern lakes. This leisurely drive (just over an hour) from Milan takes in elegant art nouveau villas and lush waterfront gardens along the lake's southern shoreline. Once you've explored the charming historic center and the nearby Villa Olmo, take the swooping road up to Bellagio for its blooming gardens. There is so much to explore around Lake Como from outdoor activities like cycling, hiking, and boat rides, to stunning Gothic and Renaissance architecture.
Verona to Lake Garda
Length: 1 week - 10 days
Why we love it: Roads lined with tall, narrow cypress trees, ochre fields, and rustic farmhouses, this is the perfect road trip for families wanting to switch off.
A drive through Italy’s Veneto region along the banks of Lake Garda rewards savvy travelers with beautiful vistas. Begin in the charming Verona and leave room in your itinerary for scenic detours in beautiful Malcesine, where you’ll find the Michelin-star restaurant Vecchia Malcesine. After lunch, keep going along the road, which hugs steep walls of pale rock and finally you will reach Riva del Garda, where you can sit back and drink in the stunning views.
Pisa to Portofino
Length: 1 week – 10 days
Why we love it: Perfect, scenic drives along the Italian Riviera, which couples looking for romance will adore.
Cinque Terre has so many lovely stops but if you are looking for the most beautiful drive, start your road trip in Pisa to see the famous leaning tower before heading up to La Spezia, the jumping-off point for Cinque Terre. As the roads between the villages are notoriously windy and can get very busy, it’s usually easier to visit by train. However, with a private driver, you can watch the scenery change from vineyards to colorful villas coming out of the soft green hills. It’s impossible to see all the beautiful towns in one day but be sure to stop in either Vernazza or Manarola for their stunning views. End in glamorous Portofino just in time for sunset and drinks right in the main square.
Where to stay:Stay at the chic Hotel Belmond Splendido and have dinner at Puny, where you can enjoy freshly caught fish and amazing wine.
The Best Central Italy Road Trips
For true, authentic Dolce Vita, spend slow days exploring the Amalfi Coast, Tuscan countryside, and romance of Florence.
The Amalfi Coast
Length: 1 day
Why we love it: Driving through this part of Italy is perfect for honeymooners seeking out the most romantic corners of the country.
The journey from Positano to Vietri Sul Mare is considered the most beautiful panoramic road in Italy. Dotted with colorful villages overlooking the sea, coves lined with cypress trees, and bays that forcefully invite you to dive in, this is the inimitable Amalfi scenery. It only takes a couple of hours, but the drive will make time feel like it's slowed down as you cruise past orderly terraces of lemon groves and rustic Mediterranean scrub, this is a place where nature is not subject to the laws of man, and you go at your own pace.
Florence to Siena
Length: 1 week
Why we love it: This is a perfect Italian road trip for families with kids who want to enjoy a short but amazing drive. Plus, the oenophiles among you will not be able to resist the call of the wineries.
Between Florence and Siena lies the most visited of Italy’s vineyards – the Chianti Hills. From here take the famous Chiantigiana Road. Enjoy lots of little stops along the way to explore small medieval villages such as Greve and Castellina di Chianti before you hit dazzling Siena.
Where to stay: In Florence stay at the amazing Hotel Lungarno and then end in Siena at the Grand Hotel Continental, a historical property in the perfect location to explore Tuscany on foot or with your driver.
Val d’Orcia & Umbria
Length: 1 week
Why we love it: This journey is perfect for couples looking for a relaxing, unhurried vacation, with wine-tasting pit stops along the way.
The Val d’Orcia route is probably the most iconic in Tuscany. Rolling hills and countless cypress trees run along the edges of the gently winding roads. Expect breathtaking views here as charming towns – such as Pienza and Montalcino – pop up turn after turn. Spend some days in Val d’Orcia, then head towards the Tuscany/Umbria border, stopping for lunch at Citta’ della Pieve.
The Best Southern Italy Road Trips
Sometimes just one beach is not enough. Crawl slowly along Italy’s stunning coastlines in the south, allowing time to explore pretty towns and discover your favorite swimming spot.
Length: 1 week - 10 days
Why we love it: Rural scenic views of olive and citrus groves meet Baroque architecture and turquoise beaches. This southern Italy road trip is a great option for families with older children, as well as adult travelers.
Start your drive in Catania and head south to explore the Val di Noto area. On your way down, stop for a visit a the charming Siracusa and Ortigia Island, where many Greek-Roman monuments remain intact. Arrive at the amazing Noto, where its golden Baroque monuments have earned the area UNESCO World Heritage status. Use Noto as your base to explore, not only, long sandy beaches and crystal-clear water, but many other Baroque towns worthy of a stop, such as Modica (known for its delicious chocolate), Scicli, and Ragusa.
Length: 1 - 2 weeks
Why we love it: Also known as the heel of the boot, this sunny region is packed with olive groves, long sandy beaches, and lots of local delicacies. This southern Italy road trip is one for families.
During your drive from the main city, Bari, a couple of must-see spots are the picturesque fishermen’s town of Polignano a Mare and the UNESCO Heritage Site of Alberobello, where you can visit the traditional trulli houses. As you head down even further south, stop in Lecce to soak up the history while enjoying a traditional pasticciotto and coffee for breakfast. And don’t forget to visit what is known to be the Italian Maldives in the Salento area. White sandy beaches and crystal clear water, along with fun little beach clubs attract locals from all over the country.
Where to stay: Borgo Egnazia is one of Italy’s most luxurious hotels, where the rooms are spread across 20 hectares to resemble a typical Apulian town. Further south in Lecce, stay in the old palace turned boutique hotel Palazzo Bozzi Corso.
Book Your Italian Road Trip Today
Our travel experts will put together completely bespoke itineraries for your Italian road trip, making sure every stop on your bucket list makes it onto the route. All the journeys can be longer or shorter than stated here, depending on your requirements. Nothing is out of reach, so get in touch with our team today to start planning, call 858 252 2232 or contact us via the form at the top of the page.