Top Places to Drive in ItalyJul 19, 2023
At Tripiamo, we think the world is best seen by car, and one of the most stunning examples of that is Italy. With diverse landscapes, breathtaking coastline, picturesque towns, and historical landmarks, there is so much of Italy that you could miss if you don’t have a car (albeit their excellent train system is something to envy).
Although we know it can seem daunting to drive in Italy as an American, having a car gives you the flexibility to travel exactly where and when you want—and of course, it means no lugging your suitcases along the labyrinthine streets and train stations. To gain more confidence before you travel, our Tripiamo guide is the perfect way to get prepared for driving in Italy (and other European destinations).
Here are some of the road trips we’d recommend in Italy:
1. Amalfi Coast:
Drive along the stunning Amalfi Coast in southern Italy, starting from Sorrento and winding through cliffside roads with breathtaking views of the Mediterranean Sea. Explore charming coastal towns like Positano, Amalfi, and Ravello. Along the way, eat your fill of seafood, take in the ancient Roman historical sites, or even hike the "Path of the Gods" (Sentiero degli Dei) with panoramic views of the coastline.
What to know about driving the Amalfi Coast:
While we think driving along the Amalfi Coast is sure to be a highlight of your Italy journey, it can be challenging for non-local drivers. The roads are notoriously narrow and winding (with some steep cliffs alongside), meaning drivers should always be alert for other cars and tour buses coming from around a bend. And during certain times of the year, there can be heavy traffic, leading to delays and trouble finding parking. For tips on driving in Italy as a foreigner, check out our comprehensive, interactive guide here.
Discover the rolling hills, vineyards, and charming villages of Tuscany. Start in Florence, then venture through the scenic countryside, visiting towns like Siena, San Gimignano, and Montepulciano. Enjoy the beautiful landscapes and indulge in the region's renowned food and wine.
What to know about driving in Tuscany:
Driving in Tuscany is very safe, but like other regions in Italy, certain rural roads can be narrow, winding, and less well-maintained. In addition, the larger cities like Florence and Siena suffer from traffic congestion in the summer. (In Florence and other cities, you also have to watch out for ZTL zones—for some more info, check out our other blog post about driving in Italy). But with these factors in mind, we think there is no better way to take in the region’s scenic beauty.
Explore the dramatic mountain landscapes of the Dolomites in northeastern Italy. Drive through scenic mountain passes, visit charming alpine towns like Cortina d'Ampezzo, and admire the breathtaking views of jagged peaks, green valleys, and serene lakes.
What to know about driving in the Dolomites:
What makes the Dolomites worthy of the drive—a diverse and breathtaking range of vertical walls, sheer cliffs and narrow valleys—also means drivers have to be cautious. Roads in this area have steep inclines, hairpin turns, and narrow passages, and in the winter months, snow and ice can also add to the challenge. However, by staying aware and maintaining a safe speed, we think driving here is not only feasible, but incredibly rewarding. Check out our tips for driving in the region in our comprehensive driving guide.
Sicily offers numerous stunning driving routes (in fact, we could write a whole blog post devoted to road trips on the island alone). Some of the most spectacular drives include:
- Taormina to Mount Etna (Europe’s most active volcano): The route takes you through charming villages, vineyards, and citrus groves, offering breathtaking views of the Ionian Sea and the volcanic landscape.
- Palermo to Cefalù: Pass beautiful beaches, rugged cliffs, and charming coastal villages on this route from the capital city to one of the island’s most picturesque towns.
- The Valley of the Temples (Agrigento): Explore the Valley of the Temples in Agrigento, where ancient Greek ruins stand against a backdrop of olive groves and almond trees.
- Trapani to Erice: Drive from Trapani to the medieval hilltop town of Erice. The route offers panoramic views of the coast, the salt pans of Trapani, and the Egadi Islands.
- The Madonie Mountains: Explore the Madonie Mountains, a picturesque natural park in northern Sicily.
- Caltagirone to Piazza Armerina: The highlight of this route is the Villa Romana del Casale, a UNESCO World Heritage site with well-preserved Roman mosaics.
What to know about driving in Sicily:
Like other locations in Italy, many of the rural roads are narrow and winding, and Italian drivers can be aggressive. The more common stops on the island (Palermo, Catania, and Messina) can have a lot of traffic, and it’s difficult-to-find parking. However, we think the rewards far outweigh the risks—with proper planning and common sense on the road, driving is Sicily is safe. And we promise some of the most spectacular views of your trip to Italy.
5. Lake Como:
Drive around the picturesque Lake Como and it’ll be no surprise that it’s a popular celebrity vacation spot, surrounded by mountains and dotted with elegant villas. Having a car means you have access to charming lakeside towns like Bellagio, Varenna, and Como itself.
What to know about driving around Lake Como:
The region is known for its gorgeous lakeside roads. Navigating them requires some caution, as the roads can be narrow and winding. Peak tourist season also means traffic in some of the more popular areas like Bellagio and Varenna. In addition, Lake Como also has designated some ZTL zones, which are restricted to tourists and can result in fines. For more about how to identify and avoid these zones, check out our Tripiamo guide to Italy.
Umbria is the green heart of Italy. Don’t let the fact that it’s lower on most tourists’ lists deter you—in fact, this can be a selling point. Umbria offers much of the best of the rest of Italy, without the crowds. Known for its rolling hills and picturesque villages, as well as its history (Perugia and Assisi being two of its historical towns), we think Umbria deserves a place on everyone’s list. Food lovers will also have plenty to explore, as the region is known for its black truffles and wines like Sagrantino and Orvieto.
What to know about driving in Umbria:
Driving in Umbria carries the same cautions as driving in other regions in Italy. Watch out for narrow rural roads, ZTL zones, and aggressive drivers. However, our experience tells us that driving in Umbria is very safe, being much less congested than neighboring regions.
Last but not least on our list of the most roadtrip-worthy Italian locations is Sardinia. We highly recommend a drive along the famous Costa Smeralda (Emerald Coast), known for its crystal-clear waters and luxurious resorts. The eastern coast features breathtaking limestone cliffs, hidden coves, and secluded beaches. Other highlights include the panoramic views on the route from Alghero to Bosa, the rugged interior of the Barbagia region and Gennargentu National Park, and the ancient Nuraghe structures near Barumini and Abbasanta.
What to know about driving in Sardinia:
Like all of the regions we’ve listed, many of the same advice applies. Driving in Italy is very safe. We recommend maintaining a safe speed, being mindful of Italian drivers, avoiding restricted zones, and planning ahead for parking. The best way to learn how to drive with confidence abroad? Buy our comprehensive guide to driving in Italy and unlock the next level of travel.
If you're ready to hit the Italian strada after reading this (we know we are!), we recommend our Tripiamo guide to driving in Italy. Filled with tips, helpful guidance, and featuring our interactive 360-degree driving tours, you'll be ready to drive safely and confidently wherever the road takes you. (Also available for other countries in Europe!)
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