If you are searching for the ultimate Italy road trip itinerary, you have come to the right place!
Planning a road trip in Italy should be fun and exciting, not stressful! To help, I have put together this detailed article to show you exactly how to plan your vacation and where to go!
I have visited Italy multiple times over the years so this itinerary includes some of Italy’s most famous sites as well as some lesser-known suggestions that may not be recommended by others.
Planning your trip to Italy last minute?
Make sure to book your hotels and tours in Italy in advance to ensure availability! Here are my top picks for your trip!
Tickets you MUST book in advance:
- Vatican Museums And Sistine Chapel (A MUST in advance)
- Colosseum Entry Tickets (Another MUST! Book online in advance!)
- Michelangelo’s David Tickets (Often sells out in Florence)
- Skip-The-Line Uffizi Gallery Tickets (Buy online to save time!)
- Doge’s Palace Entry Ticket (Very busy, can sell out)
- Milan Cathedral And Rooftop Tickets (Sells out and a must-see!)
Top picks for places to stay in Italy:
- Rome: Hotel Relais Dei Papi (Amazing Vatican location)
- Florence: Relais Pizza Signoria (City center location)
- Venice: Hotel Carlton Grand Canal (Grand Canal views!)
- Dolomites: Parkhotel Laurin (Central location with pool!)
- Cinque Terre: Affittacamere Casa Dane’ (Affordable location)
- Milan: Collini Rooms (Just 10 min from Milan airport!)
This guide is not created for a specific time frame. That is for you to modify based on the amount of time you can spend road tripping in Italy.
You may only have 5 days or you may have 2 weeks in Italy. Choose the stops you want to see and modify the ones you don’t have time for.
Either way, I am confident you are going to love planning your perfect Italy road trip.!
Don’t forget to check out our detailed road trip packing list so you don’t forget any essentials for your trip!
Keep reading for my road trip guide to Italy!
Italy Road Trip Itinerary Map
If you are a visual person, don’t worry! I have included my Italy by car itinerary in a map version below.
You can see exactly where you will be going during your trip! Feel free to bookmark or screenshot during your planning stages!
All places recommended on this Italy example itinerary are very easy to find by simply plugging the name into your GPS! You can even download the maps offline if you use Google Maps!
Italy Road Trip Itinerary: The Perfect Driving Trip To Italy
Stop 1: Begin Your Italy Road Trip In Rome
I highly recommend you start your road trip itinerary in Rome. Rome is the center of Italy and there are affordable flights that fly in and out of the city every day.
Budget airlines like Norwegian Air and local European domestic airlines such as Ryanair also frequently fly into Rome.
Parking In Rome
Finding parking in Rome is very difficult. It is impossible to find parking in the historic center so don’t even bother!
Free parking is a bit hard to locate as well so ensure you have budgeted money for parking as well as tolls.
There is parking near Roma Termini station where you can park and take public transportation around the city. If you are staying at a hotel, ask your hotel if they have on-site parking or recommend where to park.
Things To Do In Rome
Explore The Coliseum
The Coliseum is one of the most memorable things to do in Rome! You have read about the Coliseum in school or books and now it is your time to step back in history.
If you visit during the warmer months, make sure to drink plenty of water. I highly recommend booking your tickets online because the lines can be crazy!
Visit The Vatican
Make sure to visit Vatican City! It is incredibly impressive and well worth the visit. It is still one of my favorite things I have seen in the entire world!
There are two main things to do in the Vatican: Saint Peter’s Basilica and the Vatican Museums. If you only have time to do one, I recommend visiting Saint Peter’s Basilica.
The Vatican Museums are where you will find lots of art and history as well as the famous Sistine Chapel.
Throw A Coin In the Fontana di Trevi
The Trevi Fountain is one of Rome’s most famous landmarks! Stop here and throw a coin into the fountain. This means that one day you will return to Rome!
If you are looking to visit the Fontana di Trevi without other tourists, go early in the morning or late at night!
Climb The Spanish Steps
You have probably seen the Spanish Steps in a movie or two! They are another famous landmark in Rome you should see during your car trip in Italy. There are 135 steps so bring your walking shoes!
Take A Cooking Class
For many people, taking a cooking class in Rome is the highlight of their first time to Italy itinerary!
You can work with a traditional Italian cook to learn how to create some fantastic Roman-Italian dishes! This is also a great thing to do if you are visiting Rome in winter.
Where To Stay In Rome
I have an entire guide about where to stay in Rome! This breaks down my favorite neighborhoods in the city so you can choose where to stay based on your wants and needs.
Stop 2: See Rolling Hills In Val d’Orcia
Val d’Orcia is a region of Tuscany that is the most beautiful and famous! It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is where you will see the stunning rolling green hills that you see in Tuscany photos.
This is one of the best Italy road trip ideas because the entire point of visiting Val d’Orcia is to drive around and see the cute villages and fantastic sites.
You must visit this area during a Tuscany road trip!
Parking in Val d’Orcia
Luckily, parking in Val d’Orcia is easy to come by since the villages are smaller and less crowded than Rome.
Some towns may charge for parking so ensure you look into that before you leave your vehicle.
Things To Do In Val d’Orcia
Val d’Orcia Drive
The circular Val d’Orcia drive is the highlight of any road trip across Italy. You can complete it in a day although you may want to come back for more.
The scenic road runs through the small villages of San Quirico d’Orcia to Rocca d’Orcia and Castiglione d’Orcia south to Vivo d’Orcia and Campiglia d’Orcia. Simply put these towns in your GPS for easy navigation.
Le Crete Senesi Drive
The Le Crete Senesi drive has a different feeling than the above option. Here you will see houses on top of hills and olives galore. It is unique and very popular route in Italy.
You will drive on the SS438 to Asciano and the SP451 to Monte Oliveto Maggiore. If you are planning your honeymoon in Tuscany, this is one of the best road trips in Italy!
Soak In Hot Springs
This region of Tuscany is filled with many incredible hot springs that you won’t want to miss. Many people don’t even know that Italy is home to hot springs!
Check out the best hot springs in Tuscany so you can soak during your new favorite road trip! Even if a hot spring is out of the Val d’Orcia proper, you can still take a slight detour to visit.
I promise it is worth it!
Where To Stay In Val d’Orcia
I have put together a full guide on where to stay in Tuscany to help you better choose which area and type of accommodation you are interested in!
I also have a list of the best Tuscany villas which are honestly way more affordable than you may think!
Stop 3: Explore Florence
Florence is the cradle of civilization and one of the best stops on your Italy road trip itinerary. It is less busy than Rome and allows for a more local feel while still having plenty to see and do.
If you want to explore Florence in more detail, you can check out our one-day in Florence itinerary for more detailed information.
When visiting Florence, make sure to stop for gelato as there are many famous shops!
You can also take a day trip from Florence, like to Pisa, if you have extra time.
Parking In Florence
It is very difficult to find free parking in Florence! The closest parking to the city center is Piazzale Michelangelo but if you are visiting in summer, it is often used for events and isn’t a parking lot at all.
The best way to park in Florence is to stay at a downtown hotel that will authorize you to park and drive in the city center.
Driving in the ZTL-zone is authorized to permit holders only and this specific zone is controlled by video cameras so you must follow the law.
If you stay in a hotel in the ZTL, ask your hotel to register the license plate number of your car. This is the easiest way to park in Florence.
Things To Do In Florence
Visit The Duomo
When visiting Florence, it is hard to miss the stunning Duomo. This Catholic Church soars over Florence and is the centerpiece of the whole town.
There is a dress code for entering the Duomo and ladies and men must cover their knees and shoulders. Complete silence is necessary when visiting the Duomo in Florence.
Book Here: Florence: Duomo Cathedral Guided Tour
Walk Across The Ponte Vecchio
The Ponte Vecchio is a picture-perfect bridge in Florence. Spend some time watching the sunset with a cone of gelato.
Make sure to bring your camera! It is one of the top things to do in Florence and shouldn’t be missed!
See David At Galleria dell’Accademia
Looking to see Michaelangelo’s greatest works? Check out the Galleria dell’Accademia! If you want to visit the famous David statue, this is the place to see him with your own eyes!
The Galleria dell’Accademia gets very busy so if you don’t want to waste time, book a timed entrance ticket before you arrive or book a guided tour.
Explore Boboli Gardens
Boboli Gardens is a 16th-century garden overlooking the city of Florence! They are up a steep hill so if you are walking, come prepared with some sturdy shoes!
Boboli Gardens cover quite a large expanse and are full of Italian sculptures, beautiful plants, and flowers.
Book Here: Boboli Gardens Skip-the-Line Tour
Where To Stay In Florence
Florence is much smaller than Rome so if you are staying in the city center there really are no bad places to stay!
Hotels in Florence range from affordable to luxury options. You can get a nice hotel in the city center for a very reasonable price. This is why Florence is one of my favorite places to stay in Italy!
Stop 4: Visit Venice
Venice is iconic, but there is no driving in Venice! However, I am still including it on this road trip through Italy itinerary.
Here is a post on exactly how to get from Florence to Venice which explains all the transport options!
If you show up to Venice thinking you just get to drive around at will, you will be in for a rude awakening. Venice is a short drive away from Florence and is a necessary addition to any Italy trip.
Read my one-day in Venice itinerary if you are looking for more detailed information.
Looking to spend a little longer? I also have a 2-day itinerary for Venice you can utilize!
Parking in Venice
There are tons of parking lots at the entrance of Venice. They cost roughly $30 to $35 USD per day. Once you park your car, you will then take public boat transport to your hotel or accommodation.
If you want to visit Venice there is no way to get around the parking fee. Just make sure to know this going in!
Things To Do In Venice
Explore Piazza San Marco
Piazza San Marco, also known as Saint Mark’s Square, is the most popular square in Venice. This iconic square was built in the 12th century and the centerpiece is Saint Mark’s Basilica which you can also tour.
The Campanile di San Marco is the bell tower that stands tall over Saint Mark’s Square. You have seen it in many photos, and a replica is even at Walt Disney World!
Climb the Campanile di San Marco for one of the best views in all of Venice! This is a wonderful spot for photography.
Book Here: Classical Venice: 1.5-Hour Walking Tour
Go On A Gondola Ride
What trip to Venice is complete without going on a gondola ride? This is one of the most popular things to do in Venice! I highly recommend splurging on this!
These are some of the best tours of Italy, providing a unique view of Venice that you wouldn’t get walking the streets or from other boat tours! The Venetian Canals are a world of their own!
Marvel At Doge’s Palace
Doge’s Palace is an ornate Gothic place right on the canals of Venice! It is a museum and showroom and one of the most impressive palaces you will see during your trip!
If you are visiting Venice in winter, indoor experiences such as this one are perfect to keep you warm and dry.
Doge’s Palace holds lacework, paintings, sculptures, and more. It is a real treat for architecture lovers!
Book Here: Venice: Doge’s Palace Reserved Entry Ticket
Take A Tour Of The Venetian Islands
Another great way to see Venice is to get out of the canals and explore the Venetian lagoon! You will visit the small towns of Murano, Burano, and Torcello, depending on what tour you take.
The best way to see these islands and the lagoon is to take a guided tour. You will also learn lots of great information about Venice!
Walk Over The Rialto Bridge
The Rialto Bridge in Venice is the most iconic bridge you will see! While walking across this 16th-century, stone footbridge is an experience, it is even better to stand back and marvel at its beauty from afar!
If you are a photographer, the Rialto Bridge in Venice will be a real treat when visiting Italy!
Where To Stay In Venice
When staying in Venice, I highly recommend staying in the city center!
I recommend staying near Saint Mark’s Basilica or the Rialto Bridge. No matter where you decide to stay, you are in Venice and that is something to celebrate!
Stop 5: Explore The Dolomites
The Dolomites aren’t that far away from Venice! After you walk around on foot or by boat for a few days, you will be ready to continue your Italy road trip north.
This is truly the most breathtaking scenery in the world and you will not be disappointed! The Dolomites span a large region in Northern Italy. I recommend trying to see as much as possible.
Make Bolzano your base if you want to be within an hour of all the action, but don’t be afraid to stay in more remote villages for a local feel.
The Dolomites is one of the best road trip destinations. If there is one part of Italy not to skip, this is truly it. You will not be disappointed!
Keep in mind that the best part about visiting the Dolomites is simply getting in your car and driving around and exploring the stunning nature.
I have a full Northern Italy itinerary if you are interested in exploring this region in more detail.
This is the bet spot for traveling off the beaten path in Italy!
Parking in the Dolomites
Luckily, finding parking in the Dolomites region of Italy is quite easy. This is more of a countryside feel and there aren’t as many crazy restrictions as there are in Florence or Rome.
It is easy to get around and there are wide stretches of the open road. As always, make sure to pay attention to local signs and laws in the event you are in a “locals only” parking zone.
If you are staying in a hotel or local homestay, finding parking should be easy.
Things To See In The Dolomites
See The Blue Water At Lago di Braies
Lago di Braies is a stunningly blue, alpine lake located in the Dolomites. It is one of the prettiest lakes in Italy and shouldn’t be missed!
The drive there is lovely and it should top the list of things to see on a Italy road trip.
It is very popular on Instagram and with photographers, but it is famous for a reason.
Hike The Seceda Ridgeline
The Seceda ridgeline is easily one of the prettiest views in the Dolomites. The best part? You can take a cable car up to the view so you don’t have to walk!
Simply park your car at the cable car station and then ride up. Then you can walk or hike along the ridge of the mountain for as long as you want.
If you are visiting in winter or spring, the cable cars will not be open and the only option is hiking up from the town.
Photograph San Giovanni in Ranui
San Giovanni in Ranui is one of the most photogenic churches in Italy. It is located in Santa Maddelena, which happens to be one of the prettiest towns in Italy.
The Seceda Ridgeline actually forms the background for the tiny church which makes for an iconic shot.
Even if you aren’t a photographer, I highly recommend stopping at San Giovanni in Ranui during your Italy road trip as the views are quite impressive.
Pretend You Are Royalty At Castel Roncolo
Castel Roncolo is an impressive castle fortress located just a bit outside of Bolzano!
If you love castles and mountain scenes, make sure this stop goes on your Italy itinerary! The castle is a sight to behold and the mountain vistas don’t disappoint.
It is located right outside of Bolzano and is an easy drive during a Northern Italy road trip.
Where To Stay In The Dolomites
I recommend staying in the city center of Bolzano.
Stop 6: Hit The Coast In Cinque Terre
The drive from the Dolomites to Cinque Terre is about 4 hours and is the longest drive on this Italy road trip itinerary. This region of Italy is a great alternative to the Amalfi Coast.
The drive to Cinque Terre is filled with tons of fantastic things to see and do. If you want to make stops along the way, stop along Lake Garda, Parma, and Verona. They are some of the best cities and places in Italy to see.
Cinque Terre is kind of a difficult place to visit on a coastal road trip because parking is very hard to come across.
I recommend staying out of the Cinque Terre proper in La Spezia or in Montessero Al Mare which is a more easily accessible Cinque Terre village.
Parking In Cinque Terre
Parking is difficult to find in Cinque Terre. In some villages, you are not allowed to drive at all and you must park about 1-2 km outside of the city and take a shuttle in.
For me, this isn’t worth the time and struggle as I like to have the car nearby.
If you are like me, you will want to consider staying in La Spezia where parking is free or very cheap. Then you can take the train to Cinque Terre.
From La Spezia train station to the first Cinque Terre village, it is less than a 5-minute train ride.
Things To Do In Cinque Terre
Hike The Monterosso Footpath
The Monterosso footpath connects the towns of Monterosso and Vernazza, providing stunning views of the towns!
This hike is a bit challenging as you are going up the coastal cliffs. Budget at least one to two hours to complete it.
The views are worth the effort, but bring plenty of water, especially if you visit during the summer! This is the perfect hike during your Italy road trip.
Visit Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre
This National Park is one of the smallest in Italy at only 15 square miles but one of the most popular and most beautiful!
Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre is one of the most heavily inhabited national parks in Italy and it is easy to see why!
A one-day pass costs only a few euros per person. Parco Nazionale Cinque Terre is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Relax On The Cinque Terre Beaches
During your time in Cinque Terre, ditch your car and head to the beach! Check out the best Cinque Terre beaches and relax.
They are all easily accessible via train and walking. Some beaches are sandy and some are rocky. They are all awesome and unique. It will be nice to relax after a long Italy road trip driving around the country.
Take A Boat Tour Of Cinque Terre
If you are short on time during your Italy itinerary, consider taking a boat tour of the Cinque Terre villages.
A boat tour will allow you to see all of the towns with ease and speed. You won’t feel like you missed a thing!
A boat tour is an easy and affordable way to add Cinque Terre to Italian driving tours because you can see everything by water!
Book Here: From La Spezia: Cinque Terre Speedboat Tour
Where To Stay In Cinque Terre
Choosing where to stay in Cinque Terre can be daunting, but it doesn’t have to be! There are plenty of choices of accommodations.
Stop 7: End Your Italy Road Trip In Milan
When you leave Cinque Terre, drive to Milan to end your Italy road trip.
I have driven in Milan a few times and it is quite hectic during rush hour. Try to plan your arrival out of these busy times. As usual, if you stay away from the city center, finding parking is easier.
Milan is a very affordable place to rent your car and fly in or out. If you don’t want to do a one-way rental, then enjoy your time in Milan and drive the four hours back to Rome to drop off your car and fly out.
Milan is a very underrated Italian city. It is a great way to cap off your wonderful Italy vacation. Don’t forget to check out our one day in Milan itinerary.
Parking In Milan
Parking for non-residents in Milan can be quite expensive when trying to park near the city center.
There are public parking lots in downtown Milan priced at around $3 to $5 an hour. The further you go out of the city center the more affordable the rates get.
Driving in Milan isn’t that difficult, but you must understand it is a large city with a lot of people. It is a good place to end Italy road trip routes!
Things To Do In Milan
Visit The Milan Cathedral
The Milan Cathedral is an architectural wonder and a breathtaking masterpiece!
It is so much bigger in real life than it looks in photos. Interestingly, it took nearly six centuries to complete. Construction began in 1386 and finished in 1965!
Book Here: Milan Cathedral And Rooftop Ticket
Shop At Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II
Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II is Italy’s oldest shopping mall and a hallmark thing to do in Milan!
It is housed in a 19th-century, glass-covered arcade and is quite the site to behold! If you haven’t had time to do much shopping during your Italy road trip, now is the time to take advantage.
Even if you don’t want to shop, you must stop by to see the glass-covered passageways.
Explore Milan By Bus
If you are short on time, a hop-on-hop-off bus tour is a perfect way to quickly see the city! Even if you aren’t into doing super touristy things, you will still enjoy this bus tour.
It will provide insider information about some of the most famous sites, and you can easily be able to get off the bus should you want to explore more! This is perfect if you only have one day to tour Milan.
Eat Dinner In The Navigli District
This picturesque district is named after the Navigli Canal and is famed for its authentic Milanese cuisine.
This is a wonderful part of Milan to cap off a wonderful Italy vacation because the food is just splendid.
After you are done eating, make sure to walk around and enjoy the shops too. There can never be enough shopping in Italy, right?
Where To Stay In Milan
Milan is one of the larger cities in Italy and it pays to know where to stay! This is why we put together this detailed post on where to stay in Milan to help you choose.
There are plenty of great boutique hotels in Milan too!
Tips for Renting A Car In Italy
Before setting off on the best road trip in Italy, the first order of business is renting a car!
I rent from Auto Europe and have had good luck. The site allows you to compare rates across a variety of popular car rental websites including Hertz, Europcar, Alamo, Enterprise, and more.
You can see different prices without skipping around through a bunch of different websites.
Also, check out my detailed guide on renting a car in Italy before you book.
A Note About One-Way Car Rentals
For the sake of this itinerary, you will rent a one-way car in Italy. There is usually an added fee because you aren’t dropping the car off at the same location you got it from.
The added fee will usually be around $50 to $100 depending on how long you will be staying in Italy.
If you really do not want to pay the added fee or want to fly round trip, that is okay too.
This driving itinerary for Italy begins in Rome and ends in Milan. Instead of flying in and out from separate cities, you can fly round trip from either.
Simply drive back to where you started. From Rome to Milan the drive is only around 4 hours so it really is not bad!
Where To Rent a Car
In Italy, I recommend renting your car from the airport whenever possible. This will be the cheapest and best way to complete your Italy road trip on a budget.
This is why I like Auto Europe because it allows you to compare prices based on location across many companies.
If you rent at the airport you can pick up your car and begin immediately. Otherwise, you will have to navigate into the center of town and the rentals are usually more expensive!
Driving In Italy
Most car rentals are manual transmission, and they are the cheapest. If you do NOT drive a manual car, now is not the time to learn.
Also, do not choose a large SUV! Italy travel by car means narrow streets, and it is essential to pick a compact car.
When driving, you drive on the right side of the road and the steering wheel is on the left side of the car.
There are many toll roads in Italy so make sure to budget extra money to pay for tolls. Tolls range from a few euros to up to 20 euros apiece depending on the place.
Keep in mind that driving in Italian cities can become quite hectic and congested. I HIGHLY recommend travel insurance, especially if you have never driven in Italy.
Do NOT Forgo Car Insurance
You don’t HAVE to get car insurance during your Italy road trip, but I HIGHLY recommend it!
The streets in Italy are very narrow and the traffic is bad. One ding or dent can set you back hundreds of dollars.
I recommend putting the car rental on a travel credit card with insurance. Please keep in mind that many credit cards do NOT cover car insurance in Italy.
I suggest the Chase Sapphire Reserve when renting a car. As long as you put your Italy car rental on a Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you will be covered for collision and theft up to $75,000.
All you must do is put the car on your Chase Sapphire Reserve and decline car rental coverage offered through the agency.
You can also purchase car insurance through the rental company. There is often more than one option so be sure to compare coverage and cost.
I hope you enjoyed this Italian road trip itinerary. Feel free to modify based on your time and interests.
Driving through Italy is easy and the trip of a lifetime! My itinerary does not cover Southern Italy, so you will have to come back!
If you could choose only a few places to visit, I recommend driving through Tuscany and the Dolomites for sure. The views shouldn’t be missed!
Whether you visit Italy for the first time or the hundredth, there is more to see!
Please let me know if you have any questions about planning a road trip in Italy! I am more than happy to help in the comments!