Italy by car: A complete itinerary

Exploring Italy has been on my bucket list for years. Maybe it’s knowing that there are endless pizzerias along every corner or maybe, just maybe I’ve had a secret fantasy of riding a turquoise blue vesper through the back roads of Tuscany! With such pretty little cities, each with its own personality; delicious food around every corner and so much history, it’s near impossible to get enough of Italy in one visit. There’s so much do that having a well thought out itinerary beforehand is essential.

For this trip we decided to do something a little out of the ordinary and instead of catching trains we hired a car and drove our way through Italy. If you’re planning your first trip to… and through Italy, and want to try something a little different while still seeing as much as you can; here’s a step by step itinerary to guide you. 

Day 1: Fly in to Rome. Land at Leonardo Da Vinci – Fiumicino Airport. Pick up your car.

  • Stay: Trastevere Gallery Suites
  • Eat: Pizza at one of the nearby pizzeria’s
  • Do: Explore Trastevere on foot

Trastevere is one of the prettiest neighbourhoods in Rome. It has a somewhat laid-back bohemian vibe with colourful buildings and pretty balconies with hanging flowers. Walking through the cobblestone streets, it’s easy to feel like you’re in a small town within the capital city.

Day 2: Drive to Naples

  • Duration or drive: approximately 2.5 hours
  • Eat: L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele
  • Do: Explore the street markets

Naples is known for having some of the best pizza in the world so, really how can you visit without finding a pizzeria to sit down and have a slice? L’Antica Pizzeria da Michele is one of the oldest pizzeria’s in Naples and serves, literally, the best pizza I have ever tasted. Made even more famous by the book Eat, Pray, Love; Pizzeria da Michele only offers two flavors of pizza. That might seem crazy, but even with just two simple pizza flavors of magherita and mainara; you’ll have a wait time of at least 2 hours.

Day 2 (same day): Continue onward to Pompeii

  • Duration of drive: approximately 25 minutes
  • Stay: Sanctuary Rooms
  • Eat: Gelato
  • Do: Pompeii Ruins and Mount Vesuvius

Pompeii might not be every traveler’s first choice when visiting Italy but if you love history and outdoor adventure, then this city is a must see. Mount Vesuvius remains one of Europe’s most dangerous volcano’s, with an estimated 700 000 people living in what is known as the danger zone. Even though the volcano last erupted in 1944, it is constantly monitored. Visit the Pompeii Ruins and learn about what happened during the AD 79 eruption or… if you’re brave enough… climb to the top of the volcanic crater itself.

Day 3: Explore Pompeii. Head to Sorrento

  • Duration of drive: approximately 40 minutes
  • Stay: Le Dimax
  • Eat: delicious orange or lemon marmalade and of course… taste limoncello!
  • Do: Visit one of the many lemon groves

Sorrento is known as the lemon capital of the world which is why you can’t visit this pretty coastline without wandering through some of the most serene lemon groves. No matter where you stay, you’ll most likely be served lemon marmalade for breakfast, lemon rind on pizza for lunch and something sweet with lemon cream for dessert. And of course, limoncello.

Day 4: explore the Amalfi coast

The Amalfi Coast is beautiful no matter where you turn. From Sorrento to Positano to Amalfi to Ravello…. There are breathtaking views at every corner. Relax in some of the prettiest beachside cafes in Sorrento and wander through streets of pastel colored houses in Positano. Just like in the movies!

Day 5: Drive to Firenze (Florence)

  • Duration of drive: approximately 5 hours 40 minutes
  • Stay: NIL Hotel
  • Eat: Pistachio-filled cannoli’s
  • Do: Walk alongside the Duomo di Firenze

As cliché as it sounds, there can be nothing better than eating pistachio filled cannoli’s and drinking cappuccinos outside one of the most beautiful cathedrals in Italy. Then take an evening stroll in the city center, find the statue of David and walk along the Ponte Vecchio.

Day 6: Explore Pisa and the Tuscan region

  • Duration of drive: approximately 1 hours 5 minutes
  • Do: Visit the Leaning Tower of Pisa and explore the markets nearby

As cheesy as it is, you can’t visit Italy without seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa at least once. Is it really leaning to one side? How cheesy of a tourist attraction is it? Very. Will you have fun any way? Yes.

Day 7: Explore Tuscany. Drive to Cinque Terre

  • Duration of drive: approximately 1 hour 40 minutes
  • Eat: Focaccia and wine at Nessun Dorma, Manarola
  • Do: Catch a train to Manarola, Cinque Terre

Remember Van Gogh’s paintings with pretty Cyprus trees? My point exactly. You can’t visit Tuscany without driving through some of the most picturesque backroads, exploring vineyards, tasting Chianti and of course, finding lines of Cyprus trees.

From all my travels, Cinque Terre is one of the most picturesque places I’ve ever visited. Located alongside the rocky Riviera di Levante coastline, you’ll easily need more than day to explore the five villages but if you only have a short time, be sure to visit Manarola. It is the oldest village of the Cinque Terre region and has some of the best seafood restaurants. There is also a pretty cliffside café overlooking the sea and pastel colored houses. It really is a magical sight.

Day 8: Drive back to Rome

  • Duration of drive: approximately 5 hours
  • Stay: Hotel Villa San Pio
  • Eat: Carciofi
  • Do: Visit the Colosseum, wander around the Trevi Fountain and do all the fun touristy things you can do in Rome

While artichokes are seen almost everywhere in Rome, you wouldn’t think that it’s an actual speciality here. Artichokes have a long history within the city and Carciofi alla giudia, or Jewish style artichokes is a very old way of eating it, originating way back in the 16th century. Pick off, and eat the outer leaves and slowly move to the centre. Definitely something new and different to try besides pastas, pizzas and gelato (which, by the way there is absolutely nothing wrong with!)

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I'm Shalinee - a Geminian scientist who loves to travel, write, draw and eat chocolate. I've visited over twenty countries, published a Environmental Science encyclopaedia and somewhere along the way started a science communication company to help students and corporates translate that hard-to-read data generated in a lab. Other than that, I'm just searching for the magic still hidden in the world.

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