How To Plan An Italian Road Trip
Road trips are the cornerstone of travel. The spontaneity, flexibility and freedom that comes with driving cross country is a journey in its self. But, before you hit the road, there’s a few things you should be mindful of. Check out my tips for planning the ultimate Italian road trip.
Passport? Check. Driver’s License? Check. International Driving Permit? Uhhh…. What’s that?
It’s best to check with the tourist board for the country you’re visiting before you go, to get the latest information on exactly what you need to drive in another country. In general terms, though, most European countries do not require American drivers to have an IDP, some do. Italy requires an IDP, as well as the following countries: Austria, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Poland, Slovenia, and Spain.
Chances are you might not even be asked for your IDP in these countries, but technically you’re required to have one. Otherwise, you risk being fined. U.S residents can check the AAA website to apply for your international driving permit.
Renting A Car
If you’re traveling from outside of Italy, chances are you will need to rent a car. Renting a car internationally can be quick and easy if you’re aware of the procedures and policies. Rental companies, like Sixt and Hertz have branches all over the world, so you can make a reservation online and pick up your car from an airport or local branch upon arrival.
The minimum age to rent is typically 21 years of age. You’ll need a credit and a valid driver’s license. If under 25, you’ll need to pay an extra “underage driver’s fee”. Here are some other rules to consider:
- A valid driver’s license for all named drivers, valid for a minimum of 12 months.
- Driver’s licenses printed in non-Roman alphabet (Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, etc.) must be accompanied by an international driver’s license.
- Any driver’s license originating from countries not part of the international driver’s license treaty must also be accompanied by an official translation.
- Renters not from the United States must provide a valid, government issued, secondary form of identification such as a passport.
- For local renters using a debit card, two utility bills will be required.*
Make sure to add-on the additional insurance waiver to avoid any mishaps that might occur. It’s better to be safe than sorry. If you choose to waive the insurance, you will be fully liable for any damages and incidents (even a dent or scratch while the car was parked).
This is by far the most important thing ever! Be sure to have an eclectic list of all genres from different eras. Songs for sing-a-longs, songs to rock out to, songs that take you back. Even throw in a few embarrassing ones in there for good measure. Here’s a list of the 50 best road trip songs of all time.
Many older Italian hotels do not have elevators, so consider packing light keeping in mind you might have to drag your luggage up 2 or 3 flights of stairs. Also, parking may be off-site and you might find yourself dragging luggage down alleyways for several blocks. Also consider trunk space if you are traveling with 3 or more persons.
Italian roadways have tolls, so be sure to consider these in your budget. You can pay for tolls by card, cash (euros) or telepass. As you approach the tills, be sure to have your form of payment ready. Every time you exit the highway you will have to pay, so be cautious of exiting prematurely.
Tours & Day Trips
Personally, I look to book tours upon arrival or the day before the activity. Plans and weather tend to change and I always want to remain flexible. I purchase ferry and metro tickets at the station or from hotel desk.
With parking constraints, it may be best to leave the car parked and take public transportation. Many Italian city tourism boards offer “tourist day passes” for unlimited rides on public transport for a fixed fee. Inquire with your hotel to see what’s available to you.
If you are into food, wine or walking tours, be sure to check out these tour companies offering a range of private and group guided tours across Italy:
Whether you prefer AirBnb, hostels or hotels, you should consider the things that are most important to you: price, proximity to attractions, cleanliness, safety, accessibility to public transit, and the breakfast buffet (because.. food!).
During our road trip, we stayed at a variety of hotels, ranging from boutique to luxury 5 star villas. Be sure to consider if parking is available, the costs, and the proximity of parking off-site. For instance, when traveling to Venice, you will likely have to park in a garage and may have to drag your luggage across several bridges and down narrow alleys.
6 days, 6 cities, 2 girls. Over 500 km of awesomeness.
My friend, Kendra, so graciously came to visit me in Switzerland from Abu Dhabi, so I decided that a road-trip would be the best way to show her Switzerland and Italy.
To begin our trip, we spent 2 nights at the beautiful, five-star Grand Hotel Villa Castagnola. The highlights included: a funicular ride to the panoramic summit of Monte Brè, a stroll around Lake Lugano and a delicious dinner in the city center.
We spent just 1 night in Milan, welcomed by the staff at the oh-so-chic, ME Milan Il Duca. We explored Milan by foot, checking out the renowned Galleria Vittorio Emanuele, the Duomo Milano, and enjoyed decadent gelato from the famous gelateria, Venchi.
After departing Milan, we decided to stop over in the world renowned Valpolicella wine region. We enjoyed a wine tasting at the Allegrini family’s estate, Villa della Torre in Fumane.
To bring the road trip to a close, we stayed 2 nights in Venice. Guests at the Arcadia Boutique Hotel, we explored through the winding alleys and traveled via water ferry on the canals.
We ventured out to picturesque Burano, with its colorful homes and stunning, intricate lace work.
With only 6 days and so many awesome cities in Italy, we could only manage the above. But if you have the time, also consider checking out the following cities: Rome, Florence, Bologna, Siena, Tuscany, Naples, and the Amalfi Coastline. You can check out my other posts about Italy here.
- If you planned your route months in advance, recheck before departing for road closures or detours.
- Cash is always better. Small change is the best to keep on hand.
- Be sure to consider parking and tolls in your budget.
- Buy snacks and drinks at grocery stores to avoid impulse stops and spending.
- If you have designated times for tours or flights, always allow plenty of wiggle room in case of traffic, road closures, or accidents.
- Wear sunscreen to avoid sunburns, even while in the car (especially elbows, knees, shoulders).
Have you ever taken a cross-country road trip? If so, where? If not, what are you waiting for?
Disclaimer: This post does contain affiliate links and some aspects of the trip were sponsored. As always, all opinions remain my own.