Road tripping in Italy: The car, the roads, the food

Words: Jess Shanahan

The thought of an Italian road trip fills most people with excitement. They imagine winding mountain roads, cobbled little towns and plenty of pizza. In truth, the reality is very similar to that dream.

Italy is and will always be one of the most perfect road trip destinations in the world. America can keep its Route 66.

I’ve had the pleasure of visiting Italy on a number of occasions and am very acquainted with Italian workmanship when it comes to what I drive. Here are some tips for planning the ultimate Italian road trip.

The car

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with your car on a road trip so it needs to be something you’re going to enjoy. Not just that but Italy has some amazing driving roads so look for something with a bit of power, good cornering ability and perhaps a little air of luxury too.

My choice would be my Abarth but I am very biased towards that little hot hatch. Another good option would be to rent something wonderfully Italian from a classic car hire site such as BookAclassic. On there they have anything from an eighties Ferrari F40 through to a stunning Alfa Romeo Spider 4 Series. There’s also a huge range of Fiats from the famous 500, through to the beautiful 850 Coupe Sport. If you’re after a bit more grunt, consider a Maserati Ghibli. 

The things I tend to consider are how the car will handle on windy mountain roads, how it’ll look on Instagram and how comfortable it is for journeys that will take more than three hours. I’m also quite partial to the wind in my hair too.

The roads

There are a lot of very slow roads in Italy, especially in the south. While the north is better served by highways, you’re looking at single-carriageways as you get further into the country. This is far from a bad thing, while a big, multi-lane road allows you to get from place-to-place as quick as possible, that’s not the point of a road trip.

Actively seek out the more interesting roads, especially when you’re travelling through the mountains. Italy is wonderful in that it gives you all sorts of terrain to play with. There’s the Alps in the north; rolling vine-yard lined hills further south; and the beautiful Amalfi coast that follows the shoreline from Sorrento to Salerno.

The food

It wouldn’t be an Italian road trip without stuffing yourself full of pizza and pasta as you go. Make sure to take in the best of the local areas you pass through from the wine (once your driving is over for the day, of course) to local meats and fish. 

Italians are so passionate about their food and it’s actually quite difficult to find a bad meal when you’re road tripping but speak to the locals to find the real flavour of a place. The people living in the area will be able to point you in the direction of the best food and drink, something TripAdvisor can’t always do.

Big destinations or off the beaten track?

While it can be tempting to cram Rome, Venice, Pompeii, Florence and Milan into one trip, you’d be better off combining your big destinations with some places that are more out of the way. For a start, you won’t be endlessly driving around cities, plus you can discover some truly magical places that aren’t full of day-tripping tourists.

Choose a few key destinations to visit and build your trip around them with stays at out-of-the-way places in between. If in doubt, always ask the locals for recommendations, that goes for accommodation, food, driving roads and tours.

Author bio: Jess Shanahan is a road trip journalist and digital nomad who can often be found driving around Europe. When she’s not road tripping, Jess works in motorsport.

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