For Condé Nast Traveler, by Krisanne Fordham.
With its lush countryside, plunging coastlines, snow-capped peaks, and glittering lakes, Italy offers epic driving experiences for every kind of traveler. Here, we’ve put together our favorite Italian road trip itineraries — including where to stop, where to stay, and what you’ll see along the way.
1. Amalfi Coast
Known for its dramatic bluffs, pastel-hued villages, and cliff-hugging roads, the Amalfi Coast is arguably Italy’s most scenic stretch of coastline. From Salerno, drive west to the charming village of Vietri sul Mare, the starting point of the 30-mile coastal road proper (the SS163 Amalfitana). You’ll take this all the way to Sorrento, but be careful: The roads become increasingly narrow — and the views increasingly distracting — the closer you get to Amalfi.
Where to stop: Positano, for its surreal, steep geography and show-stopping views; Ravello, for the romantic gardens at Villas Cimbrone and Rufolo; and Amalfi, for its touristy-but-charming seaside village, home to the spectacular Duomo di Sant’Andrea.
Where to eat: A’ Paranza in Atrani for fresh seafood and Cumpà Cosimo in Ravello for Mama Netta’s reliably delicious homemade pasta.
Where to stay: The iconic Le Sirenuse; the glamorous, celebrity-studded Belmond Hotel Caruso; or the blissfully secluded, 20-room Monastero Santa Rosa — one of the world’s most beautiful clifftop hotels.
2. Tuscan Wine Country
Tuscany’s bucolic, vineyard-dotted landscape makes for the quintessential Italian road trip. Start in Florence and cruise south on the SS22 for 30 minutes until you reach the heart of the Chianti wine region. Take your time winding through Strada and Greve towards Siena, stopping at cantine along the way (we recommend these ones). Depending on how much time you have, spend the night in Panzano before circling back up to Florence the next day, or head further south to Montalcino, Montepulciano, and the spectacular Val d’Orcia — arguably the most beautiful stretch of countryside in Tuscany.
Where to stop: Ruffino’s sprawling Poggio Casciano estate for truffle hunting and tasting; Antinori nel Chianti Classico for its Instagram-worthy glass-and-steel winery and equally show-stopping wine; Tenuta Il Greppo, where the first Brunello di Montalcino was bottled in 1888.
Where to eat: Officina della Bistecca in Panzano-in-Chianti for the best steak in all of Tuscany; Re di Macchia in Montalcino for its classic, hearty Tuscan cuisine like white bean soup and wild boar pasta.
Where to stay: In castles, always. We like the intimate, art-filled Castello di Ama in Gaiole in Chianti and the lavish, hilltop Castello Banfi il Borgo in Montalcino, which has an infinity pool overlooking the vineyards.
Tuscany’s bucolic, vineyard-dotted landscape makes for the quintessential Italian road trip.
3. The Northern Lakes
Want to mix road tripping with a little romance? Head to Italy’s postcard-perfect Lake District and spend a week cruising leisurely from east to west, stopping to explore a new lake each day: Garda first, then Iseo, Como, Lugano, and Maggiore (each is spectacular in their own way). Short on time? Como’s 31-mile shoreline — strung with beautiful villages, lavish Renaissance palazzi and ancient ruins — is worthy of a road trip all on its own.
Where to stop: Villa Melzi in Bellagio on Lake Como for its dreamy, azalea-filled gardens; the 17th-century Villa Carlotta in Tremezzo for its sculptures and equally Instagram-worthy gardens; Castello Scaligero in Sirmione for its sweeping views over Lake Garda; Isola Bella on Lake Maggiore for its Baroque Palace and lovely fishing village.
Where to eat: Market Place in Como serves up great seasonal cuisine that’s simple yet sophisticated (the current dinner menu includes squid-ink spaghetti and cod with anchovies and artichokes). Silvio, a Bellagio mainstay since 1919, is known for its terrific seafood, caught fresh from the lake daily.
Where to stay: The sleek and newly-Hot Listed Il Sereno; the iconic and palatial Grand Hotel Tremezzo; or the lovely, low-key RivaLago on the quieter (and significantly more cost-effective) Lake Iseo.
4. The Dolomites
Just south of the Alps, the Dolomite mountain range makes for one of the world’s most breathtaking alpine drives. The 86-mile Grande Strada delle Dolomiti, or the Great Dolomites Road, starts at Cortina d’Ampezzo (two hours’ drive north of Venice), climbs up to Falzarego Pass and eventually ends in Bolzano in Trentino-Alto Adige. Though you can do the entire drive in under four hours, we recommend taking at least two days to allow for hikes, detours and an overnight stop in the beautiful alpine villages of Canazei or Castelrotto.
Where to stop: Falzarego Pass for a ride on the Lagazuoi Cable Car (it takes you to the top of Mount Lagazuoi, where you can enjoy the best views over the Dolomites’ craggy, sawtooth peaks).
Where to eat: Aga in San Vito di Cadore, near Cortina, for its extraordinary “zero-kilometer” cuisine (nearly all ingredients are grown or foraged within miles of the kitchen); El Pael in Canazei for its traditional Trentino dishes like venison stew with polenta and salted beef with beans.
Where to stay: The ADLER Mountain Lodge, with its heated outdoor infinity pool, luxurious chalets, and magnificent alpine spa, is the swankiest hotel in Castelrotto. In Bolzano, the Vigilius Resort and Spa has a similarly sleek, modern-alpine design and roomy suites with mountain-facing terraces.
See the rest of The 4 Best Italian Road Trips on CNTraveler.com
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