1 October 2023

Driving Italy

If you haven’t been to Europe in the summer, you’re definitely in for a treat.

European summers are definitely something special and they’re definitely a stark contrast to the winter months.

As you have probably read from previous posts I do a lot of solo-travelling, but when a mate from school (Dan) was going to be in Europe, it was the perfect chance to rope someone into doing a road trip around Italy and get a taste of the countryside that you would miss by travelling on trains and buses.


Most of this trip was unplanned. All we had was a rental car, a flight into Milan-Bergamo and a flight out of Bari nine days later. These two locations were picked because RyanAir flies in and out of these locations to London Stansted. Only some light reading on possible routes, and a lot of advice from people we encounter along the way – they are of course the best source of travel tips! While accommodation was booked usually at a freeway rest stop using Hostelworld or AirBnB on our mobile phones as it got late in the day.

In these nine posts, follow our trip from Milan-Bergamo in Northern Italy to Bari, midway down the east coast as we go through some of the best sights on the Italian coast and places in between.

The route:


Tips for driving Italy:

  • You’ll need an international driver’s permit if you have a non-EU licence. Not necessarily to hire a car, but in case you get pulled over by the police. The IDP is a translation of your licence and you attain one through the motoring association of your state or country.
  • Lanes are not clearly marked in cities, inviting a free-for-all for other drivers, particularly at traffic lights or overtaking slower vehicles. Don’t be surprised if a car just pops up on either side of you at a set of lights on a one lane road.
  • Most autostrade (freeways) are tolled, some are pay by distance where you grab a ticket on entry, others are charge a flat fare for use. Expect to pay dearly for some roads – cheapest was €1,70, but the most €33,10 for a two hour stretch.
  • Streets get really tight, particularly around Lake Como and the Amalfi. Keep as close to the right side of the road without hitting the gutter! May want to fold in those wing mirrors.
  • Park outside a city and catch public transport in. It may defeat the purpose of having a car, but the dreaded city car parks and metres are an annoyance to what can be a good day of exploring. There’s usually free parking on the outskirts of a city and you can venture in pretty easily on foot or by public transport.
  • Enjoy the drive, pull over occasionally and enjoy the view! There are so many great sights that you don’t see when you’re sitting on a train or are on a bus so make the most of the flexibility of being able to stop.




Milan to Lake Como. A stunning drive through towns on the lake, but the roads get a bit tight especially when faced with on-coming traffic! A relaxing location where you can enjoy water sports and chill out for a couple of days!



The Great Dolomite Road. If you like road trips and driving, this has to be high on your agenda. The 110km stretch of road that links Bolzano and Cortina d’Ampezzo will take you through the ski villages in the alpine region. Truly an awesome experience.



Cinque Terre. The “five lands” may take you to the coastline, but each has its own unique feel. These pituresque locations are worthy of spending at least half a day in each and you can also walk between the them, which takes a solid day.



Tuscany. There’s nothing quite like driving through the hills and the vineyards. It’s hard to believe you’re still in Italy with the contrasting landscape to the coast, and the quietness away from the major cities. Complementing the view with a dish of pasta and a glass of wine from the region is highly recommended.



Amalfi Coast. There are very few coastlines in the world like the Amalfi. It is a challenge for drivers as you contend with narrow turns and coaches coming in the opposite direction. Also beware of pesky mopeds. But the sights are thoroughly worth the drive, it will be hard to find water as blue as here.


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