Planning to travel to Italy soon and considering driving from North to South Italy in 1 week visiting a range of amazing cities from Milan to Rome? Well, in this post, I wanted to share with you my jam-packed Italy road trip itinerary for 1 week, from North to South starting in Milan and finishing in Naples (or Rome).
This road trip will help you see some of the best places in Italy at your own pace. However, don’t expect to see all of Italy in 1 week, to explore this beautiful country, you need years. Every village and every town in Italy are beautiful and full of history! I’ve visited Italy 8 or 9 times and still can’t say that I have seen enough. However, a road trip from the North to the South of Italy will help you to get to know the country a bit more, especially if it’s your first experience in Italy. I would say that you need 2 weeks for your road trip, however, if you only have one week in Italy, don’t worry, you will still be able to see a lot, but you might get tired after this holiday.
To have a similar road trip around Italy, you will need to buy one-way flights to Milan and depart from Rome. Alternatively, you can buy multi-city tickets if it’s cheaper and the airline, you’re flying with, allows it. You can check the prices and availability of such flights online here.
Don’t forget to pack these European travel essentials! The necessary plugs: US-Europe plug or UK-Europe plug (or better buy this adaptor suitable to pretty much all the countries around the world); European sim card with data, an anti-theft backpack (just in case, as touristy places are full of pick-pocketers) and a discrete travel pouch to keep your wallet & documents safe. Better safe than sorry!
Before I will tell you about the optimal itinerary for the 1-week Italy road trip, let’s clarify two things first.
Tips for driving in Italy
I assume that you will be driving in Italy yourself. If you need to rent a car, I recommend using Rentalcars.com and opting for their full insurance option. It’s probably the cheapest way to rent a car in Italy. However, if you prefer to rent from a car supplier directly, you can use Avis and opt-in for their full insurance online. Make sure to pick a supplier that allows a drop off in a different location and doesn’t charge too much for that.
We had a good experience with Avis before and would recommend it.
Driving in Italy is fairly easy – even though Italians are known for speeding up and crazy driving (sometimes), it’s nothing like Lebanon or India, where driving is crazy. All the highways have a speed limit and speed cameras everywhere, so make sure to drive with caution and don’t exceed the speed limit.
Don’t forget that the roads in Italy are paid, so make sure to allocate 100 EUR or even more for a weeklong road trip from North to South Italy!
Another tip on driving in Italy is not to enter any city centre by car.
We did it in Bologna and had a huge fine. It’s not allowed to enter the city centre in many cities, but you won’t notice the signs, because in many cases, there are none. It’s way safer to leave the car at a big parking lot close to the city centre.
Finally, go for a smaller car, as street parking might be complicated in Italy. There are many cars and street space is limited, so the smaller is your car, the higher chances that you will find a parking spot close to your accommodation (unless your hotel has a parking lot).
What’s the best season to GO on a 1-week road trip to ITALY?
If you’re wondering, what’s the best season for a road trip around Italy, there are no bad seasons in Italy. Italy is always beautiful, any time of the year. However, the North of Italy, e.g. Milan will be very cold in winter. We visited Milan and Bergamo in January and oh, my, we were freezing. The South, however, might be warm and nice. We had about 16 degrees in Rome in February and I didn’t even need a jacket.
The best season for the road trip in Italy, in my opinion, would be late March to early May and early October to mid-November. In summer, it can be very hot. We went to Tuscany in summer and it was over 40 degrees celsius in July. While some people might think that it’s the perfect weather, I must say that sightseeing is almost impossible and I don’t know how I didn’t faint in Florence walking around the city during the whole day (I hid in the Palazzo Pitti for a couple of hours though).
Okay, without further ado, let’s get started with the jam-packed Italian road trip itinerary for 7 days – from Milan to Rome or Naples!
Road trip around Italy in 7 days: from North to South
Day 1: Milan and Bergamo
On the first day, I assume, you’ll land in Milan (or you can also arrive by car). As I already mentioned, you can rent a car in Milan airport from Rentalcars.com, Avis or Hertz (or any other provider that you like most).
If you arrive at Milan Malpensa, it would take around one hour, to drive to Milan city centre. It would be exactly the same time if you arrive from Milan Bergamo. However, if you have a chance, try to land in Bergamo, as that way, you can explore the beautiful city, Bergamo.
3-4 hours in Bergamo
I must admit that I liked Bergamo a bit more than Milan. Milan is a huge city, while Bergamo is a very compact town located on multiple levels and if you take the funicular (or climb/drive) to the top, the views are breathtaking. I created this post about the most photogenic spots in Milan and Bergamo, so make sure to check it out to see how beautiful is Bergamo!
I would recommend spending at least 3-4 hours in Bergamo. I know that it’s rushed, however, as I warned, this itinerary is jam-packed. If you had 2 weeks in Italy, you would be able to stay for longer! During 3-4 hours in Bergamo, you will be able to take a funicular to Citta Alta (High City) to see the Piazza Vecchia (the main square of Bergamo) and then head to another funicular to San Vigilio for even better views of Bergamo. If you wander around Bergamo, you will be able to see a lot of beautiful Basilicas and museums.
1-week Italy Road trip: Milan
After you’re done with Bergamo, you can drive to Milan. I recommend parking the car in one of the central parking spaces e.g. Car Central Parking (yes, that’s the name).
THE BEST TOUR OF MILAN: if you like taking tours (walking or cycling), I would recommend taking this tour to learn more about Milan and the main highlights. This tour will also help you visit the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci without having to buy the ticket months in advance. If you prefer exploring on your own, keep reading.
What to see in Milan in 1 day?
You can go explore the famous Duomo and Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II right after you arrive. If the weather allows, you can have an Aperol Spritz in a cafe overlooking Duomo. It’s always very crowded, so it doesn’t matter, which time of the day, you’re planning to visit it.
How to see the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci?
If you want to see the Last Supper by Leonardo Da Vinci, you need to book tickets online in advance. You can do it here. Having checked the booking system, I can see, that the only slots available are in 2 months and then there are a couple of spots available 3 months in advance. However, you can also buy the ticket & tour from a reseller and in this case, there is availability almost for the next day. Check the availability & prices here.
Another highlight of Milan is Teatro Alla Scala. If you’re interested in buying tickets for Alla Scala, you can buy them on the official website of the theatre.
One of my favourite areas in Milan is the Brera. Brera is a very photogenic neighbourhood with narrow streets full of shops and flower shops, colourful buildings and restaurants.
Where to eat in Milan?
If you’re looking for places to eat in Milan, I can recommend a couple. For lunch, I recommend grabbing something from EATALY – it’s a huge supermarket with a couple of restaurants and delis. We tried pizza from there and it was delicious.
For dinner, you can book available places via the Fork app. I used this app in Florence & Milan and it was a lifesaver!
Where to stay in Milan when road tripping Italy for a week?
As you have a car, you have the privilege of staying pretty much anywhere. The general rule of hotels is the same in Milan – the hotels far away from the city centre are more affordable.
Day 2: Verona and Venice
Make sure to wake up early (again, this Italian road trip is jam-packed, that means that you will probably need another holiday after this one, however, you will see a lot in Italy in just 1 week). If you leave Milan around 8 am, you will be in Verona, our next stop at 10 am.
Verona is a lovely city famous for Romeo and Juliet and a small colosseum (Verona arena) in the city centre. I recommend stopping in Verona for a couple of hours. You can park the car in the city centre and walk around exploring the beautiful streets of Verona.
THE BEST TOUR OF VERONA: if you feel take taking a guided tour of Verona, I can recommend this tour.
Make sure to visit Juliet’s House (however, be prepared that it will be very crowded). Another amazing place to visit in Verona is the Castelvecchio Museum. You don’t need to go inside if you don’t want. You can just walk around and enjoy the views from the castle.
After you’re done with Verona, it’s time to head to Venice.
Venice is the most famous city in Italy along with Rome and it would be bad not to visit it. Venice is beautiful any time of the year, however, it’s better to visit it off-season. If you’re planning to do your road trip in summer or early autumn, prepare that most cities in Italy will be very busy and Venice will probably be the busiest.
In Venice, you have two options, you can either leave your car in Mestre or book a hotel in Mestre with parking and leave your car there (like we did) or you can drive to Venice and try to leave the car in the Tronchetto Parking lot.
Leaving your car in Tronchetto Parking lot might not be cheap and the hotels in Venice are also quite expensive compared to Mestre, so if you’re on a budget, I recommend option 1.
THE BEST TOUR OF VENICE: If you’re interested in a tour in Venice, I would recommend taking this tour.
If you want to take a gondola ride, you can also pre-book it online here.
Otherwise, just stroll around the beautiful streets and bridges of Venice and don’t forget to visit St. Marco square!
DAY 3: Bologna and Cinque Terre
On the third day of the Italian road trip, we will be finally heading from North to South and will start with Bologna and then head to Cinque Terre, one of the main highlights of Italy.
It takes about 1.5 hours to reach Bologna from Venice and it’s a fast and straight forward ride. Bologna is often overlooked, however, it’s one of the most beautiful cities in Italy. Unlike many other cities, Bologna is full of locals rather than tourists and it’s nice for a change. We had a chance to stay in Bologna for two days, so we had a bit more time, however, you can also see the main highlights of Bologna in 3-4 hours. Make sure to arrive in Bologna by 9 am.
THE BEST TOUR OF BOLOGNA: if you want to take a walking tour of Bologna, I can recommend this one.
Otherwise, head to the Two Towers of Bologna, make sure to check the Piazza Maggiore and Basilica di San Petronio and walk inside the galleries of Bologna. Bologna is a unique city – you can walk almost the entire city through the galleries. It’s especially useful when it’s raining, so in Bologna, you will never (almost) get wet.
Take a car to drive up to the Sanctuary of the Madonna di San Luca – it’s a stunning church located on the top of the hill and the views from there are breathtaking.
You can read a bit more about our adventures in Bologna in this post.
After you finished sightseeing in Bologna, you will have to drive again, this time to Cinque Terre. Cinque Terre is 3 hours away, however, it’s one of the highlights of Italy and it shouldn’t be skipped. If you left Bologna around mid-day or 1 pm, you should arrive at Cinque Terre around 4 pm. I recommend staying in La Spezia and leaving your car there. Exploring Cinque Terre by car is not great and the trains are quite cheap.
Once you checked in and parked your car, you can go to the train station and catch the train to one of 5 fabulous villages of Cinque Terre. You can start with the villages that are closer to La Spezia such as Riomaggiore and Manarola. Sunsets in Riomaggiore are breathtaking and there are also a lot of food options. However, make sure to book the restaurant in advance. Once again, you can use The Fork app or website to book a restaurant for dinner. Some of the best places to eat and drink include La Cantina de Macellaio and Vertical Lounge Bar. The trains go until late, however, it’s always worth checking the schedule in advance.
Day 4: Cinque Terre and Florence
On the fourth day of the 1-week Italy road trip, you can wake up early and go explore the rest of Cinque Terre, the beautiful villages of Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso Al Mare. If you want, you can also swim in some of these places. If you want to know, what’s the best place for swimming, you can check my post about swimming in Tuscany and Cinque Terre.
After you finished with Cinque Terre around 1 pm, you can drive to Florence. Florence is just 2 hours away and it’s a must-visit place in Italy. For Florence, I recommend a couple of days. Florence is also my favourite cities in Italy and it’s one of the most beautiful cities in the world.
WHERE TO STAY IN FLORENCE: I recommend staying in Villa Olmi. We were lucky to stay there for 2 days and it was an unforgettable experience. The villa is like a museum and it even has a swimming pool. The only downside is the Villa Olmi is slightly outside the city, however, if you drive to Florence city centre and leave the car at the parking space, that would be fine.
There is so much to see in Florence! I suggest spending the afternoon and evening exploring the area of Florence with the Palazzo Pitti and Giardino Boboli and then head to Piazzale Michelangelo for the breathtaking panorama of Florence.
At night, you can head to one of the best restaurants in Florence to eat – Trattoria Za Za. You need to call to book in advice (just 1 day in advance is usually fine).
Day 5 of the 1-week road trip in Italy: Florence and heading to Rome
On day 5, I recommend you to keep exploring Florence. You can walk around and see the best landmarks on your own or get a tour like the one below.
THE BEST TOUR OF FLORENCE: I recommend taking this walking tour of Florence if you want to learn more about the history of the city.
I actually enjoyed the tour a lot and my tour was really Dante focused, but it was great. Florence is one of the cities, where, I think, that the walking tour is a must.
However, if you don’t feel like going on a tour, make sure to visit the main highlights and if you still have a bit of time left, visit the Uffizi Gallery. You need to book your ticket for Uffizi in advance, however, just like in Milan, you can buy the last-minute skip the line tour or ticket that will give you access to Uffizi. This one is a tour that includes both a walking tour and entrance to the Uffizi Gallery.
Once you’re done with Florence (although you can never be done with Florence, there is so much to see and do), you can head to Rome. Rome is about 3 hours away, so make sure to leave Florence around 5 or 6 pm, not later. Drive safely and arrive in Rome.
WHERE TO STAY IN ROME:
Rome has over 8000 hotels and apartments, so there is a lot to choose from. Some great affordable hotels with parking are the Radical Hotel Roma and Princeps Boutique Hotel. However, the best thing would be to return your car in Rome and keep sightseeing in Rome without a car, as driving in Rome is a bit crazy and public transport is super convenient. In case you decide to drop off your car early, you can stay in one of the great centric hotels and B&Bs like B&B Lost in Trastevere or Scipioni Suites.
Days 6 and 7: Rome
I recommend spending the last 2 days of the 7-day Italian road trip in Rome. Rome is a huge city and you probably need a week to explore it all. I don’t have a very informative post about Rome, even though I visited Rome twice and spent 5 days there in total. However, I have a post about a romantic weekend in Rome (feel free to check it out).
THE BEST TOURS OF ROME: You can take this tour of Rome that will show you some of the main highlights. It’s a cycling tour that will help you to see most of Rome, as Rome is huge and walking everywhere is impossible.
There is another great Segway tour that is worth taking in Rome.
If you plan to visit a lot of landmarks in Rome, it makes sense to buy the city pass for Rome & Vatican. You can buy it online here.
As a bonus, public transport will be free with one of these cards.
Visiting the Vatican will probably take half a day as well, so I’m sure that you will easily fill your two days in Rome.
You can fly back from Rome with your multi-city or one-way ticket.
Summary of the Milan to Rome road trip:
I hope that you found this jam-packed Italy road trip itinerary for 1 week useful for you. Seeing Italy from Milan to Rome is quite easy, however, you need to book some tours and tickets in advance, as Italy is very touristy, especially during the high season. I hope you enjoy your upcoming road trip around Italy and should you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask.