For the past two summers, I have rented a car in Italy. Not only do I feel a little more local when I do this, but it also allows me to see the smaller towns that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise. Don’t worry about driving in Italy isn’t as scary as people make it sound and an Italian road trip is one of the best road trips!
Renting a Car
Renting a car in Italy is easy. I would recommend using Europcar; click here to check rates.
Rome is my starting point for renting a car because I cannot drive a manual transmission, and more automatic cars are available in Rome. Also, the rental desks are open until midnight. If you want to spend time in Rome, then I recommend renting the car after your time in Rome as parking in Rome is difficult and expensive.
Day 1 – Rome to Amelia
Once you rent your car at the Rome Fiumicino Airport, get on the road to your first stop or stay the night to rest up. If you come late in the day or are jet-lagged, I recommend spending the night at the Hilton Rome Airport. It is a short walk to the terminal and will allow you not to have to rent the car right after getting off the plane.
The first stop is the Parco di Monstri in Bomarzo, about one hour and a half from the Rome airport. This historic park is full of scary and wacky sculptures. Built by Pier Francesco Orsini in memory of his wife, Giulia Farnese, in the 16th century. Both from well-known Italian families. The park is only accessible by car, so it is a must-do while on a road trip in Italy. Allow 1-2 hours to explore the whole park.
The next stop is Amelia, only about 45 minutes from the park. Amelia is one of my favorite towns in Italy, and some say it is the oldest city in Umbria. The walls are ancient and in fantastic condition. There is an archaeology museum and many beautiful churches to explore. For dinner, I recommend La Locanda del Conte Nitto, which has beautiful food and views of the ancient streets of Amelia.
Day 2 – Amelia to Assisi
Spend the morning finishing exploring Amelia and then head to the town of Assisi. If Assisi sounds familiar, it is because it is where St. Francis of Assisi was born. At the end of the town is the famous Basilica of Saint Francis of Assisi. The Basilica is stunning, with views outside of the surrounding valley and colorful frescos inside. I recommend going early to beat the crowds.
After that, walk through the town to the other side and head to the Rocca Maggiore. The Rocca Maggiore is the town’s ancient defense fort and overlooks the whole area. If you head to the top of the tower, you get an even better view.
Stay the night in Assisi. You will want to, after all that walking. There is a public car park near the Nun Assisi Relais & Spa Museum hotel, which is the hotel I recommend in Assisi. Not only are the rooms in a historic nunnery, but the hotel has a spa located in the Roman baths below. You can get a massage till eight at night, which is just the cure for your aching feet not only that, you can eat with great views at the in-house restaurant of Eat Out, where the menu is seasonal and local.
Day 3 – Assisi to Gubbio
After enjoying your breakfast in Assisi, take the short drive to Perugia. Perugia is the capital of Umbria. It is known for its celebration of the arts. The highlight here is seeing the underground fortress, Rocca Paolina. The fort was started in 1540, and most of it was destroyed by the 19th century. Now you can explore the cellars and basements that are still standing.
Find more history on the short drive to Gubbio. Gubbio is a town built into the side of a small mountain and makes for stunning views of the city and the valley below. Due to it being integrated into the side of the mountain, you can take elevators from different town levels. There are tons of things to see in this city, but the architecture of dark gray stone buildings is intriguing and makes you feel like you have stepped back in time.
Make sure you make it to the top level of the town to see the Cathedral of Gubbio. It has a stained glass window that is gorgeous. The views from up here are almost a must-see. If you are brave, you can take the funicular to the Basilica of Saint Ubaldo.
Day 4 – Gubbio to Siena
Spend a few hours in the morning exploring the things you didn’t get to see yesterday in Gubbio. Don’t forget to see the Palazzo dei Consoli built in the 14th century with running water. Then make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral, with its amazing gothic architecture.
Then make a long drive to Siena. You are now in Tuscany! The entire historic center of Siena has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The highlight of this is the Siena Cathedral, with its amazing gothic architecture.
If you go to Siena in the summer, try to be there around the historic Palio di Siena. It is a medieval horse race that takes place in the Piazza del Campo. Who doesn’t want to see men ride horses through an ancient town in costume?!
Day 5 – Siena to Florence
Given the short drive from Siena to Florence, you can spend the morning in Siena before heading to my favorite city in Italy, Florence. You will begin to see the rolling hills of Tuscany on this route. Driving through Umbria has you driving through the mountains, but now you will drive between them.
In Florence, you will return your rental car as driving in the historic center of Florence is limited to residences and can carry hefty fines if you do. Parking is also expensive. You will most likely have to return the car to the Florence airport. You can then take a taxi or the “Vola in Bus” shuttle, which takes you to the Florence train station.
There is so much to see in Florence, so you will need a few days to see it all. But on this first day, I recommend finding a museum that interests you and only do that on the first day. This way, you won’t wear yourself out and can enjoy Florence to the fullest. I recommend the Hotel Plaza Lucchesi in Florence. I have stayed here on every trip I have had to Florence, check rates here.
Book tickets in advance and see the Uffizi Gallery on the second day. You will avoid the long lines to get in this way. The Uffizi Gallery has something for every art lover. Be sure to see Botticelli’s Birth of Venus while you are there.
Have you gone on an Italian road trip? What was your favorite place? Share with us in the comments.