The Ultimate Italy Road Trip

PackitUp Travel Guide

10 MUST-DO DESTINATIONS ON YOUR ITALY TRIP

The name “Italy” creates a visualisation of delicious cuisine, beautiful coastlines and ancient history. Italy is the home to some of the world’s greatest artists and authors (for instance, Da Vinci and Michelangelo), architecture, and Europe’s three active volcanoes (Etna, Stromboli and Vesuvius). These all together making Italy a unique destination inspired us at PackitUp to provide you with ten best places to visit in Italy with a possibility to turn this blog post into a road trip guide. The road trip starting from the North of Italy has the Italian Dolomites as its first destination followed by multiple destinations around the country, and Sicily in the South as the second-to-last destination, ending the road trip to the island of Sardinia.

 

1. The Italian Dolomites

The Dolomites, as a part of the Alps, are a mountainous area in the northeast of Italy named after the type of rock called dolomite. In addition to the gorgeous natural landscape, other interesting features of the place are crystal clear mountain lakes open for rowing a boat and swimming (the water in the mountains is cold though!), such as Lake Carezza and Lake Braies. The Dolomites host travellers all year around, as skiing is practiced during the wintertime and mountain climbing, cycling, hiking, as well as paragliding during the spring, summer and autumn. The world’s longest open to public staircase, Calà del Sasso, with as many as 4444 steps, is located in the Dolomites.

2. Venice

Built upon a lagoon surrounded by the sea, Venice is a unique destination located in the northeast of Italy. Venice consists of nearly 120 small islands, that are connected by hundreds of bridges. Venice is often described as one of the world’s most romantic cities due to its historic architecture and scenic canals with gondolas riding along them. Some of the most visited attractions are St. Mark’s Square and Basilica, Palazzo Ducale and Rialto Bridge. Venice is completely car-free, so the easiest way to get around is by foot or waterbus.

Did you know that Venice is sinking due to both natural and man-made factors? Go visit the city when it’s still possible!

3. Milan

Milan has gained the title of the fashion capital of the world, and for a reason; many famous designers known in the world of fashion, such as Giorgio Armani and Ermenegildo, come from Milan. In addition, Milan has endless shopping opportunities ranging from affordable to luxury high end fashion in the district of Via Montenapoleone. All the major design showrooms (for Fashion Week) are located in Milan. Since the early days, Milan has been a modern city – today the buildings are designed based on sustainable architecture with a futuristic skyline, which makes Milan to appear less Italian compared to the other historic cities in the country. In addition to the elegance, Milan is home for some iconic sights, such as the gothic cathedral of Duomo di Milano.

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4. Cinque Terre

Cinque Terre, literally meaning “Five Lands”, comprises the five towns of Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The coastal area is located in the northwest of Italy and the entire area is part of the Cinque Terre National Park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The towns of Cinque Terre are popular travel destinations due to the view of colourful buildings been built on the steep cliffs overlooking the sea. This type of style in building the town was useful when defending the area from attacks by the enemies. Access to the towns by car is hard because of the narrow cliff-edge roads, and therefore taking a train, a boat or hiking a trail, Sentiero Azzurro, that connects all five towns, is recommended.

5. Rome

The romantic capital city of Italy, Rome, is nearly 3000 years old and has maintained its status as an important centre for culture, power and religion. Whilst the most iconic monuments, such as Pantheon, Forum Romanum and Colosseum, as old as 2000 years, represent the city’s early days, basilicas portray the history of the city from the perspective of the Catholic Church. Other popular sights include Fontana di Trevi, a fountain, where most of the visitors throw a coin, giving them ability to make a wish (the most wished thing is to return to Rome some day in the future). To explore the city more easily and to travel short distances like a local, rent a Vespa, one of the most iconic Italian vehicles.

Once visiting Rome, take a chance to explore the world’s smallest country by population, the Vatican City, located in the heart of Rome. The official residence of the Pope is in Vatican City (the Apostolic Palace), and therefore the main sights in the independent city, such as St. Peter’s Basilica, the Sistine Chapel, and Castel Sant’Angelo, are related to the Catholic Church. Some of the other popular sights are St. Peter’s Square and Gardens of the Vatican City. In addition, Vatican City houses lots of art, and museums, for instance, the Vatican Museums, the Raphael Rooms, and Vatical Gallery of Maps are worth visiting, especially if you are a friend of art.

6. Naples

Naples is the largest city in the South of Italy housing many museums and galleries, such as Museo Archeologico Nazionale with a collection of Pompeiian frescoes and mosaics and Gallerie d’Italia. It has been told that the entire country’s best coffee, pizza and pasta can be found in the Naples region. Check out our Instagram Story and Highlights for recommendations on where to eat in Naples.

Naples is also well-known as the modern city located just next to Mount Vesuvius and the buried Roman city of Pompeii. Pompeii was an ancient Roman city located near Mount Vesuvius, only 9 kilometres to the East of Naples. Along with many towns near Mount Vesuvius, Pompeii became buried under several meters thick layer of volcanic ash, when Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Already in 18th and 19th centuries, when the ruins of Pompeii were discovered, Vesuvius and Pompeii became cultural attractions. Since then, exploring the ruins of Pompeii and hiking up Mount Vesuvius, that destroyed the city, have been popular activities in the area.

7. Amalfi Coast

The Amalfi Coast, or locally Costiera Amalfitana, located in the South of Naples, is well-known for its gorgeous landscapes, small towns built in a dramatic setting between the mountains and the sea, and a labyrinth of stairways and narrow alleys. Listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Amalfi Coast has served as the seat of a powerful maritime republic between the 9th and 11th centuries. Amalfi Coast has a 50-kilometer long coastline in its entirety, and many of the towns located on the coastline are especially popular among travellers; for example, Amalfi, Positano, Salerno and Sorrento. The local cuisine is based on pasta dishes and seafood is widely served – find advice on some of the awesome restaurants on Amalfi Coast on our Instagram page! According to local tradition, a dinner must finish with a glass of delicious limoncello, a traditional liqueur made of the peel of lemons grown on Amalfi Coast.

8. Puglia

Sun-bleached Puglia, located in the “heel” of Italy’s “boot” is known for its hundreds of kilometres of Mediterranean coastline, towns full of white buildings (like Alberobello and Ostuni), and its countryside, which is the source of its food, wealth and culture. Puglia is food-wise self-sustainable, using only products produced on the area. Even hotels and restaurants make usually their own olive oil.

The diversity in Puglia is remarkable: the capital, Bari, is a vibrant harbour town, whereas Lecce with its baroque architecture is called the “Florence of the South”. However, each town has something in common: the medieval spirit. Explore the monasteries, accommodations, and churches carved into a volcanic hillside in the historical centre of Sassi. The southern Puglia has several caves in the sea (like Grotta Verde) which attracts swimmers to explore the area.

9. Sicily

Being the largest island on the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily is an autonomous region of Italy, separated from the mainland by 5 kilometres being next to the “toe” of Italy’s “boot”. Sicily, which was known as the land of Cyclops in the ancient history, has been attracting travellers since the early days – Phoenicians, Romans and Greeks enjoyed the destination as much as today’s travellers, and no wonder why, one could stare at the diverse landscape endlessly. In addition to the sea and mountains, Mount Etna, Europe’s tallest active volcano is located on the eastern side of Sicily. Home to every great Mediterranean civilisation, Sicily is rich in cultural treasures, having seven places on the UNESCO World Heritage Site list. Some of the world-class attractions include Agrigento’s Valley of the Temples, Greek temples, and the capital city Palermo’s Byzantine mosaics at the Cappella Palatina.

10. Sardinia

Although flying to Sardinia is an option, a more traditional way of arriving by sea is recommended; a ferry connects Sicily (Palermo) to Sardinia (Cagliari). The capital city of the island, Cagliari, is the most Italian of Sardinia’s cities due to ancient Roman ruins all over the city, museums with prehistoric objects, Vespas driving around the city, and locals enjoying their coffees by the seaside.

Sardinia is famous for white sand on the coasts and crystal clear, pristine sea water. To see more unusual beaches, check out the Pink Beach on the island of Budelli, or a natural pool with an opportunity to dive in at Cala Sabina. For those, who are interested in Sardinia’s prehistoric times, a visit to the Stonehenge of the Mediterranean is highly recommended. The natural landscape between towns and remote mountain villages is filled with cork oaks and olive trees as well as vineyards. The authentic Sardinian cuisine is very much alike it was centuries ago, using simple ingredients and strong flavours. The traditional dishes are based on meat or seafood, and cheeses are popular on side dishes as well as desserts.

To exit Sardinia, a ferry connects Cagliari also to Naples, Civitavecchia (near by Rome) and Genoa (in the northwest of Italy).

Which destination in Italy are you planning to visit next? Make sure to check our recommendations on where to dine and enjoy a drink or snack on our Instagram Story and Highlights!

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