Maybe you’re feeling kinda ballsy or maybe (like me) you have a European friend who’s cool with driving in Europe. Either way you’ve decided to do an epic adventure along the Italian coast. Good for you! Italy is honestly stunning! But! there are a few things that you, as a non-European, may not be expecting.
Well No Stress! I’ve got yo back 😉
If anyone has been following my new Instagram @thetravelcurve you may have seen this photo with a caption underneath saying “WE DON’T USE GPS!!!”
Every road trip my partner and I go on, we buy a road map and try to plan from that. Yes, sometimes it takes much longer and a bit more gas – but what we usually find by accident is worth it every time.
For this Italian Road Trip our itinerary was roughly Cinque Terre – Pompeii – Amalfi Coast – Rome – Florence
We were driving from Barcelonette, a small town in the French Alps close to the Italian boarder. I had thought we would get the highway much quicker then we actually did and I thought we would come in around or just after Genova. However, when we drove through that mountain boarder into Italy I was totally enamoured by how gosh darn beautiful everything was! The mountain towns where SO PRETTY that I quickly agreed to just driiiive and see where we ended up. I think it’s safe to say we lost a fair bit of time doing this but again it was so worth it! Since we only covered half of our goal for day 1 we had to have a team meeting and switch up our plans a bit. We ended up dropping a few places and making more time in others.
Thus we Developed a New Itinerary
Within our first day of Driving we hit the Northern coast. Far earlier than we had originally expected. The first town we rolled into was Savona. Since our journey had just begun we didn’t stop and kept heading for the south. Now this bend around the bay seems little – but it’s not – And it took us a hot 6-7 hours of driving some crazy winding roads to get to La Spezia which for us was kind of our half way mark for the day. Yikes lol.
So that brings me to Tip 1 & 2
TIP 1| ITALIAN HIGHWAYS HAVE TOLLS
Tolls tolls tolls! Tolls everywhere. I know if you’re used to road tripping around Canada or the USA there’s a good change you don’t run into tolls too often (unless your in the central northern United States) but in Europe from what I’ve seen, they are everywhere. France has tons of toll roads and as we discovered so does Italy. With only two weeks to see as much as possible, we drove off highway for the first day and realized it would significantly set us back. So boooo for us we had to head back to highway roads. The next day we jumped back on to the highway around Livorno and used them throughout the remainder of the trip when we had to. Overall I think it’s safe to say we spent around 150 euros on toll roads.
TIP 2| DRIVING OFF HIGHWAY ON THE WEST COAST IS EXTREMELY LONG
Now, my man and I are always up for extra driving. Last summer we did a 27,000 km road trip around the USA and Canada so long distance driving doesn’t scare us. We found in the US that when we deviated it added and hour or two to our drive and it was totally worth it to drive some more scenic routes. This surprisingly isn’t the case in Italy even though it’s WAY smaller compared to the US. On highway we were looking at 6 hours from Barcelonette to Rome. Off highway it took us 7-8 hours just to reach Livorno.
Livorno was where we called it for the night 1. Which brings me to the next tip
TIP 3| ITALY DOESN’T CARE WHERE YOU SLEEP
Like – they really don’t care at all. Comparing it to our trip last summer, we often found that any place we would try to park the car for a snooze was off limits and if we wanted to set up camp it’s was almost impossible on the US West Coast unless we were paying through the nose for camp sites. NOT IN ITALY MY FRIENDS – Yes, the north west coast of Italy lacks camping sites – but all the way down you can pretty much park your car anywhere along the highway. We even parked on a shoulder one night – which to my Canadian senses was freaking CRAZY! Needless to say I did not sleep well lol. This may seem kind of awesome and liberating but there’s a weird twist to this one. You may not notice this if you fly to Italy and do a tour but if you do decide to do something a bit more authentic like a road trip you’ll quickly discover there’s another thing Italy doesn’t seem to give two licks about. Garbage. We were both dissapointed to find most places where we could car sleep where not exactly looked after…by the places or the people for that matter. SO! Do what you will with that information but it’s defiantly something you should know!
TIP 4| NOT EVERYONE FOLLOWS THE RULES OF THE ROAD
And by not everyone I actually mean no one! HA! It will happen often, you’ll see signs telling you not to do something and ALL the drivers are clearly breaking this specific rule. I’ve been living in France for a while and I’ve been getting used to French drivers. Then we end up in Italy and I was just holding on to my seat for dear life! Like we are talking bus and truck drivers weaving in and out of lanes! Speeding! WTF! Specifically, at one point we were on a smaller road just outside of Rome. It was one lane in each direction and drivers were using the shoulder as a second lane as a passing lane even through the signs said Hey! This is crazy illegal! What do you do in that situation? Well your options are to obey the rules and have a bunch of Italians flipping you off and yelling and honking at you or you literally do what the Romans do and hope you don’t get pulled over. I think you can guess what we did :p
TIP 5| WHEN YOU GIVE YOUR ROUTE SOME FLEXIBILITY YOU CAN FIND PARADISE
If you’re planning any type of trip to Italy and you’ve found yourself here, it’s probably because you’ve been researching your butt off looking at all your options. When searching Italy online you will defiantly see all the big names like Cinque Terre, Rome and Amalfi Coast. While those places are all worth seeing, there are SO many amazing parts of Italy that are beyond worth seeing outside of the main hubs. Despite the litter issue Italy is probably the most beautiful country I’ve seen so far. YA GUYS I TOTALLY GET IT. When we decided to deviate from our Itinerary we found Sperlonga which was not on my radar prior to finding it and was absolutely everything I wanted in a beach swim break. Perfect water, perfect sand, drinks and the public beach didn’t close at night so you can do epic sunset swims. If you want to do a road trip you’re clearly adventurous so don’t be afraid to go off the beaten path a bit and find something absolutely beautiful – because Italy is FULL of beautiful.
On our road trips we usually mix it up. We spent half our time in the car and the other half using Air BnB. I think this is a perfectly balanced mix. Half the time we woke up to salty air, sunrises and beautiful views and the other half we woke up to coffee, brekky, and a fresh shower. It was lush!
SOME BONUS TIPS
- I wouldn’t suggest trying to car sleep in big cities like Rome. You will pay for parking and you might get tickets. Always stick to city skirts if you’re planning to do this. If you’re like me and you would prefer more privacy but want to keep it cost effective – rent a private room on Air BnB. You can find excellent places and incredible city locals that can share tips about your new surroundings! Here’s where we stayed in Salerno, Rome and around Florence and they were all FANTASTIC places for incredible prices!
- Be respectful – even if there’s garbage in certain areas there are a lot of locals who are trying to change that. As a conscious traveller you don’t need to add to it. Take your garbage with you and find a bin. You may be tempted not too but do it anyway!
- Finally, I’d like to confirm what every other blog has told you. Rome is FREAKING HOT. MELT YO FACE HOT. The only major downside to our trip was that I wasn’t adequately prepared for Rome and it’s heat even though I thought I was. I wouldn’t suggest going there in August and if you have to go then, give yourself more than 2 days for sure. Take your time and do everything slowly. Don’t try to cram it all into a short period. We stayed for 2 nights and 3 days and it was pretty clear to me that there was no way I was seeing everything I wanted too. Stick to off season visits to Rome so you can enjoy a leisurely time soaking in everything it has to offer!
I hope you find these tips useful when planning your Italian Road Trip and I wish you all the best!
Did I miss Anything? I’d love to hear others experiences and tips I may have missed!