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The Ultimate Road Trip Guide Through Northern Italy

The Ultimate Road Trip through Northern Italy: Fall 2018

It’s easy to see why Italy is such a popular holiday destination: rich ancient history, welcoming hospitality, sweeping views, and delicious food. These many reasons have made Italy appealing to travelers from all over the world, and understandably chaotic to navigate using public transport to get around. By renting a car or leasing short-term, you will have the freedom and flexibility to come and go as you please- without the hassle of crowded transit stations or delayed connections.

A road trip through Italy is truly as lovely as it sounds. Whether in a bustling city, the rustic countryside, or a posh sea-side town, travelers visiting Italy are sure to experience what it means to live “La Dolce Vita”. And when traveling by car, you don’t have to choose- you can experience all of the above! 

Milan (30 min from Linate Airport, or 50 minutes from Malpensa Airport)

Apart from the Duomo di Milano, which is the most visited site in Milan and for good reason, consider visiting Il Cenacolo to view da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Milan is the fashion capital of the world, and if you are also interested in architecture and history then a must-see stop along your trip is Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II, the oldest active shopping mall in Italy. The historic Teatro alla Scala has been the site of world-famous opera performances since 1778 and can be seen while on a tour or by reserving tickets for a live performance. A great neighborhood to explore is Navigli, Milan’s canal district that has historic significance from when the city was constructed. With many art galleries, outdoor areas, and options for restaurants and cafes, Navigli feels like an escape from the city without having to travel too far.

Bellagio (1 hour from Milan)

Just north of Milan sits Bellagio, a picturesque town surrounded by Lake Como. Because of its remote location it is best reached by car, but the village itself is easily walkable. Narrow alleys and stairways lead to hidden restaurants and shops, and most of the village features unbeatable views of Lake Como. Other villages that dot the shores of the lake can be accessed by ferry or hydrofoil, including Tremezzo, Varenna, and Menaggio.

Verona (2 hours from Bellagio)

Said to be the inspiration for Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Verona is a captivating city on the banks of the river Adige. As an important water way for the ancient Romans, Verona is full of well-preserved ruins, including the Arena di Verona, an amphitheater that still holds events and opera programs to this day. As a testament to more recent history, the Castel Vecchio Bridge was originally constructed in the 1300’s and was rebuilt after being completely destroyed during World War II.

Lago di Braies (3 hours from Verona)

A trip to Northern Italy is not complete without exploring the Dolomites, and one destination that is beautiful any time of year is Lago di Braies, the largest lake in the area. Nearby Cortina d’Ampezzo offers world-class skiing during the winter months and exhilarating hiking trails all other months.

Venice (3 hours from Lago di Braies)

Venice is known to be one of Italy’s most romantic cities, but still has plenty of options for family-fun. Singles and business travelers can enjoy Venice for its vibrant nightlife and social bar scene. Famous for its canals, the lack of roadways on the island of Venice means that cars must be parked outside before entering in one of many easily accessible lots, where Venice locals also store their cars. Once you have explored Venice you can take a day trip to Murano or Burano by ferry. Famous for its highly skilled glass artisans, Murano offers many opportunities to find unique souvenirs and experience how they are made. Burano is famous for its colorful rows of fishing houses and artisans that make lace.

Florence, Tuscany (3 hours from Venice)

If Milan is the heart of the fashion world, then Florence can be considered its soul. Known as the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence is home to many impressive museum collections, palazzos, cathedrals, and universities. The Mercato Centrale is a bustling marketplace with everything from fresh produce to meats and cheeses, and is a great place to do some shopping, snacking, or take a look around.

San Gimignano & Siena (1 hour from Florence)

San Gimignano and Siena are two villages southwest of Florence, and the drive between them and the surrounding areas are full of the picturesque rolling hills and wineries that Tuscany is known for. Outside the towns, travelers can stay at private villas with olive groves or truffle fields, or explore the sprawling hills on a tour.

Saturnia (2 hours 30 min from Siena)

With a population of only 280, the ancient village of Saturnia is not commercialized but is famous for its bright blue thermal springs. As of now the springs are free to visit, and the best times to go are at sunrise or sunset to avoid the crowds.

Pisa (2 hours 40 minutes from Saturnia)

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is undoubtedly one of the most iconic landmarks in Italy, and is most conveniently visited as a stop on your drive from Tuscany to the coast near La Spezia. Also worth seeing in Pisa are the Baptistry and the Cathedral, both walking distance from the Leaning Tower.

Forte dei Marmi (30 minutes from Pisa)

The Tuscan Riviera at the seaside town Forte dei Marmi features idyllic beaches with the marble topped peaks of the Apuan Alps framing the background. This destination is favored among native Italians and long term residents, and offers many options of five-star hotels and luxurious villas.

Cinqueterre, Liguria (1 hour from Forte de Marmi)

Cinqueterre is made up of 5 towns (as the name suggests): Riomaggiore, Monterosso al Mare, Manarola, Vernazza, and Corniglia. Because the quaint villages have preserved their original charm, roads are narrow and in some areas cars are forbidden. Parking can be far from hotels and expensive, so the best option is to park at La Spezia station (for free) and access each town by train. Cinque Terre’s “off the beaten path” reputation has actually made it a magnet for tourists and travelers, making it extremely crowded during high season (April to October). If you want a true “off the beaten path” experience, visit Portovenere just south of Cinque Terre, a port town that has also maintained all of its traditional charm. Because it is a very small town, we suggest making a hotel reservation in Portovenere well in advance, and be sure to request a parking space at your hotel.

Genoa (1 hour 20 minutes from Cinqueterre)

Genoa is a traditional Italian city that has never attracted the hordes of tourists like Rome or Florence, and that is the beauty of it. A visit to Genoa is an opportunity to see how Italians really live their day to day lives in a city full of remarkable architecture, classic food, and endless traces of its rich history.

Milan (1 hour 40 minutes from Genoa)

Finish your trip right where you started and return to Milan. By choosing a short-term lease for your transportation within Europe through the Peugeot Open Europe program, you will have the freedom and flexibility to explore this Northern Italy guide at your own pace. In Milan we have convenient pick-up and drop-off locations at both Linate and Malpensa airports, and there are no additional fees for picking-up at one location and dropping-off at another. For more information or to start booking your reservation, click here.


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