Planning your trip to the Northern part of Italy is exciting but can be overwhelming as well. There’s so much to visit in the whole country, and the northern part is no exception to that. We’re here to help you plan the best road trip in Northern Italy. This article contains several road trip itineraries in length and activities.
|Day 2||Milan, Lake Como||Lake Como|
|Day 4||Dolomites – Lake Garda||Lake Garda|
|Day 5||Lake Garda – Verona||Venice|
|Day 8||Florence – Siena – Pisa||Pisa|
|Day 9||Cinque Terre – Genoa – Parma||Parma|
With the Northern Italy Highlights – 10 days itinerary you’ll cross the most important highlights, cities and landmarks in the northern part of Italy. In the next part, you’ll find step by step itineraries where we explain the best stops, famous landmarks, and best places to stay. Also, we cover several itineraries for 5 and 14 days. Let’s start with the 10-day highlights!
10-day Itinerary – Northern Italy
For this Itinerary we recommend you to start in Milan. We chose for Milan as a starting point because it is easy to reach, either flying or overland.
When you feel it is more convenient, you can also choose to start your road trip at Venice. The route will be slightly different.
We feel it is essential that you plan your trip with the best booking recourses. That’s why we selected the recourses we use all the time while booking our trips. You can find them on our recommendations page, or scroll down and read the ‘plan your trip’ part in this article. Also, we will recommend places to stay in each recommended city where you will stay overnight during this road trip.
Day 1 – 2 Milan – Lake Como
Our first recommendation is that you start in Milan. After you arrive in Milan, you probably want to relax a bit first. So the first day we don’t plan that much. But if you like, you can explore the city. On the second day you drive to Lake Como, but that’s only around 2 hours drive. So we recommend to stay in Milan until lunch, and after lunch drive to Lake Como. This way, you have enough time to explore the highlights in Milan.
The highlights in Milan are:
- Milan Cathedral (Duomo)
- Church of Sante Maria delle Grazia
- Sforzesco Castle
- Galleria Vitoria Emmanuelle II
- Teatro alla Scala
- Brera Pinacoteca
It is easy to walk around the city center of Milan. The city itself is not that big. We recommend that you pick up your rental car right before you leave the city and travel to lake Como. It saves you a day in rental- and parking costs. And you don’t need your rental car while staying in Milan.
We wrote this article you might like, with in-depth information about the city of Milan.
Recommended places to stay in Milan
Milan has many accommodations where you can stay. Most of the time, we use Booking.com to book our accommodations. We selected two options, both with excellent customer reviews, which we think are great to spend one night.
- Hotel Napoleon – is in the middle of the center, so easy to reach all the highlights in Milan. They get a review score of 8.5 on average
- Room Inn B&B – Also find in the center, offer rooms with breakfast. They get a review score of 9.3 on average.
When you would rather looking for other accommodation, make sure to use this link, which will direct you to the best deals in Milan on Booking.com
Day 2 Milan – Lake Como
On the second day, we recommend you to travel to Lake Como, somewhere after lunch. It will take around 2 hours to reach the lake. You’ll need to follow the A9 north from Milan. We recommend staying in the town of Varenna, which is the easiest to reach, and on the road, you’ll need to follow the next day. From Varenna, it is easy to explore the lake.
Lake Como Highlights
The villages around the lake are great to explore, but Lake Como is renowned for its beautiful nature. The highlights you don’t want to miss are;
- Cathedral of Como
- Visit a lakeside villa; Villa del Balbianello
A 16th-century building with a beautiful garden on the side of the lake
- Take a boat trip to Varenna
This trip will stop at several villages, and you’ll get a great impression of the lake and its surroundings
- Go hiking along the lake
There are many different hiking trails at Lake Como. It is fantastic to spend a few hours in this beautiful nature.
Recommended places to stay Lake Como – Varenna
Varenna is the best place to stay at Lake Como for this road trip. It is on the road you’ll take the next day, and also it is easy to explore the best highlights of the lake with the taxi boat that leaves from this village.
There are many accommodations to find in Varenna, but the two that stand out the most, regarding customer reviews are:
You can also look for other villages to stay if you wish, but we recommend staying at the eastern side of the lake, on the road SS36. This is the road you’ll need to take the next day.
Day 3 Dolomites
The next day you follow road SS36, 38, 39, 42 and 239 to the national park Adamello Brenta. This park in the heart of the Dolomites is probably the best stop for a day visit. The entrance of the park is around 3,5 hours drive from Varenna. We recommend leaving early in the morning, so you have enough time to reach the park. The road will take you through the dolomites, which is lovely. You’ll probably stop a few times just to enjoy the views.
The dolomites are great for exploring nature and hiking. However, during this trip, you don’t have that much time to explore the most significant hiking trails. We recommend staying close by the park entrance
Depending on your interests and fitness level, you can choose different activities. We recommend using the park’s website to find out the best hiking trails. It is also convenient to book a guided tour in the park and its surroundings, that way you make sure you’ll get the best things to see in the short amount of time.
Day 4 Lake Garda
After you woke up and enjoyed the beautiful mountain views, it is time to hit the road again. Today you’ll travel to Lake Garda. The biggest lake in Italy and Europe. Many people say the lake is less spectacular then Lake Como, but we think it is a must-visit while traveling through this area.
Lake Garda is known for its beautiful historic villages and also beautiful landscapes. Two villages you don’t want to miss are Garda and Sirmione. Sirmione is a historic town on a peninsula at the lake. Marvelous to visit!
There’s a lot to see at Lake Garda, so you might be interested in reading our article with in-depth information about this area.
To make sure you don’t spend to much time in the car we recommend staying somewhere around Lake Garda. Also, the countryside is renowned for its vineyards, so it is excellent to go for a local winetasting. Not much driving after that 😉
Our recommended places to stay are in two different villages. Sirmione, which is a bit more expensive option, but probably one of the most romantic places you’ll ever sleep. The other option is staying in Peschiera del Garda, a vibrant town next to the lake, also perfect for a romantic stay, but less expensive.
Day 5 Verona
The city of Verona is a maximum one hour drive from Lake Garda. This medieval town is great for a day visit. Verona is worldwide known as the city of love. Shakespeare’s love story Romeo and Juliet is set in Verona. And despite Romeo and Juliet is a fictional love story, it is possible to visit Juliet’s house. Millions of tourists travel every year to this renowned place.
Luckily there’s much more to see in Verona, some of the famous landmarks are Castelvecchio, Ponte Vecchio, and the Verona Arena. Verona Arena is one of the best-preserved Amphitheaters in the world. Built-in 30 AD and today still used as a concert venue.
Verona is a great city to spend your day. We wrote this article about the city where you can read all the essential details.
It is lovely to spend the night in Verona. However, we recommend you to drive a few hours to Venice during the evening and stay overnight in Venice. This way you can reach the historic city of Venice early morning and spend a few moments when it is not too busy. There are many accommodations to find in Venice. The city is known for its hospitality. We recommend staying a bit out of the center, which saves you tons of money. You can also stay at the neighboring island Venice Lido, from where you can easily take a taxi-boat to the historical center.
The upside is that you can explore Venice by night when you arrive not too late. And during the night, most tourists left the historic center, so it’s much quieter.
Our Venice hotel recommendations:
- Ca’ Dei Dogi – Which is in the old center, but relatively cheap considering the location. And they are rated with a 9.3
- Hotel New Reiter – Located at Lido di Venezia (Venice Lido), the island next to the historical center. This hotel gets a customer rating of 9.2
Day 6 Venice
Waking up early in Venice and arriving in the historical center before 10 a.m. is recommended. It is still busy, but starting from 10 a.m., it is getting swamped.
Exploring Venice by day is great, but you need to decide what things you definitely want to see.
A few of the highlights you don’t want to miss are:
- St. Marks square
- St. Mark Basilique & tower
- Doges Palace
- Rialto Bridge
- Grand Canal
- Bridge of Sighs
It is also great to visit the surrounding islands Burano, Lido di Venezia, Murano, which is comfortable with one of the taxi boats.
To enter Venice, you’ll need to buy a ticket, which gives you also access to the taxi boats. At the Grand Canal, there are many taxi boats where you can hop on and off with your ticket. So when you want to save some money, don’t go to a traditional Gondola, but hop-on a taxi boat.
At the end of the day, we recommend to leave Venice, hop in your car and drive to Florence, which is still a 3-hour drive. But the advantage is that you can stay overnight in Florence, and the next day has all day to exploring another historic city.
It is a bit difficult to drive into the city center of Florence. The city is busy, and most roads are one direction only. So we recommend staying at the outside center ring, which makes it easy to park your car. Public transport in Florence is perfect, so the next day you don’t have any problems reaching the city center.
Our Florence hotel recommendations:
- Eden Rock Resort – which is around 5 kilometers out of the center, but a relaxing place to stay. They get a customer rating of 9.4
- Hotel Rapallo – In the heart of the historical center of Florence. Perfect for a two-night stay or longer. They get a customer review of 9.3
Day 7 Florence
Florence is known as the heart of the Rennaissance. It is the capital of the Tuscany region. Florence was the center of trade and banking during medieval times. And the Medici Family, in particular, had significant influence at the modern banking system.
With many historical buildings, it is one of the most beautiful cities to visit in Italy. Since 1982 the historic center of Florence is listed as a Unesco World Heritage site. Many great artists and philosophers lived in Florence during the middle ages. Medici Family, who invented modern banking, but also a few popes came from this family. Artist like Michaelangelo, Botticelli, Leonardo da Vinci, and Machiavelli lived and worked in the city of Florence.
Florence is probably the city with the most historic architecture in Italy. Places you don’t want to miss while visiting Florence are:
- Florence Cathedral (Duomo)
- Piazza Della Signoria
- Ponte Vecchio
- The church of San Lorenzo
When you want to visit the Duomo, you must reserve a ticket in advance. It is recommended to plan this a few weeks before your arrival. Tickets are often fully booked, and you need to choose a particular time slot to visit the Duomo.
You can also book a guided tour through the city, where you’ll explore the best highlights of Florence.
Day 8 – Roadtrip in Tuscany
Tuscany is often referred to as the most beautiful countryside in Italy. Tuscany is a bit different than the other regions in Italy. Mainly because there are so many medieval villages to visit. The people are friendly, and the food is fantastic. We always feel at home while traveling through Tuscany.
You can easily spend a few weeks in the Tuscany region, but during this road trip in the Northern part of Italy, we recommend that you stay in the west part of Tuscany.
Leaving Florence we recommend you to drive to Siena – San Gimignano – Volterra – Pisa. In Pisa, you’ll stay overnight.
This road trip through a small part of the countryside of Tuscany will take up the whole day, but it is probably the best drive you’ll have during the entire trip. The roads are good condition, and the views are just stunning.
Siena is renowned for the largest medieval square and the famous Torre del Mangia. The historic center is one of the best-preserved medieval centers in Italy. San Gimignano is another great historic medieval village to visit. Walking into this village is like you’re stepping back in time. The center is closed for cars, so you need to walk here, which is easy. Because there’s no traffic, the vibe is even more unique. A perfect place to buy a fresh sandwich and enjoy your time at the main square of the village.
Volterra is another small village on top of a hill. This walled village with a big cathedral dates back to the 8th century BC! It is one of the oldest places in Tuscany. Many people think this village was the scene for the movie twilight. However, the town Volterra in this movie is a fictional village and not the same as the historic Italian village.
Driving west from Volterra, you’ll reach the coastal city of Pisa. Known for its iconic leaning tower. Did you know the famous tower straightens every year?
Our hotel recommendations for Pisa:
- B&B La Corte di Stelio – nice Bed & Breakfast with a local family. Customer review 9.1
- B&B Live design – it is a bit out of the center of Pisa, but they score a 9.6, which is one of the highest in the region
Tuscany region is great to spend more time. You can find more information about Tuscany in this article, where we tell more about the different villages in this region.
Day 9 Cinque Terre – Genoa – Parma
From Pisa, it is only a short drive to one of the most beautiful coastlines in Italy. Cinque Terre is a Unesco world heritage site. It is not a coastal city as many people think, the region consists out of five different coastal towns. The towns in Cinque Terre used the be fisherman towns. Nowadays the most important source of income is tourism.
Cinque Terre is known for its beautiful coastline, colorful houses that are built into the cliffs, stunning nature and excellent hiking trails. It is fantastic to spend a half-day or full-day in this area. During this road trip, we planned a half-day in Cinque Terre, but if you want to spend more time along these coastal towns, you can skip Genoa or Parma in this itinerary.
We wrote an in-depth guide about Cinque Terre. Check out our article What is Cinque Terre Famous For?
Genoa is known as the birthplace of Columbus, the renowned sea navigator. The city of Genoa was always an important harbor city for Italy. Nowadays it has the third biggest harbor in the Mediterranean Sea. Genoa is excellent to spend a few days and explore the extensive history. You can read all the details about Genoa in this
We wrote several articles about Genoa which we recommend reading before going to the city. Our recommended articles are:
Driving from Genoa to Parma is a beautiful road when you skip the tollroads. Parma will be the last city on this itinerary before you head back to Milan. Parma is a city that will surprise you. The city is known for its parma ham and renowned parmesan cheese. But also many historic buildings are to find in this city.
We were pleasantly surprised during our visit to Parma, and recommend anyone to stay here and explore this lovely city. Teatro Farnese is a theater you should visit while in Parma, it is a 16th-century theater, built entirely from wood. And the first theater with a podium instead of the round square you’ll see in the amphitheaters.
Our hotel recommendations in Parma:
- B&B Bsuites Parma – located in the heart of the center and a customer review of 9.3
- Palazzo Dalla Rosa Prati – Apartment/ Hotel located in the historical center. The get a customer review of 9.4, the location is perfect!
Day 10: Milan
The last day of this road trip itinerary is traveling back to Milan. Depending on your departure time you can either explore the city of Milan for a second time or maybe need to go directly to the airport. The drive from Parma to Milan is around 2 hours.
When you still have time for exploring, we recommend dropping your rental car at the drop-off and head to the city center. It is always fun to explore a city for the second time. Or maybe you didn’t have time on your first day to see all the highlights of the city.
Recommended route part 1 – Milan to Florence (Day 1 – 7)
You can use these Google Maps as a recommended route to follow.
Recommended Route Part II – Florence – Milan
(Day 7 – 10)
5-day Itinerary for Northern Italy Roadtrip
After reading the itinerary above, you might wonder how to shorten the itinerary to five days. Honestly, we think five days is too short to explore the best parts of Northern Italy. But sometimes you just don’t have more time.
You’ll need to choose between some highlights when you have less amount of time to spend in Italy. But in five days you still can see a lot.
There are several options to spend five days in the Northern part of Italy. We have three recommendations, where we think you still see a lot of this beautiful part of Italy.
5 days Milan to Venice
In this road trip, we recommend you to start in Milan and leave the country from Venice. This way you’ll spend your time in the most efficient way possible. We will skip the Dolomites during this road trip because the drive is taking to much time. Also, you’ll stay in the northern part of the region. You won’t reach the Tuscany region.
|Day 2||Lake Como||Lake Como|
|Day 3||Lake Garda – Verona||Verona|
Depending on your departure time you can explore the islands around the historical city of Venice or go directly to the airport.
5 days Milan – Dolomites – Milan
The other option to spend only 5 days in the northern part is excellent for hiking enthusiasts.
|Day 4||Lake Como||Lake Como|
We recommend spending two full days to explore the Dolomites and do some hiking. You might even drive to the Queen of the Dolomites – Marmolada. It is the highest mountain in this mountain range. The drive is a bit far, around 3 hours from the national park Ademello Breno, but you’ll have the best views from the cable car of the highest mountain peak!
5 days Milan – Cinque Terre – Florence (Tuscany Roadtrip)
Milan to Florence is a great road trip, where you see the best parts the Tuscany and Cinque Terre region. We recommend booking a departure from Florence because it saves you a lot of time. You’ll be able to use your time in the most efficiënt way.
|Day 2||Parma – Cinque Terre||Cinque Terre|
|Day 3||Pisa – San Gimignano – Siena||Siena|
The total length of this road trip is 388 miles (625 kilometers). You’ll drive around 62 miles (100 kilometers) a day, but that gives you enough time to explore the historical and traditional villages and countryside.
Don’t forget to book your sightseeing tickets for Florence in advance. The city is bustling, and if you don’t book your tickets in advance, there might be a chance you miss out on visiting the historic Duomo. Or that you need to wait a long time in line.
5 days Milan – Italian Lakes Roadtrip (Lake Maggiore, Lake Como, Lake Garda)
The northern part of Italy is renowned for its beautiful mountain lakes. Lake Garda is even the biggest lake in Europe, and Lake Maggiore and Lake Como are set in some beautiful environments.
If you’re into hiking, watersports, or just want to experience the beauty of nature, this road trip might be something for you.
In five days you’ll visit the three biggest lakes in Italy before heading back to the vibrant city of Milan.
Note; the road from Lake Maggiore to Lake Como takes you a few miles through Switzerland. You can also go around Switzerland and stay in Italy, but that’s a longer drive.
|Day 2||Lake Magiorre||Lake Magiorre|
|Day 3||Lake Como||Lake Como|
|Day 4||Lake Garda||Lake Garda|
Lake Maggiore is in the second largest lake in Italy, and also crosses the border with Switzerland. The lake is the largest in the southern part of Switzerland.
There are some splendid botanical gardens and excellent hiking trails around the lake. The Borromean Islands are the main attraction at Lake Maggiore. Three rocky islands that were bought by the Borromean family centuries ago. They made these islands in the beautiful botanical gardens which they are now. It’s worth a visit!
The two best lakes for watersports like kite- and windsurfing are Lake Como and Lake Garda. There’s a constant wind blowing from the mountains which makes both lakes favorable for a fun sports day on the water.
This road trip is around 500 kilometers, maybe a bit more depending on where you go around the lakes. Approximately 100 kilometers driving a day should be your maximum, so you have enough time to explore the beautiful lakes.
The drive back from Lake Garda to Milan is around 2 hours, so make sure you plan that properly according to your departure.
14-day Itinerary for Northern Italy Roadtrip
When you have more time for a road trip, we recommend using it. 5 days is very short, and you need to make some choices in what places you’re going to visit. 10 days is great, but also a bit short with so much to see around this part of Italy.
14 days or even longer is perfect for a road trip.
So if you’re lucky enough to spend more time on the road and enjoy your holiday, this itinerary is for you. The basics are the same as the 10-day itinerary for Northern Italy, but we added more stops and more time for sightseeing and exploring.
Also, we recommend leaving from another city. So you can use your time in the most efficiënt way.
14 days Milan – Venice – Florence
This itinerary takes you all the way from Milan to Venice, and from Venice to Florence. You’ll see the greatest highlights and have enough time for sightseeing, hiking and learn about the Italian culture.
In some places, we recommend staying two nights, so it is more relaxed, and you allow yourself to really get to know the city or village.
|Day 3||Lake Como||Lake Como|
|Day 6||Lake Garda||Lake Garda|
|Day 10||Bologna – Parma||Parma|
|Day 11||Genoa – Cinque Terre||Cinque Terre|
|Day 12||Lucca – Pisa – San Gimignano – Siena||Siena|
Recommended route day 1 – 8
Recommended Route day 8 – 14
14 days Milan – Venice – Florence – Rome
The big Italian big four road trip. Many people want to visit these cities while visiting Italy, but especially Rome is a bit far regarding the other cities. However, if you have more then 10 days for your holiday, it is easier to manage.
We recommend starting in Milan and plan your departure from Rome. You can also choose to do this road trip in the other way around. It just depends on what you feel is more convenient.
|Day 3||Lake Como||Lake Como|
|Day 6||Lake Garda||Lake Garda|
|Day 7||Verona – Venice||Venice|
|Day 9||Parma – Genoa – Cinque Terre||Cinque Terre|
|Day 10||Pisa – San Gimignano – Siena||Siena|
|Day 12||Florence – Rome||Rome|
Recommended route day 1 – 8
Recommended Route day 8 – 14
From Florence to Rome it is about 3 to 4 hours drive. The road trip to Rome will take up a half-day. If you decide to avoid the toll roads, which is a more scenic route along the western coastline of Italy, it will take you even around 5 hours.
We recommend taking the scenic route, though. You’ll see a lot more of the beautiful countryside of Italy.
Rome is a special city to visit. It is one of our favorite cities in Italy! There is so much to find in Rome, historic building, culture, and great food! Of course, you’ll visit the famous landmarks as Colleseum, Trevi Fountain, Spanish Steps, Pantheon, and Vatican City. For drinks and dining, we recommend you to go to the Trastevere neighborhood. Here you’ll find many small traditional restaurants, the best place to have a relaxing night after much walking in the city!
You don’t need a car when in the city of Rome. Most of the landmarks are in walking distance, and public transport is excellent. So we recommend dropping your rental car when arriving at the city. You can easily take public transportation from and to the airport.
The bus from or to the airport can take up to 1 hour though.
We wrote some articles about Rome, that might interest you:
Planning & Packing tips
There are many options for a road trip in the Northern part of Italy. Our road trip itineraries cover the different highlights in this part of the country. We tried to be as thorough as possible and make different routes for different interests.
Best Time to Visit Northern Italy
The best time to visit the Northern part of Italy is between the months of May and September. During these months you’ll have the best weather conditions, less rain and most chance of sunshine. However, the Dolomites can be cold year-round, especially when you go high into the mountains. Make sure to bring some warm clothes, even in summer!
The months July and August are the high tourist seasons, so it is busier during these months. But for the cities of Venice and Florence, it is busy year-round.
Temperatures on average in the Northern part of Italy are favorable. The below charge are average temperatures in the Milan region. The weather around the lakes and in the mountains can vary heavily day to day.
|Month:||Minimum – Maximum |
|January||28.6F – 40F||-1.8 – 4.4|
|February||32.2F – 46.8F||0 – 8.2|
|March||37.9F – 55.8F||3.3 – 13.2|
|April||44.6F – 63.5F||7 – 17.5|
|May||52.2F – 71.4F||11.2 – 21.8|
|June||59F– 79F||15 – 26|
|July||63F – 84F||17.2 – 28.8|
|August||63F – 84F||17.2 – 28.8|
|September||56.3F- 75.7F||13.5 – 24.2|
|October||47.1F – 65.8F||8.3 – 18.7|
|November||38.5F – 50.4F||3.6 – 10.2|
|December||30.4F – 41.7F||-0.8 – 5.3|
Planning your trip
It is essential to plan ahead while planning a road trip in Italy. At every place where we recommend staying overnight, we put some recommendations for hotel bookings. If you rather look up a hotel yourself we recommend using the searching tool:
Tip: We only book accommodations on Booking.com that are rated with an 8.5 or higher. This way we make sure we get the best places to stay.
Renting a car in advance can save you a lot of money. We always use rentalcars.com for booking a car. Their search engine gives the best and most affordable results. We also find that their customer service is excellent.
You can use this link to check the latest prices on rental cars in Italy
We found that insurance can be a tricky thing, but since we’re using Rentalcover.com for our rental insurance, we stopped worrying. Rentalcover offers the best coverage for a rental car, and it is cheaper than insurance via the rental company. We recommend using rentalcover. Use this link or the banner below to get a quote.
Travel insurance is essential for your belongings and healthcare while traveling. WorldNomads insurance is what we feel is the most comprehensive and reliable travel insurance you can buy. They cover over 150 activities, even some extreme sports and have 24/7 emergency assistance when necessary.
Hopefully, you’ll never use it, but when you need it, it is good to know there’s a company out there helping you. Click on the banner to get more information on the website of World Nomads.
We love taking pictures and videos during our travels, but also like to be organized with our stuff. We don’t want to bring too many things, because simply you don’t need that much while traveling.
Over the years we tested a lot of stuff, check out our full list of recommendations for packing gear and camera stuff on the recommendations page
Here are some things we recommend you to use during your Italian road trip:
GoPro Hero 7 (Check the latest price on Amazon) – Easy to use, waterproof, and excellent quality.
North Face Duffel Bag (Check the latest price on Amazon) – has a lot of space and you can use it as a duffel bag or backpack.
- Packing Cubes:
Eagle Creek packing cubes (Check the latest price on Amazon) – to organize your clothes in your backpack.