Planning the ultimate northern Italy road trip and no idea yet where to go? Then I got you covered!
My husband and I have taken the perfect 10-day Italy road trip and I can tell you – the planning was a hassle! Since the trip turned out to be so perfect, I would say it was worth it!
So you can skip all the tedious planning, I will share all the details about our road trip in this post. This includes an amazing 10-day Italy road trip itinerary and a two-week Italy trip itinerary, hotel recommendations, and the best things to do in each town.
Let’s get to it!
Table of Contents
- Important Information for Your Italy Road Trip
- How to Get Around Northern Italy
- The Best Time to Go on an Northern Italy Road Trip
- 10 Day Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary at a Glance
- 2 Week Italy Road Trip Itinerary
- Milan – Begin of the Northern Italy Road Trip
- Lago di Garda
- Verona – Home of Romeo and Juliet
- The Leaning Tower of Pisa
- Cinque Terre
- Last stop on our northern Italy road trip: Milan
- Making it a Two Week Northern Italy Road Trip
- Conclusion: Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary
- FAQ: 10 Day Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary
- About the Author
Important Information for Your Italy Road Trip
- Plan your route and destinations beforehand. I suggest picking the hotels below because they have great on-site parking and are very centrally located. This saves a lot of stress
- Pack essential supplies for the drive, including water and snacks. Make sure your car has a first-aid kit an an extra wheel.
- Get your vehicle serviced before hitting the road. If you have a rental car, you don’t need to worry about that one. The company will take care of it. I suggest booking with DiscoverCars, we had great experiences with them always.
- Bring a physical map or have offline navigation options. Sometimes there is no phone reception, so unless you have GPS in your car, I suggest bringing a travel guide with a map.
- Take regular breaks to stretch and rest. Switch driver if you are a group of people
- Capture memorable moments with photos. The journey is the goal – make sure to snap some pictures on the way
- Pack versatile clothing for changing weather. Luckily you can bring a lot of stuff in the car, so that makes it very easy.
- Carry emergency supplies like a first aid kit.
- Enjoy the journey and embrace unexpected detours. Don’t get worked up about detours, they can be fun!
- Italy requires you to pay tolls on the road, keep that in mind while budgeting! Usually, they take credit cards but make sure to bring some cash.
- In case of an emergency, for immediate medical attention or to call an ambulance dial 112 from any telephone in Italy.
- Make sure you have an international driving permit.
- Make sure to inform about the country in detail, there are a lot of useful things you need to know about Italy before you go.
How to Get Around Northern Italy
We booked a rental car with DiscoverCars and picked it up in Milan. This is a great way to get around Northern Italy for your road trip.
DiscoverCars offers amazing deals and is super reliable. Make sure to check it out for your road trip.
Do you need travel insurance in Italy? Yes, travel insurance in Italy is highly recommended. Avoid nasty surprises and travel worry-free with EKTA. EKTA offers worldwide travel insurance with 24/7 service and no hidden fees or restrictions.
The Best Time to Go on an Northern Italy Road Trip
The best time to go on this road trip is definitely off-season. All of the cities on this trip are quite busy, so it is best to avoid peak travel times.
We went during the Christmas holidays and over New Years Eve – which made the trip extra special! If you have the chance to go in winter, I can highly recommend it! Everything is beautifully decorated and it is not too cold to explore.
However, it can also be great to go during different times of the year. I have made a small break-down of the seasons in Northern Italy and the weather!
- Spring (March to May): Spring is a beautiful time to explore Northern Italy as the weather gradually becomes warmer. The landscapes come to life with blooming flowers and it is an ideal time for outdoor activities and sightseeing without the intense summer crowds. It might be too cold for swimming, so if you want to jump in the ocean, go at the end of May.
- Summer (June to August): Summer in Northern Italy is the peak tourist season, I would avoid that if possible. The weather is generally hot and sunny, especially in July and August. This can be quite uncomfortable. However, if you don’t mind the crowds, summer offers longer days and the opportunity to enjoy festivals, outdoor markets, and outdoor dining.
- Autumn (September to November): Autumn is another excellent time for a road trip in Northern Italy. The temperatures start to cool down, and the landscapes show stunning fall foliage. September and October are particularly pleasant, with mild weather and fewer tourists. It’s a great time to explore vineyards, taste local wines, and visit picturesque towns. It is too cold for swimming after September, so keep that in mind.
- Winter (December to February): Northern Italy experiences colder temperatures and occasional snowfall during winter. Cities like Milan and Venice, have a quieter atmosphere. Winter can be a good time to experience the holiday season and enjoy attractions without the usual crowds. I prefer winter for the Northern Italy road trip.
10 Day Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary at a Glance
- 2 nights in Milan
- Quick stop in Lago di Garda
- 1 night in Verona
- 3 nights in Venice
- 1 night in Florence
- 1 night in Pisa
- 1 day in Cinque Terre
- 1 night in Milan
For the 10 Day Northern Italy road trip itinerary, I definitely suggest visiting the famous cities such as Milan, Venice and Florence. But also the smaller cities, such as Verona and Pisa are worth visiting.
As for beautiful scenery, we have added Lago di Garda as well as Cinque Terre to the itinerary. Both destinations are extremely beautiful and definitely worth a visit.
We have started and ended our road trip in Milan. Milan has the best airport connection in the area. Also, rental cars are cheaper if you return them to their original destination, so we planned this as a round-trip.
2 Week Italy Road Trip Itinerary
- 2 nights in Milan
- 1 night in Lago di Garda
- 1 night in Verona
- 2 nights in Venice
- 2 nights in Florence
- 1 night in Pisa
- 1 night in Cinque Terre
- 1 night in Genoa
- 1 night in Milan
10 days is a good time for this road trip itinerary. However, we felt like we could have used some additional days at some of the stops. I don’t recommend adding more stops to the already busy itinerary, but I would add some more nights to Florence, Lago di Garda, and Cinque Terre.
Milan – Begin of the Northern Italy Road Trip
We chose Milan as a starting point for our ultimate Northern Italy road trip. The city is easy to reach by plane and we could easily find a rental car there. We decided to sleep in Milan for two nights, so we would have enough time to explore the city.
Milan is a vibrant city in Northern Italy and it is known for fashion, design, and finance. The city is a shopper’s paradise, there are many high-end fashion boutiques and the famous Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II.
Milan is also renowned for its culture and arts scene. The city has also a rich historical and cultural heritage, so there are many beautiful sights you can visit. Stunning Gothic churches and castles are awaiting you!
Milan hosts major international events, like Milan Fashion Week and the Milan Furniture Fair. If you are interested in these, make sure to check out the dates before you plan your road trip.
Food enthusiasts will absolutely love the traditional Italian cuisine. Make sure to check out risotto alla Milanese and panettone.
The city’s also has a great nightlife scene. There are lots of trendy bars, clubs, and rooftop terraces. Make sure to not stay out too long – otherwise driving is not safe on the next day!
Milan Things to Do
Milan is a beautiful city and has many great things for you to see. First and foremost, I suggest a nice walk through the city to pass by some famous landmarks. My three favorite things to see in Milan were the Duomo di Milano, the Galleria Vittorio Emmanuele and the Sforzesco castle.
If you are planning this stay ahead of time, you might want to reserve a spot to see the famous Last Supper painting.
Football fans will be drawn to the San Siro Stadium, which is the home of AC Milan and Inter Milan.
The famous La Scala opera house is the place to be for lovers of the theater. You should also explore world-class museums such as the Pinacoteca di Brera and the Leonardo da Vinci National Museum of Science and Technology.
The Santa Maria Delle Grazie is an amazing place to visit as well, this is where Leonardo Da Vinci painted the last supper.
If you are not sure where to go, I have a couple of great suggestions for tours and day trips in Milan for you that you can choose from. Booking some day trips or tours ahead of time can save a lot of hassle and is a convenient way of exploring a city.
Guided Day Trips and Tours in Milan
Milan Food Lovers Tour
My favorite tour in Milan is the food-lovers tour. You will tour Milan for two hours and be tasting local delicacies along the way. The tour is private and guided by a local, so this is a great way for Slow Travelers, that are more interested in learning about the cultue.
Historic Milan Tour with Skip-the-Line Last Supper Ticket
The historic Milan tour is a great way to experience the city and its most important historical landmarks in three hours. Additionally, you will get to see the famous last supper painting without having to wait. This tour is definitely worth it – as you will see so much!
Milan Duomo, Archaeological Area & Rooftops Private Fast-Track Guided Tour
This private Milan tour is everything you need if you want to see some stunning archaeological sites as well as hang out on some impressive rooftops. I always recommend booking private or small-group tours for a more in-depth experience. This is definitely one of my favorite tours in Milan.
Treasures of Milan: Fashion and Design Private Tour
Fashionistas will absolutely love this private treasures of Milan tour. You will explore the Navigli district and see its canals as well as discover a few hidden fashion gems – and of course major international brands. Your informative guide will tell you everything you need to know about fashion in Milan.
Where to Stay in Milan
We stayed in the AC hotel by Mariott in Milan. The location is great and the service is amazing. Also it has a downstairs parking garage, so it was very convenient for our rental car.
We mainly chose to stay in the Mariott hotel chain on this trip, because they all have car garages and we could book them one day in advance without paying extra.
Lago di Garda
After leaving Milan early in the morning we headed towards Verona. On the way, we stopped at the Lago di Garda for lunch and to explore a bit. We loved this small pit-stop, because everything was lovingly decorated and very quiet at the time.
Lago di Garda is the largest lake in Italy. It offers stunning natural beauty with crystal-clear waters. I absolutely loved the picturesque landscapes. Garda’s shoreline is dotted with beaches, promenades, and waterfront restaurants, perfect for a lunchtime snack on the water.
Lago di Garda is surrounded by charming towns and villages, such as Sirmione and Malcesine. Both of them are great places for a lunch stop.
In summer, the lake is ideal for water activities like swimming, sailing, and windsurfing. Historical sites like the Scaliger Castle and Roman ruins should definitely be on your list!
If you are wine enthusiasts, like us, you can explore the nearby vineyards and taste the local wines, such as Bardolino and Lugana. I also suggest to bring some wine home with you, it is usually cheaper when buying directly at the vineyard.
We only stayed there for a couple of hours, but if you have the time, make sure to book a full-day Lake Garda tour.
We did not stay overnight on this Northern Italy road trip. If you have time available, I suggest staying at least one night at the Lefay Resort and Spa – the view from their terrace is to die for!
Verona – Home of Romeo and Juliet
Our second (actual) stop on our 10-day northern Italy road trip was Verona. The small city of Verona is famous for being the home of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. We arrived late in the afternoon in Verona and strolled around the city. There were beautiful Christmas decorations everywhere.
Things to Do in Verona
- Visit the iconic Verona Arena! It is an ancient Roman amphitheater that hosts opera performances and concerts. It looks also super stunning from the outside
- Explore Juliet’s House (Casa di Giulietta) and its famous balcony! It is a popular spot for lovers and fans of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet.” It was my favorite thing to do in Verona.
- Wander through Piazza delle Erbe. This is a vibrant square surrounded by colorful buildings, cafes, and a lively market. A great spot of an Aperol Spritz!
- Take a stroll along the Adige River and enjoy the picturesque views of Verona’s bridges and historic architecture.
- Visit the stunning Basilica of San Zeno Maggiore. This is an impressive Romanesque church with beautiful frescoes and a beautiful courtyard.
Best Tours in Verona
If you are not comfortable with exploring by yourself or would rather have a guide, I suggest taking a guided tour. I love small-group or private guided tours, so I can learn a lot about the history and culture of a place.
Slow Travel Tip: Take a food tour or cooking class to learn about the culinary customs of the city!
I have hand picked a couple of great guided tours in Verona for you:
- Verona City Sightseeing Walking Tour of Must-See Sites with Local Guide
- Verona Highlights Walking Tour in Small-group
- Verona Gelato Making Class
- The Verona Food, Wine & history, Lunch/sunset aperitif & skip the line cable car
- Fascinating Verona: in the Footprints of Romeo and Juliet
Where to Stay in Verona
We stayed for one night at the Hotel Leon d’Oro in Verona. The hotel was in walking distance of all major sights, we got free breakfast and the rooms were very nice and spacious.
The Due Torri Hotel in Verona is also a great option.
From Verona, we headed on straight to Venice. Including Venice in the road trip was slightly difficult, because you can not bring cars into the city. However, we still desperately wanted to spend New Year’s Eve in Venice, so we made it happen! And it was much better than I could have imagined.
Venice is a unique and enchanting city in northeastern Italy. Venice is commonly known as the “Floating City.” It is built on 118 small islands, and they are connected by a network of canals and bridges.
Venice is especially famous for its picturesque canals, gondolas, and beautiful architecture. You can find many charming streets in Venice, see hidden gems, cute little shops, and local restaurants.
The city is also renowned for its art and culture. Every year, Venice hosts the Venice Biennale art exhibition. Venice is above all famous for its annual Carnival. There is an impressive parade with colorful masks and stunning costumes.
Sadly, Venice is also facing some challenges. Rising water levels and over-tourism impact the island. They are trying to fight both, sadly to not much avail. However, it is still one of my favorite cities in the world – one you absolutely need to see.
Where to Stay in Venice with a Car
The best option to stay in Venice with a car is on the Lido di Venezia. That’s a small island just off the coast of Venice city. You can reach it by ferry, which is super easy and cheap. We stayed at Hotel Villa Laguna and it was in my opinion the best stay on this trip.
The small boutique hotel is designed like a luxurious little Inn, with just a few suites. From our suite, you could see right over to the famous San Marco Square. We watched the New Year’s Eve fireworks right from our bed and it was amazing!
The hotel offered free parking and a big breakfast buffet. I can totally recommend New Year’s Eve in Venice.
Things to Do in Venice – Northern Italy Road Trip Edition
We spent our first day in Venice exploring the famous sights of the old city center. Strolling alongside the canals, walking over the Rialto bridge and eating a pizza to go.
We checked out the bridge of sighs, took a gondola ride and marveled at the Campanile and the San Marco square. We visited the Doge’s palace and had a coffee in one of the oldest cafes in the world, Caffe Florian.
Venice is pretty easy to explore by foot. You can just dive right in and walk around the little island. The charm of Venice lies definitely in the picturesque little alleys with a mystical feel to them.
The last day of the old year we spent touring the small islands of Murano and Burano. They are famous for their colorful houses and their arts and crafts, such as glass blowing.
You can take a water taxi or a guided tour to the islands, or simply catch a ferry! This is definitely one of my favorite things to do in Venice and on this 10 day northern Italy road trip!
Best Day Tours in Venice
Taking a guided tour or a day trip is always a good idea. I have taken many tours and trips in Venice in the past, and I can recommend the experience. I have selected a couple of my favorite day tours in Venice for you here:
- Legendary Venice St. Mark’s Basilica with Terrace Access & Doge’s Palace
- Private Excursion by Typical Venetian Motorboat to Murano, Burano and Torcello
- Eat Like a Local: 3-hour Venice Small-Group Food Tasting Walking Tour
Our next stop on the 10-day northern Italy road trip was Florence. After a bit of a drive, we arrived in the beautiful city and checked into our hotel. There are many amazing things to do in Florence.
Florence is located in the heart of Tuscany. The city is renowned for its rich history, art, and architecture. It is also considered the birthplace of the Renaissance.
Florence’s historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is filled with stunning architecture, charming streets, and lively piazzas. It is an amazing place to sit outside and enjoy a glass of Italian wine.
The city is also known for its culinary delights, including traditional Tuscan cuisine, world-class wines, and gelato.
Things to Do in Florence
We explored the beautiful city center on foot and checked out the Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore, the famous Ponte Vecchio, and the Galleria Uffici. Uffizi Gallery is home to an impressive collection of Renaissance masterpieces. You can see Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” and da Vinci’s “Annunciation.”
Another great thing to explore in Florence is the famous David statue from Michelangelo. Make sure to book a tour for this part of the trip, so you can skip the endless lines and see the statue with a guide.
Explore the Pitti Palace and its Boboli Gardens. They are a stunning oasis of beautiful lawns, fountains, and sculptures.
Also make sure to discover the beauty of the Basilica of Santa Croce, the final resting place of renowned figures such as Michelangelo, Galileo, and Machiavelli.
Florence is only a short trip away from Rome, in case you are looking for day tours from Rome.
Where to Stay in Florence
Our hotel experience in Florence was somewhat a surprise. We booked the AC Hotel Firenze by Marriott and we got upgraded to their best suite because of our Marriott Members Status.
Our suite had a private sauna and hammam, a rooftop terrace as well as a super fancy bathroom. We will never forget that stay. If you feel like treating yourself – make sure to book that suite!
Even without the upgrade, it is an amazing hotel and something I can recommend. It is within walking distance of all major sights and has a great parking space.
Best Tours and Excursions in Florence
- David & Accademia Gallery Tour – Florence
- Skip the line: Uffizi and Accademia Small Group Hidden Highlights Walking Tour
- Uffizi Gallery Small Group Tour with Guide
The Leaning Tower of Pisa
We continued out 10 day northern Italy road trip towards Pisa. This is also great for any Tuscany Road Trip.
Pisa is a historic city in Tuscany. It is mostly famous for its iconic Leaning Tower but there is a lot of other cultural heritage to see as well.
Aside from the Leaning Tower, the Piazza dei Miracoli is also home to the magnificent Pisa Cathedral and the Baptistery. Both are extremely impressive to see.
The city’s historical center is also a great spot to check out. It features medieval architecture, including the well-preserved Piazza dei Cavalieri. This used to be the political center of Pisa.
Make sure to stroll along the Arno River and enjoy the atmosphere of the Lungarni, the picturesque waterfront promenades. Try some typical Tuscan dishes, such as Cecina (chickpea flatbread) and Cacciucco (a seafood stew).
This is a relaxing stop on the road trip itinerary, but one we enjoyed immensely.
Where to Stay in Pisa
We opted for the AC hotel Pisa by Marriott again because of their great location and their parking spaces.
The rooms are spacious and comfortable and we enjoyed some Gin & Tonics in their amazing bar downstairs.
The hotel is only a short walk away from the city center and all of the attractions, which makes it a great place to stay for a road trip.
Best Tours in Pisa
A dream of mine was visiting the famous five villages of Cinque Terre. So we added the stop last minute to the itinerary.
Cinque Terre, the five towns, is a string of five old fishing villages perched high on the Italian Riviera in the region Liguria. The towns are called Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso.
We did not stay overnight, but we had the full day to explore, since the drive from Pisa is very short.
During the summer months, these villages are incredibly touristic and impossible to explore. We were grateful to had them almost to ourselves. Make sure to bring good shoes, there is a lot of walking down steps involved.
I have also visited Cinque Terre on my Western Mediterranean Cruise, in case you feel like exploring the area on the water.
Last stop on our northern Italy road trip: Milan
After visiting Cinque Terre, we drove back all the way to Milan. Because the drive was quite long, we stopped for dinner in Genoa. I
n Milan we stayed one last night at the AC hotel, before heading to the airport on the next day. This brought our amazing 10 day northern Italy road trip to an end.
Making it a Two Week Northern Italy Road Trip
If you have a bit more time on your hands, then I suggest making this a two-week northern Italy road trip. We felt slightly rushed with our itinerary, and we would have loved to spend an extra night in Cinque Terre, Florence, or Genoa.
In my opinion, two weeks is a great amount of time for this northern Italy road trip and if I had to do it all over again, I would stay even longer!
Not ready to end your time in Italy just yet? After Northern Italy you should check out the beautiful Puglia region.
Conclusion: Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary
I really hope that this Northern Italy road trip itinerary will help you have the trip of a lifetime. All of the stops on this itinerary are incredibly interesting and beautiful.
The typical Italian cuisine, stunning architecture, and history make Northern Italy a great place for a road trip. The streets are in great condition and driving is luckily very easy. This Northern Italy itinerary covers all the highlights you need to see!
If you love Italy, speak Italian and are looking for employment opportunities, check out such job listings on Jooble.
If you don’t have enough of road trips just yet, make sure to check out my Austria Road Trip Itinerary
FAQ: 10 Day Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary
Yes, driving in Italy is generally safe. However, it is important to be aware of certain factors. Italian drivers can be assertive and the traffic can be hectic, particularly in larger cities. It is advisable to follow traffic rules, be cautious while navigating narrow streets, and be prepared for parking challenges. Additionally, familiarize yourself with local driving laws and consider purchasing insurance coverage for your trip.
No, Italy does not drive on the opposite side of the road. Like most of mainland Europe, Italy follows right-hand traffic, where vehicles drive on the right side of the road.
If you are looking for a Northern Italy Road Trip Itinerary, I suggest starting in Milan. Go from there to Verona, Lake Garda, Venice and Florence. You can also visit Pisa, Cinque Terre and Genoa on the way back to Milan.
Driving in Italy can be challenging, particularly in busy cities with narrow streets and aggressive drivers. However, if you are an experienced and confident driver, it can be manageable. Familiarize yourself with local traffic rules, be prepared for heavy traffic, and exercise caution while driving. Consider using GPS navigation and allow extra time for parking, as it can be difficult to find parking spaces in some areas.
I suggest to take at least 10 days to explore Northern Italy. Two weeks is the perfect time to explore Northern Italy, and see the most famous cities, such as Venice, Milan and Florence. This also gives enough time to see Lake Garda, Tuscany and other beautiful spots
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About the Author
Sabrina is a passionate travel blogger and content creator, based in New Mexico. She spends about half of the year traveling to various destinations together with her husband.
She provides slow-paced itineraries that focus on quality over quantity. Sabrina wants to help her readers to get more out of their travel experiences – while doing less. Read more.