Picturesque villages, unexpected art treasures, incredible landscapes and gourmet stops: a road trip in Italy offers the best of the country. And because you’re driving, you can savor it at your own pace, stopping wherever you please and where curiosity leads you.
This is part one of a multi-part series about road tripping in Italy, as we have many itinerary ideas for you, from north to south!
A road trip that will delight your eyes and your palate, driving among hills covered in vineyards and hazel groves, stopping at picturesque historic villages, often surmounted by castles. The starting point of this four-day itinerary (for a total of about 160 kilometers) is Bra, the hometown of the Slow Food movement, which in nearby Pollenzo has opened its University of Gastronomic Science, and where the Wine Bank holds samples of hundreds of Italian Doc and Docg wine labels (the most prestigious).
Proceeding into the heart of the Langhe, you reach Barolo, home to what is considered one of the best red wines in the world, the Barolo of the same name, whose history is recounted in the Falletti Castle, located right in the center of town.
Then you continue driving up and down the hills of the Alta and Bassa Langa, discovering hamlets such as Serralunga and Diano d'Alba, La Morra, Grinzane Cavour, Barbaresco, and more, stopping at wineries along the way and trying the excellent local cuisine.
The itinerary ends in Alba, the capital of the Langhe, famous for its white truffle, which is celebrated every year during a fair held in October and November.
Lake Garda (Lombardy, Veneto, Trentino)
The circumnavigation of Lake Garda condenses a great variety of landscapes, flavors and experiences, and three different Italian regions - Lombardy, Veneto and Trentino - in just 150 kilometers. To enjoy it to the fullest, plan at least 4 days.
Start at Peschiera del Garda, on the southern shore of the lake, stopping shortly after in Sirmione, to admire Catullo's Caves and the Rocca Scaligera fortress. From Desenzano to Salò, the road that runs along the lake offers picture-perfect views, dotted with cypresses and maritime pines, villages that appear as you turn a curve, and the mountains in the background.
After visiting Salò, the elegant town that was the seat of the Republic of Salò, a German puppet state created during the later part of World War II, drive to Gardone Riviera, where the famous Italian poet Gabriele D’Annunzio retired, building his monumental home, the Vittoriale degli Italiani.
After about 30 kilometers, you arrive in Limone sul Garda, famous for its lemon groves, its exquisite olive oil, and for the longevity of its inhabitants, and then continue to popular Riva del Garda. It is along this stretch of road that a chase scene from Casino Royale, of the James Bond film series, was filmed. In Riva del Garda, the gentle hills that have accompanied you so far give way to the harsher peaks of Trentino’s mountains.
Past Torbole, on the northern tip of the lake, the descent begins along the eastern shore of the lake, gradually encountering picturesque medieval villages and lively lakeside towns: Malcesine, in the shadow of Mount Baldo (which accessible by cable car), Torri del Benaco, Garda and Bardolino, famous for its wines, Bardolino and Chiaretto, and Lazise, with its church of San Nicolò overlooking the old port. In Garda, a walk on the promontory of Punta San Vigilio, among the olive trees from which the delicious Olio del Garda Dop is obtained, is a must.
You end back in Peschiera del Garda.
Strada della Cisa (Liguria, Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna, Veneto)
An immersion into the rural and mountain life of the Tuscan-Emilian Apennines, a peaceful corner of the world undiscovered by the masses. The itinerary is about 220 kilometers and is best enjoyed in three to four days. You drive along the Cisa state road 62 (SS 62), which connects Lunigiana to Veneto, crossing Tuscany, Emilia-Romagna and Lombardy.
The itinerary starts at Sarzana, Liguria, in the heart of Lunigiana, home to some of Italy’s wildest and most unspoilt countryside, a border area where the traditions, architecture and flavors of Liguria and Tuscany have blended for centuries. It is only a few kilometers in fact before you reach Aulla and Pontremoli (a stop to visit the beautiful historic center and the Castello del Piagnaro is recommended), in the province of Massa Carrara in Tuscany.
The Cisa pass, at 1,041m above sea level - tip: stop to take a photo in front of the Sanctuary of the Madonna della Guardia) marks the border between Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna and the beginning of the province of Parma, a foodie paradise. You begin your gourmet explorations trying the famous mushrooms of the Val di Taro, traversed by the Via Francigena, the ancient road and pilgrim route from Canterbury to Rome.
After passing Berceto and Fornovo, you arrive in Parma, famous for its architecture, music, art, prosciutto, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and countryside. Here you should stop for at least one day.
Then continue through Guastalla, in the province of Reggio Emilia, and on to Mantua, home in the Renaissance to the wealthy court of the Gonzaga. You then cross the border with Veneto and head towards Verona, your final destination, where you can enjoy a spritz along the banks of the Adige river and an opera concert at the world-famous Arena di Verona.