Most people who travel to Italy and want to explore the country by car opt for Northern Italy, which has so many fantastic tourist spots to cover, like Verona, Trento and Lake Como (just to name a few).
However, if you are anything like me and enjoy exploring hidden gems, then maybe a Southern Italy road trip is the perfect way to see the South of Italy’s best.
Southern Italy Road Trip Tips
There are many great places to visit on your Italian road trip, but the trick is limiting it to sites that will give you the most fantastic experience in the time frame you have to vacation in. This southern itinerary travel guide will help you plan an already well-driven route through some of the most beautiful places in Southern Italy.
Car Hire in Italy
Your road trip would not be complete without firstly organizing your car hire. Hiring a car from Naples International Airport is simple; I highly recommend Discover Cars, where you can book online, choose the company with the best deal, and it will be ready for you when you land.
Important note: Many cities are off-limit to parking in the city centre walls to protect the historic towns. It would help if you researched each city before entering; many sites will give you the correct information on parking.
Visa in Italy
Check that you do not require a visa for Italy. The ivisa website is a quick and easy way to check whether your passport requires a permit or not.
Travel insurance in Italy
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Southern Italy Road Trip planner
Book all your accommodation online before you arrive, and then link all of your bookings, tours, reservations and any transportation to your tripit app. The Tripit app is a game-changer and has all your itinerary nicely mapped out before you begin your round trip to Northern Italy. My favourite travelling apps blog post found other apps that make your Southern Italy itinerary planning more manageable.
Northern Italy Road Trip Route
Day 2:Naples to Pompei
Day 3Naples to Capri
Day 4: Capri to Amalfi Coast
Day 5:Explore Amalfi Coast
Day 6:Explore Almafi Coast
Day 7:Amalfi Coast to Lamezia Terme
Day 8:Explore Lamezia Terme
Day 9:Lamezia Terme to Reggio Calabria
Day 10:explore Reggio Calabria
Day 11:Reggio Calabria to Messina
Day 12Messina to Taormina
Day 13:explore Taormina
Day 14:explore Taormina
Road Trip Around Italy For Two Weeks
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 1 Naples
Arriving in Naples is easy; follow the signs to pick up your car, check your tripit app for your address to your accommodation in Naples, and your road trip to Southern Italy begins.
Things to do in Naples
What better way to kick off your Southern Italy Road trip than a day in grungy Naples. This city might seem dirty from the outside, but it has some kind of southern Italian charm once you start exploring.
The best way to experience the city of Naples is on the open-top, hop-on hop-off bus. With two routes on offer, you will be able to cover ample time during your one day of exploration. Or explore this ancient city on a private walking tour. Discover everything from architecture to old historical churches.
Standing tall at Naples Port’s edge, you will find Castel Nuovo (new castle), an impressive medieval Renaissance fortress. The Castel Nuovo is open from Monday to Saturday: 8:30 am to 6 pm, and 10 am to 1 pm on Sunday.
Another fascinating must-see is the Castel dell’Ovo (Egg Castle), which has defended the city, become a prison and as was once a royal residence. It is said that poet Virgil hid a magical egg here, and if someone broke the egg, he promised that the city would suffer great catastrophes. Not sure if anyone ever found the egg, but the name stuck! The entry is free, so no need to book online.
Visit Palazzo Reale, where inside, you will find the historic apartment and staircase of honour, amongst other rooms of such beauty. The Royal Palace of Naples was built when Naples was under Spanish rule when the Bourbon Kings ruled the Kingdom of two Sicilies. The Royal Palace opens from 9 am daily, and you can purchase tickets online.
Accommodation in Naples
Splurge – Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo – The Marriott franchise can not go wrong; they are always in the best locations and offer the same service worldwide. The Renaissance Naples Hotel Mediterraneo is no different. The best part about this hotel, the daily breakfast on the roof with views over Naples Port.
Budget – Una Notte al Museo – It shows you don’t have to pay a lot in Naples to get a great place to sleep. The pensione is only 3 minutes from significant museums and 5 minutes from the city centre. Moreover, parking is available, which is essential if you plan to start on a southern Italy road trip.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 2 Naples to Pompeii
Travel time from Naples to Pompeii
Travelling from Naples to Pompei will take approximately 30 minutes, but if you are touring the south part of Italy during summer, Pompei can be hot, very hot! So I would highly recommend arriving early or late in the afternoon to save you from the midday sun as there is no shelter.
Things to do in Pompeii
We all know the reason to come to the old town of Pompeii is to see the Unesco world heritage site; the ruins of Pompeii; Doors open at 9 am, and tickets can be purchased online.
Mount Vesuvius made the world heritage site of Pompeii what it is today. So while you are in the area, why not take a guided tour along the crater of Vesuvius? If you would like to visit yourself, then you can drive to the lower parking lot and then walk the rest of the way (approximately 30 minutes)
Once you have discovered the UNESCO archaeological sites of Pompeii, drive 20 minutes away and discover Herculaneum. This small town is less well known but is as equally as impressive as also blanketed by ash and preserved over these years.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 3 Naples to Capri
Travel time from Naples to Capri
The ferry you catch will depend on how long it will take to get there (prices vary). Catch the slow ferry, and you will arrive in just under 1.5 hours, catch the regular ferry and be in Capri in just under 1 hour; however, if you want a faster way to get there, catch the high-speed ferry, and you will be there in 40 minutes.
If you plan to stay the night on the Island of Capri, you will have to park your car at the Naples Port. However, parking is not expensive, and the parking station is conveniently located with a shuttle bus service to the port offered for customers.
Things to do on the island of Capri
If you would rather not spend the night on Capri and instead make a day trip, then head over on a tour of this beautiful island (including the Blue Grotto). Here you will go on a guided tour of this magical island without the worry of parking the car for the night.
If you want to see why this island has a reputation as being outstanding, then why not see it from the ocean? Spend a day on a boat tour of this beautiful island and its amazing grottos (yes, there is more than one).
Hire a boat from the dock as soon as you arrive on Capri; many different companies are offering a trip out to the Grottoes. These are not tours but a trip to the Grottos, where you then pay another person with a small dingy to visit the actual Grotto’s.
The Blue Grotto is the most well-known for its history of witches, monsters, and Emperor Tiberius’ personal swimming hole; this spectacular cave is blue beyond blue! Why? Because sunlight passes through the underwater cavity, this reflection illuminates and makes the water so blue that it is breathtaking.
On the other side of the island of Capri, you will find the Grotta Verde (Green Grotto). The colour in each Grotto is determined by the unique combination of water clarity, light source, cave depth, and Grotto’s size.
The Grotta Bianca (white cave) has white limestone rocks set against the crystal blue sea, combined with the density of the water and the stalactites and stalagmites, which gives it that spectacular look.
Just a reminder that; all caves will depend on season, and the rise of the ocean, so check before you go. If the sea is too high, you will not have access to the caves.
Splurge: Relais Maresca Luxury Small Hotel Views to die for, convenient location for a night stay, this small hotel has it all, right on the coast of one of the prettiest islands in Italy. So stop over for one night or splurge and stay one week; you will not get sick of the views from your room (I promise).
Budget: Don Raffaé If you are looking for value for money, Don Raffae is the perfect place to stay. It is metres from a beautiful little coastal beach with the bus station is minutes away. Choose a room with a terrace to enjoy the entire experience of being on the island of Capri.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 4 to Day 6 Capri to Amalfi Coast
Travel time from Naples to Positano
From one slice of heaven to another, today, you will head back to Naples, pick up the car and drive to the Amalfi Coast. Just a short 1.5 hours away from the Naples Port will have you there in time to be relaxing on the beach and enjoying a heartful Italian lunch.
Things to do in Positano
Spend the entire day relaxing in this beautiful part of Southern Italy. Lay on the beach, enjoy a long lunch and take it easy. You have plenty of time to explore the Amalfi Coast.
The Amalfi Coast was listed in 1977 as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it consists of 13 towns in the region. So there are a lot of exciting areas to explore.
The drive along the Amalfi coastal road is one of the most breathtaking views in Italy. However, it can be slightly terrifying as you zigzag your way along the coastal road.
Spending time on the water may seem luxurious on the Amalfi coast, and to some, it probably is. But you have to experience Amalfi and Positano on a boat tour, where you will stop to explore the towns, swim in the crystal clear ocean and enjoy time snorkelling, amongst other things.
Visit other unique towns such as Sorrento and Ravello. See why people come back here year after year! If you think a private guide would be a better option for exploring the Amalfi villages, try a tour where a knowledgeable guide can answer all your questions.
Drive inland for approximately 1 hour, and you will find Ferriere Valley, where you can spend the day hiking the pristine wildness and discover hidden gems (like waterfalls).
Accommodation in Positano
Splurge – La Caravella di Positano – The location of La Caravella di Positano says it all. Right on the beach of one of the most talked-about locations in the world. Just 3min walk to the ferries as well as shops and restaurants. The view just takes your breath away.
Budget – La sorgente del sole – La Sorgente del sole offers a great price in this rather expensive town. It also provides a place to park your car, with amazing views from the balconies; the best part is that all apartments boast their kitchen and access to an outdoor hot tub with sunbeds.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 7 and 8 Positano to Lamezia Terme
Travel time from Positano to Lamezia Terme
The route from Positano to Lamezia is your longest drive with approximately 4.5 to 5 hours driving time (whether you take the coastal road or go the more direct inland route), you are best to start the day early.
Things to do in Lamezia Terme
Although there might not seem like there is much to see or do in this little old town in Southern Italy, we all know looks can be deceiving! Why not explore the village by visiting Museo Archeologico Lametino, Teatro Umberto I and the beautiful Pontile di Lamezia (about a 20 minute drive to the coast).
Accommodation in Lamezia Terme
Splurge – Albergo Centrale – You won’t be paying ridiculous prices in this part of Italy. Instead, your splurge is nothing more than what you expect to pay for budget accommodation. You will be pleasantly surprised as the rooms are clean and modern and the location is within walking distance of all you need.
Budget – Carpe Diem – If you only want to pay half the price of Albergo Centrale, then Carpe Diem is highly recommended. Only ten minutes walk away from the centre this highly sort after newly renovated air-conditioned rooms are for rent. With tv, private rooms and a fridge, what else do you need?
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 9 to 10 Lamezia Terme to Reggio Calabria
Travel time from Lamezia Terme to Reggio Calabria
During this 1.5 hours drive, there isn’t much to see of this part of Calabria, as it is less travelled by tourists, with most opting to pass through Calabria and head straight to Sicily.
Things to do in Reggio Calabria
If you arrive early enough and want to explore more than what Reggio Calabria has to offer, hire a guide and travel to the ghost village of Pentedattilo, a beautiful town situated on the cliff of Mount Calvario.
Visit one of Italy’s most priced statues at Museo Nazionale della Magna Grecia. The Riace bronzes were two life-size Greek bronzes of naked bearded warriors cast around 460–450 BC in the sea in 1972 near Riace, Calabria.
Or spend the day at one of Calabria’s many beautiful beaches. The beaches are clean, the water is crystal clear, and the area is less crowded (even in summer).
Accommodation in Reggio Calabria
Splurge – Grand Hotel Excelsior’ – The Grand Hotel Excelsior is ideally located between the beach and the city centre, beside The National Archaeological Museum. Some rooms have sea views (well worth the few dollars extra).
Budget – B&B Santa Caterina – B&B Santa Caterina is a 15-minute walk from Reggio Calabria’s seafront. With air-conditioned rooms and value for money, you can’t go past this pensione.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 11 Reggio Calabria to Messina
Travel time from Reggio Calabria to Messina
Driving from Reggio Calabria to the Villa San Giovanni ferry pier is approximately 15 minutes. However, be warned that there can be a long wait getting onto the ferry, so arrive early and check ferry times before you get there.
The Messina ferry takes approximately 25 minutes, and tickets can be bought online or at the Villa San Giovanni ferry pier. When arriving in Messina, it will take you under 5 minutes to get to the city centre.
Things to do in Messina
As the third-largest city in Sicily, this bustling town has much to offer as you start your final leg of this Southern Italy road trip. Start at the Duomo di Messina, then head to the belltower and if you want more history, then continue to The Regional Interdisciplinary Museum of Messina. Otherwise, visit the Piazza, sit down for a long lunch and enjoy what Sicily offers.
Accommodation in Messina
Splurge – Villa Pulejo – If you are willing to drive 15 minutes away from the city centre, you will find yourself at Villa Pulejo. You will find yourself at the most magical place, far away from the hustle and bustle of Messina. This magnificent hotel has a bar, spa and wellness centre, swimming pool, hot tub and tennis court – need I say more?
Budget – Caio Duilio B&B – If laying your head to rest somewhere close to amenities is what you are after, then Caio Duilio B&B is the perfect place for you to stay the night. The pensione is clean, modern, and the friendly staff make the experience memorable.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Day 12 Messina to Taormina
Travel time from Messina to Taormina
The drive from Messina town centre to Taormina will have you there within the hour. As the trip is such a short distance, this allows you to spend the morning relaxing, as taking off too early isn’t necessary for your final journey on this southern Italy road trip.
Things to do in Taormina
Oh Taormina, what a wonderful place to finish your two-week southern Italy road trip. This ancient town in Sicily is beautiful to the eye and magical to the soul. Why? Well, it is hard to put in words what makes this part of Italy so unique; for some reason, it makes my heart sing.
Spend the day laying on the sunbeds, swimming in the ocean and eating incredible food. If that isn’t enough, go for a walk through The Corso Umberto, the main street of Taormina, and you will see why it has been christened “the Sicilian Saint Tropez“. Spend the afternoon right in the centre of Corso Umberto at Piazza IX Aprile, where there are many cafes to rest your tired legs.
Explore Taormina and the historical sites like the Greek Theatre of Taormina and St Nichola’s cathedral of Taormina (Duomo di Taormina). Or spend the day getting lost in the maze of arches and backstreets this beautiful town has to offer! Eat alfresco, stroll the streets, grab a gelato and take in the atmosphere!
Accommodation in Taormina
Splurge – Hotel Villa Belvedere – Hotel Villa Belvedere is within a 5 minutes’ walk from Taormina’s Corso Umberto. Ideally located, spectacular views and boasts a private swimming pool. The Hotel Villa Belvedere has an old-world charm that suites a modern-day perspective. The perfect stop for the end of your road trip.
Budget – Hotel Lido Mediterranee – Okay, so it isn’t quite budget, budget, but for the price and location, it is truly worth more than what you pay. With views over the ocean, a private beach, and being only a 5-minute drive from the city centre, you really can’t beat the Hotel Lido Mediterranee for value for money.
Southern Italy Road Trip Day 13 and Day 14: Explore Taormina
Whether your last days are spent solely in Taormina (I don’t blame you here) or you feel like exploring this beautiful area is more your thing. It is totally up to you, but here are some great ideas for day trips from Taormina if you choose the latter.
Taormina day trips
Head out to Mount Edna and get up-close and personal to the volcano. Listed as a World Heritage site in 2013, both the highest volcano in Europe and one of the most active volcanoes globally. Please note: The distance from Taormina city centre to Mount Edna is just over an hours drive.
Savoca and Forza d’Agrò
Visit the towns of Savoca and Forza d’Agrò and relive the Godfather movie by visiting where the Corleone’s ate, drank and got married. Please note: The distance from Taormina city centre to Savoca is approximately 40 minutes.
If you are travelling with kids (or even if you aren’t), spend the day at Sicily’s waterpark, Etnaland. Sicily can be dry and very hot during summer, so this is the perfect way to escape the summer heat. Please note: The distance from Taormina city centre to Etnaland is approximately a 1-hour drive.
Thanks for taking the time to read my blog. I hope this post has given you the information you need. If you have any recommendations, tips or advice, I would love to share them in the comment section below!
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