The following is a guest post from Travel Kiwis.
I guess you are getting excited and maybe a little nervous too.
You know this year you are finally going to tick off, your bucket list dream of visiting Italy.
You can’t wait. You’re nervous. You want everything to be perfect, just like in the movies.
But you have a dilemma, where do I start, what is the best city or town to see in Italy, where can I have the ultimate Italian food experience?
I know, I know it can be overwhelming.
Whether it’s the language, the people or the food, spending time in Italy invokes a passion for experiencing the best of everything Italian.
And one of the most rewarding ways to see this fabulous country is to experience an Italy road trip.
To help you get started, we have picked some great spots for you to see as you explore one of Europe’s top travel destination, Italy.
Your Ideal Italy Road Trip
Travelling around Italy is often inspired by the stories you have read, and the photos and videos you have seen. It has left memories of the Italian way of life, beautiful villages, amazing cities, art, pasta and wine.
It’s true, Italy is a country where you can relax and unwind to enjoy life.
It’s why we slow travel and love to live like a local at every opportunity. If you need a more authentic cultural travel experience, check out how you can get started with slow travel here.
Now, you could see the best of Verona in a day, but to be honest, there is so much happening in one of the many piazzas, you should envisage staying at least three nights.
It’s the only way to get an authentic feel of Verona, but also Italian life.
One place not to miss in Verona is the fortified Castelvecchio Bridge built 1354-1356 over the Adige River. This arched bridge connects your walk to Verona’s medieval castle.
Piazza delle Erbe is the central market of Verona and was once an ancient Roman Forum. For fabulous panoramic views of Verona, climb the 84 meters, 12th century Lamberti Tower.
Verona Arena made of pink-tinged marble was built in the 1st century AD and still used today for concerts. During the summer opera festival, the arena has seating for 30,000 people.
Even though Shakespeare never set foot in Verona, Juliette’s balcony from Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliette is a Verona must-see. It can be a little busy as people stop to admire who is on the balcony while others queue to have their turn.
If you love food, spending a day in Modena to enjoy one of the many gourmet restaurants won’t disappoint. You will be sampling so many fresh ingredients of Italy.
Modena is the home of Traditional Balsamic Vinegar, made from crushed grape juice, skins, seeds and stems and aged for 12 years. And believe us, it is one of the best flavours you will enjoy. So much better than a local supermarket brand.
And, if you have a need for speed, then Modena is an absolute must for your Italy road trip.
Modena is the home of Enzo Ferrari where you can visit the Enzo Ferrari museum with the original workshop and Enzo’s house.
Make sure to also visit the Torre della Ghirlandina and Duomo de Modena where the funeral for Luciano Pavarotti was held.
The Duomo is a UNESCO building from the 11th century built with white marble. Inside the cathedral is the crypt of Saint Geminianus which is just stunning.
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Spending a day in Padua takes you back in time.
Not only is the University of Padua founded 1222 the oldest university in Italy, but it is the construction of the Basilica of St Anthony from 1232 which bought pilgrims to the city.
While the Basilica’s Byzantine domes and Turkish minarets will have your jaw dropping, the interior is just as spectacular. The original church and tomb of St Anthony became part of the Basilica.
Enjoy Prato della Valle, formerly a Roman theatre and covers 80,000 square metres making it one of the largest squares in Europe. Each of the 78 statues lining the canal are some of the prominent figures of Italy and Padova.
Wandering through the narrow cobblestoned streets imagining the people who walked here centuries ago — the shops with designer clothes, mouth-watering cakes and local souvenirs to collect.
Only when you turn the corner into Piazza del Campo, will it make you stop and stare. The shell shape piazza is alive with people mingling, chatting, meeting up for coffee or a long lunch.
If you time your Italy road trip for July and August, you can join 40,000 fans who come to see the famous Palio di Siena horse race. For over 500 years the ten city wards, wearing their colours complete for the title, with locals cheering on.
Cattedrale di Santa Maria Assunta with its black and white marble is also a must-see in Siena. The detail and opulence of the interior highlight the craftsmanship for this period. You will need a ticket to enter, and a card to climb the bell tower for views over Siena.
It’s not often you hear a lot about Genoa when people visit Italy. The city is the birthplace of Christopher Columbus, so it’s no surprise the Port waterfront has a maritime museum and aquarium.
Piazza de Ferrari Fountain is a well-known landmark and within easy walking distance of the old Porta Soprana gatehouse and towers. These once formed part of the city wall of Genoa.
Along with Palazzo Reale owned by some of the aristocratic families, including the Savoy family, the Doge’s Palace is another beautiful building to view, now a museum.
The best of Genoa is strolling along the UNESCO Via Garibaldi with its famous palaces and beautiful architecture. It’s only a narrow street, but each building seems like a work of art. Especially the red and orange façade of Palazzo Rosso.
The main square of Turin is the Piazza San Carlo lined with many cafes and restaurants tucked away under overhanging porticos.
The central monument of the piazza is Emmanuel Filiberto on horseback. The other feature is the “Twins of Turin” being the churches of Santa Cristina and San Carlo Borromeo overseeing the Piazza at a distance.
And no Italy road trip would be complete without visiting the Cathedral of St John the Baptist built around 1491-98. The Shroud of Turin has been kept and protected here for four centuries.
A visit to the Palazzo Reale di Torino shows you the wealth of the Savoy family who controlled Verona for centuries. The gardens attached make an ideal place for a picnic lunch.
Often the more authentic feel on an Italy road trip is to explore smaller places like Vicenza.
Find yourself a café in Piazza dei Signori to admire the stunning architecture.
A favourite is the 16th-century Basilica Palldiana remodelled by a stonecutter called Andre Palladio. For a small payment, you can climb the magnificent staircase to the top terrace for views over the Piazza dei Signori.
And you can visit the Museo del Gioiello of Jewellery, one of the industries of the city.
Other buildings designed by Palladio is the Teatro Olimpico, the first covered theatre in Europe built 1580-1585 and the art gallery Palazzo Chiericati.
Vicenza is a hidden gem on your Italy road trip.
We learnt some interesting facts of Bologna known for its Spaghetti Bolognese and its leaning towers. The Torre degli Asinelli at 97.2m is a climb up 498 steps leans 1.3 degrees off centre, but the views are stunning.
The exciting fact is, its twin the Garisenda Tower leans 4 degrees more than Pisa leaning tower.
Piazza Maggiore is a magnificent large square flanked by the City Hall and the Basilica di San Petronio. The Basilica built in 1390-1663 is one of the largest churches of brick in Italy. When you get inside, look for its 67-metre meridian line, one of the most significant astronomical instruments in the world.
Take a stroll along the Mercato di Mezzo to see an array of fresh produce, meats and bread. Perfect ingredients for a picnic lunch at the impressive Fountain of Neptune just off Piazza Maggiore.
Spending a day in the hillside town Orvieto was a pleasant surprise. You can park the car just below the old town gates, and while you can take the lift, a more interesting approach is to walk through the underground cave area.
And if that isn’t enough, the well shaft of Pozzo di San Patrizio with its double spiral staircase from the 16th century is inspiring.
When visiting any Italian town, the focal point is often the church, and the Duomo di Orvieto is no exception. The exterior of the cathedral will have you taking a bench seat to study the elements making up the façade of the church: the rose window, the massive bronze doors, the gold mosaics and the many carved figurines.
If you want to go back in time, then add Ravenna to your Italy itinerary. Planning a visit here on your Italy road trip will be a highlight.
With 8 UNESCO buildings, Ravenna was once the Western Roman Empire capital from 402AD. And the Byzantine capital from the 5th to 6th centuries.
Basilica di San Vitale built in the 6th century has an interior of stunning Byzantine mosaics. To think these were crafted over 1500 years ago and are one of the best-preserved mosaics other than Istanbul. The detail, the colour and the story the mosaics tell is a true inspiration at the detailed craftsmanship.
Make sure to purchase a ticket to explore the mosaics of all five buildings which include the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia within the grounds of Basilica di San Vitale.
This city by the sea was an important port in the Mediterranean for the Hapsburg Monarchy as far back as 1382 until 1918. If you love the beauty of Vienna, Budapest and Prague, then Trieste needs to be on your Italy road trip itinerary.
The main square Unita d’Italia looks out over the waterfront surrounded by cafes and restaurants. The impressive fountain Fontana dei Quattro Continenti adds to the opulence of the piazza.
Take a walk along the Gran Canal de Trieste, built by the trade merchants to bring their boats closer into the city for trading.
Or make your way up to the Cattedrale di San Giusto Martire and the Museo del Castello di San Giusto for panoramic views of the seaport.
The city has many examples of architecture for its churches and temples of Greek or Serb Orthodox, Christian, and Jew. Even the Roman amphitheatre from the 1st century is still used for performances in the 21st century.
You can learn more of what to see in Trieste by clicking the previous link.
Start Planning your Italy Road Trip
Now you have some of the high spots to hit on your Italy road trip, it’s time to book flights. Getting to visit some of these places will be one of the best things to do in Italy.
While Rome, Venice and Florence will no doubt be on your list. If you want to enjoy your Italian vacation by taking it slow and connecting with the history, stunning architecture and food of these fantastic places, an Italy road trip is your best option.
Come travel to Italy, one of the top destinations in Europe. Let your journey begin!
About the Author: Terry and Maura of TravelKiwis left the corporate life at 50 to have a lifestyle of slow travel. Currently based in Europe after 4 months in Asia, they travel extensively seeking out lesser known places to stay and mingle with the locals, making friendships along the way.
Images were provided courtesy of Travel Kiwis and our own photography library.
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