From the vibrant city of Naples and the awe inspiring views of the Amalfi Coast, to the traditional Italian towns of Puglia and Sicily’s beaches, volcanoes and cuisine, it’s time to plan the ultimate southern Italy road trip!
When it comes to road trips, a journey through southern Italy offers a chance to see a combination of spectacular scenery, traditional towns and epic natural wonders. One minute you’re exploring the ancient ruins of Pompeii, the next you’re driving along the heart-stopping roads of the Amalfi Coast.
You could spend a few days exploring Puglia’s prettiest towns including Monopoli and Ostuni, before spending the rest of the week enjoying the crystal waters in Sicily.
There’s a variety of cuisines to sample too, with incredible pizza in Naples, seafood pasta in Puglia, tasty olive oil and Sicilian delicacies including arrancini and sweet cannolis.
Oh and you’ve got a mix of activities on offer too. Hike active volcano Stromboli in Sicily, take a boat trip to the glamorous island of Capri, stay in a traditional Trulli house in Alberobello or go on a pizza tour of Naples (it’s a hard life!)
And the best part about a southern Italy road trip? The fact you don’t have stick to a set route. While you could follow my southern Italy itinerary on the map below, I’d encourage you to read my travel tips and then add a few stops of your own. It’s a beautiful part of the country – you could find yourself passing fields of olive trees or winding along dramatic cliff roads. You never know what you’ll find!
Rather than create one epic Italian road trip, I’ve divided the country in two! Read on for my southern Italy road trip or check out my route for an amazing northern Italy road trip, which includes stops in Rome, Verona, Venice, Lake Como and a few other beautiful spots.
Southern Italy Road Trip Itinerary
This south of Italy road trip starts in Naples and ends in Sicily – both of which have plenty of flight options available. Italy self-drive holidays are growing in popularity, and it’s easy to see why with routes like this one!
From eating pizza in Naples, to feeling like a movie star as you drive the Amalfi Coast, and then onto some of the prettiest towns in Italy as you explore Puglia, before finishing your enjoying Sicily’s dramatic landscapes, this route has it all! It’ll definitely show you some of the most beautiful landscapes in Italy too.
It’s also an easy one to break up – you could just concentrate on Naples and Amalfi, or spend a week exploring Puglia. These are some of my favourite parts of Italy, so I’m excited to share why they should be on your Italy road trip itinerary. I’d recommend a minimum of one week in southern Italy, but if you want to cram in everything on this blog, I’d suggest two to three weeks.
I’d also recommend taking a look at my guide to the best hidden gems in Italy too – you might find a few other stops to visit while you’re touring southern Italy.
Southern Italy Road Trip Map
I’ve used a map to plot the perfect route for your Southern Italy road trip. I recommend opening it another window to study in detail!
What to pack for your road trip
If you’re wondering what to pack for your trip, this guide to road trip essentials has you covered. From portable chargers to ways to stay entertained on long journeys, it’ll help you create your road trip packing list. I’ve also included lots of must-haves at the end of this post, to make the process much easier!
Southern Italy Road Trip: Stop 1 – Naples
Once you’ve exhausted northern Italy, it’s time to head south on your Italy road trip. The unspoilt shores of the southern coastline will appeal to travellers who like to explore off the beaten track.
First up, the bustling streets of Naples. Set on the Mediterranean coastline with active volcano Mount Vesuvius as its backdrop, this exciting city is the birthplace of Italian pizza, mysterious underground catacombs, castles and lively main squares.
If you choose to stay in Naples for a few nights, you could take day trips to the Amalfi Coast, hop on a boat to the island of Capri or tour Pompeii’s archaeological sites. There are lots of amazing southern Italy tours to choose from!
Naples to the Amalfi Coast (town of Amalfi): 70km / 1 hour 24 mins approx.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Stop 2 – Amalfi Coast
If your idea of the perfect Italy road trip is immersing yourself in glitz and glamour of old-time Italy, the Amalfi Coast is for you. With cliffside villages, colourful buildings and secluded beaches which lead to the sparkling Tyrrhenian Sea, it’s one of the most beautiful places I’ve visited in Italy. It’s also known for being one of the best Italian road trips.
Brace yourself if you’re the designated driver! The coastal road is winding and not for the faint hearted, but the views are worth it. Don’t miss the picturesque towns of Praiano, Ravello, Sorrento and Positano – a classic holiday resort with an old-world grandeur and panoramic views along the coast.
If you plan to stay a few nights, Sorrento is a good choice. With museums, piazzas, shopping and reasonably priced accommodation on offer, it’s a great base from which to explore the towns along the coast and visit the island of Capri. I’d recommend reading this guide to where to stay in Sorrento during your trip planning!
I did some of this road trip in reverse last summer and ended in Amalfi Coast before driving to Naples and fly home. We booked a last minute night at one of the hotels in Vietri Sul Mare, a town close to Salerno, right at the start of the coast. It was a basic hotel, but I still dream about the views regularly – looking out over that incredible blue water and the beautiful town and beach. I’d go back in a heartbeat!
Amalfi Coast to Puglia (town of Monopoli): 307km / 3 hours 46 mins approx.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Stop 3 – Puglia
Puglia is where we chose to go on our main holiday last year. Similar to this southern Italy travel itinerary, we hired a car in Naples and drove across the country to Italy’s heel. Driving in southern Italy wasn’t too scary, although some of the smaller towns and villages have narrow roads, so I’d recommend hiring a compact car.
Puglia is pretty, traditional, and has a great reputation for food. It’s one of my favourite parts of Italy. Home to unspoilt sandy beaches and cliffside fishing villages, Puglia is often overlooked in favour of glam places like Amalfi or Cinque Terre, but I think it offers a lot.
You could spend a few weeks just in Puglia, and still have plenty more to go back for, as there are gorgeous beaches, pretty towns and lots of history to keep you busy! A few places I’d recommend visiting are Alberobello, with its traditional white, cone-shaped Trulli houses (which, collectively have been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site). We spent a night staying in one and it was absolutely magical.
We also stayed in Monopoli – a beautiful seaside town with a small beach, medieval city walls and maze-like cobbled streets fulled with tiny wine bars and rustic restaurants.
Polignano a Mare is one of the most famous towns, and another absolutely stunning spot. With it’s cove like beach, dramatic cliffs and even a cave restaurant built into the rocks overlooking the water, I fell in love with the place! We spent a day there, eating fresh seafood pasta and gelato while meandering the pretty streets.
Ostuni is another must-see (and one of the best hidden gems in Italy). It’s known as the white city, and from afar has the appearance of lots of white houses stacked up on top of each other. Park somewhere outside the old city and wander up the hill, taking in the magic of the white washed buildings, cute pizzerias and architectural wonders.
If you’re planning a trip to Italy and interested in discovering Baroque architecture as well as having lively nightlife, street food and café lined piazzas, venture to Lecce, one of Puglia’s largest cities. Or consider a trip to Bari or Gallipoli – both great stops on your Puglia road trip. If you’re having trouble choosing where to stay, check out the 11 best luxury villas in Puglia.
Puglia to Sicily (town of Taormina): 486km / 6 hours 9 mins approx.
Southern Italy Road Trip: Stop 4 – Sicily Itinerary
As you can see, the drive from Puglia to Sicily is a long one. You could do it in a day, but you might be more comfortable breaking it up over a few nights. The fastest ferry route to Sicily is from Reggio Calabria and it takes around half an hour.
This is one of the best parts of the itinerary, so there’s a chance you may want to book a dedicated holiday for your Sicily road trip, as there’s so much to see and do. Adventure lovers might want to climb Mount Etna. Over 3500m high, you can get pretty high up with minimal effort, as there’s a cable car to get you up to 2500m!
In terms of beauty, Taormina is one of the prettiest hilltop towns in Sicily. It’s home to a theatre built by the ancient greeks, several historic churches, and pretty streets filled with colourful market stalls and restaurants.
It’s also a gorgeous region for hotels, with everything from cute boutique hotels to grand resorts. My guide to the best beach resorts in Sicily will help you pick where to stay!
Nature lovers will enjoy bird-spotting in the reserves, or you can spend time enjoying the sandy beaches of picturesque Cefalu or Mondello.
It doesn’t seem long ago that I spent a week sailing around Sicily’s Aeolian Islands – something I’d recommend in a heartbeat if you have a bit longer to spent in the region. I hiked Stromboli Volcano, took a mud bath on Vulcano island, and went wine tasting in Salina. The islands are gorgeous, varied and have a wonderful old world charm that I found very comforting.
When Is The Best Time To Visit Southern Italy?
Italy has a Mediterranean climate and is a lovely destination to visit all year round.
Temperatures vary by region, but as a quick example, you can expect average temperatures of around 0°C in around Cortina (a ski resort in the mountains) in January, and as high as 37°C in July in cities such as Milan and Venice. Temperatures in the south remain mild in winter, making destinations like Puglia and Sicily great options for a winter holiday.
If you’re wondering when is the best time to visit southern Italy, I’d suggest planning a trip between April and June, or in September or October, just after the peak summer season.
The weather tends to be consistent in these months, but isn’t too hot. Plus, as you’re missing peak season, you should benefit from lower prices and fewer people.
Packing List For Southern Italy
Now you’ve got your route planned out, it’s time to decide what to pack! Here are a few quick suggestions of what to take, with some links to specific items I’d rate picking up before you travel.
Women’s packing list for Southern Italy
Women’s lightweight trousers – It’s good to have some conservative items and not flash too much skin. These are practical, lightweight but a bit cute too!
Women’s sundress – Something pretty and not too short for when it’s appropriate.
Women’s maxi dress – I quite liked having a longer item or two. If you pair it with a cardigan it’s more conservative too.
Women’s midi skirt – I live in items like this in warm countries and have them in multiple colours and patterns. They’re comfortable and not revealing.
Women’s shorts – I packed a few pairs. I’d recommend something loose and comfortable like these shorts, and then perhaps some classic denim shorts too.
Women’s summer top – I wore a lot of things like this. Neutral colours work best as you can mix and match with shorts and skirts. Plus, you can dress them up or dress them down!
Women’s zip up hooded jacket – A few places get chilly, so you’ll want to be able to layer up occasionally. A zip up hoody like this will come in handy.
Women’s bikini – You’ll need to pack a couple of items of swimwear. There are so many cute bikinis out there to choose from!
Women’s rash guard – Not essential, but if you burn easily (or plan to surf) I’d recommend one of these. This one is great as it has a built-in bra and comes with a pair of matching shorts.
Women’s sports vest – I’d recommend one or two sweat-absorbing vests like this for adventurous activities.
Women’s sports bra – Ideal for sporty or adventure activities. I prefer sports bras like this Under Armour one which has some built in padding for extra support.
Women’s leggings – Leggings are great for active adventures. These Under Armour ones are great as they’re very lightweight.
Sarong – A really useful item for any travels in warm countries! Use it as a towel, a cover up, to sit on, to lie on or for a cute addition to an outfit!
Sun hat – You’ll definitely want a sun hat to protect yourself.
Sunglasses – I’ve owned a pair of these Ray Bans for a few years now and love them!
Men’s packing list for Southern Italy
Men’s casual shorts – I’d recommend several pairs of comfortable shorts for everyday use.
Men’s chinos or jeans – I’d recommend a few pairs of chinos, jeans or cargo pants.
Men’s T-shirts – Pack a few options of t-shirts too.
Men’s shirts – A few shirts (long or short sleeved) are a good idea. I personally love these linen shirts. They look very cool!
Men’s vests – If you sweat a lot, you might find vest tops more comfortable in the heat.
Men’s zip up hooded jacket – You might want to layer up if it gets chilly in the evenings.
Men’s jumper – A smarter option for keeping warm.
Men’s sports tops – For active days, something like this is really useful as it’s super-absorbent.
Men’s sports shorts – If you’re doing some adventurous hikes or activities, you’ll want shorts you can move freely in.
Swimming trunks – The more fun the pattern, the better! These ones have pockets and are quick dry too.
Baseball cap – Look for one with a mesh back like this one, so it’s more breathable.
Sunglasses – You can’t beat a classic pair of these Ray Bans!
Other general items to pack for Southern Italy
If you’re planning your trip, you should think about more than just clothing when you start packing. Here are a few items I’d recommend adding to your suitcase…
Insect repellent – There are plenty of really good insect repellents like this one. If you’re travelling with kids you might want to buy a specific children’s insect repellent too.
Bite relief – I usually take an after bite / anti-itch cream like this, that helps to soothe any bites. I also swear by this amazing Bite Away Pen, which sends a small electric shock to the itchy part of the bite. It takes a bit of getting used to at first (and sometimes hurts a tiny bit), but it does work. I’ve done a full review of the item (as it goes everywhere with me!!) so feel free to read more here.
Travel towel – A fast-drying microfibre towel like this one will come in handy on your trip. These are great not only for when you fancy a swim, but also when you want to sit down on the ground or to wipe your sweaty face on a humid day!
Sun cream – It’s important to apply suncream throughout the day. I’d recommend finding a brand which isn’t too heavy on chemicals, or is almost totally natural, like this one made by Sun Bum.
Sunglasses – It’s important to protect your eyes when you visit a holiday destination like this one. I’d recommend investing in some high-quality UV protected sunglasses. I’ve owned a pair of these Ray Bans for a few years now and love them!
Sun hat – You’ll definitely want a sun hat to protect yourself on all of those sunny days!
After sun or aloe vera – Don’t forget some soothing cream incase you do burn. I really like this one made by Ultrasun. It’s lightweight and feels lovely on your skin.
Rain jacket – Be prepared for those sporadic rain showers. As you won’t need it for warmth, I’d recommend a lightweight waterproof jacket that packs down small. Something like this would be perfect.
Umbrella – I’d also recommend an umbrella for rainy season. I’d been looking for a super compact option for ages, and finally found this one which fits in my smallest handbag and is nice and sturdy.
Daypack backpack – I used a small backpack for day-to-day adventures, which could fit a water bottle, camera, sun cream and bug spray. I also took a small shoulder bag to use for going for dinner in the evenings. If you’re looking for something nice and small, lightweight, water-resistant and that will fit all your essentials, I’d recommend this daypack. It’s got some very handy zip-up pockets too!
Reusable water bottle – I always recommend packing a reusable water bottle for travel. Even if you can’t drink the tap water, it means you can top up from giant bottles or water coolers rather than buying lots of plastic bottles. Personally I’d recommend the Chilly’s water bottles. I’ve got a few in different sizes and they are excellent quality!
GoPro – This is an adventure-filled country. The best way to capture it is on a GoPro. They’re great for photos and videos, hard wearing, shockproof and waterproof. Whether you’re snorkelling, hiking, white water rafting, wildlife-spotting or zip lining, it’s the perfect accessory. Don’t forget to take out travel insurance that covers your gadgets too.
Power bank – It depends how much you use your phone on holiday, but I used mine a lot during my trip, snapping photos and videos along the way. A portable battery pack is a great idea so you don’t have to worry about running out of charge at an important moment.
I have a few made by Anker and they’re great quality and have lasted for a long time. This is the one I’m using at the moment, which is really small (similar size to my phone) but stores lots of charge and has a fast charging capability.
Plug adapter – I pack this universal travel adapter for all of my travels. It charges multiple items at once, using plugs or USB and can be used anywhere in the world. It’s one of my fave travel gadgets!
Dry bag – I’m really happy I invested in a dry bag like this. It’s made from a thick plastic and is totally waterproof. These dry bags are perfect for adventures on the water, visiting waterfalls, or if you think it’s going to rain heavily. I’d recommend a small one for your phone and camera gear, or a larger one if you want to use it as your main bag for an activity.
Waterproof phone case – Similarly, if you want to take your phone out and about in the water, I’d recommend getting a waterproof phone case. There are quite a few to choose from, but I’d recommend reading the reviews! You need this to protect your phone and be 100% watertight after all! I bought these Moko cases myself and my partner and they’ve been great. We’ve used them on several trips snorkelling and to waterfalls now, and no leaks!
I hope you’ve enjoyed my southern Italy road trip itinerary. Let me know where you decide to go and what your highlights are! As mentioned, this is probably best spread out and followed at a slower pace, so if you’re looking for a southern Italy itinerary for 14 days, it’s ideal!
Looking to explore more of the country? Check out my northern Italy road trip itinerary!
I honestly think this is the best south Italy itinerary as it’s got a bit of everything. If you want to save it to help with your trip planning, how about pinning it for later…
1 thought on “The Ultimate Southern Italy Road Trip: Routes, Sights, Guides, Maps And More”
I haven’t been to Italy since I was a teenager! Now I’m trying to figure out why it’s hasn’t been higher up my list?? Those pictures make me want to be there now! Thanks for the inspiration and the tips! ?