Itinerary: Two-week Italy Road Trip
By Helen Wright
We wanted to do an Italy road trip in just over two weeks, taking in as many of the major cities as possible. Looking at various options (interrailing, driving and tours) we decided the cheapest and most flexible way was to rent a campervan and drive. Taking in the time we had and factoring in some days for relaxing in key places, we came up with this itinerary and had an absolutely brilliant time!
You can view all the videos from our Italy Campervan road trip on YouTube here
We’re planning a return visit to Italy this year, this time headed to the the Amalfi Coast, Capri, Naples and more of the south. Watch this space for our next itinerary.
14-day Italy road trip:
For this trip we had already chance-booked a cheap flight months in advance (£38), so this meant we had to start our trip in Venice.
Days 1 and 2
Where we stayed:
This super cute Airbnb in Zattere (£96 per night)
We loved this location. After arriving in Venice, we took a ferry from the airport. There are private taxis that can take you into the city slightly faster but they were a lot more expensive (€95). Since accommodation costs are high in Venice anyway and we were trying to complete this trip on the best budget possible, we opted for the (slightly depressing but much cheaper) public ferry (€15 each). It actually wasn’t too bad. The trip took around 90mins to reach Zattere and the ferry stop was right outside the apartment.
Zattere is much quieter than staying in the centre of Venice but you can walk to the Grand Canal in 10 minutes. From there, you can easily keep walking into the centre or take the ferry to Rialto Bridge etc. I would definitely stay here again – personally I prefer to be on the outskirts rather than in the busy centre.
What we did:
* Alilaguna Island tour €16 – a ‘ferry’ style service that picks up and drops off at each of the colourful islands surrounding Venice (Murano, Burano and Torcello). A guide is included while on the boat and then on each of the islands you can roam around freely. There are more expensive tours you can do (some can be really pricey!) but this departed from right outside our apartment, was the budget option and covered exactly the same places. We absolutely loved it and would recommend to everyone!
Mostly in Venice we just wandered around finding Prosecco bars to prop up (€3 a glass) and people watching. Of course, we swung by St Mark’s Square, the Rialto Bridge (which was under scaffolding) and checked out the place George Clooney got married (Aman Canal Grande Hotel). At night, the Accademia area (which was walkable from our airBnB) was really buzzing and far less touristy. Try Ai Quattro Feri restaurant for food – our seafood meal was utterly superb.
On the road
For obvious reasons we didn’t need a vehicle in Venice. So it was only after we started researching the camper van hire that we found Spaceship Rentals. Unfortunately, they only had a pick-up location in Rome. It wasn’t a problem. I love travelling by train so we took the train from Rome to Venice which is normally €69 but I sweet-talked Simon into letting us go First Class. It was €40 more (£110) and we got free wifi and snacks. Plus – a glass of Prosecco!
View the video of our time in Venice here
Train to Rome: 3 hrs 30 mins
Where we stayed:
We had to pick up our van up from the Camping Tiber campsite – which is where the Spaceships office is based – this is actually really handy as you can stay the night there and get accustomed to your van before hitting the road.
Read about our van and experience with Spaceships here
Camping fees are not included with the cost of the rental. An overnight stay for our camping car (non power plug in) is €30. We loved the campsite and stayed two nights so we could use it as a base to explore Rome. It has a pretty good restaurant, really clean and powerful showers, a large swimming pool, laundry and shop (etc). Staff were friendly and it’s genuinely a nice place to hang out. Highly recommended (and ideal for families too).
Getting to the city
To get to the centre of Rome, you take the commuter train from Prima Porta station into Rome Flaminio. There is a shuttle bus to and from Prima Porta from the campsite. Don’t be put off by the station – which is probably the roughest looking train station I have ever seen! The area seemed generally safe and there were always people about. Rome’s trains are ugly, basic, heavy, functional units – don’t expect much else.
Single ticket: €1.50
Rome – one day metro pass (for travelling around on public transport once you’re in the city) €6
What we did:
Sorry to be boring… but since I had never been to Rome before, we pretty much only did the usual touristy things – Colosseum, Vatican, Vittorio Emanuele monument, Spanish Steps (which were underwhelming) and Trevi Fountain (which was under refurbishment!). The streets outside the tourist spots are swarming with touts offering to get you in quicker / skip the lines (etc), which obviously comes at a premium. We got our tickets for the Vatican and Colosseum in advance from Attraction Tickets Direct in the UK and hardly queued at all.
We went at the following times:
Vatican – 9am
Colosseum – 1pm
(We ate a cheap lunch in some touristy cafe not worth mentioning)
Vittorio Emanuele – 5pm – for a drink on the roof.
Days 5 and 6
The Road trip
Van hire – £35 per day (booked online in the UK at spaceshipsrentals.co.uk ) Includes basic insurance.
Drive: Rome to Viterbo – 1hr 30mins
We wanted to stop along the way to our next overnight stop and someone had recommended the medieval town of Viterbo. It’s is a nice town but, be warned, it’s very difficult to park within the ancient city walls, especially since there was a festival going on the day we arrived. This super-friendly ice cream shop helped us find a spot to leave the car and the gelato was also marvellous.
Lunch at Trattoria L’Archetto (€30).
Drive: Viterbo to Castiglione della Pescaia – 2hrs
Where we stayed:
We wanted to stay somewhere coastal and found a large family campground called Maremma Sans Souci. This campsite is ideally located next to a good beach (this area has the dark volcanic sand) and the sea was warm enough to swim in (in August). It was slightly more expensive than we were expecting (€43 per night for 2x people + van) but each camping / RV spot is secluded in its own little cubby, making it private (ish) and really cosy. The site also has a really good pizza restaurant which we tried one night as a treat (we were mostly cooking our own food). There is a large supermarket just over the hill if you exit right from the campsite. This is also where we purchased the replacement stove after Simon melted the first one…
Days 7 and 8
En route to the wine valley
Drive: Castiglione della Pescaia to Montepucciano – 2hr 15mins (plus some getting lost time…)
The drive through the Tuscan hills is gorgeous – it was probably my favourite stretch of the trip. The idea was to camp in Montepulciano but the site that I had found online (Campeggio Belmondo Montepulciano) had since closed, leaving us slightly stranded in the wine valley. A kind resident offered to let us park the van and sleep in her garden but with no facilities, we decided to take on some extra driving and head to Casciano Di Murlo (1hr 45 minutes).
If you want to camp at Montepulciano, I am told on good authority that this site is open and worth a visit.
Where we stayed:
Camping Le Soline, Casciano Di Murlo
We had not heard of this area before but it was the first place we stumbled across after our mess up in Montepulciano. Ironically, it ended up being the cheapest place we camped at, and our favourite!
The campsite is situated on a cascading hillside and had a huge swimming pool, laundry, cafe and incredible views across the hills. Most of the RVs park up nearer to the pool area – where the camp wifi reaches the van – but we carried on down as far as was allowed and got a secluded spot totally on our own. It was amazing! Top tip! Take a torch – the way back at night is pitch black. I tripped over and caused myself a few injuries!
The huge pool (taken from the cafe / bar)
Days 9 and 10
Drive: Casciano Di Murlo to Florence – 1 hr
Driving that extra distance two days earlier meant we were only less than an hour from Florence, meaning we could get into the city and spend longer there. This was lucky – as I totally LOVED Florence! We took advice and parked outside the city in Scandicci, taking an air-conditioned tram into town. Parking was free in the large CoOp supermarket and the tram stop was right outside. The tram cost €1.20 and took 20 mins. (NOTE – the car park closes at 8pm)
What we did:
I loved Florence for simply walking around and soaking up the atmosphere. It was less crowded and more breezy than Venice. We hit the main spots, the Battistero, Basilica di Santa Croce and Duomo Cathedral. And I had possibly my favourite meal in Italy (seriously!) at this tiny cafe – Lo Sdrucciolo. How could a simple mushroom pasta in a basic side street cafe be the best lunch I’ve ever eaten?!
After stuffing our bellies with delicious pasta, we crossed the famous Ponte Vecchio Bridge (took a few selfies with my newly obtained selfie stick) and walked off lunch by climbing the stairs at Piazzale Michelangelo for a panoramic view across my favourite Italian city so far.
View this in the second part of our video series of this trip on YouTube
Drive: Florence to Lucca – 1 hr 15 mins
Where we stayed:
We were back in the car just before sunset and off to our next stop. After eight days on the road and camping we decided to take a break from our van and book a couple of nights in a Tuscan villa just outside Lucca. The villa (which we booked through airBnB) was absolutely stunning. A private room and bathroom, attached to the main house and our own private patio in the hills to sit and adore the incredible views from. Hosts, Robert and Katinka, were a dream, greeting us with wine which we drank on their beautiful terrace. They also provided a really nice breakfast on the patio and left us alone all day to sunbathe and take in our surroundings. It was totally perfect!
I almost don’t want to give you the link because it was so special… But, since you’ve read down this far, here you go
What we did:
The villa was situated at Monsagrati, just outside Lucca in the Tuscan Hills. Lucca is such a pretty town – very Italian! It took 15 minutes to drive in and parking was easy. We just wandered around, did some shopping and ate food in various different places really – isn’t that what you’re supposed to do in Italy?!
Dinner at Tratorria da Ubaldo
Days 11 and 12
The Cinque Terre
Drive: Lucca to the Cinque Terre – 1 hr 20mins
It was so hard to leave the airBnB because it was so idyllic but it was fun to be back in our van and off to the coast. The Cinque Terre translates as ‘five towns’ and it’s not suitable to take cars or campers into the Cinque Terre, which are higglypiggly cliffside towns joined by a user-friendly railway (or hikers may prefer to walk between the towns – if so, check out this blog from Walks of Italy).
Where we stayed:
We parked at the La Sfringe campsite which is in Deiva Marina, and (from what we could make out) the closest campsite to the Cinque Terre. Location is probably the only thing this campsite has going for it as it’s not the most picturesque place we’ve ever stayed (looked more like a gravelly truck stop) and facilities were very basic (just showers and toilets, which were clean) but a shuttle bus runs half-hourly and hourly (depending on the time of day) to take you to the station and then it’s only 15 mins to the first town, Vernazza.
Train fare: (approx €2 per station)
What we did:
As far as the five towns go, I was (probably, stupidly) slightly disappointed as they looked a lot more tired and faded than they’re made to look on Instagram! In hindsight, I was probably spoilt by all the colour in Murano and Burano earlier in the trip. The other thing was that Vernazza was so packed with boatloads of tourists – it was actually hard to move around. We escaped into the hillside (via a steep weaving staircase and had a quick lunch at La Torre, which was on the cliff edge and had a sea view. We couldn’t walk any further up without paying the hiking fee (the area is a national park) and since we were just in our flip flops and you need proper hiking shoes to do the full stretch, we headed back to the station.
So much fun
Monterosso was quieter and had a promenade seafront appeal. You can relax on a small beach here but there is a fee involved to access it. My favourite town was Manarola which had a nice walk into the hills where we had lunch at the Nessun Dorma cafe – which was a small uphill climb but boasted the perfect view of the bay and some incredible Focaccia sandwiches! After that, we followed the lead of some local teenagers, stripped down to our swimmers and jumped off the small cliffs and into the water. Like the big kids we are, we spent most of the afternoon doing this until sunset. It was brilliant! For dinner we stopped in a total tourist spot overlooking the bay (Marina Piccola) but I was impressed to find the food was good and reasonably priced! Altnough, the sunset view was worth any premium anyway.
Drive: The Cinque Terre (Deiva Marina) to Tarquinia
After two days at the Cinque Terre, we began heading back down the coast en route back to Rome to drop off our camper. The drive is pretty lengthy so we needed a halfway point to stop and rest. We’d gotten a bit lax by this point so we just picked any old beach spot on the map and took a chance, ending up in the coastal town of Tarquinia. And guess what – we loved it!
The Tuscia Tirrenica campsite (€12 per night) was adjacent to the huge beach and the ridiculously strong wifi worked all the way from our sun loungers too. The sea was warm and clean and there is a lifeguard on duty during high season. The camp itself is shaded by lines of trees and has a swimming pool, games room, restaurant and pizza bar. The pizzas were delicious! The following day on the beach we ordered a few bowls of seafood pasta which were also absolutely sumptuous and so cheap! We loved his campsite so much and because it is only a short drive from Pisa, we’ve already planned to return for a weekend next summer. (They also have cabins you can rent)
Drive: Tarquinia to Pisa – 2hrs 40 minutes
The home stretch took us via Pisa. Simon wasn’t keen on going as he’d been led to believe there was nothing there (other than the tower), which is kind of true. But we had a laugh just dashing about taking stupid selfies and stretching our legs. The architecture of the tower is really impressive when you’re standing under it. We did actually plan to go inside but there was a huge line and the cost of €18 was more than it cost us for the Colosseum in Rome, so we decided to pass. Again, for this stop we parked outside the city (just on a side street) for free and walked around 15-minutes through a residential area to reach the centre.
From Pisa, the drive to Rome is 3 hrs and 45 minutes, and we spent our last night back at Camping Tiber to de-camp, pack our things, return the van and head home to London from Rome airport.
Fuel, for approximately 1200 miles was £140)
Flight home on British Airways £60
To keep our costs down we mostly cooked our own food whenever we were at the campsite and ate nice Italian meals in the cities. We drank heaps of delicious red wine which we bought from the supermarkets and stored under the bed. White wine and beer were not as easy to store as the cooler on the van wasn’t really cold enough to chill anything.
All in all I would wholeheartedly recommended doing a campervan trip through Italy. It was the best way to have a city break, beach holiday and see loads of the country in one go – and on a budget!
For more information on renting a Spaceships rentals campervan visit spaceshipsrentals.co.uk