In a country full of rich history, rolling hillsides and breathtaking coastline — not to mention some of the most glorious food you’ve ever tasted — how do you make the most of your precious vacation days? Skip the tours and rent a car (after all, Italy is the home of the Ferrari, Lambhorgini and Maserati). You can pack much more into your trip when you’ve got your own wheels.
2 Days in Naples: the Birthplace of Pizza and Espresso
Start your Italian road trip in Naples, the city that invented the Margherita pizza. Legend has it that the pizza was designed with the Italian flag in mind in honor of Queen Margherita’s visit to the town in 1889. For the original, stop in at Pizzeria Brandi. This hidden gem has been turning out pizza for well over 200 years and it shows.
With arguably some of the best espresso in Italy, let alone the world, Naples is considered by some to be the birthplace of the espresso machine. It’s hard to go wrong here in this caffeinated city, but for coffee with a view of the beautiful Naples Bay, try Moccia. Started in 1920 as a family-run bakery, this ultra-cool cafe turns out some amazing espresso with just the right amount of crema.
What to do when you’re not eating: After savoring pizza in the piazza, head south to Pompeii to walk it off among the ruins. Tourist-y? Yes, but where else in the world can you see the final moments of a ruined civilization in still relief?
2 Days in Rome: Get Your Fill of Pasta and Gelato
It’s hard to go wrong ordering fresh pasta anywhere in Italy, but for an authentic Roman experience (think handwritten menu, non-descript door, crumbling old building), try Sora Margherita on the north end of the Piazza delle Cinque Scole. Start your meal with their famous fried artichoke and then order the Agnolotti (meat filled pasta) or Cacio & Pepe (pasta with cheese and black pepper) served with a dollop of fresh ricotta.
Gelato, or Italian ice cream, is typically richer than other ice cream, higher in sugar, but lower in fat. For some of the best, visit Il Gelato di San Crispino and try their signature “crema with honey”.
What to do when you’re not eating: You’ve toured the Colosseum, now find out if you have what it takes to be an ancient Roman gladiator at Roman Gladiator School. End your day with a short drive just out of the city center to Monte Mario, Rome’s highest peak, for breathtaking views of the city, especially at night.
Pro Tip: Parking in Rome can be difficult, if not impossible. Park at one of the many garages on the outskirts and take public transport or walk into the city center.
2 Days in Tuscany: Taste Olive Oil, Hunt Truffles
You may be tempted to pick the coastal route out of Rome, but don’t. The A-1 is actually quite scenic with plenty of hilltop towns to wander through. Exit at Orvieto and take country roads through the winding hillsides towards Florence.
Touring wineries is a must on any trip to Tuscany. In a region famous for Chianti, you’ll also find some amazing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir in addition to white wines like Chardonnay. Tasting is a must, but part of the pleasure is also driving through the scenic countryside.
Eventually you’ll need a break from the wineries, so book an olive oil tasting at Villa Campestri, located outside of Florence in a park with olive groves, cypress trees and valley views. Learn the true meaning of “extra virgin” and how to distinguish good olive oil from bad. Or try a truffle hunting tour and enjoy a delicious meal made with these elusive and earthy gems.
What to do when you’re not eating (or drinking): Drive, drive, drive through the miles and miles of rolling hillsides that comprise this vast wine region. Or stop in Pisa, if you must, for that iconic leaning tower shot where you pretend to hold it up with your finger.