Explore the South of Italy with our curated Italy road trip itinerary.
990 kilometers (615 miles) in total
Tags: Travel guide, South of Italy, Beaches, History
This travel guide takes you on a magical road trip around Puglia, Campania, and Basilicata regions of Southern Italy. Explore the best parts of Italy by rental car, guided by our curated Southern Italy road trip itinerary.
Begin by exploring Bari, then drive along the coast to Gargano, where you will find some of the most jaw-dropping beaches in the whole world. Continue west until you reach Naples, a historic city guarded by the spectacular Mount Vesuvius.
Then, make your way across the winding roads of the glamorous Amalfi Coast before heading inland to Matera, known as “the City of Caves”. After an unforgettable night in a cave hotel, drive back to Bari through Lecce.
Before setting off on your South Italian road trip, take a look at the essential information below.
There are lots of attractions worth dropping by in Southern Italy, and this travel guide only highlights some of them.
Rentalmoose recommends dedicating at least 3 nights for this road trip.
In order to discover each town, add an extra night in each major city.
The best time to go on a South Italian road trip is in Spring (April to June) or Autumn (September to October), when the weather is moderate and there aren’t too many tourists.
The hottest weather is during the Summer between late June and August, but it is also the peak of the tourist season.
The South of Italy is perfect to be discovered via a rental car. The spots worth visiting are all located within driving distance of each other, and the freedom of changing your itinerary during the trip can only be achieved when traveling by car.
Driving enthusiasts are in for a treat, as the coastal roads of Puglia and Amalfi Coast are along the most scenic in the whole world.
For extra peace of mind during your road trip, Rentalmoose recommends adding excess coverage when booking your rental car.
Once you’ve picked up the car, don’t forget to take photos of the car to qualify for a 50% discount from the excess coverage fee.
You can easily continue exploring Italy’s immaculate natural beauty, fascinating history and delicious cuisine even further!
Explore Tuscany and the region’s picturesque countryside, stroll down cute medieval towns or indulge in some of the best wine ever. Click here to check out the Rentalmoose travel guide around Tuscany.
Alternatively, head further north and go on a shopping spree in Milan, relax at the scenic Lago di Garda before finishing in Venice. Check out this Rentalmoose travel guide to North Italy and plan your ideal Italian road trip.
Yes! You need an international driving permit to drive in Italy along with your domestic license unless you are an EU-citizen. These can easily be obtained in your local country and are mandatory for non-EU driver licenses when driving in the country.
Check out the Rentalmoose blog post on International Driving Permits to find out all you need to know about IDPs!
Driving in Italy for the first time might be quite a hectic experience. Getting around large cities is chaotic and driving around tight cobblestone streets can be a nightmare. On top of all this, the locals don’t really seem to be following the speed limits.
Speeding is common among drivers in Italy. Once you get caught, you will probably realize it was not worth it. Tourists in Italy have to pay the fine on the spot to the police and can additionally be charged by the car rental company.
Going up to 21km/h over the limit on the highway will cost you around 150 Euros, while breaking a “no-parking” rule will cost you around 80 Euros.
The traffic in Italy is on the right-hand side of the road.
The Italian highway system is not toll-free. Fees can be paid at toll gates by cash or credit card, alternatively using a prepaid Viacard that can be purchased at gas stations and roadside shops. The map of toll highways and a toll calculator can be found here.
Now that you’re all set, it’s time to dive into this exciting Southern Italy road trip itinerary!
Photography by Giancarlo Composto.
Your Southern Italy road trip begins in the gorgeous city of Bari. For maximum comfort, pick up your car directly from Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport. Car rentals that offer pick-ups at the airport can be found via Rentalmoose.
Sunny Bari is one of the most important cities in the South of Italy. The city has a lot in store for travelers, it is especially ideal for history lovers, beachgoers and foodies. It is most certainly worth a visit!
Get started with a visit to the city’s historic district, Bari Vecchia. Wander around the narrow streets, admire the Adriatic Sea from the old port or admire the monumental facade of the Basilica of San Nicola.
Getting hungry? Bari Vecchia has some of the best street food in all of Italy! All sorts of local eateries are lined around the cute streets, serving regional delicacies such as focaccia or panzerotti.
Although the city of Bari itself is fascinating, Rentalmoose highly recommends exploring some of the best spots nearby.
Discover the picturesque coastal town of Polignano a Mare. The cute town is home to Lama Monachile, a famous beach surrounded by cliffs. Snorkel in the turquoise waters or go for a boat tour of the eerie caves along the shore.
Your rental car can be parked on-street near the beach, white-marked spots are free and blue ones need to be paid for at the nearest meter. Yellow spots are strictly for local residents.
For an unforgettable dining experience, book a table at the magnificent Grotta Palazzese. The restaurant’s jaw-dropping terrace is situated in a natural cave, offering guests spectacular views and making for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Rentalmoose insider tip: The restaurant does get very busy during peak season, it’s best to book a table prior to arrival.
Continue south for another half an hour until you reach Alberobello. The fairytale-like village is made up of over 1500 of Trulli houses, making it the biggest concentration of Trulli in the region. The picturesque town is perfect for a stroll.
It’s best to visit Alberobello on a weekday, as the town tends to get overcrowded by tourists during peak hours.
Are you looking for the best place to stay near Bari? Consider booking a room at the elegant Grotta Palazzese, previously mentioned for its breathtaking restaurant. The 5-star hotel features modern rooms and suites with an unbeatable sea view, private crystal-clear beach access, and complimentary parking.
A budget-friendly alternative near the heart of town is the 2-star Hotel City Bari. The affordable hotel offers air-conditioned rooms and a paid car park.
Next on your South Italy road trip: Gargano, 2 hours
Photography by Gianni Crestani.
Don’t forget to take your swimwear when you depart Bari, as you are about to visit some of the most beautiful beaches in all of Europe. The two-hour drive leads along the coast, scenic views along the way are guaranteed.
Take a break at Mattinata Beach, one of the most popular pebble beaches in the region. Enjoy a swim in the crystal-clear sea or wander along the coast. It is best to visit during the week, as Mattinata Beach tends to get very busy on weekends.
One of the most picturesque beaches in the Gargano region is Mattinatella Beach, just minutes away from Mattinata. The beach is famous for the crystal-clear water and breathtaking scenery. If you’re planning to swim in the sea, it is recommended to take footwear, as there are many rocks beneath the water.
Continue driving North along the twisty roads and explore the other beaches in the area.
Did you find a stunning beach near Gargano that is worth mentioning in our travel guide? Post a photo with #rentalmoose for a chance to win a Rentalmoose discount or even a rental car free of charge!
Like all of Italy, Gargano is home to loads of delicious regional restaurants. Drive up to the small town of Monte Sant’Angelo. Inside, you will find Li-Jalantuumene.
The restaurant serves traditional food with a modern, creative twist. It is the perfect spot to take a break from beach-hopping all day.
Next on your South Italy road trip: Naples, 3 hours
Photography by Antonio Speranza.
Depart Gargano and drive across to the west coast of Italy. You will know you’re close as soon as Mount Vesuvius will emerge on the horizon. The active volcano is looking over Naples, one of the most important cities in the country.
Naples, Italy’s third-largest city, is often seen as an unsafe city, especially for international tourists. While the city does have some uglier, dodgy districts (which major city doesn’t?), the biggest danger for tourists is the chaotic traffic.
If you use common sense, there is no reason to feel unsafe in Naples.
Naples is favored among travelers as it isn’t spoiled by tourism as much as Venice, Rome or Florence. The narrow, cobbled streets are filled with local eateries and cafes, vibrant markets and cute shops.
Head to the city’s mysterious underground world: The Catacombs of Naples. The historical sites are scattered around the city. Catacombs of San Gennaro, for example, are a 2-floor complex around the Basilica of Sant’Agrippino.
The catacombs’ ambient lighting highlights the eerie vibe and makes for a one-of-a-kind experience. Purchase your tickets online prior to visiting.
Every traveler visiting Naples should get up close to Mount Vesuvius, Europe’s only volcano that has erupted within the last century. Drive up the mountain road and park your car at the end of Piazzale di Quota 1000, you will have to hike for roughly 30 minutes to get to the very top. The hike is well worth it, as the panoramic views of Naples and the volcano’s crater are just unforgettable.
What makes the experience even more exciting is the fact that the frightening volcano that has completely devastated Pompeii will eventually erupt once again.
Football fans will be happy to hear that Naples is home to the SSC Napoli, a famous Italian soccer team. You can find more information, including match dates and tickets, on their official website.
Learn all about the Roman civilization while strolling around the Ruins of Pompeii. The ancient city became forgotten after it was covered by ashes following a massive volcano eruption.
It was discovered in the mid-1700s and has become one of the most important archeological sites in the entire world. The ruins can get crowded, your rental car can be dropped off at Parking Zeus directly next to the entrance.
Grand Hotel Vesuvio is a seafront 5-star hotel that has been welcoming guests since 1882. The hotel features stylish rooms and suites, 2 panoramic restaurants with perfect views of Mount Vesuvio, as well as luxurious facilities such as an indoor pool and fitness center.
Looking for a comfortable stay in Naples without breaking the bank? Consider checking into The Bellini House. This boutique bed and breakfast attracts travelers with a convenient location near the historic center of the city, retro decor and delicious breakfast.
Next on your South Italy road trip: Amalfi Coast, 1 hour 40 minutes
Photography by Andreas Precht.
As you leave Naples, prepare to drive across some of the world’s most scenic roads. Rentalmoose recommends making a slight detour and driving along the SS145 and SS163 coastal roads that lead to the picturesque Amalfi Coast.
Before you reach the town of Amalfi, make a stop at the colorful town of Positano. Admire the unreal scenery from one of the viewpoints along SS163 (Amalfi Drive) before driving into the heart of the village.
Stop for a snack or breakfast in one of the eateries scattered around the winding streets. Like all of the Amalfi Coast, it is best to go early in the morning to avoid massive crowds and traffic jams.
On your way across the coast, be sure to make a stop at Grotta Dello Smeraldo. The beautiful cave was named “Emerald Cave” because sunlight enters the cave under the water, illuminating it in a magical color. Travelers can enjoy the unique vibe during an affordable (roughly 5 EUR) boat tour.
There is an elevator next to the SS163 coastal road. Park your car nearby and head beneath the ground into the caves.
Make your next stop in the town of Amalfi, the main tourist hotspot on the coast. Prepare for tons of tourists and long traffic jams leading to the city. The unbeatable views, however, are absolutely worth the wait!
Visit the scenic Piazza Duomo and admire the Amalfi Cathedral. The busy beach may not be the most secluded in the country, but it is a spot worth at least a quick peek.
Head for lunch at the cute Antica Trattoria Barracca, a local restaurant located inside the town of Amalfi. The eatery dates back to 1945 and continues to serve some of the best Italian dishes in town, including fresh seafood and delicious tiramisu. The food is surprisingly affordable compared with other restaurants in town.
Rentalmoose order tip: After a mind-blowing lunch, be sure to try Tiramisu accompanied by a cup of real, Italian coffee.
Try leaving your car at Luna Rossa, a large multi-story car park outside the town, which costs below 5 EUR per hour. If there are no spots, try your luck parking along the street; lots of locals do it and as long as you’re not blocking any gate or road you should be fine.
Parking in Amalfi can get tricky, especially during peak season.
Next on your South Italy road trip: Matera, 3 hours
Photography by blank76 from Pixabay.com
Continue inland, leaving behind the glorious Amalfi Coast. Head east until you reach Matera, a historic Italian city situated in the hills of the Basilicata region.
The third oldest continuously inhabited city in the whole world, Matera has gone full circle from an important ancient city to an Italian slum and has now become one of the most significant landmarks in the country.
Visiting the historic part of Matera will make you feel as if you’ve traveled back in time. The City of Caves is best admired from Belvedere di Murgia Timone, a viewing point that overlooks Matera. Head there and enjoy the panoramic views before you enter the town. Your rental car can be left at the public car park directly by the viewpoint.
After you’ve seen the city from a distance, it is time to head inside. Begin with learning the city’s fascinating history at Casa Noha. The exhibition reveals the culture, art, and history of the Sassi as well as the local people.
Park your rental car at one of the public car parks within Sassi di Matera and continue exploring the town on foot. Wander around the winding streets whilst admiring the unique rock-cut architecture. Appreciate the caves, many of which have remained untouched since the 20th century, or peek inside some of the refurbished ones that have become stylish boutique hotels and eateries.
Step inside the magnificent Cathedral which dates back to the 13th century. The cathedral looks more elegant than ever following a 10-year restoration project. The interior features a remarkable decorative style.
When you get hungry, go for lunch at Baccanti Ristorante, a traditional Italian eatery situated in an ambient cave in the heart of the historic district of Matera. Enjoy a selection of local meat and cheese along with a variety of Italian dishes. The pricing is higher than the average restaurant in town, but the delicious cuisine and a unique atmosphere are absolutely worth it.
The historical town offers unforgettable stays in unique hotels situated within the caves. Enjoy a one-of-a-kind night at the Sextantio Le Grotte della Civita. The extraordinary 4-star hotel features fabulous rooms and suites within the caves, as well as a wellness center and a perfect location in the historic part of Matera.
If you’re looking for a unique cave-hotel experience on a more affordable budget, check-in at the Caveoso. The 3-star hotel offers rooms and suites that open up to the panoramic Sassi and a private car park available at an extra cost.
Next on your South Italy road trip: Lecce, 2 hours
Photography by Luigi Martina.
Leave Matera and continue east back into the Puglia region. Head near the southeastern tip of the country and enter the charming city of Lecce.
Lecce, although nowhere near as historically significant as Matera, is certainly swinging by. Filled with 18th-century baroque architecture, the charming city is another example of well-preserved history in the South of Italy.
One of the best ways to experience the old part of Lecce is a stroll around Piazza del Duomo and its surroundings. Getting lost in the maze of narrow streets lined with local businesses is a pure treat.
Admire the architecture, which is a fascinating mix of medieval and baroque styled-buildings.
Photograph the monumental facade of Basilica Cattedrale di Maria Santissima Assunta or step inside for a guided tour of this significant cathedral.
Escape the busy city and drop by the astonishing Grotte della Poesia. The majestic caves surrounded by crystal-clear, turquoise water make for a marvelous view. Take a break from driving at the nearby sandy beach.
As this is one of the main attractions in the region, do not get fooled by the photos that might make the cave seem like a secluded spot. Expect crowds, especially during the weekends.
Find out why Castro is called the “pearl of the Salento” as you head inside the sweet town. Stroll along the vibrant Castro Marina, feel the Adriatic breeze as you observe the traditional fishing boats.
There are countless secluded coves and caves in the area and the best way to see them is during a boat tour directly from the marina.
Castro isn’t a major tourist hotspot and finding an empty parking spot along the streets shouldn’t be a challenge.
As Castro is a village known for fishing, indulge in the fresh local seafood at one of the town’s restaurants. Head for lunch at Marevivo, one of the best eateries in the area. A wide selection of fish and other seafood awaits!
The Lecce province is home to some paradise-like beaches and dramatic coastlines. Torre Sant’Andera is most definitely worth a stop.
The picturesque spot offers unbeatable views of unique rock formations surrounded by crystal-clear water. The nearby beach is perfect for a swim, though Rentalmoose recommends going in the morning to avoid crowds.
Next: Bari, 1 hour 40 minutes
For maximum convenience, Rentalmoose recommends dropping off your car directly at the Bari Karol Wojtyła Airport before leaving. Rental companies that support airport drop-off can be found via Rentalmoose.
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