If there’s one expression that could describe road trippin’ through Italy, it is certainly that – La Dolce Vita. It is incredible.
Of course, I’m a little bias as I’m half Italian: my dad was born there. Regardless of that, for its food, culture and variety in landscape, it will always be one of my favourite countries.
Before I begin with our itinerary I’d start with saying to cover this kind of ground leisurely I’d give yourself a good two weeks if not slightly longer (depending on how much time you want to spend in each place) but I’ll give as much as I know about what there is to do in each area and hopefully this will help some what in building your itinerary. You could also spend just two weeks discovering Puglia and I would 100% recommend that.
We went specifically to look at wedding venues (eeeek!) but we tried to squeeze in as much adventure on as possible. There were things we’d planned to do and didn’t gets a chance to mainly because of time or getting lost in the countryside but it was all part of the fun!
So here’s our itinerary in a nutshell:
First stop, Puglia
We flew in to Brindisi, but it’s also possible to fly in to Bari to visit the Puglian region so I’d check flights for both. Puglia was our absolute favourite region of all that we’ve visited on this trip. I’d also say it is my favourite place in all of Italy just because it’s so different to everywhere else and when my dad’s auntie (who is the best cook and has lived her entire life it Italy) said Puglian food was the best, it was clear she knew what she was talking about and that’s a feat for a region to get that reputation in a country known for its culinary delights. Oh and it really is unbelievably pretty too.
Our first stop was Masseria Cervarolo and we decided to have a day of downtime in this beautiful hotel after travelling. It was incredible and comes with a high recommendation, so much so, that is deserved a whole blog post of its own: find out more here.
This was about 30 minutes from Brindisi airport, along lots of tiny lanes that almost feel abandoned, but such a pretty landscape.
It’s a hotel that’s well-placed to explore all of Puglia including, Locorotondo, Castellana Grotte, Alberobello, Polignana e Mare and its closest town, Ostuni. These are just a few of the places worth mentioning.
Out of these, we visited Ostuni, Castellana Grotte and Alberobello, but drove through a couple of the others.
Ostuni was the first town we visited. It’s on a hill and a lot of the buildings are white, the colours were reminiscent of the famous white isles of Greece, like Santorini and has an old charm that reminds be of Dubrovnik, with the odd Vespa thrown in for some good Italian measure. It is beautiful and a place you could just wander around for hours, spotting pretty doors, which is exactly what we did, eating yummy Italian gelato whilst we were at it.
Polignano a Mare
Our next stop was meant to be Polignaro a Mare – we didn’t make it there as we spent too long at lunch eating and drinking vino in a trullo. We were so full after food-tasting at this potential wedding venue that we didn’t make dinner, which was our main reason for visiting Polignano a Mare. The restaurant we were intending on visiting and still intend to visit was called Grotta Palazzese and it’s rated as one of the top ten unusual restaurants in the world as its carved out of a cave – what an experience that would be.
It is also a place known for its beaches and all of the locals rave about it so if you’re not on the mission that we were, I would say it’s definitely worth the trip and we will certainly go back.
Another restaurant worth mentioning is Masseria Pappaperta – an incredible place with the yummiest of foods and a row of Trulli. Trulli beautiful.
With our bellies incredibly full we headed to Alberobello and this place has Bello in its name for a reason. It is a village of Trulli (Trulli is plural for Trullo), which were once white masonry huts, but now shops, restaurants and homes. It has been a dream of mine for a long time to stay in one of these beautiful dwellings so that is what we did. We stayed in Tipico Resort which we found on booking.com and I am so glad we had the opportunity to experience it – it was magical. There are a couple of viewpoints to see a sea of Trulli from above and it’s worth mapping them out, particularly if you’re an avid photographer.
We were very lucky too because I spent ages talking to a local Shop Owner, and whilst Matt might usually say I’ll talk to anyone, I think he might have been grateful that day as this lovely man invited us into his home, up on to the roof top of his Trulli (he had a few) and it was a WOW moment.
Again, Alberobello is just a place that’s incredible to wander around but it is quite small so if you stayed here I’d only recommend a night or two at most.
The Amalfi Coast
We were then very sad to leave Puglia, but our next stop was the Amalfi Coast. Four and a half hours later we hit the winding road that takes you around Amalfi – it is one road and once you’re on it you’re on it so it is worth bearing that in mind. We did a whistle stop in Ravello to look at a wedding venue before heading to Positano.
There a few places I’d recommend here:
- Le Sirenuse for cocktails – it’s quite costly for cocktails and nibbles but if you’re only stopping for one or two then the view is 100% worth it. Tip: get there early evening to watch the sunset and you’re likely to get a good seat whilst watching a sundowner over the bay: amazing!
- Hotel Ancora for breakfast – again for the view
- Cove dei Saraceni for Pizza – this was the best Pizza we had on this trip, we sad outside next to the sea and it was perfect (although my favourite pizza in the whole world is from a Pizzeria in Tortoreto Lido called Wolf – if you’re ever anywhere near there!).
Next stop, Naples
Now this is a place where I’d definitely try to get a Pizza too (Naples and Pizza is not normally worth missing out on) but we didn’t make it in time for dinner so we grabbed food on the go.
We stayed in Vomero in Naples: it it a typical Italian city and less touristy than the obvious places. Vomero is beautiful with fantastic views of the bay of Naples so it really depends what you’re after from your trip. Rome, if you can, would be worth visiting instead of Naples if you’ve never been.
What to do in Vomero:
- Watch sunset the sunset from Castel Sant’Elmo as it has the best view in all of Naples.
- Drink coffee and eat rainbow cake at Stairs Coffee shop in Vomero. Yum.
Umbria and Tuscany
We then drove around the beautiful areas of Umbria and Tuscany, mainly to look at wedding venues.
The two places multiple people recommended to us was San Gimignano and Siena. They are meant to be amazing so try them out – maybe hire a vintage Vespa too – they’re quite reasonable and a great and fun way to see the country side if you’re confident on one. The other place in the Tuscany region that is recommend for some down time is Montepulciano – the well-known wine region.
We stayed in Etruria Resort and Natural Spa and our reason for choosing this hotel was that we felt the need for some relaxing after hours of driving. The bedrooms were ok but the spa was worth writing home about, it is inside the of an old wine cellar and it was one of the holiday’s highlights (though there were many).
Montepulciano is also an old walled town and we went in for dinner in the evening and I’m not sure if it was the time of year but it was surprisingly quiet – not a tourist in sight. The restaurant in a main square actually served top nosh (instead of being a tourist trap) – it was called Osteria del Borgo.
Montepulciano is definitely another place worth wandering around and exploring – the buildings in the main square are truly majestic and special.
Oh how I love a city. I was super excited as we approached Florence. I had been before but I must have been 12 or 13 and I’d always wanted to go back. We stayed in Residenza Sassetti and it was a great duplex hotel bedroom, light and airy. I particularly loved swinging the windows open to the Florence air in the morning to bellow “Morning Florence” – much to Matt’s delight!
There is a hop-hop-off-bus tour as in most major cities and whilst we didn’t do that on this occasion, I do think they are a great way to familiarise yourself with a place quickly so it makes getting around much easier. The great thing about the Florence Hop-On-and-Hop-Off bus tour is that it takes you to a village called Fiesole in the hills – great for a view over Florence and there is another yummy pizza stop on the main street.
In Florence, I’d recommend Le Menagere as a breakfast place. There are also plenty of cafes off of the main square and if you’re on a budget definitely head off of it, you’ll find cafes, yummy croissants and good old gelato at a much more reasonable cost. If you want to go to the top of the Duomo then leave plenty of time for this as the queues were huge even in late September.
Our next and last stop was Pisa, a great place to head for a spot of shopping, ice cream and of course to see the leaning Tower of Pisa and more pretty streets (and doors).
We also stumbled across a really cool little Piazza that was reminiscent of a square you’d find in Madrid, and it was lovely on a Friday night, full of locals. It is right in the midst of Santa Maria, the historical centre and it’s called Piazza delle Vettovaglie. I’d recommend going here at night for an Aperitif or a few after-dinner drinks to soak in the atmosphere.
Of course we played tourist whilst we were there too… in fact , you could say our tourist game was pretty strong.