How to See Italy on a Road Trip

Modenatur’s Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land tour takes guests to the Enzo Ferrari Museum, which focuses on the life and work of the founder of Ferrari.
Modenatur’s Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti Land tour takes guests to the Enzo Ferrari Museum, which focuses on the life and work of the founder of Ferrari.

There are countless ways to explore Italy, whether travelers are interested in history, architecture, gastronomy, agriculture, art, music or culture. But crafting a trip for clients who are already familiar with Italy, who have taken the walking tours, seen the sites and tasted the world famous vintages throughout the country’s vineyards and cellars, may prove to be a challenge. What’s more, even adventurous Millennials traveling to the region for the first time may not be looking for the traditional itineraries typically associated with first-time visitors.

For a more off-beat exploration of Italy, there are a variety of options offered by tour operators that focus on car rentals and automobile tours, as well as a range of sights and museums dedicated to Italy’s influence in the automobile industry.

Select Italy ( is a tour operator that specializes in creating a range of tours throughout the region, from archaeology and cruise ship tours, to religious heritage and shore excursions. Select Italy also designs “car rental” trips, itineraries in which clients can drive through Italy while accompanied by a tour leader who travels alongside them in a separate vehicle. Automobile enthusiasts will also enjoy the fact that Select Italy works with Ferrari tours.

Clients will meet with their tour leader early in the morning for an overview of the Ferrari and take a driving lesson. Once the driver is comfortable in the vehicle, the tour begins. Tour leaders drive in a separate car ahead of travelers, and are in constant contact via radio, allowing them to check traffic and any law enforcement that lies ahead.

Car rental tours can be customized to each client’s particular requests. Examples of popular itineraries include a five-day/four-night Rome & Tuscany trip, starting at $23,500 for two people. Clients spend a night in Rome and pick up their personal car the following morning near Civitavecchia for a drive through Viterbo, Bolsena and San Casciano dei Bagni. The next stop is at the Fonteverde Spa in Tuscany, passing through San Casciano dei Bagni, Pienza and Montalcino, followed by a night at the Four Seasons Hotel Firenze in Florence. Later, a stay at La Posta Vecchia on the Roman Coast wraps up the trip before being escorted back to Rome for the flight home.

There is also the four-day/three night Milan and the Lakes tour, priced from $17,750 for two. The trip begins with a one night stay at the Four Seasons in Milan, after which clients will pick up their personal car the following morning. A drive through Stresa and Arona will take them to the next stop, an overnight stay at the Villa & Palazzo Aminta in Stresa (Lake Maggiore). The last stretch of the trip winds through Lecco, Bellagio and Cernobbio for a final night at Villa d’Este in Lake Como.

Travelers can also experience the automotive history of Italy by heading to the northern region of Emilia Romagna and the Motor Valley.

The Motor Valley runs along the Via Emilia, once an ancient Roman road. The area is home to a collection of iconic automotive brands, such as Ferrari, Lamborghini, Ducati and Pagani, 11 private collections of historic vehicles, and 14 museums, including the Ferrari Museum of Maranello and the Ducati and Lamborghini Museums near Bologna.

Tour operator Modenatur is offering the Discover Ferrari and Pavarotti land tour, a two-day/one-night package, which includes one-night bed and breakfast accommodation in a three- or four-star hotel in the Modena area and a dinner or lunch in a typical Modenese restaurant. Prices start at $159.80 per person double through 2016.

Guests will visit the UNESCO Cathedral and Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, the Ferrari Museum in Maranello and Pavarotti’s Historic House. The package also includes a panoramic bus tour inside the Ferrari Factory and Fiorano test track area.

Modenatur also offers a package for lovers of motorcycle racing. The Grand Prix TIM of San Marino and Riviera di Rimini tour, a two-day/one-night package includes one-night accommodation in a three- or four-star hotel, two dinners and two tickets for a racing event at the TIM San Marino Rimini Grand Prix, taking place September 9-11, 2016. Prices start at $166 per person in double room and vary depending on the type of accommodation. Contact Circuit and Land (011-390-541-618-511, [email protected]) for details.

After experiencing Italy first-hand from behind the wheel and catching a glimpse of the country’s automotive history throughout its many museums, travelers can check out some of the region’s car-themed events, especially this year, as 2016 marks some notable anniversaries for the Motor Valley.

The Ferruccio Lamborghini Museum in Dosso di Ferrara
The Ferruccio Lamborghini Museum in Dosso di Ferrara

Following last month’s celebrations of the 100th Anniversary of Ferruccio Lamborghini’s birthday in several Emilian towns, his namesake company will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Miura, often called the world’s first supercar, in June. The Lamborghini factory will hold an international rally “on the road” between Emilia Romagna, Tuscany and Liguria to commemorate the event. The Miura was first unveiled to the public at the 1966 Geneva Motor Show.

From July 1-3, Ducati’s 90th anniversary will be celebrated at the Misano World Circuit Marco Simoncelli situated on the coast of Romagna.

Hint: During a visit, travelers may even be able to catch a glimpse of a Hollywood star in the area, as several productions are being filmed around the region throughout 2016. Robert De Niro will star in a film about Enzo Ferrari, while director Michael Mann is also planning to work on a project about the icon’s life. Andrea Iervolino and Monika Bacardi’s Ambi Group are also developing the film “Lamborghini – The Legend,” based on the life of Ferruccio Lamborghini.

If your independent-minded clients have their own ideas about motoring around Italy, they’ll find most U.S. car rental firms represented at the country’s international airports and in its major cities. Tip: Have them obtain an International Driving Permit before leaving the U.S.

Italy Self-Drive Sampler

Several tour companies also offer self-drive vacations in Italy. Here is a small sampling.

Auto Tours Europe offers three such trips: Explore Tuscany and Northern Italy (seven nights, from $794 per person double), Explore Calabria and Sicily (10 nights, from $911) and Discover Italy (13 nights, from $1,264). The latter starts and ends in Rome, visiting Florence, Milan, Venice, Verona Genoa, Padua, Bologna, Naples and Pisa, among other stops. Prices include hotel accommodations and associated taxes and service charges, and a Hertz rental car with unlimited mileage (CDMR Compact Manual Ford Focus or similar; upgrades available for additional daily fee).

The 11-night From Venice to Rome via Tuscany + Amalfi Coast is one example of self-drive vacations available from European Destinations. Starting price of $1,798 per person covers airfare (including all taxes and fuel surcharges), rental car and accommodations in Venice, Pisa, Florence, Assisi, Sorrento and Rome.

Among the offerings from CIT Holidays are five- to seven-night Food & Wine Self Drive Tours in conjunction with Slow Food Travel. Featured regions include Tuscany, Sicily, Veneto, Puglia (and Matera), Piedmont, Umbria and Lazio. Tours include accommodations, buffet breakfast daily, four other meals based on traditional regional dishes, food and wine tastings, sightseeing and use of a rental car for the duration. CIT works with Avis Italy and Maggiore Italy car rental companies.