This scenic road trip takes you from the rolling hills of southeast England, through the changing landscapes of France, and across the Alps to enjoy some of the finest towns, cities, coastlines and countryside that Italy has to offer.
The 1,390-mile road trip from London to Italy takes 25 hours to drive, passing Geneva, the Italian Riviera, Florence, Rome and Naples before arriving in Amalfi. Or take the shorter route through Milan and the Italian lakes to visit Venice and Bologna.
This is a really varied route with a fabulous destination awaiting. You can cover long distances quickly and easily on the French and Swiss motorways, leaving plenty of time to explore Italy's mountain views, historic hill towns and Mediterranean coastline.
How far is Italy from London, and how long will the road trip take?
|The Bologna Route||1,180 miles||22 hours 30 minutes|
|The Amalfi Coast Route||1,390 miles||25 hours|
Although the driving time depends which part of Italy you're heading to, it will take at least 13 hours to get from London to the northern Italian border.
If you're heading to Bologna, in the northeast of the country, our suggested 1,180-mile route takes 22 hours and 30 minutes to drive.
Getting to the Amalfi Coast further south will take around 25 hours of driving. This makes it possible to complete the 1,390-mile route in 2 long days on the road, but we'd suggest that you need 7 to 10 days to really enjoy either of these road trips.
For both routes, factor in a little extra time to check in at the Channel Tunnel terminal, and another 45 minutes to 1 hour if you'd prefer to cross the channel by ferry instead of taking the train under the sea.
Best road trip route from London to Italy
Whichever route you take from London to Italy, you'll follow the same roads across Kent and northern France before the routes divide at Reims.
The shorter of our two road trip routes from London to Italy then takes you to Bologna and gives more time to explore the mountains and lakes of northern Italy, as the route winds its way east across the country before finally reaching your historic destination.
You'll have the chance to explore France's Rhine region on this route too, giving you a different flavour of France with its beautiful landscapes and excellent wines.
If you're heading to the dazzling Amalfi Coast, you'll cross the Alps then travel through some of the most iconic parts of Italy – the Italian Riviera, Tuscany, Rome and Naples.
This route takes you through the large and busy cities of Rome and Naples, where driving can at times be challenging. Don't let this put you off visiting these two amazing cities though. It's also possible to tweak your route and stay on the outskirts of the city, making your way into the centre by train.
The Bologna Route
Head southeast out of London until you reach the M25, which connects with the M20 which you'll follow through Kent Downs towards the coast.
The Channel Tunnel terminal is directly off the motorway, and once you've checked in and gone through passport control you just have to drive your car onto the train and relax as it whisks you through the longest underwater tunnel in the world.
On arrival in France, you exit directly onto the Autoroute, which takes you south as far as Reims. Then, change onto the A4 to head east through Metz and the Jura mountains before reaching Strasbourg.
After spending some time in Strasbourg, make your way back onto the A35 which follows the River Rhein to Basel, on the other side of the Swiss border.
Leave Basel via the A3 then switch to the A2 and follow it south right the way across Switzerland, passing the Sempachersee and Lucerne before the road makes the stunning journey through the Swiss Alps.
Exit the Autobahn outside Lugano and follow local roads through the town's eastern suburbs to reach Via Cantonale which runs right along the lake shore. Pass through Italian border control then continue straight ahead on the same road until you reach Menaggio on the shore of Lake Como.
Follow the road along the western shore of Lake Como then join the A9 towards Milan. From here take the Autopista to Bergamo and then on past Brescia before turning onto the SS45 which leads you to the western shore of Lake Garda.
From Riva del Garda the road takes you back up into the mountains as far as Trento, where you can rejoin the Autopista to make your way south to Verona. Next, continue east until you reach Venice.
Backtrack as far as Padua then join the A13 for the final stretch of your drive, heading through Ferrara before arriving in Bologna.
The Amalfi Coast Route
the Bologna Route as far as Reims, then continue south on the A26 as far as Troyes, where you'll change onto the A5. This road merges with the A31 to take you to Dijon, from where the A39 then A40 will take you through the mountains to Geneva in Switzerland.
After spending some time on the shores of Lake Geneva you'll cross immediately back into France and continue on the scenic stretch of the A40 which leads you towards Chamonix and through the Mont Blanc Tunnel.
Exiting the tunnel in Italy, follow the E25 past Courmayeur and Aosta, where it turns south to meet the Mediterranean just outside Genoa. Here, join the E80 which runs along the Italian Riviera - take some time to exit the Autopista so that you can stop and explore the beautiful coastal villages at your own pace.
As you enter Tuscany, turn off the E80 to visit first Lucca then Pisa, then head inland towards Florence. When you've had your fill of renaissance masterpieces, pick up the A1 which will take you south through Rome and then onto Naples.
From here, follow the E45 for the impressive drive between Mount Vesuvius on your left and the sea on your right, before taking the exit for Angri and continuing along the road as it winds its way to your destination, Amalfi.
Best places to stop between London and Italy
With so many miles to cover, you'll need to factor in a number of overnight stops on your drive from London to Italy.
Luckily, you're spoilt for choice with quaint towns and beautiful mountain locations to stay the night. These are just a few of our top picks to help you get started with planning your trip.
Take in the hillside scenery of Bergamo
Two-thirds of the way along the Bologna Route, around 15 hours and 30 minutes after leaving London, you'll reach Bergamo, a historic hill town which is a great place to base yourself if you want to spend some time exploring the surrounding mountains and lakes.
Bergamo is split into two – the old town is up on the hill in the Citta Alta and the more modern part of the city is at the foot of the hill in the Citta Bassa. Its huge Venetian walls, which are UNESCO listed and run all around the old town, separate the two.
The Citta Alta is home to picturesque medieval lanes and squares, the town's Citadel, beautiful historic buildings and the more modern (17th century) Cathedral. Take the funicular railway up from the Citta Bassa if you don't fancy the steep walk!
Elsewhere in Bergamo, the Accademia Carrara fine art gallery is nearly 250 years old and contains works by many of the great Italian painters. Located in a castle with fabulous views, the fascinating Rocca Museum tells the story of Bergamo.
With views up to the old town from its outdoor terrace and restaurant with picture windows, Hotel Excelsior San Marco is a great place to check in.
It has spacious rooms, a fitness centre and private parking, making it ideal for travellers on a road trip. It's also close to the funicular railway for a comfortable trip up the hill to the old town, and in walking distance of both parts of Bergamo.
Admire the architecture, cuisine and history of Rome
If you're following the Amalfi Coast Route, you'll pass through one of the world's great cities, Rome. It's around 3 hours and 40 minutes by road from Amalfi so it makes a great final night (or nights) on this trip.
Make sure to spend some time exploring Rome's charming streets on foot. Get an early start if you want to see landmarks like the Trevi Fountain free from crowds, then meander towards the Spanish Steps and the Borghese Gardens.
The vast form of the Colosseum, a theatre where Gladiators fought, dominates Rome's skyline. Book ahead to visit the Colosseum's underground passages which are only accessible via a guided tour. Then move on to the nearby Forum where you can explore the many ruins of the ancient city centre.
At nearby Palazzo Doria Pamphilj, you can get a taste for Rome's more modern history with a fascinating audio tour at this lavishly decorated 17th-century palace and gallery. Across the city, you'll find Castel Sant'Angelo, a Roman mausoleum which now houses a museum.
Take a break at the charming open-air café within Castel Sant'Angelo with views out across the nearby Vatican. There, you can tour St Peter's Basilica, see Michelangelo's famous frescoes in the Sistine Chapel, and visit the impressive (but sometimes crowded) Vatican Museum.
It can be hard to find a budget-friendly city centre hotel, especially one with private parking, but Mercure Roma Centro Colosseo ticks both of these boxes, plus it has a fantastic location close to the Colosseum, from where you can take the metro to the city's other sites.
Some of the smart and comfortable rooms even have a view of the Colosseum, and with a rooftop pool and terrace you'll be able to cool down and relax after a busy day of sightseeing.
If you're looking to push the boat out on your trip, the Baglioni Hotel Regina has a real luxury feel to it, with its high ceilings, lavish décor and Italian marble. It's in a fabulous location a short walk from the Spanish Steps and has a fitness centre with a hammam and sauna.
Where to stay when you reach Bologna
Right in the centre of Bologna you'll find Hotel Metropolitan Bologna, which has a charming terrace and garden with views over the city.
The hotel's range of room options will suit different needs and group sizes, but what they all have in common is their comfortable, contemporary design.
There's also an excellent continental breakfast at the hotel, featuring a range of Italian foods, setting you up perfectly for a day exploring Bologna and the surrounding area.
Where to stay when you reach the Amalfi Coast
The Amalfi Coast has some of the world's most beautiful views, so where better to stay than Hotel Residence Amalfi which offers balconies looking out along the coast?
At this centrally located hotel, rooms combine modern comforts with charming Italian style, and the classic building has stunning interiors throughout.
It's also right by the beach, with many cafes and restaurants within walking distance, so you can expect a relaxing end to your fabulous road trip.
Things to see on a road trip from London to Italy
Whichever route you take, you're in for a treat with lakes, renaissance palaces, world famous art and stunning Italian landscapes to enjoy along the way.
As both options follow the same route through Kent and northern France there are some places you can enjoy on both trips, before the routes go their separate ways to travel through the Alps and on into Italy.
- Romney Marsh and Dungeness - Before checking in for your channel crossing, take a detour across Romney Marsh to explore the ancient churches and lost villages of this unique landscape, then visit Dungeness, the UK's only desert.
- Folkestone - Explore the Creative Quarter or enjoy fish and chips by the sea at this up-and-coming coastal town.
- Reims - Centred around the historic cathedral, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, you can find out more about the region's past at one of the city's museums. Motor enthusiastic should check out the fantastic collection at the Reims-Champagne Automobile Museum.
- Champagne - The route takes you through the Champagne region so stop off to explore the rolling vineyards and maybe try a glass or two of this iconic tipple.
- Metz - Shop at the covered market to pick some indulgent Lorraine delicacies or local wine, then call into the Centre Pompidou-Metz modern art museum. You'll find one of the country's biggest Christmas markets here in the winter too.
- Strasbourg - With its covered bridges, riverside walks, the canals of Petite France and the German Neustadt district, Strasbourg is a fabulous introduction to the Alsace region. The city's museums include the Alsatian Museum, the Museum of Modern & Contemporary Art, and nearby MMPark which is dedicated to the region's WW2 history.
- Basel - Visit one of the city's museums, which include Switzerland's biggest art museum, tour the old town, or swim in the Rhine during warmer months.
- Lucerne - Take a boat ride across the lake with fairytale mountain views, then explore the quiet streets and historic squares of the old town.
- Lake Como - Enjoy beaches, mountain views and watersports at this beautiful lake surrounded by picturesque waterfront villages – you'll see why it's a favourite getaway for celebrities.
- Milan - Milan is a city of cultural contrasts – see Da Vinci's famous Last Supper up close, (window) shop for luxury Italian brands then enjoy an evening at the canal-side bars of the Navigli quarter.
- Lake Garda - Italy's largest lake is another spot to sit back and enjoy fabulous views over the water from the quaysides of Bardolino, Peschiera del Garda or Sirmione.
- Verona - Verona was the home of the famous star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet and you can still visit what's reputed to be Juliet's house, complete with balcony. The Roman amphitheatre is still in use and regularly hosts operas.
- Venice - Leave the car behind and take a gondola ride through the canals to visit some of this unforgettable city's sights, including Piazza San Marco, the Rialto Bridge and St Mark's Basilica.
- Padua - One of Italy's oldest cities, Padua really flourished during the Renaissance due to its university, and many of the stunning buildings that remain date back to this time. For a break from cathedrals and churches, relax in the Orto Botanico gardens, which are nearly 500 years old.
- Ferrara - Another Renaissance gem, you can still follow the city's 9km-long walls or take a tour of the many historic buildings which helped secure the city a UNESCO World Heritage Site listing.
Amalfi Coast Route
- Dijon - There's much more to Dijon than the mustard it's so famous for – it's also home to an excellent art museum, the Palace of the Dukes of Burgundy and many wine tasting opportunities.
- High Jura National Nature Reserve - Hop off the Autoroute to explore this beautiful wild area, with hiking trails, stunning views towards Mont Blanc and small towns. Cable cars can take you up some of the peaks if you don't fancy walking the whole way under your own steam.
- Geneva - With its large old town, huge lake (featuring the Jet d'Eau fountain) and mountain views, it's easy to forget that Geneva is also a major economic hub and home of the EU.
- Chamonix - Famous as a ski resort through the winter, in the warmer months you can enjoy endless hiking trails, mountain biking or parascending, with views of nearby Mont Blanc, Western Europe's highest mountain.
- Genoa - While you're visiting this historic port city, check out the Maritime Museum to learn about its seagoing heritage. Then take a walking tour of the old town to explore its narrow streets and the many palaces of the UNESCO-listed Via Garibaldi.
- Italian Riviera - Heading south from Genoa, stop to explore the stunning riviera villages and resorts of Camogli, Portofino, and the Cinque Terre, where colourful old houses cling onto the cliffs and beaches along this stretch of coast.
- La Spezia - Watch the yachts in Porto Mirabello harbour, enjoy fabulous fresh seafood in a waterfront restaurant, or take a boat trip back along the coast to see the Cinque Terre from a different perspective.
- Lucca - The “city of one hundred churches” is a history-lover's dream, with countless historic buildings to explore as you wander from Piazza del Anfiteatro through its charming, winding streets.
- Pisa - Visit the iconic leaning tower, which sits within the Piazza dei Miracoli (Square of Miracles) alongside the beautiful cathedral and vast baptistry. Elsewhere in the city you can admire the colourful architecture along the River Arno, and visit the elaborately decorated Palazzo dei Cavalieri
- Florence - One of the great Renaissance cities, Florence is a beautiful city with many historic streets and piazzas to explore. See some of the greatest works in art history at the Uffizi Gallery, tour the mighty Duomo cathedral, immerse yourself in the life of the Medicis at the Pitti Palace, cross the iconic Ponte Vecchio which is still lined with shops, and walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo for views across the city.
- Castiglione del Lago - Take a break in this picturesque town built around a fort and cool down with a swim in the calm water of Lake Trasimeno.
- Naples - The home of pizza (where you'll find plenty of opportunities to try a slice or two) also has many fantastic museums, including Castel dell'Ovo for which looks out across the Mediterranean, or the National Archaeological Museum where many of the treasures of Pompeii are now on display.
- Pompeii - Explore the ruins of this ancient city which was destroyed when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79AD. It was preserved under the volcanic ash until the 19th century. You can also walk up nearby Mount Vesuvius, which is still an active volcano.
Best time to go on a road trip from London to Italy
Italy has hot summers and mild winters, making it a good year-round destination. However, if you're visiting to enjoy the coast and other outdoor attractions, it makes sense to avoid travelling in winter.
The most popular time for Italians to take a vacation is around the time of the national holiday of Ferragosto (Assumption Day) on 15th August. Some local attractions can be closed in the weeks either side of the holiday as their owners or staff are on vacation.
Bologna can be quiet in the summer, with restaurants and markets closed for part of August. It's hot and humid in the city, although the cool churches and air-conditioned galleries are still great to visit at this time of year. Average summer temperatures sit around 30 degrees Celsius.
The Amalfi Coast is a popular summer escape so it's great for people watching or viewing the yachts anchored off the coast. It's a great time to enjoy the beaches, if you can find a spot.
Both routes cross the Alps so expect snow along this part of the route in winter. The motorways will usually be passable but check for local information in case of heavy snowfall. There's the option to stop and ski if you take this trip in winter.
By contrast, winter in Bologna is mild – it only occasionally drops below freezing and very rarely snows. On the Amalfi Coast temperatures usually sit between 8 and 13 degrees, however, its coastal location means it can be rainy. Many restaurants and cafes along the Amalfi Coast close in the winter.
Spring and autumn are popular times to visit Bologna and prices can actually be higher during these periods than in the summer months. Temperatures reach 18 degrees in April, rising to an average of 23 degrees in May (and often higher).
The region stays warm until late October, and as a bonus, in the hills just outside Bologna, the annual truffle harvest is marked through the autumn with food-related events in many towns and villages as part of TartuaFesta.
Temperatures on the Amalfi Coast reach around 20 degrees in April and May and stay at least this warm until about October so spring and autumn are both great times to travel.
Spring is particularly colourful as plants burst into life. You might also get lucky and catch the Regatta of the Ancient Maritime Republics, a boat race and colourful, costumed pageant which reflects the historic rivalry between four of the republics that are now part of modern Italy.
This event rotates between the four different ancient maritime republics, so it only comes to Amalfi every four years. In other years you can catch it in Genoa, Pisa or Venice on different parts of the route!