Italy boasts some awe-inspiring landscapes, magnificent architecture and a culinary excellence celebrated throughout the world. And, no surprise, it can be expensive. However, when you compare car hire prices online, it soon becomes evident that some great deals are available and that a self-drive vacation in Italy is an affordable and plausible venture. Tempted?
Driving, and the associated culture, has always played an important role in the Italian way of life. You needn’t think further than red Ferraris or ‘The Italian Job’. There are many great drives across the country, but I’m going to outline a possible trip down one of Italy’s most legendary routes: the Costiera Amalfitana, the SS163.
The A3 will take you from Naples (a possible point of arrival) towards Reggio di Calabria; head towards Salerno, before joining the SS163. SS designates a strade statali or ‘state highway’. Sounds dull, right? But the Amalfi Coast road breaks out of your average ‘highway’ box: it’s a tapestry of hairpins, climbs and descents; rugged rocks lurch overhead, whilst the Tyrrhenian Sea broods below. You’ll find yourself drifting over arched bridges – architectural feats in themselves – and dipping into tunnels carved out of the cliffs. Every scene is just begging to be photographed.
The coast’s main towns are Ravello, Amalfi and Positano. You’ll pass them in this order and each is worth of a visit. From the heights of Ravello you can cast your eyes over the blue expanse as if you were Neptune himself, explore the town’s eleventh-century duomo, or wander the vibrant floral paradise of Villa Rufolo’s gardens. If you listen very carefully, you might just hear the cogs of inspiration creaking: it was here that Richard Wagner composed some of his 1880 opera ‘Parsifal’ and the town has attracted swarms of artists, musicians and writers in the past.
Amalfi lies at the foot of Mount Cerreto and the dramatic scenery provides a backdrop comparable to the beauty of the Swiss Alps or the Bay of Kotor. Once a mighty maritime power, it is now geared primarily for tourism; however, this does not spoil the intricate elegance of its seafront piazzas, quaint cafés and restaurants. Whilst here, take a trip to the Museo della Carta that provides an insight into Amalfi’s oddly fascinating papermaking history.
Make sure you sample some lesser-known places on your itinerary, as well as one of the Amalfi Coast’s most celebrated products: Limoncello. This luscious liqueur, originating from the Gulf of Naples, is normally served as a digestivo, to put a sweet cap on a hearty Italian meal, but can be enjoyed alone. Grab a glass in the tranquil setting of Praiano, situated just before Positano.
In a hire car, you can do all this at your own pace: cruising like a true Italian or taking it slow and steady absorbing everything. You can kick-back in the comfort of your own vehicle, saving the strain of having to haul your luggage around. Moreover, the CD player is at your disposal. Select the perfect soundtrack to your vacation, take hold of the wheel…and just drive.