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Coastal Road Trip Amalfi Coast to Nice

We are planning a 3 week road trip along the coast of Italy and need help in choosing places to base for 3 days while we explore the area. We are not into the big tourist locations, instead wanting to see the true Italy and its hidden gems. Here are the bases of operation we have created so far:

  • Flying into Rome and spending 3 days, prior to renting a car
  • 3 days based in Sorrento
  • have not decided
  • have not decided
  • 3 days based in La Spezia
  • 2 days in Alba
  • 2 days in Monaco
  • returning car to Nice airport and spending the night

So looking for a couple of ideas as where to base between Sorrento and La Spezia. Again, exploring coastal communities to exploring in land. Just don't want to get trapped in the large towns, especially with driving. We enjoy hiking, so maybe an area with short walks. Also exploring history is also great.

Posted by
2444 posts

I don't have any suggestions for additional places to stay, but wanted to caution you that parking for your car in plany places may be difficult and/or expensive. Be sure to check about nearby parking facilities before committing to a hotel. Don't assume your hotel will have a parking lot.

Also, have you seen the cost of dropping off your rental in a different country than the one you rented from? You may find it less expensive to drop off in Italy before getting to Monaco, take a train, then rent another car in France. Finally, don't forget that each driver must have an International Drivers Permit in addition to their regular DL. And to avoid some very, very, expensive traffic tickets that will arrive months after you return home, brush up on Italian traffic laws (especially the ZTLs).

Posted by
3 posts

Thanks, that is one reason we want to stage in an area and utilize other transportation options. I for one do not want to drive in the big metro areas. Thanks for the advice on dropping the car off prior to crossing the border.

Posted by
11968 posts

I believe that both Hertz and Avis have an office in Sanremo, near the border, where you can drop off the rental and proceed to France by train. Dropping across international borders can carry drop off fees of up to $700.

First of all I suggest you don't base yourself in La Spezia. It's a not so pretty port city, mostly famous for being one of the largest Italian Navy bases, along with Naples and Taranto, as well a commercial port and cruise port. Instead of La Spezia, consider any of the following in the area: Monterosso, Levanto, Bonassola, Framura, Moneglia, or even Porto Venere or Lerici (although the last two have no rail service, in case you want to take train trips elsewhere).

Along the Tuscan coast , between Rome and La Spezia here are some options:

Mt. Argentario Peninsula (Porto Santo Stefano).
This is a nice base to visit Maremma region in the interior (like Capalbio, Massa Marittima, Grosseto, Saturnia) as well as the islands of Giglio and Giannutri, or the coastal town of Talamone, and the nearby Maremma Natural Park. Here is where I stay in Porto Santo Stefano. It's cheap but gorgeous, on top of the town (some narrow steep streets to get up there, but worthwhile the effort).
I would stop here for a whole week, certainly for at least 3 or 4 nights.

Further north, you can base yourself in Viareggio or in Castiglioncello. Maybe not as gorgeous as Mt. Argentario area described above, but still good. From here you can visit Lucca and Pisa.

Posted by
13930 posts

What are you planning to do while in Sorrento? It's an unfriendly town for cars - a hilly, one-way street system with limited access areas in the center (not sure if they are ZTL's or not). If you want to visit Capri and Pompeii and maybe 1 day on the Amalfi Coast, you'll take the ferry to the first, the local train to the second, and for the AC, unless it's off-season with no crowds and no ferries, you'll be better of with the buses and ferries. The road along the AC is almost entirely a narrow 2-lane road that is constant up and down with lots of blind curves and except in some of the towns, you've got mountain on one side and a drop down the cliffs on the other. In season, traffic moves very slowly. I drove in February when there were very few vehicles and at least a few parking places nearly everywhere (didn't find any in Positano and had a 10-minute wait for one in Amalfi town). Most of the time I was driving at an average speed of 35 km per hour (20 mph). The speed limit outside the towns is 50 kph (30 mph), I hardly ever went that fast for more than 2-3 minutes before I had to slow for a curve.

I spent a week on the French Riviera a few weeks ago. There's no reason for a car from the Italian border to Nice. There are frequent low cost trains to everywhere on the coast. Monaco is probably the poorest choice (and most expensive) for a stay there unless you are high rollers. And it's not a hidden gem, more of a modern eyesore with high-rises all along the shoreline. The train that runs along the French Riviera starts in Ventimiglia, Italy on the border.

Posted by
2860 posts

I question the inclusion of Alba with just 2 nights there. It will take you at least half a day to get there and settle in. Ditto for exiting. I’d add a night, or skip it.
I’m in accord with Chani on Monaco. Since you plan to spend your last night in Nice, just stay all your Cote d’Azur nights there. The airport is very close to town. Nice has plenty to see and do, most accessible by public transport. Drop the car in San Remo and train into Nice.

Posted by
866 posts

All of the places that you have on your agenda are either very touristy and/or industrial. And large towns or cities. Can you say how you came to these conclusions? Also, where are you from? That may help with suggestions.

Posted by
3 posts

April, I am from Salt Lake City. My friend and I are avid hikers and wanted to do the trails around Amalfi and Cirque Terre. Then it kinda morphed into this 3 week road trip. Without the expertise we started looking on AirBnB and trying to develop a few base camps in areas that we may want to explore. The car was basically for getting from each location to the next while relying on public transportation to explore. So at this time, we have about a 9 day section where we are trying to establish a couple of base camps between Sorrento and Alba. We have not committed to La Spezia yet but thought that was a good location to base for the Cirque Terre. I am open to suggestions. We are interested in unknown local areas not on the tourist radar. But also open to some towns with a great history to go exploring. What ever we do we are open to the adventure!

Posted by
1510 posts

With hiking as your goal, I would dispense with this massive road trip (it would be better for three months) and spend a week in Amalfi (no car needed or wanted--hike all over the peninsula as well as on islands) and a week in Liguria (there are other places besides CT you can hike) and then get to Nice in an expedient way. Rome, Nice, and the Naples area would fill in the gaps.

Posted by
866 posts

We are actually in Santa Margherita Ligure right now. Great location for train service, access to the Cinque Terre and tons of hiking all over the Gargano peninsula. Others here have suggested Camogli, which is cute and small.

As for the Amalfi Coast, I would stay on the Amalfi Coast. That’s the whole point of going all the way there, right? 😊 the path of the gods if great for hiking. We love Ravello and stay there when we go.

Alba is a good hub for visiting Piedmont, but it is a larger city.