Wheel your way through northern Italy on this road trip with stops that school-aged children and parents can enjoy, with timing adjustable to your own preferences. You'll start amid the Renaissance influences of Florence, then set out into the Tuscan countryside and Chianti Valley on winding olive- and vineyard-lined roads. From there, head to the coast to wander the beaches of the Italian Riviera and then up to Lake Como to explore its luxurious shores. Wrap up your Italian sojourn on the playful shores of Lake Garda before you return to Florence.

Highlights

  • Scope out the Renaissance art and architecture of Florence
  • Explore winding roads through the Tuscan countryside
  • Hike along the colorful fishing villages of the Italian Riviera
  • Cruise past the elaborate villas and gardens on Lake Como

Brief Itinerary

Day Highlights Overnight
Day 1 Arrive in Florence Florence
Day 2 Florence to Chianti Chianti
Day 3 Explore Tuscany Chianti
Day 4 Chianti to Italian Riviera Italian Riviera
Day 5 Explore the Italian Riviera Italian Riviera
Day 6 Italian Riviera to Lake Como, Bellagio, Como & Villas Boat Tour Lake Como
Day 7 Explore Lake Como Lake Como
Day 8 Lake Como to Lake Garda, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour Lake Garda
Day 9 Explore Lake Garda Lake Garda
Day 10 Depart Florence  

Detailed Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive in Florence

Dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Dome of Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore
Welcome to Italy! Your trip begins in Florence, the center of the Tuscan lifestyle, rich with Renaissance art and culture.

After settling into your lodging, you'll set out on your own to explore this multifaceted city. Climb the Duomo or explore the art at the Uffizi and Accademia galleries, where Michelangelo's "David" resides. If you're looking for something more hands-on, visit the Leonardo da Vinci Museum, which is as interactive as the man himself would want, or consider the celestial spheres at the Museo Galileo, where you can peer through ancient telescopes.

Day 2: Florence to Chianti

Isolotto in the Boboli Gardens
Isolotto in the Boboli Gardens
Spend your morning in the parks of Florence. It's best to start with a stop at one of the city's markets, then set out into the gardens to find your ideal picnicking spot when you need a seat. Enjoy the tranquility off the main streets in these natural enclaves, full of architectural and landscaping details inspired by the Renaissance. Most of the larger gardens, such as the Boboli Gardens and Giardino delle Rose, are found on the south side of the Arno River.
After your outdoor time, you'll depart Florence to head further into Chianti. The region is roughly an hour's drive from Florence and is comprised of many small towns and villages, such as Castellina, Radda, Gaiole, and Greve.
The Chianti Valley is known for its food, wine, and historic architecture, and you’ll have plenty of opportunities to experience all three as you drive through the “Chiantigiana” road. Castellina and Greve are both well worth a stop, as are the plentiful castles and museums. Take your time on this scenic drive through olive groves and vineyards.

Day 3: Explore Tuscany

Landscape in Chianti region, near Siena
Landscape in Chianti region, near Siena
Tuscany is vastly known for its vineyards, but it has so much more to offer. If you aren't into wine (or for those family members not yet of age), there are plenty of castles, small towns, and villages amidst the beautiful countryside. See for yourself why this inspiring landscape has been the setting for so many films as you explore family-friendly spots in the Chianti Valley, Val D’Elsa around San Gimignano, and the Val D’Orcia around Pienza and Montepulciano

Day 4: Chianti to Italian Riviera

Inner courtyard of the Palazzi dei Rolli
Inner courtyard of the Palazzi dei Rolli
Depart Tuscany and head toward the Italian Riviera today, stopping in the port city of Genoa along the way.
Sitting roughly at the center of the Italian Riviera, Genoa is full of historic palaces and monuments dating back to the 12th century. Take all the time you like to explore the detailed buildings, museums, and streets just waiting to be wandered. The two main areas to explore are the historic center and the waterfront harbor and port. The main street of Via Garibaldi is lined with extravagant Renaissance palaces that make up the Rolli Palaces and Strada Nuova Museums, which in combination are a UNESCO World Heritage site.

Day 5: Explore the Italian Riviera

Small coastal village of Rapallo
Small coastal village of Rapallo
The area known as the Italian Riviera encompasses the coast from Sestri Levante to the Portofino National Park, the port city of Genoa, and the pristine beaches of the West Riviera.
If you'd like to explore the fishing villages, pay a visit to Santa Margherita Ligure, Rapallo, and Camogli, where you can taste local specialties like homemade pesto Genovese, the focaccia di Recco, or stuffed Pansotti pasta. Take a walk from Santa Margherita Ligure to Portofino, where colorful houses tumble down toward a historic fishing port. There are also hiking trails for all ability levels in Portofino and around the San Fruttuoso Abbey. Or, if you've had enough walking, simply spend a day on the beach.

Day 6: Italian Riviera to Lake Como, Bellagio, Como & Villas Boat Tour

On the lake

Set out for Lake Como today, driving along the Riviera coast and passing through Genoa and Milan on your way.

You'll start at Piazza Cavour, in Como’s historical center, before taking a semi-private cruise around the lake. You'll see why Lake Como has been attracting nobility since Roman times when Julius Caesar founded Novum Comum (Como city). Your guide will lead you through tales of fortresses and castles, furious naval battles, and crowned monarchs who built villas with large Baroque or Romantic gardens. Take in the views of these villas, such as Villa Olmo, Villa D’Este, Villa Versace, Villa del Balbianello, and Villa Carlotta, as well as the towns of Cernobbio and Tremezzo.

Then, board your vessel for a look into the lake's secret corners. No trip here is complete without some time on the water. Enjoy breathtaking views over the lake as well as its architectural wonders and villas, before you disembark in famous Bellagio, the area's most-visited town.

In Bellagio, you'll learn from your guide about key sights like Punta Spartiviento, the Romanesque Basilica of San Giacomo, and Via Roma. The town has been drawing visitors since the Renaissance when it was a center of industries—particularly silk—thanks to its ideal location. Stop at a hidden 18th-century cellar for local charcuterie tasting, then take a stroll through the boutiques to see how it still excels in silk products today.

Get lost in the colorful streets of the old town and enjoy the views over the lake. Then pay a visit to the gardens of Villa Melzi, where you'll be greeted by Moorish architecture, water lilies, and even more lake views before your tour ends.

Day 7: Explore Lake Como

Villa Balbianello

Take your journey into your own hands with a free day to explore Lake Como, known for its upscale resorts, villas owned by celebrities, dramatic landscapes, and views of the Alps. In Como town center, you'll find the Gothic 14th-century Cathedral of Como and 12th-century Basilica di San Fedele. Overlooking the lake are Piazza Cavour square and the sprawling Villa Olmo park.

You can extend out to the other villages by ferry or car. The resort town of Bellagio is north of Como, sitting on a promontory that juts into the lake. Lake Como splits three ways at this spot, offering spectacular scenic views. Varenna is another picturesque village a short ferry ride to the east of Bellagio, where you can follow the town's promenade along the lake to Villa Monastero and the botanical gardens. If you have the time, you can also consider visiting Lecco and Menaggio.

Day 8: Lake Como to Lake Garda, West Lake Garda & Sirmione Boat Tour

Isola del Garda
Isola del Garda

After you leave Lake Como, you'll drive for about 2.5 hours to Lake Garda, passing famous cities like Milan and Bergamo, beautiful villages, castles, churches, and museums. You're free to make as many stops as appeal to you along the way.

Once you arrive at Lake Garda, you'll embark on a three-hour boat tour of the western lake and Sirmione, with stops for Salò, Garda Island, Gardone, and some swimming from the boat.

After admiring the Sirmione peninsula and its many spots of interest, you will head towards the impressive outcropping of Rocca di Manerba. Pass the island of San Biagio and the enchanting Isola del Garda, the private residence of the counts of Borghese-Cavazza, and head to the magnificent Costa Romantica.

The Costa Romantica is the lakeshore between Toscolano Maderno and the Gulf of Salò, where lush nature sits alongside the elegant architecture of villas and hotels. This area still bears traces of the Republic of Salò, declared during the Fascist period, and the architecture is a perfect reflection of its style, with the occasional Liberty touch to enhance its vintage charm. After the tour, you will return to Sirmione and pass under the two bridges of the Scaligero Castle.

Day 9: Explore Lake Garda

Small town on Lake Garda
Small town on Lake Garda
Spend a day exploring Lake Garda on your own schedule. Garda is known as the most family-friendly Italian lake, with plenty of activities both in nature and at the many water and theme parks. Hike easy, fun paths, visit different villages, or learn about science and local crafts in the museums. Theme parks like Gardaland and outdoor activities such as the Monte Baldo cable car await.

Day 10: Depart Florence

Sunset view over Florence from Piazzale Michelangelo 

Return to Florence to catch your flight home or on to your next adventure.

Map

Map of Northern Italy Family Road Trip: Florence, Chianti, Italian Riviera, Lake Como & Lake Garda - 10 Days
Map of Northern Italy Family Road Trip: Florence, Chianti, Italian Riviera, Lake Como & Lake Garda - 10 Days