When in Rome...how about seeing something other than Rome on a Central Italy road trip?
Sure, the ancient Italian capital is exceptionally beautiful, unequalled in historical intrigue, and boasts a wealth of fabulous culinary traditions. But spectacular treats await those travellers who venture beyond the city, as this one-week itinerary through Lazio, Abruzzo, and Umbria, makes clear.
Save the best for last — because, yes, whatever anyone says, Rome is undeniably the best. Instead head first into the untamed wilds of mysterious Abruzzo for breathtaking vistas and fresh mountain air. Then rejoin the beaten path in famously picturesque Orvieto, before returning to nature with beautiful lake Bracciano.
Only then will you be ready for the ultimate road trip finale: ravishing Rome.
After picking up your campervan, get off the beaten path by driving east into the enigmatic region of Abruzzo. Dramatic mountains, vast valleys, and atmospheric abandoned hilltop hamlets await, forming what locals call “Italy’s last wilderness.”
Surely such a region deserves special attention on your Central Italy road trip! Stay at Sulmona, a little town in the Morrone massif, famous for its sugared almonds, and a perfect base for exploring the area.
Steeped in myth, Abruzzo is believed to a land of ancient magic. Head to Scanno to see women in traditional costumes make lace by hand, and a lake that local legend claims was formed in a battle between a white witch and a sorcerer.
Or there’s Cocullo, with its bizarre snake festival. Spend a day or so hiking through the alpine meadows of the Majella National Park. Or maybe amp up the adrenaline with some moonlight whitewater rafting on the River Aventino.
highest fortress in Italy with 10th-century watchtower
Middle Ages castle in Pettorano sul Gizio
Eremo di Sant’Onofrio al Morrone
cliffside hermitage with spectacular views
impeccable local cuisine
family-run restaurant using seasonal products
try the Abruzzese speciality, arrosticini
Camping Orsa Minore
peaceful camping with stunning natural scenery
Winding streets, pretty piazzas, and a glittering cathedral, it perches high above the plain, captivating and compelling. And, with its illusion of rising mysteriously out of the volcanic rock from which it was built, it’s also wonderfully creepy.
Visit the cathedral first. Then further back in time with a trip to the Museo Claudio Faina e Civico with its ancient Etruscan artefacts. Escape the Mediterranean sun with an exploration of subterranean Orvieto. 440 caves sit below the city’s streets, once used for everything from WWII bomb shelters to wine cellars.
And when you’re done with sightseeing, relax with a glass of Orvieto Classico, a wine famous since Roman times. Luca Signorelli, who painted the frescoes of the cathedral, was paid in Orvieto’s wine — maybe you’ll be inspired to paint a masterpiece after a few glasses too.
Chiesa di Sant’Andrea
gorgeous 12th century church
Torre del Moro
tower with spectacular views
Pozzo di San Patrizio
historic well full of character
Al Pozzo Etrusco
local food and rustic vibe
Trattoria del Moro Aronne
local food and rustic vibe
Ristorante La Badia
medieval courtyard setting
Area Sosta Camper, Battistelli Renzo
take the funicular into centre
Where do Romans go on holiday? There’s no punchline, sorry. The answer is actually your third Central Italy road trip itinerary destination, Lake Bracciano.
The second largest of Lazio’s volcanic lakes sits just under an hour north of Rome, a natural paradise perfect for luring city dwellers to the countryside. Sitting in an enormous volcanic crater, this isn’t a lake for adrenaline junkies — power boats are banned, for one thing. This is a lake for some serious kicking back and relaxing.
Enjoy a peaceful canoe in the lake’s clear waters or take a lesson in sailing. For swimming and picnicking, head to Lungolago Argenti. And it’s not just the lake that’s charming. The town of Bracciano is just gorgeous.
Pay a visit to its impressive castle, Orsini Odescalchi, where Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes got married. Even if you couldn’t care less about celebrity gossip, this place still makes an impression.
picturesque medieval town with a small beach
San Liberato Church
ancient church with botanic gardens
L’Acqua Delle Donne
varied seasonal menu including homemade pasta
smaller menu, opportunity to try fish freshly caught from lake
Bracciano Parcheggio, Via Este, 5A
cheap parking close to town
charming campsite close to the lake
Finales don’t come more fabulous than Rome. In history, art, architecture, food, and atmosphere, Rome goes above and beyond.
Iconic ancient ruins whose names — the Colosseum or Pantheon — are familiar to all of us occupy a city brimming with world-famous art by the likes of Michelangelo and Caravaggio. Each corner you turn reveals new wonders. To say it’s a cultural cornucopia would be an understatement.
Begin with a heady hit of religious magnificence at St Paul’s Basilica or the Sistine Chapel. Then explore some museums, perhaps changing it up with some contemporary art at the MAXXI exhibition space. Stroll streets thronging with vespas.
Perhaps enjoy a picnic in Villa Borghese. Then, when evening comes, wander bohemian Trastevere before enjoying an aperitivo in a streetside trattoria. Food is just as exceptional as you’d expect for Italy’s capital so be sure to try specialities like cacio e pepe, or artichokes cooked alla Romana.
from Lake Bracciano
Iconic Roman amphitheatre.
The Appian Way
Walk in the footsteps of emperors and popes on this early Roman road.
The Spanish Steps
Iconic meeting point.
Ristorante la Veranda
Fine dining in a building dating from 1480.
Roman specialities made with the highest quality ingredients.
Fresh and creative food including a mozzarella tasting menu.
RoscioliCamper Parking Area, Park Colombo
30 minute walk or 15 minute taxi ride from centre.