Southern Europe Road Trip: 18 Days Across Italy, France & Spain

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Follow our 18 day journey across 3 countries: Italy, France and Spain (4 including Monaco). Also along for the ride were my parents which made this an extra fun time. If you’ve ever thought about taking a road trip around southern Europe, here’s the ultimate guide to get you started.

Tip #1: Each day below contains links to our posts which cover each location in much more detail.

Tip #2: We had two cars and communicated by walkie talkies. This saved on purchasing 3 different SIM cards for each country we visited. 

Tip #3: Read more about car leasing. If you decide to go longer than 17 days it will probably save you money compared to a regular car rental. Let’s go!

New Tip (2023): Sort out your internet ahead of time. I wish I had an eSIM from aloSIM when I did this trip back 2013. Fast, reliable mobile internet all over Europe for just a few bucks.

Note: tolls & fuel have been converted from EUR to AUD.

The route of our southern Europe road trip through Italy, France, Monaco and Spain

Travel tip: If you've got time up your sleeve, consider a detour from Livorno, Italy to the island of Corsica via ferry.

Day 1 - Italy

Pickup car in Rome drive to Praiano

Accommodation: Hotel Margherita, Praiano (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $22.90

Fuel: $73

Our car collection from Citroen was smooth and easy. We really enjoyed our trip to Praiano except when we got to Positano. You can read all about that trip here.

We found a wonderful place to stay, high up on the hill and settled in for a few days. To finish up we enjoyed a dinner overlooking the ocean at a cliff-side restaurant that sported a small kid’s playground.


Tip: If you're looking for a rental car, check out Discover Cars for savings up to 70%.

Day 2 - Italy


Accommodation: Hotel Margherita, Praiano (check prices in area...)

The car stayed in the garage and we took the bus to Positano today. Wow, what a hairy adventure. Check all the details here. Got our laundry done next door for €15, and spent the afternoon swimming in the hotel pool. 

Day 3 - Italy


Accommodation: Tramonto D’Oro, Praiano (check prices in area...)

We were going to drive to Amalfi, but ended up going by bus. Our plans to visit Capri were spoiled by bad sea weather. Enjoyed a lovely dinner and watched the sun go down from the top floor of Hotel Margherita.


Day 4 - Italy

Praiano to Pompeii to Matera

Accommodation: Hotel Sassi, Matera (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $2.80

Back on the road, we left Praiano and headed to Pompeii which was a bit of a let down for us. Afterwards we headed to Matera, which was an absolute surprise – stunning.  We booked into a cave hotel, didn’t have anything on our Turkish ones, but was comfortable and large.


Day 5 - Italy

Matera to Termoli

Accommodation: Hotel Mistral, Termoli (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $17

Fuel: $86


Josh did a sunrise photography tour around Matera before we ate some breakfast and headed down the coast to Alberobello. This little town was mysterious and a must-see in Italy. 


After Alberobello we visited the Molfetta Outlet before heading to Termoli.

We arrived late and simply bought ham and bread for sandwiches that night. It was nice to have plain food after rich Italian most nights and it was good to stay in and get a proper sleep. 

Day 6 - Italy

Termoli to Perugia

Accommodation: Albergo Nyers, Perugia (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $21

Fuel: $121

The breakfast at our hotel was delicious. We didn’t stick around in Termoli, opting to head straight to Perugia. We were meant to meet my mum and dad for lunch, but couldn’t find them so headed straight to Perugia.

Perugia was just as surprising as Matera, a beautiful part of Italy that needs to be visited. We enjoyed a walk around the city and dinner in town. 


Day 7 - Italy

Perugia to Florence

Accommodation: Villa San Michele, Fiesole Firenze (check prices in area...)

Our GPS directed us down some dangerously narrow roads to the wrong location, but we eventually made it to our hotel. 


After we had checked in at the amazing Villa San Michele we took a taxi to Florence and had a walk around town vising the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and riding the carousel.


As the sun went down we opted to return to Villa San Michele for one of the best meals of our life.

Tip: If you're looking for a more authentic accommodation experience, take a closer look at Italian Agriturismo. As the name suggests, it combines agriculture with tourism in the form of beautiful rural properties and delicious produce. 

Day 8 - Italy


Accommodation: Villa San Michele, Fiesole Firenze (check prices in area...)

Following breakfast we went for a swim in the pool. The kids went to kids club while Josh and I enjoyed a leisurely lunch by the pool, did some writing and booked some flights.


The kids came back for a nap and play. We had organized a babysitter to watch the kids and headed back to Florence via the hotel shuttle for a double date with my parents.

After my Dad attempted a 1kg steak we headed to a gelati store taking another walk around the city.


Day 9 - France

Florence to Pisa to Nice, France

Accommodation: Little Palace, Nice (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $48

After our delicious breakfast, it was a sad farewell to Villa San Michele.  Josh could not leave Italy without seeing the Leaning Tower of Pisa so we headed off early that morning for a quick stop at Pisa.


I found a great parking spot, Josh took a few happy snaps and we were back in our car on the way to Monte Carlo, Monaco.


This was another quick stop checking out the super impressive cars and gold star hotels before continuing onto Nice, France. Phew! 3 countries in one day.

In Nice we had a walk along the French Rivera, stopped for a terrible dinner with arrogant waiters and checked into our tiny out-of-the-way hotel.


Day 10 - France

Nice to Arles

Accommodation: Airbnb Apartment, Arles (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $30.20

Fuel: $91

Crepes for breakfast were better than dinner. And we checked out of Nice and headed to Cannes. Took some photos by the beach and then drove to Aix.

We had a great walk around Aix, stopped for a delicious burger lunch and drove onto Arles.

Our apartment was ready for us and was ultra-cute in a very French-loft-kind-of-way. Cooked our meal in our apartment and had a night in.

Day 11 - France


Accommodation: Airbnb Apartment, Arles (check prices in area...)


We met my parents and took a walk to the old city, visited the amphitheater, rode on the carousel and made it back home for an afternoon nap.

Lunch in the old city was not good and our Chinese takeaway was a bit average that evening. 

Day 12 - France

Arles to Creissels

Accommodation: Hericlea Hotel Sport, Millau (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $7.80

Today we drove to Saint-Guithem-le-Desert. An adorable medieval style town, easy to walk around and enjoy. Decided to have dessert for lunch and had delicious crème brulee and profiteroles. I have to admit, the French know how to do desert.


Back on the road we made it to Millau and checked into our log cabin, while my parents chose a castle. We took a walk around Millau, ate dinner and came home.


Day 13 - France

Creissels to Toulouse

Accommodation: Airbnb Apartment, Toulouse (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $2

Fuel: $105

Today we decided on an impromptu visit to the French countryside and the Aven Armand Caves. The drive was beautiful and the caves fascinating.


We headed to Toulouse after the caves, checked into our apartment and bought some kebabs for dinner, while the kids slept through. 

Day 14 - France


Accommodation: Airbnb Apartment, Toulouse (check prices in area...)


We took a walk around Toulouse today, found a playground and rode a carousel again. Had an afternoon nap before heading for dinner at the Hippopotamus, which was pretty good. 

Day 15 - Spain

Toulouse to Pamplona, Spain

Accommodation: Hotel Avenida, Pamplona (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $39.30

Impound: $140

Early start this morning… didn’t happen. Walked out of our apartment towards our car and there was a market there. No car. The French police stole our car.


Finally after several hours we got on the road for a mad run to get to Pamplona, Spain.

Made a stop at a highway road stop for lunch and kept going making it to our hotel late afternoon.

We decided to take a walk around town and stumbled, by chance, upon a family “running of the bulls”. It was absolutely delightful and one of my favourite spontaneous moments of our road trip. 

Josh tried boar stew for dinner before we headed back home. 

Day 16 - Spain

Pamplona to Barcelona

Accommodation: Mercer Hotel, Barcelona (check prices in area...)

Tolls: $61

Zaragoza was on our stops today and we had a fun lunch at Tommy Mel’s Diner before continuing our trip to Barcelona.

We all decided Barcelona was not made for cars and we hit up Citroen to return our car. It happened to be the same depot as my parent’s Renault so we hitched a taxi back to our hotel.

The taxi was clueless and dropped us some distance, but when we finally walked with all our stuff to the Mercer Hotel we were in awe.


The kids had left overs from lunch and I found a Chinese restaurant across the street for Josh and I to enjoy while the kids were fast asleep. 

Day 17 - Spain


Accommodation: Mercer Hotel, Barcelona (check prices in area...)

Today we explored Barcelona. We walked the main drag to the bus stop to get to Guell Park.


Once we finished there I headed back to the hotel with some tapas to let the kids nap, while Josh went on to the famous Cathedral.


Later that evening we walked to the harbor and stopped for some Spanish food. Dinner at El Ray De La Gamba was a disappointment. 

Day 18 - Ireland

Barcelona flight to Ireland

Accommodation: Ballsbridge Hotel, Dublin (check prices in area...)

My parents came to our hotel to say goodbye today. It was emotional. We grabbed a taxi to the airport and took our first Ryanair flight to Dublin, Ireland. Made our home at the Ballsbridge for the next 6 nights. I got to go to a Guinness Storehouse party while Josh stayed home with the kids.


And there you have it. Our 18-day journey through Italy, Monaco, France and Spain. Italy by far was my favourite, followed by Spain and with the experiences we had in France I have to say I am not a fan. Jaded as it was by the missing car incident, rude restaurant staff and disappointing food choices. But maybe it was just my English blood. In all seriousness, seeing southern Europe by road is a great way to go. There are so many little towns that exude their unique flavor and I wish we could see them all. Maybe next time.

Road Trip Tally

Total Days: 18

Total Tolls: AUD$252

Total Fuel: AUD$476

Total Distance: 3,507 km (2,179.15 miles)

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

I would love to do a road trip through Italy. I've been to Rome, Pisa, Florence, and Venice, but I want to see the tiny towns next time. So I'll add some of this to my list. Thanks.
When you were talking on FB about Eastern Europe, have you thought about Germany? I know you saw that in your younger days, but it would make an amazing road trip. I want to return for a long stay in Germany, and some more camping in Australia and Switzerland.

Lana Jan 14th, 2014

And I am AMAZED that you went that fast with children. I wear out if I travel that fast. I don't do long stays everywhere, but every few days I have to stop and do nothing for a day or two.

Lana Jan 14th, 2014

Wow! What a trip. I can't wait to try gelati in Italy =)

gem Jan 14th, 2014

Fantastic photos Erin and Josh! I love Italy, it is my favourite European country (so far). Last time we did it by train, but despite the scary narrow roads, you've inspired me, that a road-trip would be awesome! You packed a lot into your 18 days goodness me! Thanks for sharing :-)

Gina Nitschke Jan 14th, 2014

Well done Erin. You hit parts of Italy we wanted to, but didn't on our road trip there. You have even been to parts of Spain we haven't seen yet! I guess that means we will just have to do it again some time. Those tolls are crazy, aren't they?

Heidi Wagoner Jan 17th, 2014

This is an awesome daily update that we can use as well when we get to Europe late this year! And the photos are awesome too.

Hannah Jan 22nd, 2014

Hi there, Your trip sounds wonderful........I had ask how many miles from Rome to Millau, France.
I figure that if someone drove more or less straight thru, it would be about 1200 or 1400 miles.........This would take us 3 days of hard driving so I guess we should take a train......I was hoping to see your pictures of the beautiful bridge in Millau, France......It is so awesome...I just want to see it.........Thank you & good luck on your future travels..........Mary Ann

Mary Ann Bragg Apr 4th, 2014

Me and my friends are planning to go to spain this January. We would love to see some nice beaches with clear water and some stunning scenery. We were thinking Majorca,Ibiza and Canary Island, we are up to some adventures and experience a great nightlife in our travel. I came across this great article too here in but i wanted to hear your thoughts first. Can anyone suggest any ideas or tips? Any help is kindly appreciated :)

Daniele Merkov Nov 16th, 2017

Erin your article is very amazing and can you give us some advice because we were planning to visit France for vacation this is our schedule base on this website

1. Arrive in Paris 9am. Montmarte and Moulin Rouge
2. Louvre Museum and Arc du Triomphe / shopping day
3. Palace of Versailles
4. Eiffel Tower and Madeline Neighborhood
5. Notre Dame Cathedral, Quartier Latin and Bastille
6. Local Parisian Shopping in Rue du Charone and Eiffel / Louvre at night
7. Flea market and Outlet
8. Tuileries Garden and surrounding area
9. Honfluer
10. Mont Saint Michel
11. Amboise
12. Sleeping Beauty Castle
13. Dordogne and La Roque Gaegac
14. Arles
15. Marseilles
16. Nice Downtown
17. Monaco
18. Grasse
19. Nice
20. Travel Back to Paris

What can you say?

Rojane Cruz Jul 29th, 2019

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