‘Ahead lay cypress-lined Tuscan roads waiting to be discovered’: readers’ best road trips

Slow roads in Tuscany’s sunny back country

Driving through the Tuscan hills, the sun beginning its slow descent in the hazy, glowing heat on an August evening was one of the most exquisite experiences I have ever had. Travelling slowly along small, winding roads near Siena in our old Polo, we settled in to the rhythm the locals live by. The peaceful embrace of the Tuscan way of life was felt at every turn, with every smile we saw and every vineyard we gazed across. The cypress trees lining other, yet-to-be-discovered roads in the distance added to our awe at our surroundings.

Riding the flats and peaks of Slovenia

The coastal town of Piran. Photograph: RossHelen/Getty Images/iStockphoto

A week in western Slovenia offers everything you could want from a European road trip – breathtaking mountain views, easy hops between stops and, maybe most importantly, scenic but well-maintained roads. Pick up a car in Ljubljana, head north to the lakes of Bled and Bohinj, then wind slowly south, via the vinicultural Vipava valley, to the caves and cliffside castles of Postojna. Finally, end your trip in the coastal town of Piran for an open-air spa day on the salt flats of the Sečovlje Salina nature park, and a view of the glittering Adriatic sea, with a glass of Slovenian wine in hand.
Holly R


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Hairpin bends from Como to Constance

The Splügen Pass. Photograph: Bim/Getty Images

My trip by motorcycle from Lake Como in Italy to Lake Constance (Bodensee) in Germany over the wonderfully twisty Splügen Pass was fantastic. Setting off in bright sunlight with the scent of wisteria in the air, up and over the pass with its road signs beginning with Tornante (hairpin bend) moving on to Due tornanti (two hairpin bends) and finally warning you of Molti Tornanti as the winding road up the steep mountainside comes fearfully into view. Down into Switzerland along sweeping curves, through the micro state of Liechtenstein in just 30 minutes or so, clipping a corner of Austria and on into Germany. A late afternoon arrival in Immenstaad on the shores of Lake Constance and an opportunity to sample the local wine in celebration of a great bike ride was perfection. Five countries in five hours.
Stephen Shaw

A true story from the Troodos mountains, Cyprus

Our reader ran out of petrol. Photograph: Aliaksandr Antanovich/Getty Images

In Cyprus’s Troodos mountains, after driving on the scary mountain roads, we ran out of petrol in the middle of a village on a Sunday morning. The villagers knocked on doors to wake up the man who operated the petrol pump, while we were served cheese snacks and black coffees. They wouldn’t accept our offers of money, so we bought literally all of their tomatoes! Piled into the back I remember tears of laughter as to what we were going to do with them all. Best trip ever.

On a roll in Bosnia-Herzegovina

The Ćiro Trail uses former railway lines. Photograph: Arterra Picture Library/Alamy

After navigating the Montenegrin coastal roads, we decided to cycle inland into mountainous Bosnia-Herzegovina. After a border crossing at almost 1,000 metres above sea level, we descended into a beautiful country with wide plains and empty roads. Enjoying a section of the Ćiro Trail, a former railway route converted into a bicycle path – we enjoyed the spectacular 100-mile journey on the mountain-hugging paved roads into Mostar. The nine-day road trip through Bosnia-Herzegovina was memorable – a juxtaposition of beauty and war – a diverse landscape dotted with a scarred past evident with its landmine signs, gun-shelled houses and verdant valleys.
Gwen Sim

Alpine highs on a circular trip from Munich

Aqua Dome in Austria’s Ötztal valley

After a day’s sightseeing in Munich we headed south to Ötztal in Austria. Here we stayed at Hotel Stern for the night then hiked up to Farst at 1,450 metres to take in the views. After that we relaxed at Aqua Dome, floating in its heavenly outdoor pools as the moon peeked behind the mountains. On the next leg, we took the Timmelsjoch high alpine road (May-Oct) and crossed into Italy at nearly 2,500 metres, staying overnight at Albergo Hochfirst, high in the mountains with stunning views. The following day we headed west and entered Switzerland in Müstair, admiring the wonderful Unesco-listed Benedictine Abbey of St John. At Davos, 50 miles further west, we took the Schatzalpbahn funicular railway to 1,800 metres and enjoyed a breathtaking panorama and an invigorating walk. Then we drove along the shores of Walensee and Zürichsee into Zurich, where we visited museums and strolled around taking in Swiss culture, history and architecture. Our final stop before heading back to Munich was at Lindau on Lake Constance, where we sat in a quaint beer garden under chestnut trees, gazing at the soaring Alps on the other side of the lake.

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Rivers and waterfalls, Zagreb to Dubrovnik

Plitvice Lakes was among Sophie’s stops on the way to Dubrovnik. Photograph: Feng Wei Photography/Getty Images

Our road trip started in Zagreb, which is great value and still has amazing foodie finds. Our next port of call was the stunning Plitvice Lakes national park, with its waterfalls and forests, before a beautiful 120-mile stretch of road to Skradin, a hidden sailing town gem, and a perfect base for heading out to Krka national park to enjoy more rivers and waterfalls. Next up was Split, where we took in views of the old town from the 12th-century bell tower of St Domnius Cathedral. We also took a relaxing boat trip to Hvar from Split. Back in the hire car we headed 150 miles south to crowded but utterly beautiful Dubrovnik – also a great place for eating out.

A precipitous drive in Provence

La Garde-Freinet. Photograph: Andy Arthur/Alamy

La Garde-Freinet is a well-preserved medieval village with a fascinating history about 10 miles inland from Saint-Tropez. The hairy roads and mountainous terrain have helped the area avoid the tourist saturation of the coast. When I was a teenager, we drove these mountain roads, eyeing the beautiful scenery and trusting my parents’ driving ability to navigate cliff edges and dust tracks. The village is absolutely worth the edgy drive. The beautiful stone houses, the deep chestnut and cork forests and the distant outline of the Alpes-Maritimes will capture any heart.

Capo Vaticano. Photograph: Sergio Monti/Alamy

An Italian ice-cream seller told me a less crowded, equally spectacular road trip alternative to the Amalfi coast last summer: the evocatively named Violet Coast road in Calabria. Inspired by his praise, we headed south 260 miles from Naples in our camper – to the Capo Vaticano peninsula on a road of dramatic cliffs on one side tumbling down to soft sandy beaches and sensual cerulean sunsets on the other. I had to concentrate on keeping my eyes on the road so I stopped at the town of Tropea for an energising coffee. I carried on along narrow streets zigzagging their way past ancient castles and villas with the mountains of the Aspromonte national park in the distance until another break at the pretty village of Pizzo. More coffee and a view of the volcanoes of Stromboli (from Tropea) and Etna (from Lazzaro) drew me ever farther south before heading back to Naples via Siderno and Catanzaro.

Winning tip: A change of gear, Roscoff to San Sebastián

San Sebastián. Photograph: Marco Bottigelli/Getty Images

As one of a group of surfers I took the ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff and drove down the west coast of France to San Sebastián, just over the Spanish border, stopping along the way to surf the amazing breaks and eat some fantastic food. Highlights include the awe-inspiring Dune du Pilat (Europe’s biggest sand dune), eating fresh moules-frites by the port in Hossegor, and chipirons à la plancha (tiny fried squid from the Basque region) with a cold beer watching the sun go down in Guéthary. San Sebastián proved as wonderful as its reputation suggested: a beautiful city full of more gastronomic and architectural delights.
Sarah D

The last tip was amended on 26 April 2024. The ferry was from Plymouth to Roscoff, not Saint-Malo, as a previous version said.


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