For drivers, Italy is probably one of the greatest countries in the world to explore by car. Fabulous, twisting roads with incredible vistas, deep gorges and towering mountains, all interspersed with historic, fashionable cities – what’s not to love? Milan and Rome both have their attractions – for the ultra-sophisticated nothing comes close to the shopping and high fashion on offer in Milan, while Rome really does live up to its name as the ‘Eternal City’ with thousands of years of history on show.

But what about those days when the sun is shining, you’ve hired a convertible from Hertz Car Rental, and you want to escape the city for the open road for the day? Here’s our pick of the best day trips by car from Milan and Rome.

Milan

Lake Como

Italy’s third largest lake is where all the beautiful people come to relax and unwind. Como city sits at its southern tip, but head around the lake to the northern end and you’ll escape the crowds and find your own little piece of lakeside heaven. Take a luxury cruise across the lake, or wander around the winding streets of Como city in search of the perfect espresso. It’s a two-hour drive via the SS36 highway.

Venice

A leisurely drive east will bring you to one of the most incredible places in the world – Venice. A day trip is just enough to give you a taster of this magnificent location. Park your car in one of the large car parks out of town and then take a water taxi right up to the steps of St Mark’s Square, or go island hopping and visit the glass factories of Murano. It’s around a three and a half hour drive from Milan along the E64 and the E70, and takes you through some very scenic views along the way. Stop off at the historic city of Verona on the way back.

Lake Maggiore & the Borromean Islands

An hour and a half down the A8 and the E62 brings you to the stunning Lake Maggiore. Its waters are dotted with tiny islands that you can visit by buying a hop-on-hop-off ferry ticket for the day. Don’t forget your camera for this trip because the scenery is simply gorgeous. Drop into the Place Museum and gardens on Isola Madre, or wander around the town and find yourself a lakefront tavern for a spot of lunch.

Rome

Tivoli

About 30km from Rome is the playground of the ancient emperors, Tivoli. Chosen by Hadrian in the 2nd century BC as his perfect country retreat, the rest of Rome society soon followed suit and turned what had been a sleepy fishing village into the ancient version of Monaco. Drive there today and you can spend a pleasant day wandering around ancient villas, including Hadrian’s own out-of-town palace. A perfect spot for history lovers, the culturally curious, or just hopeless romantics. Take the A24 and the E80 to get there.

Lago di Bolsena

This stunning lake is a two and a half hour drive from Rome down the E35 and E45 (be aware that you will have to pay a toll on-route), through some gorgeous Italian countryside. It’s a food lover’s paradise, and famous for its olive oil. The village is charming, where cobbled streets are still lined with traditional fisherman’s cottages. It’s peaceful, it’s one of this region of Italy’s hidden gems, and it’s usually relatively tourist-free.

Pompeii

Two hours and 45 minutes down the A1 and the E45 is one of the world’s must-see destinations, Pompeii. This incredible location has been frozen at the exact moment when Mount Vesuvius spewed a cloud of boiling pumice over the inhabitants, giving them no time to escape the mountain’s fury. It’s a humbling site, but truly unique and definitely worth the trip. Along the route you can drop into Naples for some of Italy’s finest food and drink, or simply soak up the coast views as you drive along. This is one day trip from Rome that’s really worth getting up early for (do watch out for the traffic around Naples, which can be quite heavy during the morning and evening rush hours).

Hire a car from Hertz Car Rental and you can discover all this and more when you add in a few day trips from Milan and Rome into your schedule.