Dolomites, the mountains, in the middle a valley with a town, surrounded by the mountains covered with trees and grass, but mostly trees. In the back rocks not covered and a clear blue sky
Italy,  Road Trips,  roadtrip

The Ultimate Trieste and Dolomites Road Trip: 4 Days in Italy

Italy is a beautiful country and the Northeast of the country shouldn’t be missed. A Dolomites road trip is the ultimate vacation, especially when you add Trieste to it. We drove this route as part of our longer 6 week European road trip. We love going on road trips and Italy is perfect for this.

Trieste Dolomites Road Trip

Day 1: Arrive at Trieste

Day 2: Drive from Trieste to Sistiana (19 kilometers/12 miles, about half an hour)

Day 3: Drive from Sistiana to Bolzano (283 kilometers/176 miles, about 5.5 hours)

Day 4: Going home

Day to Day Itinerary

This 4 day Italian road trip covers a beautiful area of Italy. Trieste is a magnificent city and the Dolomites simply is a gorgeous area.

Day 1: Trieste

Overview of Trieste, seen between trees from higher
Overview of Trieste
Piazza Unita d'Italia, a large square, large buildings on 3 sides, people strolling on the square
Piazza Unita d’Italia
Canal grande, seen from the middle, with a pedestrian bridge in the middle over it. Boats on either side, buildings on both sides
Canal grande

Arrive early in Trieste and take the whole day to explore the city. Trieste has a lot of grand squares. It was the first time for our son in Italy and he loved the large squares, they were perfect for running around on. Like the Piazza Unità d’Italia or the Piazza Venezia. Trieste is a port city, so explore the seafront. There’s a beautiful promenade to stroll along.

Trieste is known as the coffee capital of Italy, so visit the historical Caffè San Marco. The brand Illy has its origins in this city. Wander around the Città Vecchia (Old city), with typical medieval houses on narrow and crooked streets. Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Castello di San Giusto, a 15th century castle and fort, which is now a museum.

Day 2: Beach Day

Caravella beach as seen from campground Mare Pineta
Caravella beach as seen from campground Mare Pineta

On your way out of the city visit the Faro della Vittoria (lighthouse). Follow the road along the coast and stop at Castello Miramare, a beautiful castle on the waterfront.

Spend the afternoon at the Caravella beach near Sistiana.

Day 3: Dolomites

Passo di Mauria, high rising mountains, in front trees, in the back so high they're not covered with trees anymore
Passo di Mauria
View on the Dolomites, in the right down corner a large building is visible
View on the Dolomites
Dolomites, the mountains, in the middle a valley with a town, surrounded by the mountains covered with trees and grass, but mostly trees. In the back rocks not covered and a clear blue sky

Cross the Dolomites from East to West, you’ll have breathtaking views all day long. The Dolomites has many cute towns worth your time. Hiking in the mountains is also possible, with even more breathtaking views. We loved the views at the Passo di Mauria. The town of San Vito di Cadore is beautiful with the high rising mountains in the background. This applies to the village of Canazei as well. End your day in the city of Bolzano.

Day 4: Bolzano & Stelvio Pass

Stelvio Pass, before driving it, you see all the hairpin bends against the mountain
Stelvio Pass, before driving it
Stelvio Pass as seen from above, all the hairpin bends clearly visible on the mountain
The Stelvio Pass as seen from above

This is also the day you go home, but if you still have most of the day available, drive the Stelvio Pass. It has stunning views all the way and 46 hairpin bends.

In Bolzano visit the Museo Archeologico Alto Adige, with the famous ice cave man Ötzi. Go on the funivia del Renon (a funicular), that takes you to the top of Soprabolzano. Here you’ll have incredible views.

Where to Stay

We opted to drive to Sistiana on day 1 already and stayed for 2 nights at campground Mare Pineta, which has a swimming pool, restaurant and a view on the beach and sea.

The last night we slept in our car in Trafoi, near the Stelvio Pass. Everything was fully booked, so book ahead, so that you don’t find yourself in our situation.

Where to Eat

Ice cream from Gelato Marco
Ice Cream!
Illy coffee, tea and cakes, as seen from above
Illy coffee, tea and cakes

Visit Caffè San Marco in Trieste to sample the Illy coffee. Eat Italian gelato at Gelato Marco. Their crema carsolina is so far one of the best flavors of ice cream we tasted.  We loved the coffee, tea and small cakes at Illy Caffè. Paul loves the Illy coffee, so he was in heaven in Trieste. The cakes came from Pasticceria Maritani and were simply delicious.

We had dinner with pizza and pasta at Camping Village Mare Pineta Bar Restaurant. You simply can’t visit Italy and not have pizza and pasta.

We had dinner at Centrale JoePiada in Pera, Trento in the Dolomites with delicious panini’s.

When to Visit

We visited in August and had beautiful weather all 4 days. This trip can be done almost the whole year. However the Dolomites do receive snow in the Winter time. It’s a popular ski area. Not all the passes will be open in Winter time. So you won’t be able to drive the route with the Passo di Mauria and the Stelvio Pass.

In Summer everything books up fast in the Dolomites, Winter is also a busy season for the Dolomites.

Hiring a Car and Airports

We drove the route with our own car. For this road trip we didn’t rent a car, but we have excellent experiences with Hertz and Alamo. We came from Slovenia before Trieste and continued with 4 days in Switzerland after the Stelvio Pass.

When arriving by plane before embarking on this road trip: Trieste has an international airport, namely Trieste-Friuli Venezia Giuli Airport, located 50 kilometers/31 miles from the city. The closest airport to Bolzano is Bolzano Airport, just 8 kilometers/5 miles away from the city. The nearest international airport is Innsbruck Airport in Austria, 85 kilometers/53 miles from Bolzano.


  • Dinner in Italy is later than we are used to, they typically start between 8pm and 10pm.
  • Book your accommodation in the Dolomites early, it was all fully booked when we visited in August.
  • Bring some small coins for toll roads, most in Italy can be paid with credit card or a prepaid card (Viacard).

That Concludes a Beautiful Dolomites Road Trip

Hope you enjoy(ed) it as much as we did.    

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  • Hels

    Italy is one of my favourite countires in the world. The Dolomites look particularly fabulous. Would love another road trip here, although I do find the driving abit white knuckle. Thanks for sharing!

  • Laura

    I’ve never pinned a post so quickly! I was planning a Dolomites trip in 2020, so that never happened. I am considering it for next summer. It looks so amazing!

  • Josy A

    Squeee I LOVE the Dolomites! We did a week hiking there for our honeymoon and I fell in love with those stunning spiky mountains. I didn’t visit the Passo di Mauria – that is beeeautiful! 😀

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