Italy // Road trip part one // Lake Como – Milan – Portofino – Rapallo – Cinque Terre
Italy has to be one of my favourite countries on earth. I mean, what’s not to like right? The landscapes, food, cities, mountains, atmosphere, people, beaches, history, aromas, art… It’s all goooooooooood!
We’ve visited Italy a couple of times now, and still, every time we’re planning a new trip we’re tempted to go there again. Who can resist La Dolce Vita?
One of my best experiences in Italy has to be the road trip we did when we visited the northern part, including Lake Como, Bologna, Cinque Terre, Florence, Verona, Lucca, Lake Guarda and so on.
Let me tell you why:
To begin with, the drive from Belgium to the Italian border (crossing Luxembourg, France and Switzerland) was beautiful. Our car did lose its exhaust pipe midway… but despite the extra decibels we kept pushing that noisy blue thing further down south!
When crossing the border to Italy, you can either choose the Gothard tunnel or the Gothard pass. The first one being the fastest option, the latter being the scenic option. Of course we took the latter. It takes a bit longer, but the panoramic views are spectacular, I can recommend it to anyone!
1. Lake Como
After crossing the border we made an overnight stop at lake Como. Is there a better way to celebrate your first day in Italy then by having a drink with an excellent view at the sunset over the famous lake? I don’t think so!
The next day we made a quick stop at Milan. We walked around, visited the imposing Duomo di Milano and the glamorous Galleria Vittoria Emanuele II. Both must-sees in Milan, and conveniently located next to each other. As we didn’t feel like staying in the hustle of the city for too long we continued our road trip towards the coast.
Upon arriving at the coast (yay!) we first lingered around Portofino, a classic picturesque Italian harbor village. In 3 words: colorful, cosy and crowded. As beautiful places and hordes of tourists often go hand in hand, you can expect quite a lot of peeps here!
On the upside, you have a strain of excellent seafood restaurants competing for your attention. I wont even begin to describe how delicious the food is, I’m guessing you don’t need convincing :)
TIP: Get up early and enjoy the emptiness while it lasts…
Moving along the coastline we stumbled upon Rapallo. Another charming harbor city with a prominent seafront castle (Castello sul Mare), once used to defend the town from numerous pirate attacks. We wandered around town, explores the castle, had an excellent lunch on a shaded terrace, laid on the beach… in other words: Il dolce far niente!
5. Cinque Terre
After spending the day at Rapallo we went further down south towards La Spezia. From here we hopped on the train to visit Cinque Terre. This magical part of Liguria consists of 5 cliff-hanging villages, stretched along a spectacular 15 km coastline. Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. The names themselves made me want to see them… :)
You can access the villages by car, but the train is way more fun and convenient. The tracks pass through 19th century tunnels and seem to be hanging over the steep cliffs at some points!
Speaking of hanging and steep cliffs… make sure you walk along the Via dell’ Amore. This footpath with spectacular vistas connects Riomaggiore and Manarola. As there’s little shade along the way, and you don’t want to end up as a lobster look-alike, wear plenty of sunscreen and make sure you rehydrate regularly. A cocktail or two along the way will do the trick ;)
Monterosso was founded around 600 AD, and the neighboring towns followed soon. Along with the villages, unique terraces were constructed on the steep surrounding cliffs. Over the centuries an intricate network of walls was built on the terraced hillsides, stretching thousands of kilometers. Some even dare say it equals the length of the Great Wall of China!
Together with the stunning coastline the villages and surrounding cliffs form the Cinque Terre National Park, that was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1997. I’ll state the obvious by saying you definitely have to visit this place!
Ahhhh a sunset picture… perfect for saying goodnight and… and if you’re up for it, continue to the second part of our road trip :) !