Road trip Italy week 2: Exploring the North
Last week we explored the wonderful Tuscany in Italy. This was our very first time on Italian soil and it was instant love at first sight! What a beautiful country. This week we didn’t explore top locations in Tuscany but headed to the north of Italy. We arrived at UNESCO World Heritage site and went in search of the most beautiful bits of nature, to name but a few highlights. You can read how our road trip was in Italy this week.
Road trip Italy without a plan
The great thing about road tripping is of course the freedom that comes with it. Although you don’t have to plan much, we’ve done more in the past week. Now we didn’t really have a plan for what we were going to do for the next week. It sounds more exciting than it is. It’s even relaxing and fun when you don’t have to be anywhere. Anything is possible and anything is allowed. Our first stop from Tuscany was fixed: Cinque Terre. These five villages, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites, we had to see. It was only a small detour to get there later to the North, gradually towards home.
The villages of Cinque Terre are located in mountainous territory, so driving there is quite an experience in itself. The closer we got, the nicer the views became. Although everywhere on websites it is recommended not to park in Monterosso (one of the five villages) we have done so and successfully. There were about a dozen places left when we arrived at noon. Was it luck? We don’t know, but it’s definitely worth a try.
What immediately struck us was unfortunately not the beauty of Cinque Terre, but especially the crowds. So many people in a village we had never encountered before in Italy. Was this what they call a tourist trap? A place where they attract a lot of tourists and their money? A place that’s a little overrecalled? It started to look a bit like it when we decided to do the arduous walk from village to village when suddenly we had to pay 18 euros/person to walk on. No problem though, Sigrid wasn’t allowed to continue when the guards saw her wearing flip flops. Sturdy flip flops however, not the kind of pliable plastic slippers. Then try to get from village to village by train. Then the greatest disappointment was yet to come.
The train was cheaper and faster than the walk, but therefore not more pleasant. With hundreds of other tourists we were crammed on a train towards the next village, Vernazza. Luckily, it was only a five-minute drive. When it got there, it was all over the head. So busy! In a small and otherwise very charming village. We found this so sad to see and it was immediately the biggest disappointment of this trip. Obviously we didn’t think we’d be the only ones here, but we certainly didn’t expect it to be that busy. Otherwise, we would have skipped this trip without a doubt. We certainly see the charm and beauty of Cinque Terre but the crowds destroyed all the beauty. We didn’t go any further to the other villages and left here as soon as possible.
We had thought to stay in Cinque Terre for a few days, but luckily had not booked an overnight stay. No plan was therefore definitely the best plan! We decided to drive further north. On the GPS we saw that we would drive along Lake Garda. We’d be crazy not to stop here, we still had time with plenty. And what an excellent decision that was!
We knew Lake Garda was big, but we hadn’t imagined it that huge. In one of the villages along the lake we made a stop and enjoyed the beautiful view. We then walked further into the village and enjoyed artisan pizza and of course a few local shops. In the afternoon we enjoyed a nice terrace. This was the ultimate holiday feeling. Significantly fewer tourists, who we think were more scattered because Lake Garda is so big, and breathtaking views over the lake. This is what we expected in Cinque Terre and didn’t get it, but this place made up for that setback right away.
Overnight stay during our road trip in Italy
Impulsive but with a fantastic feeling we booked here two nights. We didn’t want to leave here right away. Our hotel was located in a different place on Lake Garda. Which was ideal, because that’s how we could experience even more of this location. We ate delicious fish by the water and got up early the next day to watch the sun rise behind the mountains by the water. We made another splash in the hotel pool overlooking the mountains and visited a few more small villages by the lake. Blessed! We haven’t come across such a beautiful place many times. This is going to make you quiet.
Nature in nature
The next morning it was time to continue our road trip in Italy. Although we would have liked to have stayed at Lake Garda a little longer, there were still nice places waiting for us. We went even more towards northern Italy. This time to Italian Tyrol. In Germany we had already been to Tyrol, but in Italy we also thought it would be nice to pass and stop. After all, it was on our route to home.
Lago di Braies
We discovered the beautiful lake and nature reserve of Lago di Braies or Pragser Wildsee. Bright green-blue water surrounded by mountain scenery is what you can expect here. It is an oasis of calm, but of course also tourism. No mass tourism, although it can be very busy, because the visitors walk there in different places around the lake and in the mountains. We were overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. It is definitely recommended to come here at sunset or attendance. That’s what we did to get the best pictures. Or you can rent a boat to float on the lake. For us this was one of the most beautiful places in Tyrol that we already saw. And the best? It is completely free to visit.
We booked a typical guest court with wellness a typical guest court 30 minutes drive from Lago di Braies. The patrons greeted us with a handshake and a beaming smile. You immediately feel the warm, homely atmosphere that hangs there. Our room was spacious and featured an excellent view of the mountain tops of the Dolomites. The hotel was equipped with a virtuous wellness and swimming pool which we eagerly took advantage of in the evening. A wonderful night’s sleep was guaranteed. After an extensive breakfast, we left home the next morning.
Twelve hours’ drive
The way home took about 12 hours. That’s a lot of miles to make one day, but we did it all at once. We had planned to make another stopover with overnight stay somewhere in Germany but decided to keep driving anyway as we were not very tired. Moreover, in Germany we didn’t find any more places that we really wanted to visit. The long days on the road took their toll and we didn’t feel like exploring any further. We’ve had enough of that in the last few weeks. A road trip is a lot of fun, but you can’t last weeks. At least not at the pace we did this time. Taking enough breaks and also enjoying the surroundings is the message!
End of road trip in Italy
Our road trip in Italy lasted a little less than two weeks and we stopped at ten different places and passed over a hundred towns and villages. We have made a nice impression of Italy and hope to discover the south of Italy soon. We enjoyed some of the most beautiful bits of nature mother Earth has given us. But now it’s time for some rest at home and then we’ll soon start planning a new road trip again! Suggestions for destinations are always welcome in the comments or on our Facebook page.