We drove from Nice to Cinque Terre, passing through San Remo and Genova.
The hwy which connects Nice to La Spezia, the closest city to Cinque Terre, is one of the most scenic hwy I have seen. However, the tolls are really expensive (almost 40 euros). Driving with 150 km/h and being constantly passed was the big fun of the day.
A big thumbs up for our Volvo V40!
All the Italian cities I have been to look quite the same in my eyes: dirty streets, bad roads, horrible to navigate, with many streets closed, but always full of museums, old churches and pizza shops.
But, what really struck me in Italy is how much and how loud Italians can talk. One can barely distinguish the words, and if you stop trying to understand, all you hear is just noise which keeps going on and on. They do not seem to obey any rules of traffic whatsoever and they can become quite annoyed if you do. But they are cheerful people, ready to party at any time of the day, but being more inclined to do so after 10 in the evening, even during the week days :): just about time for tired tourists like me to go to bed and hard working people like them to start partying. 🙂
I was sitting in a karaoke restaurant in La Spezia when the sales lady at the store close by could not resist the music anymore and between serving 2 customers she decided to join us and sing along. I guess I was more worried that she will lose her job than she will ever be.
Tip of the day:
In Italy, pizzas are ready usually after 7 pm and people eat them with farinata which is made out of chickpeas flour. The best pizza I ate in La Spezia was in La Pia pizzeria.
Because the parking spots are very limited in all 5 villages in Cinque Terre, we took the train. For 10 euros, you can hop on hop off for one day to all the villages.
My favourite one was Corniglia and my mind was set that if I were to have a honeymoon this will be the place. Corniglia is a small village, with beautiful cosy restaurants, clean, old and narrow streets and a beautiful,rocky, secluded beach. To get to the beach you will have to be fit or you will certainly become so. It is very steep and it takes about 30 minutes. But it’s well worth it. The water is clear, is quiet and many women choose to go topless which can be a point of attraction. I fell in love with the atmosphere and I wish I could have stayed there for a whole week.
Next evening we drove to Cinque Terre to see the villages at night. Just be cautious, some roads are reserved for the locals and can be quite dangerous as they are one lane only.
For us, driving in pitch dark while listening to Toto Cutugno, was an exciting and well worth challenge.
From La Spezia you can visit Pisa for its famous tower. However, I found it quite boring. So, I cannot say that I remember too much of it. All the information was in Italian and so, I decided that if they didn’t want me to understand then I definitely do not want to find out.
Portovenere is another short trip from La Spezia. Although it is a scenic place, it is crowded and commercial.
When you want to write the story of two happy lovers, choose the shores of Lake Como as your setting, said Franz Liszt.
Those words are as true now, as they were then.
So, after Cinque Terre my honeymoon will definitely have to pass through Lake Como.
From Cinque Terre to Lake Como it takes about 4 to 5 hours.
We have stayed in Abadia Lariana at Le Colombine bed and breakfast and we loved it. I could not help thinking how much better the accommodation are in Europe compared to Australia. Sorry, but the truth must be told:(
In the first day, we circled the lake and although it was about 200 km, it took us the whole day given the speed limit of around 40 km/hour and all the stops.
Tip: this drive is best done clockwise so that at least the passenger gets a better view of the lake.
In Tremezzo, we have seen Villa Carlotta, famous mostly for its vast gardens. Lucio Bubacco had a glass art work exhibition inside, which I really enjoyed.
The other villa which we didn’t visit, but we have tried to visit was Villa Balbaniello.
After a strenuous twenty minutes walk up the hill, with no signs indicating the walking distance to the villa, we asked a guy how long till the villa and if it truly exists. He smiled and said that we should be there in about 5 minutes. After another 15 minutes walking, we started to believe that he was either in love which would have explained his aloofness or his watch was in need of an urgent repair.
When we finally reached the gates of the villa, we were disappointed by what we could see and we decided to go back.
There are few others famous villas which you can try asking if there are open for visitors. Some are owned by Versace, George Clooney or Richard Branson.
Bellagio is another great small village to visit. It is quite upscale, trendy and the waterfront walk is very nice. The road between Como and Bellagio was the highlight of my trip.
The second day we went hiking. There are tons of hikes to choose from. I prefer the more difficult ones in the mountains, far away from the crowds and less touristy.
We started in Rongio which is a small place near Mandello del Lario. After 1 hour we reached Grotta dell’acqua bianca and we continued on the trail to Gardata for another 4 hours. It is a difficult climb, but with amazing views of the mountains and of the lake. The return trip was easier as it was all downhill and it took us about 3 hours. I loved it and it was one of the best days of my life!
Another hike we recommend starts at Somana, from where you start walking for about 1 hour to Santa Maria, then for another 2 hours to Alpe D’Era.
No matter what you choose, there is beauty surrounding you everywhere.
From Lake Como you can drive for an hour and get to Milano. I did not like Milano, but again, I am not a city girl and I will always choose the seclusion of the nature over the city.
The American Dream: A dream, because it never becomes reality.
The Italian Dream: Lake Como, as real as it gets.
Till next time, Ciao Italy, Ciao amore by Ricchi E Poveri