Hi guys, I owe trillions of posts and I will update as soon as possible, but today I will tell of our road-trip in northern Italy!
We had 9 days of vacation and chose to travel only the north and try to visit as much as possible, take a look:
You will find all expenses and accommodation here!
Day 1 – Milan
Milan Airport Travel time to Airbnb: 45 minutes
We travelled on a Friday night from Edinburgh to Milan and arrived at the airport around 11 pm. Our online rental agreement did not include insurance of excess, so we decided to buy this directly with the rental company, Goldcar, which was a total rip-off!
We went to our Airbnb accommodation, which was around 20 minutes by public transport from downtown Milan. It was a really cool flat in a gated community with an amazing Italian atmosphere.
Day 2 – Milan
We had breakfast in a bakery close to our flat, I had the impression that during the morning, Italians prefer sweet than savoury. It is not hard to find someone who speaks English. We took a bus to the centre, bought tickets through an application called ATM valid for 24 hours at € 4.50 per person.
Tickets must be validated and can be used on buses, trains and trams. Before heading to Piazza Duomo, we stop at one of many bakeries and tasted green olives bread-highly recommend it! Our first stop was the Duomo – Milan’s postcard sight. This is a monumental church with unique architecture. Around the square you will also find Vitorino Emanuelle II gallery
where you spin on bull’s testicles in mosaic form on the floor to attract good luck. Walking the streets of Milan we headed for the Sforza Castle built in the 15th century. We decided to have lunch at around 3 pm, DO NOT DO IT IN ITALY. Almost all restaurants’ kitchens close between 2:30 and 7pm. An Italian, whom we met few days later, explained that this is because it is impossible to prepare good food without this break – far enough! Anyway, after a lot walking, we found a nice restaurant, Premiata pizzeria. The food was great, but not cheap. In Italy there are 4 courses, the entry can be a bruschetta, soup, salad or otherwise something light. The first course is usually some form of pasta and the second dish is likely to be meat or fish. The last is obviously a dessert followed by coffee. Apart from all this, they serve different types of bread as a side. How Italians stay thin is beyond me! We returned to the Duomo to admire sunset on the roof terrace, with entry fee of 9 Euro per person. We regret not to have entered the church itself, without doubt it must be wonderful. We climbed the stairs to the terrace but there is the option to go by lift. We returned to the neighbourhood of our accommodation and took a walk around the canal, with plenty of bars and restaurants around. We had dinner at the pizzeria I Segreti di Pulcinella and returned to the apartment.
Day 3 – Sirmione, Verona, Venice
Milan travel time to Sirmione: 2 hours
Sirmione Travel time to Verona: 50 minutes
Verona travel time to Venice: 1 hour 10 minutes
We left for Sirmione around 10am. The highways in Italy are of great quality and it’s easy to do a round-trip by car, but you need to pay for the distance you covered at each exit. Sirmione is a charming town at Lake Garda, the largest lake in Italy. It is an expensive destination, sought by residents of the surrounding area and tourists alike.
We arrived in time for lunch and I ate amazing lasagna in Erica Ristorante which is situated just before the entrance to the village. The place is crowded with tourists and finding a parking space was very challenging, especially at the weekend.
There is a small, castle like fortification at the entrance to the town, few hotels and large park inside. The whole town is pictures and definitely worth a visit.
We stayed there for three hours or so and went to Verona. The fictional setting for Romeo and Juliet is breath-taking! In Verona you will find stunning old town where historical buildings mix with the current modernity, the “city of love” is not an overstatement. We went to the main tourist spot, the fictional Juliet’s house. As you can imagine it is very crowded. We also stopped in the main square before eating at Gelateria Put della Vittoria, not an expensive restaurant with pretty good pizza.
Our next stop was Spinea in vicinity of Venice. Venice is an island and, like most, we chose to stay in a nearby neighbourhood to save on accommodation. Once again we stayed in an apartment at Airbnb, spacious and very well located with direct bus to Venice taking around 20 minutes.
Day 4 – Venice
Due to the atmosphere of the city, first steps are simply magical. We felt a little disappointed, after stopover in Verona and the build-up of expectations in our minds. The ticket for the bus is € 3.00 round trip but you can also opt for 24-hour ticket which includes boats to the Venice’s neighbouring island and canal’s boat buses.
People often say that getting lost in Venice is an attraction in its own, but don’t worry this one is easy achievable and free of charge.
Walking in Venice is a delight, with hundreds of churches, canals and even regular houses, every step is a photo opportunity.
That afternoon we tried pizza at Caffe Rialto Venezia, it’s almost impossible not to eat pizza every day in Italy, seriously! After lunch we went to Piazza San Marco, where you can climb the bell tower of St. Mark for a bird eye view of Venice. I and Greg decided to do a pub crawl on our won that evening. We wandered around many places trying wine, beer and appetisers – highly recommend it!
Day 5 – Venice
One of the advantages of staying in an apartment at Airbnb is that you can save money by cooking your own meals. Almost every day of our road-trip breakfast was done at home and it wasn’t different in Venice. We went to the centre in the morning and we took few laps there before heading to Burano, the island of colourful houses.
We decided to skip visit to the famous Murano island where the, almost infamous, glass blowing factories are located. For once, we found a workshop in Scotland where we can watch glass blowing and secondly the factories of Murano do not have good reputation.
Burano Island (€ 15 per person round trip by boat) turned out to be a magnificent sanctuary of peace, calmness and beauty. We watched the sun setting almost directly behind Venice, beautiful by the way!
Day 6 – Bologna, Florence
Venice Travel time to Bologna: 1 and half hour
Bologna travel time to Florence: 1 hour 40 minutes
We left Spinea at 11am towards Bologna and decided to check out if McDonalds in Italy serve something different to those in UK. Firstly you may make an order via touch screen and a waitress will bring your food to the table. Also available are spiral oregano fries instead of your regular ones. Bologna is a university town, known to be the territory of the first university in the world. Walking around, we recommend blending with the students to get a feel for the city`s atmosphere.
We climbed the high tower located in the city centre from where an exceptional panoramic view of the city can be seen. We also spend some time on the main city square where Cathedral of St. Peter is located.
We arrived in Florence around 9pm having spent around an hour in chaotic traffic near the city`s airport. Our flat was no more than 15 minutes by bus from downtown.
Day 7 – Florence
The rain finally caught us in Florence. In the morning we decided to go to the main square with the Cathedral of Santa Maria de Fiori – another beautiful example of Italy`s fine architecture.
From there we went behind the replica of the statue of David made by Michelangelo, in the open air in the della Signoria square. The original statue is inside the art gallery. Buy your ticket in advance to avoid spending hours in line or having to pay more at the entrance. Among the attractions in Florence is the medieval “Ponte Vecchio”, which is worth a visit. From there, we went to look for food and again we found all restaurants closed. We were saved by a bar owner who called a restaurant so we could have lunch. It is a restaurant extremely out of the tourist spot, giving you the opportunity to meet the local Italian reality. The name of the restaurant is Trattoria dell Orto, super cheap and good food. Then it was time to try the famous Italian ice cream, seriously, do not skip this tip. We were in an ice cream shop called La Carraia – they have ice cream of all sizes, shapes and flavours, go check it out.
Day 8 – Pisa
Florence Travel time to Pisa: 1 hour and 10 minutes
The main plan was to stop in Pisa for a few hours and then go to Riomaggiore in Cinque Terre, but the weather did not allow us to do that. A storm hit the coast of Italy and the owner of Airbnb we would stay in informed us that the situation over there made reaching it by car difficult.
Last minute we decided to stay at a hotel before heading to Cinque Terre the next morning.
Pisa is only a main square
that is absolutely small and possible to see in a day, also we could not climb the tower because of the heavy rain. We spend around an hour in the city centre.
Day 9 – Cinque Terre
Pisa Travel time to Riomaggiore: 1 and a half hour
The road to Riomaggiore brings a bit of adrenaline and a fantastic view. We stayed in the first village of the five that make up Cinque Terre. In Riomaggiore you cannot drive a car and parking is private. As we were staying in an Airbnb flat which had access to the village, we had no trouble with that. The five villages are connected by a train; you can buy a ticket (€ 16 per person) which allows you to use the train as often as necessary including buses in one of the villages – easiest way to visit all of them. As we only had one day we arrived and had lunch at the restaurant La Grotta and quickly headed to the last village – Montessoro.
Montessoro is the largest village and has a small beach which makes it the most visited place during the summer. Vernazza is the village that has a kind of Port with colourful houses. We watched the sunset in Corniglia, the village you need to take a bus to get to. Manarola for us was the most charming, with a sort of terrace that allows you to see the sea and the horizon. Riommagiore where we were based was very cute and small, after visiting all the villages (it takes around 10 minutes or less to get each of them) we stopped at O’netto bar for a few beers and to our delight free appetizers.
Day 10 – Portofino
Riomaggiore travel time to Portofino: 1 hour 40 minutes
Portofino travel time to the Milan Airport: 2 and a half hour
On our last day in Italy, we left very early from Riommagiore and set off for lunch at the rich Portofino villa. Portofino is a fishing village also famous because of the colourful houses, which are much more sophisticated than the Cinque Terre, but all with the same incredible charm. We had lunch at Ugo’s Morena bar in front of the small port where dozens of tourists drop off from their boats – do not recommend it, pizza was awful . We returned to Milan to catch our flight back to Edinburgh.
If you need some specific details regarding the places we visit, you can get in touch! If something was missing, let us know, we will be happy to update the information. I tried to be as short as possible to not get tiring. But with 9 days it was impossible to do that! Come back later to see our other trips!