Italy

Roadtrip Italy week 2: Exploring the North

Roadtrip Italy

RECOGNIZING the North

Last week we explored beautiful 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 did not explore top locations in Tuscany but moved to the North of Italy. We came upon UNESCO World Heritage Sites and went in search of the most beautiful pieces of nature, just to name a few highlights. How this week was our road trip in Italy, you can read here.

Road trip Italy without a plan

Of course, the great thing about roadtripping is the freedom that comes with it. While you don’t have to plan much, we have done so more over the past week. Now we didn’t really have a plan for the next week for what we were going to do so much. It sounds more exciting than it is. It’s even relaxing and fun when you don’t have to be anywhere. Anything goes and everything is allowed. Our first stop from Tuscany was fixed though: Cinque Terre. These five villages, which are UNESCO World Heritage Sites, were something we had to see. It was only a small detour until there to later get to the North, quietly heading home.

Kleine haven
Roadtrip Italy

Roadtrip Italy

Cinque Terre

The villages of Cinque Terre are in mountainous terrain, so driving there is quite an experience in itself. The closer we got, the more beautiful the views became. Although everywhere on websites it is recommended not to park in Monterosso (one of the five villages) we did so and successfully. There were still about ten seats left when we arrived at noon. Was it luck? We don’t know, but it’s definitely worth a try.

Tourist trap

Unfortunately, what struck us right away was not the beauty of Cinque Terre, but mostly the crowds. We had not encountered so many people in a village 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 is somewhat overrated? Things were starting to look up when we decided to do the arduous walk from village to village when suddenly we had to pay 18 euros/person to continue hiking. No problem though, Sigrid wasn’t allowed to continue anyway when the guards saw that she was wearing flip-flops. Sturdy flip flops however, not the kind of pliable plastic flip flops. Then we tried to get from village to village by train. Then the greatest disappointment was yet to come

Disappointment

The train was cheaper and faster than the walk, but therefore no more pleasant. With hundreds of other tourists, we were crammed onto a train headed for the next village, Vernazza. Fortunately, it was only a five-minute drive. Once there, it was too crowded. So crowded! In a small and otherwise very charming village. We were so sorry to see this and it was immediately the biggest disappointment of this trip. Of course we didn’t think we’d be the only ones here, but we certainly didn’t expect it to be this busy. Otherwise, we would have skipped this excursion without question. We certainly see the charm and beauty of Cinque Terre but the crowds negated all the beauty. We did not continue to the other villages and left here as soon as possible.

Plan your own Cinque Terre
Cinque terre beach

Garda Lake

We had thought to spend a few days in Cinque Terre, but fortunately had not booked an overnight stay yet. So no plan was definitely the best plan! We decided to drive further north. On the gps we saw that we would be driving along Lake Garda. We would be crazy not to make a stop here, we had time with plenty after all. And what an excellent decision it was!

Gigantic

We knew Lake Garda was big, but we hadn’t imagined it so gigantic. In one of the villages along the lake we made a stop and enjoyed the beautiful view. We walked further into the village afterwards and enjoyed artisan pizza and of course some local stores. In the afternoon we enjoyed a virtuous terrace. This was the ultimate vacation feeling. Significantly fewer tourists, who we believe were more scattered because Lake Garda is so large, and breathtaking views of the lake. This is what we expected in Cinque Terre and didn’t get, but this place immediately made up for that setback.

Garda lake roadtrip Italy
House on Lake Garda

Overnight stays during our road trip in Italy

Impulsively but with a fantastic feeling we booked two nights here. We didn’t want to leave here right away. Our hotel was in a different location on Lake Garda. Which was ideal, because it allowed us to 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 waterfront mountains. We did another splash in the hotel pool overlooking the mountains and visited a few more small lakeside villages. Blessed! We have not often encountered such a beautiful place. This makes you pause for a moment.

Into nature

The next morning it was time to continue our road trip in Italy. Although we would have liked to stay at Lake Garda a little longer, there were still beautiful places waiting for us. We headed even more toward northern Italy. This time to Italian Tyrol. In Austria we had already been to Tyrol, but in Italy we also thought it would be nice to pass through and stop for a while. After all, it was on our route toward home anyway.

Lago di Braies
Italy Roadtrip More

Lago di Braies

We discovered the beautiful lake and nature reserve of Lago di Braies or Pragser Wildsee. Bright teal water surrounded by mountain scenery is what you can expect here. It is an oasis of tranquility, but of course also tourism. No mass tourism, although it can be very crowded, as visitors hike around the lake and into the mountains at various points. We were overwhelmed by the beauty of nature. It is highly recommended to come here at sunset or sunrise. We did the same in order to take the best pictures. Or you can rent a boat to do some floating on the lake. For us, this was one of the most beautiful places in Tyrol that we saw already. And the best part? It is completely free to visit.

Wellness

We booked a typical gasthof with wellness thirty minutes’ drive from Lago di Braies. The owners greeted us with a handshake and a bright smile. You immediately feel the warm, homey atmosphere that hangs there. Our room was spacious and featured an excellent view of the peaks of the Dolomites. The hotel had a virtuous spa and pool that we eagerly used in the evening. A wonderful night’s sleep was guaranteed. After a full breakfast, we left home the next morning.

Lago di Braies Italy
Lago di Braies nacht

Twelve hour drive

The way home took about a good twelve hours. That’s a lot of miles to make in one day, but still we did it in one go. We had planned to make another stop with an overnight stay somewhere in Germany but decided to drive on since we were not very tired. Besides, we didn’t come across any more places in Germany that we really wanted to visit. The long days on the road took their toll and we had no desire to explore further. We had had enough of that in the past few weeks. A road trip is a lot of fun, but you can’t keep it up for weeks. At least not at the fast pace we did this time. Taking enough breaks and also enjoying the surroundings is the message!

End of the road trip in Italy

Our road trip in Italy lasted a little less than two weeks and we stopped in as many as ten different places and passed over a hundred towns and villages. We have gained a nice impression of Italy and hope to discover the South of Italy soon. We enjoyed some of the most beautiful pieces of nature Mother Earth has given us. But now it’s time for some rest at home and then we’ll start planning another road trip soon! Suggestions for destinations are always welcome in the comments or on our Facebook page.