During my recent trip, I visited various parts of Italy, each offering something unique to each other. I’ve spent time in the past in Rome, Florence, the Tuscany region, Venice and the Amalfi Coast. This trip, we have covered the North, East/South and West of the country, trying to cover all our bases! Our first Italian stop was in the Northern part; Lake Maggiore was our choice in the lakes area, alongside its famous cousin Lake Como. The town of Stresa is an old town on the lake with some small islands famous for the Borromeo Family, with a botanical garden on one island and the palace on another, Isola Borromeo. This palace is pure decadence, with boat trips regularly, only 10 minutes from Stresa. The food is amazing in this part of Italy, as are the sunsets over the mountains, which have a small amount of snow still left, and very few tourists, except for Italians holidaying. We took a trip by car to Como and Bellagio, and the scenery is different; the mountains are closer and the lake narrower, and there are luxurious boats cruising. The best way from Como to Bellagio is definitely by car ferry or boat; however we decided to drive along the bends.
After six days we explored the east coast of Italy - the Riveria Del Conero. Ancona is the main town and we stayed in the village of Marcelli near Numana, and the old town of Sirolo. We stayed in a B&B owned by Riccardo and Barbara (of Marcelli fame - her father is a founder of Marcelli town!). Not an Aussie in sight … very few foreigners, only Italians holidaying, which is quite refreshing and makes you feel more like you’re getting a taste of being a local, rather than cruising among the throngs of tourists in other Italian cities. We got by with a little understanding of Italian and lots of pointing and hand gestures, which was fun! Seafood is quite predominant in the region and, of course, excellent coffee. We dined in the plaza of Sirolo with our hosts and had a wonderful night, wandering the cobbled streets at midnight, seeing lots of Italians out enjoying a drink.
Then it was time to move on to Croatia, our chosen transport being an overnight ferry across the Adriatic Sea. We departed from Ancona at sunset and it was magical on the deck, sharing our bottle of wine with another tourist, a German lady and her hubby. Our cabin had a shower and toilet, and we were lucky enough to have a window. It felt very luxurious for a ship! We stayed in Croatia 10 days total and it was wonderful, but that’s for another blog!
Back to Italy from Croatia, we took an Easy Jet flight from Split to Milan then a fast train, and then the regional train, which chuffs up and down between the towns of Cinque Terre. Truly spectacular. Cinque means five, and Terre means land - so five lands. Our digs were a lovely one-bedroom apartment right at the harbour at Riomaggiore, the last of the towns on the southern end. It’s the most photographed, with the pretty pastel buildings cramped in the small valley, which leads down to the small harbour. You’ve probably seen photos on travel blogs and Instagram! The magic of this place is the link between the five towns, each having a different style and feel. The train goes every few minutes between towns and you can buy a Cinque Terre day ticket, which includes the access to the walks between each town. However, when we were there, two of the legs were closed due to rockfall.
The photographic opportunities are many while traversing the coast line, with each walk taking approximately 2-2.5 hours each. It’s a must do! Little wineries are hidden away and we sought one out 10 minutes’ walk from Monterosso, the most northern town. It was run by an elderly lady and had been in the family for many generations. As it was closing time, she left us with a bottle of their white wine and a plate of bread, pesto and olive spread, then said to ‘put the glasses in the sink and close the gate behind you!’ It was one of our best experiences in Cinque; we felt like we were part of the landscape, away from it all. Seafood risotto is a staple on any menu; however, it’s always served for two so remember that. The little deli shops are the best source of delectable cheese or stuffed olives, along with the fresh bread. Prosciutto is the meat of choice to accompany. We hired a little rubber dingy and cruised the cost, finding the best swimming spots; you know, like the ones on Instagram! The bluest sparkling sea with the rugged terraced cliffs launching up from the water.
This is life, this is collecting moments not things … This is Italy.