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An Unforgettable Northern Italian Road Trip Itinerary

Hello, my fellow globetrotters!

Today, we embark on a truly captivating voyage – a dreamy road trip through Northern Italy. Picture the sun dipping below the horizon, casting long, rosy shadows on the streets as we traverse this land of enchantment, art, and gastronomy.

Our journey commences in the cradle of the Renaissance, Florence. This city, alive with timeless charm, marries history, art, and an undeniable allure that leaves no visitor untouched. Spend a few days lost in the narrow, winding streets that whisper tales of yesteryears. The majestic Duomo and the iconic Uffizi Gallery are just the tip of the city’s rich cultural iceberg.

Retire for the night at the beautiful Hotel Spadai, just a stone’s throw from the Duomo, offering modern comforts nestled in the city’s rich heritage. Alternatively, grab an Airbnb in Florence to truly immerse yourself in the culture. The airbnb options are affordable and beautiful in Florence, making them a great option. Check out this Airbnb with an underground pool!

While in Florence, be sure to get up early and enjoy the city before it gets crowded. Visit the Ponte Vecchio, Market Centrale, and Duomo before the tourists come out to play.

Our next stop is the heart of Tuscany, the delightful town of Panzano. Here, we chose to stay at Villa Fleda, a charming hillside homestead offering stunning panoramic views of the Chianti countryside. As alternatives, consider Villa Le Barone and Villa Bordoni – both present a harmonious blend of rustic charm and affordable luxury.

As for the gastronomy, Panzano is an epicurean’s delight. Savor the simple yet rich flavors at Oltre il Giardino, perched on a hill overlooking the town’s lush valley. When we visited, the garden was covered in lush wisteria, which smelled incredible.

Another noteworthy destination is Solociccia, the brainchild of Dario Cecchini, renowned as a veritable temple for meat lovers. And fun fact, his father lives in my town, Oakland, CA!!

Don’t miss out on day trips to the nearby towns of Greve and Siena, where you’ll plunge further into the depths of Tuscany’s beauty and culture.

The voyage then leads us to the jewel that is Cinque Terre. But not before a detour through Pisa, where the iconic Leaning Tower demands a visit and, of course, the customary snapshot. As the sun casts long shadows over the tower, you’ll carry the memory in your heart, as well as on your camera.

Cinque Terre, aptly named, is a collection of five vibrant towns – Monterosso Al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. Each town, with its unique personality, offers a different flavor of the Ligurian life.

Monterosso Al Mare, the largest of the five, offers sandy beaches and an old-town charm that’s incredibly infectious. Consider staying at Hotel Villa Steno, where comfort meets spectacular views, or Hotel Porto Roca, perched on a cliff, presenting you with a vista of the endless azure waters. We found that this town was the most flat and had the best shopping and felt the most ‘resorty.’ Enjoy the beach and rent a chair here for 10 euros (the beaches are rocky, so the chair is well worth it!). We also had the most incredible gelato at Gelateria Guiliana, so don’t miss out on this amazing place!

Vernazza, arguably the most picturesque of the five, is a photographer’s paradise with its iconic colorful houses tumbling down to the sea. Corniglia, perched high on a hill, offers panoramic views that will leave you awestruck. Manarola, known for its sweet Sciacchetrà wine, is an excellent place to indulge your taste buds. Don’t miss Nessun Dorma in Manarola- we took a pesto class here, but they also offer light bites throughout the day

Lastly, Riomaggiore, where steep steps lead to beautiful vistas. Although it offers gorgeous views, it might be a bit challenging for those with mobility issues. However, its vibrancy and charm are undeniably appealing. We stayed at an Airbnb in Riomaggiore, but it was incredible difficult to go anywhere, as there are steps everywhere. They also aren’t normal steps, but steep, slippery steps- so beware of Riomaggiore!

The best way to explore these towns is either by train or ferry. The train offers a quick and comfortable ride, allowing you to hop from one town to another effortlessly. Meanwhile, the ferry gives you a unique perspective of the towns from the sea – a visual treat you don’t want to miss!

With a heart full of beautiful vistas, we journey on to Rapallo and Santa Margherita, coastal gems sparkling in the Italian Riviera’s crown. At Rapallo, the opulent Excelsior Palace was our haven, offering a taste of grand Italian luxury. For more budget-friendly options, consider the charming Hotel Italia e Lido Rapallo or Hotel Stella, both offering comfortable stays and splendid views.

A visit to Rapallo wouldn’t be complete without a meal at Rocco e i Suoi Fratelli. The pasta here, delicately prepared with a love that only Italians can muster, is a feast for the senses. This restaurant is run by 3 ambitious brothers and they truly provide an incredible meal to their patrons.

To truly appreciate these coastal jewels, do take a ferry ride to Portofino. The ferry journey itself is a joy, the blue waters playing a stunning contrast to the lush mountains. Don’t miss out on the gelato and shopping in this region! The gelato is some of the best I’ve had in Italy, and if you enjoy high end shopping, this is the place for you. Portofino is small and very touristy. We didn’t like it as much as it’s sister town, Santa Margherita, but it is a stunning place for an afternoon walk.

Our final destination is Como, a city where you’re serenaded by soothing Alpine landscapes and grand lakeside villas. Day trips to Bellagio and Verenna from Como are a must, with the ferry journey to Verenna adding to the charm. The journey from Como to Bellagio is just under an hour, but much longer if you choose to drive to Verenna. Most people choose to stay in Bellagio, but we chose Como as our home base due to it’s close proximity to Malpensa Airport, where we departed from.

For lodging, consider Ronco Dell’Abate in Como, where we stayed, Hotel Villa Flori in Como, or Hotel Du Lac in Bellagio, both offering comfort coupled with striking views. However, my heart was stolen by Verenna, a place where time seems to stand still.

When in Verenna, don’t miss visiting the beautiful botanical gardens at Villa Monastero. This spot is perfect for photos and will truly take your breath away. Enjoy a picturesque lunch and some gelato before taking the ferry back to Bellagio.

Alas, all good things must come to an end, and so did our Italian road trip. We flew home from Malpensa, carrying with us not just souvenirs but also the Italian spirit of la dolce vita. And as we looked down at the receding landscapes, we were left with memories that will keep this magical journey alive in our hearts, until the day we return.

As always, dear travellers, keep your hearts open and your spirits adventurous. Italy awaits you!


Stay tuned, and we sure to watch my Instagram to see upcoming travels!