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Road trip through Italy….

While most of our trips throughout Europe have so far been a few days here and there, we decided to allocate 2 weeks to driving ourselves through Italy. We flew to Rome from London on another rubbish (but really cheap) Ryanair flight.

The fantastic view of Rome from St Peter's Bascillica

The fantastic view of Rome from St Peter's Bascillica

N.B Our other preferred (only because its cheap) carrier is Easyjet (Ryanair based in Ire and Easyjet from England).

We gave ourselves 3 days here to do as many of the touristy things as possible in Rome. Below are some we recommend:

– The free walking tour through Rome was a good way to get our bearings (www.neweuropetours.eu). This tour started at the Spanish Steps and took us across the Ponte Angelo, to the original ‘Castle of Angels’ (where the Pope lived prior to the building of the Vatican City) and then it finished at Vatican City.

Our walk towards Vatican City

The Tiber river runs through Rome. We saw it on our walk towards Vatican City.

We then spent the next 1.5hours queuing to walk to the dome at St Peters‘ for an unforgettable view of Rome. It costs just 5euro and well worth the wait. (You can’t pre-book this one like you can the Colosseum). Which we visited after our walking tour. It’s a must see but we strongly recommend buying your tickets online beforehand (14.25euro for Colosseum plus the Roman Forum and Palatine Hill ruins -worth seeing too) so you can avoid the 2 hour queue we found ourselves in….

The Colosseum in Rome.

The Colosseum in Rome.

Palatine & Forum ruins are ancient located next to the Colosseum

Roman Forum & Palatine Hills ruins are ancient located next to the Colosseum

Over the course of the next few days we treated ourselves to delicious Gelati, Pizza and Pasta – in fact we made a point of not ordering these dishes in any other countries prior to our visit, so that once we arrived in Italy we were craving a few of their best.

First Gelati for the week.... or Day?

First Gelati for the week.... or Day?

Out for a lovely Pasta dinner

Out for a lovely Pasta dinner

This pizza has a thicker base than most pizzas you get in Italy. They all taste better than what we know pizza to be....

This pizza has a thicker base than most pizzas you get in Italy. They all taste better than what we know pizza to be....

We also did a tour of the city, taking us past the Trevi Fountain (made a wish like all the other tourists), through the shopping districts, numerous piazza’s, Basilicas and the Pantheon.

Trevi Fountain located in the Trevi Piazza.

Trevi Fountain located in the Trevi Piazza.

At the end of 3 jam packed days, we commenced our road trip in this little beauty:

Our smart car...

Our smart car.... And yes we sometimes parked it front on to the curb.

Parking the smart car the way it was designed...

Parking the smart car the way it was designed...

We drove through beautiful small italian villages on our way to Siena and Pisa.

The beautiful old town of Sienna

The beautiful main Piazza of Siena

Of course we spent plenty of time taking more touristy photos of us trying to hold up the tower (trying to get these photos was difficult as the rain was torrential but also most of the people we asked were seriously bad photographers).

It had to be done...

It had to be done...

From Pisa we drove across to Florence and spent the next 3 days there enjoying the sites, wandering through the various markets, buying leather goods and then taking part in a 6 hour italian cooking class.

This guys insisted his jackets were 'just like Prada'...

This guys insisted his jackets were 'just like Prada'...

We learnt how to prepare basic bruschetta, chicken meatballs, fresh pasta with tomato sauce and finished off this feast with a delicious Tiramisu. ( You can see all our delicious dishes in our HUGE Italian Photo Gallery)

Someone always has to lick the bowl...

Someone always has to lick the bowl...

Our cooking class was made even funnier by the fact that our Italian Chef Giovanni took an interest in one of the American tourists (almost half his age) and his pick up lines (in broken English) were a classic.

We loved our time in Florence but got back on the road to head back down south as Pete was adamant that we had to visit the other country within Italy – San Marino.

A foggy path to a castle in San Marino

A foggy path to a castle in San Marino

Yes this is a country within the country of Italy (a little bigger in size to the Vatican City or Holy See as its also known).

We spent a few hours wandering around the capital city of the same name that is set so high on a hill, for the most part, we were covered in very heavy fog. To get there involves a slight detour if you are heading north however its definitely worth seeing.

This place felt like a Ghost Town

This place felt like a Ghost Town

From San Marino, we made our way north to Venice.

One thing to note is that Italy is a very confusing place to drive around. Yes we agree GPS would have been a huge help but again Pete was very sure that we would manage with the map given to us by our Car Hire and also by using the compass on his I-Phone. There was a little road rage and a few arguments, but on the whole, we were both very chilled out and were happy to drive around the same roundabout several times or more (Griswald style). When driving you need to be beware that road signs seem to get you about 80% of the way to your destination and then just disappear. And they are more a suggestion to Italians than law…. Makes for an adventure and about the same cost all up then trains and buses. Maybe a little more.

It's hard to get road rage, particularly through Tuscany

It's hard to get road rage or argue, particularly through the Tuscan hills.

Arriving in Venice, we parked our car (you can’t drive in Venice) in an overnight carpark just over the bridge to the city (costs 25euro 24 hours) and wandered along the Grand Canal to find a place to stay. We then found a hotel on a canal and went about exploring this amazing place. Its easy to get lost even with a map, but its not a big problem as Venice is not overly large and there are tourists everywhere.

As part of our hotel package we were offered a free boat trip which we gratefully accepted as the Gondola rides (although beautiful) are incredibly expensive – about 60Euro for 45 minutes. Apparently if the Gondolier starts singing, he will charge you extra (even if you don’t want him to)

One of the many beautiful canals in Venice

One of the many beautiful canals in Venice

Our hotel also gave us a free boat trip to the town of Morano to see a glass blow demonstration. This was followed by one of the most intense sales pitch ever where Marco tried to convince us that we needed to buy a set of gold plated glass wine goblets and decantor for a mere $6,000 usd.  We told Marco that we would think about it!!!

Final Preparations for a Glass Horse

Final Preparations for a Glass Horse. The orange you can see is the heat.

From Venice, we drove onto Lake Como. With no place to stay, again, we found ourselves driving in circles following hotel signs that never actually eventuated in getting us to the hotel.

So we kept driving through to Bellagio and found that many of the hotels had either shut down for the start of winter or were way too pricey. And the drive continued until we arrived  in a very cute town called Lecco very late in the evening.

We managed to find a rather old B&B and bunked down for the evening. We knew then that we would need to drive the exact road back to Como as we had missed the incredible views by driving through the night.

Lecco has the most beautiful walking/running track around the lake

Lecco has the most beautiful walking/running track around the lake

Another beautiful viewpoint from Bellagio

Another beautiful viewpoint of Lake Como from Bellagio

From Lake Como, we decided to make a dash to the Cinque Terre. Due to more issues with navigation, this trip took a little longer than expected however we made it to the first town Monterosso by late afternoon for a coffee break and then onto Vernazza – town number 2 of the 5 towns that make up the Cinque Terra. (Hence Cinque!!!!)

Looking back at Riommaggiore

Looking back at Vernazza

After checking out this gorgeous little town, we decided to drive straight to the last of the 5 towns – Riomaggiore to stay the night. We lodged at Hotel Affittacamere ca’ die lisci which was nice and also quite inexpensive at 60euro per night.

The hotel was right in the centre and although some of the town was closed down, we found a beautiful restaurant called Il Grottino and sat down to seafood pasta and wine. Bellissimo!!!

This little restaurant was a great find for dinner...

This little restaurant was a great find for dinner...

We planned the next day to walk back through the five towns to Monterosso however after breakfast we discovered that the path had closed down for the winter (the Cinque Terra is a National Park so they can close it if they feel like it) and so it was back in our smart car hooning up and down the various hills to check out Manarola, and Corniglia (our final 2 towns). It is worth coming in the summer time so you can walk all 5 towns and catch the train back. One way walk takes around 5.5hours)

Manarola

Manarola

At the base of Corniglia

At the base of Corniglia

We will definitely come back here one day to complete the walk but with only one full day remaining on our Italian road trip, we made our way to our final city – the very fashionable Milan.

We headed straight for the centre of the city to the huge Duomo, walked through the Galleria Vittoria Emmanuele II and spent our last few hours checking out the many many fashion shops. Its a place to definitely come back to when you aren’t on a ‘Backpackers Budget’….

The Duomo

The Duomo

Inside the Galleria, so... 'Pete can you make yourself scarce for the next couple of hours?'

Inside the Galleria, so... 'Pete can you make yourself scarce for the next couple of hours?'

We have so many photos of our Italy Road Trip… Enjoy the Gallery. Look at it via PicLens as it should make better viewing…

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