Why you shouldn’t miss Pisa, Cinque Terre, Florence, Venice and Lake Como!
Day 1: Albertville, France to Cinque Terre, Italy (514km)
You can choose to start this road trip from a number of destinations depending on your travel plans, I am starting it in France as it’s my home base for the summer. Driving from Albertville you can take a direct route which is much faster but also a tad boring or you can choose to drive across the pass through Lanslebourg-Mont-Cenis and see the beautiful Lac Du Mont Cenis, its totally worth a detour.
You will arrive in Cinque Terre in the late afternoon, now be warned that Cinque Terre actually means “Five Lands” and is a region made up of 5 coastal villages. A lot of people come here and think that it’s just one spot when indeed there are 5 different villages including Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore. In my opinion Manarola and Riomaggiore are the best villages with beautiful beaches and great restaurants.
If you are planning to stay in the area you will need to park your car in Levanto and catch the train to the village you wish to stay at. Alternatively, you can take a ferry service between the villages and capture some great photos from the boat.
Day 2: Cinque Terre to Pisa (101km)
Once you arrive in Pisa the only real attraction is the Leaning Tower which is situated behind a beautiful Cathedral and is the third oldest structure in Pisa's Cathedral Square. If you are looking for somewhere to grab dinner head across the river into the old town, there are a number of great restaurants in the area that are much less touristy.
Day 3 – 5: Florence (86km)
Florence is a beautiful city with lots to see and do, you will want to spend your time wisely here to maximize your enjoyment and avoid the endless lines. Before you head to Florence be sure to book all your museum and attraction tickets in advance, sometimes the museum lines are 2-3 hours long.
That being said you won’t want to miss; Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore (be sure to visit the cathedral and climb the 418 stairs in the tower for beautiful panoramic views of Florence), Piazzale degli Uffizi Museum, The Boboli Gardens, Piazzale Michelangelo and Galleria dell'Accademia.
After a hard day of touring in the heat if you are looking for somewhere to cool off and enjoy an amazing cocktail look no further than Locale Firenze. While the drinks may be 20 euro each, they are worth every cent. The chef will send out the most incredible bar snacks you have ever tasted and the atmosphere of the bar is perfection. If your still not convinced you can always ask for a tour of the basement area which has been renovated and boasts restored ruins dating back to the 11th century. Private dinner parties are held in these beautifully decorated rooms and are not to be missed.
Day 6-9: Venice (255km)
Venice was my favorite city by far on this trip, the canals, the gondolas, the history it really is as wonderful as everyone says it is. I visited in late July and let me start by clearing up a big misconception, everyone told me it was going to smell, I have been to Venice before and didn’t think it smelled any worse than any other major city but everyone insisted in July and August its awful, this is a complete lie. The city smelt fine, clean in fact I would say New York and London smell way worse. That being said you need to brace yourself for the relentless heat and the onslaught of tourists wielding selfie sticks like a club.
Here is a rough guideline on how to spend your time in Venice, much like Florence you will want to pre-book all your tickets before you arrive to avoid those lines.
Day 1 in Venice (Nothing but Museums)
Ease into Venice in the comfort of air-conditioning and visit the amazing Museums the island has to offer. You won’t want to miss Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Gallerie dell'Accademia and Museo Correr. Now this is a lot of take on in one day so be prepared to be as my friend would say “Museum Tired” by the end of it.
Day 2 in Venice (Piazza San Marco and Murano Island)
If you want to get the best views of Piazza San Marco, tourist free you will need to rise before the sun and make your way to the square. I cannot tell you how amazing it was to watch the sunrise over the Grand Canal. Once you have had breakfast and 10 cups of coffee it’s time to catch the ferry to Murano. Getting to Murano early means you will beat the crowds. Once you arrive by ferry turn to the left away from the main canal, there is one glass shop who lets you watch their glass demonstrations for free. Everyone else will charge you 5 euro per person. Spend the day exploring the island and looking at all the wonderful glass shops.
Day 3 in Venice (Burano Island and the Grand Canal)
Much like Murano you will want to be up reasonably early to head to the island of Burano. The ferry takes approximately 50 minutes to reach the island but offers some great views on the way. Burano is such a beautiful island, each house is painted in a vibrant color, fun fact, they did this so they could identify their house when arriving by sea. The island has restaurants and shops and will take you approximately 3-4 hours to explore. Once you are done catch the ferry back to Venice and head up the Grand Canal for some great photo opportunities.
Day 4 in Venice (Doge Palace, Saint Mark's Basilica, Gondolas and Cocktails)
It’s your last day in Venice and your trip wouldn’t be complete without visiting the Doge's Palace, going inside Saint Mark's Basilica, taking a Gondola ride and sipping cocktails on the Grand Canal. If you are planning on taking a Gondola ride I would recommend getting one from a small canal and avoiding the Grand Canal at all costs. Also if you go before 7pm its much cheaper. If its cocktails with a view you are after head to Bauer Palazzo the cocktails are on pointe and the views are spectacular.
Day 10-11: Lake Como (344km)
I expected Lake Como to be beautiful, I mean George Clooney lives there. But I don’t think I was really prepared for how amazing it would actually be. Set in a Y shaped valley the views are unbeatable as you drive from town to town along the water’s edge. Driving around Lake Como is challenging in itself, be prepared to go slowly and be mindful of vehicles coming the other way, it tends to get very narrow in the villages. For the best views of the lake check out Bellagio and the lighthouse on top of the mountain behind the city of Lake Como.
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