Our Road Trip Through Northern Italy

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From the windy hike along the shores of La Spezia to the breathtaking views of the Dolomite mountains, nine-days in Italy was not nearly enough time to explore everything; but we sure made the most of it. September 2nd, 2016 marked my first trip to Europe. It sure has open my eyes to a wonderful way of life, culture & expansion of my food palette. Some notable highlights were obviously the beautiful countryside, wine and brightly colorful houses along the waterfront.

Get lost and then get found.

Traveling has a way of transforming you, as soon as I stepped off the plane I felt as though the stress in my shoulders was lifted. I flew into Milan–Malpensa Airport then made my way to the other airport in Milan to meet my girlfriend Miranda. From there we rented a car and drove up to Val di Sole where both our boyfriends were racing in World Master’s for Downhill. Little did we know the drive from Milan to Trentino was going to be an adventure. The roads in Italy are very narrow compared to the spacious ones we have here in Canada. It definitly made for a very interesting drive up the windy mountain roads. After about 3 hours we finally made it to Trentino and settled in for the night at this cozy but modern chalet called the Hotel Palace Ravelli.

The next day Miranda and I took the gondola up to the top of the mountain and hiked around for a few hours while the boys did their practice runs. I was truly amazed at how mountainous the northern region was. While up touring the top we constantly heard cow bells in the distance. After some time we ended up stumbling across them grazing. In Europe they call this Alpine transhumance which is a traditional practice of grazing livestock between the valleys in winter and the high mountain pastures in summer. It has helped shaped much of the landscape in the Alps, as without it, most areas below 6,600 ft would be forests.

Trentino, Italy

 

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The next day we rented some bikes and road along a valley trail between five of the little mountain towns. We searched for a little cafe before making our way back to see the boys race in the afternoon.img_0317

With the tough conditions and rough track the race was definitely quite interesting to watch. Unfortunately, Dan crashed at the top section and was set back with his time. It was hard to see all the hard work gone into training and to have one lap to determine your standing…but that’s downhill. Despite the not so great run we all enjoyed a lovely dinner in town with crunchy thin crust pizza and chocolate desserts. The next morning we grabbed a quick espresso in town before heading down to Verona.

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The Dolomites are simple incredible, for those of you living in British Columbia picture driving through cliff faces like “The Chief”. I’ve done a fair bit of road trips in my time and I will say this was the kind of drive where you want to stop every 10 minutes to take a photo. Dan being the patient guy he is obliged.

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The drive from Trentino to Verona took around 2.5 hours which included a quick pitstop at a small hotel on the side of the highway. There we grabbed lunch, had a glass of white wine and took in the view. img_0598

img_0670For a couple weeks I had been looking forward to our stay just outside of Verona at beautiful little Airbnb I found (here). Our host was wonderful, and was able to recommend a traditional Italian restaurant in the area.  We had a few hours to spare before dinner so Dan and I decided to go into the city to check out the arena.  The next morning we got up at the crack of dawn and made our way to the beautiful little town of Modena. By the time we made it there we had both built up an appetite and while walking around the city we stumbled across this vegetarian spot called Loma, where we ate some tasty panini’s.img_0752

After lunch we continued walking along the narrow side streets in town before making our way to the Ferrari exhibit.  After the exhibit we made our way to the Balsamic tasting at Acetaia Di Giorgio.

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I could have easily spent the night in Modena, but we already rented an Airbnb in Florence. So after our balsamic tasting we were on the road yet again. The weather had decided to take a turn so by the time we made it to Florence it had started to rain. Despite the down pour there was something awfully beautiful about staying in the Florence countryside. From the rolling hills, endless amount of vineyards and beautiful estates we were soaking the whole experience up. That evening our host at the bed and breakfast recommended yet another great restaurant right down the road called Tres Pini. We couldn’t have asked for a better atmosphere and the the food and the live music was the cherry on top. The next morning we woke up and headed into the city for a early breakfast. We quickly realized we didn’t have enough time to fully explore Florence so we made a decision to continue heading towards Lucca, a small town where my grandmother’s family was from to spend most of the afternoon.  img_1159

I instantly fell in love with the little town. We rented bikes for the day and got lost down the narrow windy streets. It was a small enough town that you could do that. Around lunch we found a little restaurant where I indulged in some burrata cheese and prosecco, what more could a girl want?

img_1131My grandmother wanted to visit Lucca before she passed, but wasn’t able to make the trip due to health concerns. Before we left town, I made a point to go to the cathedral and light a candle for her and my poppa. I’m so grateful I was able to spend the afternoon there with Dan, exploring and seeing that part of Italy.

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Our next stop was La Spezia where we planned to root ourselves for more then just one night. Dan and I stayed at Le Ville Relais a stunning hotel sitting on the very top of the hill overlooking the Port and the West of the Gulf of La Spezia.img_1259

Between the elaborate breakfast spreads to the four course dinner menus,  the food there was simply incredible. I will never forget the delicious molten lava raspberry chocolate cake I had two nights in a row, it was that tasty. The following day we spent exploring the beautiful Cinque Terre coast. We travelled by train to the furthest town then made part of our way back by foot.

All you need is a little bit of this.

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Like I said, nine days in Italy wasn’t nearly enough. I will definitely spend some more time there. Especially to check out the southern regions.

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