A northern Italian road trip

Our trip began with a nighttime drive from Berlin to Bavaria. We arrived amidst a ferocious thunderstorm, lightning snaking across the sky, and heavy rainfall turned the autobahn into a pond. It was still raining the next day as we headed south towards the Alps and the Brenner Pass. Storms accompanied our journey through the Alps until, on the Northern Italian plain near Verona, the sun came out, the clouds cleared and the world seemed renewed.

Manarola, Cinque Terre, Italy

Forty-eight hours earlier, we’d been discussing changing our plans because of the worsening coronavirus situation and rule changes on travel and quarantine. A planned trip to Southern Italy in late March had already been cancelled and, after half a year cooped up in Berlin, not even thunderstorms that would have given Hannibal pause for thought were going to stop us exploring Northern Italy.

We had almost three weeks, a car, and endless possibilities. This part of Italy is filled to bursting with wondrous cities and towns, beautiful countryside, and gorgeous coastlines. Its history, from Ancient Rome onwards, is everywhere on display. We had a vague idea of where we wanted to go, but the weather was predicted to be unpredictable and our plans changed, mostly on a whim.

River Adige, Verona, Italy
Sirmione, Lake Garda, Italy
Mantova, Italy
Pisa, Italy

We went to Pisa because I wanted to re-acquaint myself with its broken tower. Inexplicably, we chose not to go to Florence. We drove right past it on our way through Parco Vena del Gesso Romagnola to Brisighella, but the weather wasn’t great and we felt like countryside. Looking back on our route, what strikes me is that there were so many places we could have visited. This region – especially its famed food and wine – demands a return trip.

It’s also famed for its Shakespearean connections. Despite the fact that England’s best-known playwright never visited Italy, his writings reflected the region’s Renaissance-era fame during the 16th century. The wealth and political intrigue of the oft warring Italian city states were a perfect backdrop for Shakespeare’s quill. The first stop of our trip was the city of The Two Gentlemen, Verona, also known for its Romeo and Juliet connections.

Lake Garda, Italy
Bologna, Italy
Trento, Italy
Brisighella, Italy

As is the often overlooked Mantova, which was recommended by a colleague and was a true revelation. Romeo is banished here, and here he learns of Juliet’s death. I can think of worse places to be exiled. This town on the shores of a large lake would provide a relaxed base for exploring further. A few days on the Cinque Terre was all we needed to convince us to return to this beautiful area as well.

Autumn in Italy during a pandemic, there was no shortage of accommodation but the vagaries of supply and demand were surprising. We paid the same for a tiny room in a B&B in a hill village as for a two bedroom house in Pisa. The enormous apartment in Bologna was much cheaper than our small room in another B&B on Lake Garda – although I’d happily pay it again to sit on the balcony overlooking the lake and distant mountains.

Lucca, Italy
Pisa, Italy
Brisighella, Italy
Mantova, Italy

Gazing over Lake Garda, a delicious glass of Lugana in hand, we were on the final leg of our trip. We debated whether to break our return to Berlin in Southern Germany, or stay an extra day or two in Italy and accept a long drive home. Italy won out, and we made a stop in fabulous Trento. This hadn’t been on our radar, but Aperol and people watching in Trento’s Piazza Duomo is a defining memory of this Italian mini-odyssey.

6 thoughts on “A northern Italian road trip

  1. Recognized the towers of Bologna. Lucca (and others) are definitely on our list…
    Grazie per il viaggio Paul.

    1. Lucca was fabulous, we visited from Pisa (it’s a short drive), but would definitely want to visit again for longer. We had one of the nicest lunches of our trip in Lucca.

  2. It’s odd seeing all of this and realising that despite repeated trips to that part of Italy to go motor racing at Monza or Imola or Vallelunga we’ve only occassionally managed to get out and go sightseeing (mainly from Monza to the lakes, or into the city of Monza itself). I’d really like to go back and just potter around eating, drinking (and buying) wine and nosing around all the historical sights we could manage to fit in.

    1. I never really got to grips with Italian wine, I think mainly because I’ve hardly ever visited, but this trip was an eye opener. The number of grape varieties that I’d never heard of was shocking.

  3. Superb. With so many charming destinations and impressive monuments, Italy has a lot to offer. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Our first time in Northern Italy proper, it’s a fabulous region.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close