Italy Road Trip
For our five year anniversary (back in 2016), Ara and I celebrated with a trip to several spots in Italy. After that trip, we definitely caught the Italian travel bug and couldn't wait for our next visit back. We weren't sure when that would be at the time--since we prefer "new-to-us" travel destinations, but we knew we wanted another trip back to the beautiful and diverse country of Italy.
Fast forward to 2017 when we found out we were moving to Germany, one of the first things I remember thinking was, "Yes! I can't wait to go Italy again--we will be so close!" And this time we were excited to drive our car and be able to fill it up with some delicious Italian wine to bring back home.
We planned our trip over Memorial Day weekend and set out creating an itinerary to include Lake Como, the Umbria region and a stop in Nove for the day.
We left our house bright and early to hit the road. We made good time (despite some morning sickness) and stopped for a top off of gas at the last German Esso station before the border and picked up a vignette for Switzerland. Some countries in Europe require you to purchase a vignette for the duration of the time that you'll be driving in the country and sometimes they even last all year long like Switzerland. We stopped shortly after for a lunch pit-stop at the "rest area" before Gotthard Pass. I would highly suggest this as a stopping point if you are driving this route--there was a great place to eat lunch and it was gorgeous with a beautiful river right off the parking area.
Back on the road and a few short hours later, we were driving the Subaru onto a ferry and making our way across Lake Como to our first destination: Bellagio. We knew within 30 seconds of being on the ferry that we were in love with the Lake Como area. The scenery is overwhelmingly beautiful and goodness, you are in Italy! We made our way to our Airbnb apartment that overlooked Lake Como. After getting settled, we headed out to wander the cute town and find a place for dinner. I was battling morning sickness/lack of appetite and didn't do my normal research on where to eat during our stay in Bellagio. I didn't even write down where we had dinner the first night but Ara enjoyed it!
We started our day with a delicious breakfast of a brioche and coffee before boarding a ferry to Varenna. We made our way around the pedestrian walkway to the village and immediately knew Varenna was picture-perfect. I could have wandered around all day! We stopped for lunch along the water at Nilus Bar and even chatted with a family who was visiting from Kansas City. After lunch we continued our day of leisure checking out more of the village before making a stop at the Rick Steve's recommended gelato shop, Gelagers La Passerella. We made our way back to Bellagio via ferry and ended the day with dinner at a quaint place off the beaten path called Bistrot Restaurant, where we had fabulous fresh, handmade bolognese pasta.
We packed up and hit the road south to Umbria. We had been looking forward to this day for quite some time, to re-visit La Palazzetta Del Vescovo. We stayed at this lovely bed & breakfast during our 5 year anniversary trip and fell in love with this perfect little spot and the owners, Paola and Stefano.
We made sure to arrive with enough time to get settled in before aperitivo (a before dinner drink and some light appetizers) and to get a proper hello in with the resident dog, Ayra. Dinner is one of the main highlights at La Palazzetta. Paola does an amazing job preparing four courses to make your way through and Stefano assists hosting and picking the perfectly paired wine. We also love the chance to chat with other guests before and after dinner that are also staying at the property. We met some very nice Canadians, Brits, and Germans during our three-night stay.
One of our main objectives of this road trip to Italy was to procure some of our favorite Italian wine from Umbria and load the car up to bring it home. Well, with me being in the throws of morning sickness during this trip we weren’t really on our “tip-top” wine selecting game but alas, we set out to several wineries to sample and stock up. Our first stop was in Montefalco to the winery of Antonelli. We fell in love with their Montefalco Rosso on our last trip and had enjoyed some at dinner the night before and knew we needed to go home with some as well.
Turns out the weekend that we were in Umbria was a wine celebration weekend. In theory that sounds really nice but it turned out we preferred the lower pace of wine tasting at the small producer wineries without the party atmosphere (not pictured). We ended our day a bit early and headed back to La Palazzetta to enjoy the view and the heated pool.
After breakfast, we made the short hour drive over to the town of Assisi to take in the Basilica of St. Francis. Back in 2015, we had taken the train from Perugia to Rome and saw the town of Assisi and the magnificent structure of the Basilica and knew we wanted to see it in person. It was awe-inspiring to walk around the massive, 2-level church, consecrated in 1253.
We headed to the little village of Spello for lunch and wandered a bit until we found the Gusto Bistro. I had discovered back in Lake Como that my stomach could handle large amounts of arugula and melon so we ordered accordingly for this lunch and it was fantastic.
Before dinner, we paid a visit our favorite winery and winemaker in all of Umbria—Moreno at Cantina La Spina. We had visited this winery on our first visit and loved every moment with the winemaker Moreno, who happens to be a “one-man show” for the winery as well as working part-time in Perugia at a bank. He produces some of the best Umbrian wine and I’m so glad we got to visit with him again, catch up with him and stock up on our favorites!
We parted ways with the fabulous hosts, Paola and Stefano (and Ayra the dog) and made our way up north to the town of Nove. Located in northern Italy, Nove is known for their numerous pottery and ceramic shops. Many US companies like Macy’s, Crate and Barrel and Anthropologie (to name a few) buy their ceramics from shops in Nove. I was excited to check out some stores and purchase a new set of dishes! Thank goodness for Ara’s patience as I wandered, and wandered and wandered around the store trying to make a decision. We ended up with a great new set of dishes and several great serving pieces as well.
We ended our long travel day in Innsbruck, Austria. We were anxious to get home after a week of traveling and didn’t plan an extra day to sight-see around Innsbruck. The next morning, we packed up the car again and made the trek back to our home in Germany!