For the 2021 holidays, choose to move in total autonomy. You will discover a new way to travel!
On the road
The long and exhausting restrictions due to the state of emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic have only increased the desire to travel. However, as far as finally possible, it is perhaps less prudent to travel by public transport at this historic moment, whereby travelling by private vehicles is more advisable. Hence, it seems to be the right moment to organize that on-the-road trip everyone has dreamed of doing at least once in life. Do not be discouraged by long distances: sometimes they are shorter than we think. The itinerary we report below that starts from the magnificent coastal Ligurian area of the Cinque Terre (Five Lands) to the charming Pisa in the beautiful Tuscany is the perfect example. This route between two of the most stunning Italian regions is also easily accessible by car from other European countries, such as France and Spain. Even though the distance gets longer, there are more opportunities to live adventures along the way and add further stops to the itinerary. For example, starting from Tarragona, you can walk along the magnificent Costa Dorada, stop in the marvellous Barcelona, and then continue and arrive in France, where you can visit the enchanting Marseille and then reach the unique French Riviera scenery.
Here are some of the advantages of travelling by your means:
-You can travel with the whole family, your partner or a group of friends and create adventurous moments that will be part of the trip memories as much as the trip itself;
-Flexibility: you can stop at any time and whenever you want;
-Planning the stages you wish to take along the way;
-Especially in high season periods, a car trip can be cheaper than booking a plane ticket or other public transport.
One con: the luggage. You would better travel light so as not to risk exploding the trunk.
Travelling by a private vehicle means enjoying every piece of the road, and it is synonymous with freedom. No schedules, no limit of stops to visit, sudden changes or additions of the route without upsetting the plans.
The perfect itinerary
The Italian itinerary that we present encloses a complete holiday: starting from the sea, breathtaking views and nature, up to the splendour of art and culture typical of the historic cities, without neglecting the culinary stages. Freedom also lies in choosing the type of travel and vacation that you most want to do.
We advise you not to miss the opportunity to take a trip in total autonomy for the upcoming holidays. Choose the right company, a few essential things, good music and the itinerary you like most!
Here is our advice.
The Cinque Terre (Five Lands)
The Cinque Terre are a stretch of Ligurian coast immersed in the Mediterranean maquis and located in the eastern part of Liguria, about 85 Km from Genoa and 10 Km from La Spezia. As the name suggests, it is a natural area formed by five villages: Monterosso, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola and Riomaggiore. In ancient times, this region was almost completely isolated. It was reachable only through winding natural routes or by sea. Thus the term terre, meaning lands, stood for isolated and little known places.
However, the five sensational villages are widely known today. The Cinque Terre attract millions of tourists from all over the world every year.
Given the unique splendour of the landscape, where human activity has harmoniously integrated with nature, the site has become a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1997 as a whole with Portovenere and Tino, Palmaria and Tinetto islands. The Cinque Terre is an area rich in history, culture, breathtaking views, adventurous networks of trails immersed in the wild, beaches with crystal clear waters and more. Ligurian culinary delicacies are born from products that spontaneously find life in the lush area of Mediterranean scrub. In particular, the aromatic herbs that grow naturally in the territory give rise to delicious dishes, including the famous trofie with pesto, a handmade pasta dressed with the typical sauce based on autochthonous fresh basil and oil. Besides, the coast offers an immense variety of fish that gives life to tasty fish recipes.
All of the Cinque Terre are characterized by clusters of colourful houses that give the area a distinctive and scenic feature. In addition to the majestic natural landscape, each village retains the characteristic features of ancient history, dating back to the Middle Ages. Walking through the alleys will transport you into an atmosphere with dreamlike traits, allowing you to live an almost enchanted experience.
Finally, we point out the Sentiero Azzuro (the Blue Path). The Cinque Terre are all connected through this adventurous trekking route. Surrounded by beautiful views of the sea and Mediterranean scrub, the Sentiero Azzurro leads to the National Park of Cinque Terre. As we shall see, the most famous trait is known as Via dell'Amore (the Lover's lane).
The route is well signposted, although you can often run into sections closed to the public due to unsafe areas.
So, you can comfortably drive to the coastal area, choose where to stay, and then arm yourself with comfortable shoes and a great desire to walk.
Monterosso is the westernmost of the Cinque Terre overlooking the sea. The village hosts the highest number of beaches on the Cinque Terre Riviera. A dip in the crystal clear waters of the spectacular pebble beaches of Monterosso is a must.
In the modern part of the village (Fegina) stands an imposing statue dedicated to the god Neptune perched on a rocky promontory. The sculpture keeps retaining its ancient splendour even if the force of the sea has deprived it of its arms and trident.
In the old part of the village, the narrow streets characterized by colourful houses offer a pleasant walk among shops of typical Ligurian coast products. Finally, from the Punta Mesco promontory, a breathless panoramic path immersed in the Mediterranean maquis opens.
Vernazza is a real jewel set in a natural inlet surrounded by a ring of rocks locating a little more than 3 km from Monterosso. The imposing Doria Castle, a 70metres high rocky fortress dating back to the thirteenth century, testifies to the medieval origins of this village. Characterized by a cluster of brightly coloured houses, Vernazza will transport you in a unique atmosphere made of steep alleys, porches, lemons scent and wooden boat firm to the small harbour. The only beach in Vernazza is small and sandy. It locates near the Church of Santa Margherita d'Antiochia and its imposing bell tower.
Here is a fun fact: in Vernazza, the pirate festival takes place yearly. The inhabitants dress up as pirates and simulate the landings of the ancient corsairs by dancing all night long. This recurrence is also known as a flexible festival, as it does not have a scheduled date.
Perched on a rocky promontory overlooking the sea, Corniglia is the smallest of the five villages. It locates in a panoramic position and offeres a breathtaking view. For the bravest, Corniglia is accessible along the Lardarina, a staircase of almost four hundred stone steps. The tiring route has made Corniglia safe from mass tourism. Its beaches are wild and nearly untouched, creating an evocative setting for the undomesticated landscape. We suggest visiting Guvano beach, famous in the 1970s as a destination for nudists and hippies and still today a destination for naturists.
Manarola rises on the valley of the Groppo torrent, a little more than 2 km from Corniglia. On Manarola hills, you can admire magnificent cultivations of vineyards and olive trees. A white concrete pyramid that serves as a trigonometric signal for sailors emerges from the typical cheerful chromatic game created by the houses.
The only beach in Manarola is almost always overcrowded. Therefore, it is advisable to enjoy the walk through the village alleys and be enchanted by its fabulous climate.
Riomaggiore is the southernmost village of the Cinque Terre and is a few kilometres away from La Spezia. Nestled between the mountains and the sea, Riomaggiore offers unique scenery, exploring places that seem like a paradise on earth.
Among the most beautiful beaches, we recommend the beach of Canneto, framed by an enchanting natural waterfall of freshwater coming from the hill.
In the upper part of the village, the wonderful Castle of Riomaggiore stands. Today used as a location for events and ceremonies, the castle was built in the second half of the thirteenth century. Its strategic position offers a dream scenario, with breathtaking views of the cliffs below and part of the Ligurian coast.
Here is a fun fact: the most famous part of the Sentiero Azzurro is definitely via dell'Amore (Lover's lane). Excavated in the rock at the beginning of the last century to join Riomaggiore to Manarola, the stretch has later become known as Via dell'Amore since its unique beauty with a view overlooking the sea was the perfect place for suggestive declarations of love and marriage proposals. Unfortunately, the section has been closed to the public since 2012 due to a violent landslide. However, thanks to careful interventions, it could reopen in 2023.
In one hour and a half driving from the Cinque Terre, you can reach the magnificent Tuscany and Pisa. Located a few kilometres from the mouth of the Arno River, the home of the famous Leaning Tower is also Galileo Galilei's birthplace. It is a city with great historical echoes, dating back to when it was one of the four maritime republics. For this reason, Pisa is rich in art and culture that testify to the immense power reached in medieval times.
Here are some of the must-visit places of this beautiful city.
The Leaning Tower in Piazza del Duomo
The so-called Leaning Tower is an iconic symbol of the whole of Italy. It is stormed every year by tourists who rush to take a photo in which, through a studied game of perspectives, it seems that they are supporting the spire in apparent free fall. The tower is part of a larger archaeological complex located in Piazza del Duomo and UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1987. The complex includes three other monuments: the cathedral, the baptistery and the holy field.
The Leaning Tower construction works started in the second half of the twelfth century. It owes its slope to a subsidence of the land that began at that time. It is 55 meters high and houses seven bells, each one playing a specific musical note.
The cathedral is a church with five naves surmounted by a dome. In its internal spaces, a rich and unusual fusion of different styles (Byzantine, Arabic and classical) testify to the power that had reached Pisa as a maritime republic in medieval times.
The baptistery is the largest in Italy, measuring over 100 meters in diameter. Its construction lasted 200 years. In its internal spaces, visitors can find a rich collection of great artworks, including the famous pulpit of Nicola Pisano.
Finally, the Campo Santo is a monumental cemetery. It was built to house the tombs of the imposing Pisan personalities, previously buried around the cathedral. In the Campo Santo, the famous chandelier that inspired the Galilean theories on the isochronism of small oscillations known as the lamp of Galileo is kept.
Lungarni (the Riverside)
The streets along the Arno River, known as the lungarni, are a typical meeting place for the Pisan nightlife. The lungarni are rich in constructions of the medieval age, such as palaces, towers and churches. The Medicean is one of the most prestigious lungarni. Its buildings date back to the time when the noble Medici family reigned as masters of Florence. Lorenzo Medici lived in the Medici Palace, which today houses the Prefecture of Pisa.
Here is a fun fact: Pisa celebrates the Luminara of San Ranieri on the 16th of June yearly. The citizens love and await this festival where thousands of wax lamps are affixed on all the riverside buildings, outlining their architectural design. The evocative effect is sharpened by the flashes reflected in the river waters, creating a fabled atmosphere due to the play of lights.
Piazza dei Cavalieri (the Knight's square)
The magnificent Piazza dei Cavalieri was commissioned by Grand Duke Cosimo I Medici and designed by the great Italian architect Giorgio Vasari. The square houses the statues of the Order of the Knights of Santo Stefano and some relevant buildings, including the church of Santo Stefano and the Palazzo dell'Orologio.
At the centre of the square, the statue of Cosimo I stands proudly.
The square once represented Pisa's civil power. Today, it is a place of cultural interest since it houses the Scuola Normale di Pisa, one of the most prestigious Italian universities.
Keith Haring's Mural
Passing through Pisa in 1989, the American artist and social activist Keith Haring left his artistic imprint on the Sant'Antonio Abate church outer wall. In an explosion of vitality and colour, Haring paints 30 figures who seem to live in a harmonious game of joints, almost forming a puzzle. With the famous mural Tuttomondo, the artist wanted to represent his idea of harmony and peace in the world.
It is one of the few Haring works that can be admired in Italy.
Mini-tour in Tuscany
If you have a few more days at your disposal, we advise you to get comfortably back in your car and take a mini-tour of Tuscany.
-In Florence, the city of art par excellence, you will be enchanted by every single glimpse. From the mammoth Cathedral of Santa Maria del Fiore to the immeasurable prestige of the works of art preserved in the Uffizi Gallery, from the panoramic Piazzale Michelangelo to the romantic Ponte Vecchio, Florence reveals at every step the great history of the Renaissance and the eternal beauty of Italian art and culture.
-Surrounded by the Tuscan hills, Siena is a jewel of medieval origin. The famous Palio is an annual horse race whose roots trace back to the seventeenth century. It takes place in the unusual shell-shaped Piazza del Campo.
The imposing Duomo Cathedral in Italian Gothic style will leave you breathless. Its facades are painted in black and white to honour the horses of the legendary founders of the city. Inside, you will find a walkable astonishing artwork: the Duomo floor is a mosaic depicting several historical and legendary scenes by forty artists. The entire flooring is almost always covered, except for 6/10 weeks per year. For this reason, it is preserved in its original state.
-Tuscany is a land rich in gastronomic excellence. The cold cuts and the high-quality meats are typical autochthonous products. The famous bistecca Fiorentina (Florentine steak) is a high and soft beefsteak obtained from the sirloin cut. A series of delicious local wines, including Chianti, Brunello di Montalcino, Montepulciano accompain the meals. Finally, the typical almond-based dry pastries cantuccini accompanied by the dessert wine Vin santo is a must-taste.
For those with refined culinary tastes, we recommend le Strade del Vino, dell’olio & dei sapori (the Roads of Wine, Oil & Flavors). Twenty different roads officially recognized as food and wine route that cover the entire Tuscan territory. You can taste and buy the product you like most, walking an itinerary that, from the hills to the valleys, from small villages to big cities, guards the gastronomic and culinary heritage of the region.
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