In the summer of 2019, we ended up planning the perfect honeymoon to Italy for two people who weren’t dating anymore. Sometimes, we knowingly make silly decisions.
Lake Como, Cinque Terre, Tuscany, San Marino, Tivoli and Amalfi Coast. Such a perfect itinerary, you’re welcome to use it, regardless of your relationship status.
We met in Milan (not my fav.). The cathedral is sweet but you can feel richness in the air, taunting your poorness. We rented a car at the airport to drive to Lake Como, which was one of those bad/good ideas. For the most part, you do need an international driver’s license for Italy. Except someone forgot his, so we didn’t have one when the rental guy asked for it but they let us rent the car anyway. Getting to Lake Como was a breeze. We didn’t run into any traffic despite the hot-July-weekend-early-afternoon weather. We heard that driving in Italy was exhilarating and scary at the same time. Kind of like when you were 8, sitting in the back of your friend’s van and their mother accidentally floored it over a speed bump and you’re like weeee until you smacked your head on the van roof since you weren’t wearing a seat belt. The ’90s am I right?!
Driving around Lake Como is that, but add in a dash of Formula 1 racing (or as I like to call it SPF 50 racing) and a hint of Italians who don’t believe in stop signs. Driving is totally doable but expect to shit your pants on more than one occasion.
If you’re more into having semi-clean trousers, you can take public transport to Lake Como from Milan and the surrounding area but public transport in Italy is about as reliable as your ex. Around Lake Como, on Sunday, the buses run every three hours or something nonsensical like that. You can stand at the blue signs that read fermata and wave the bus down. Onboard, tickets were 3.00 euros from the town of Colonno but apparently, from tobacco shops that close at 18:00 on Sundays, the tickets are cheaper.
Don’t always listen to Google. We ended up waiting on the side of the road without a bus sign because Google told us to (I love blaming inanimate objects). Luckily, the driver still pulled over and let us on because the next bus was two hours wait.
We stayed in Colonno, which is small but everywhere around the lake has stunning views. The walk from Colonno to Tremezzina is lovely. Loads of swimming spots and food along the way but you may want to suck in that winter bod when walking along the road sections since the cars come at yeah at a pretty good clip.
We did a day trip to Bellagio by ferry. People basically use euro bills to dry off after swimming. That’s how rich it is. Trying to get back to Colonno by public transport from here on a Sunday was the worst so keep that in mind when you’re livin’ the ballin’ life or just crying in a ball.
Lake Como YUM’S!
Some supermarkets around the lake err on the side of expensive, but you are able to find some reasonably priced restaurants/take-out joints that are superb. Others, not so much. When we arrived, we ate at a waterfront place called Lido di Sala Comacina. It is rated quite high and the views are stunning but sometimes these things can distract one from the truth of the meh food. My pasta was salty and the lake fish, still in full form- not de-eyed, glared at me from across the table.
It was in Lake Como that I turned burly and 30. We ate gelato at La Fabbrica Del Gelato (YUM!) and lunch at Wine Note da Kita (YUM!).
We drove to the top of the lake and ate at Gelateria La Carapiña (YUM!) and Pizzeria Quattro Cime Gravedona (YUM!)
After dropping the car off back in Milan, we trained to La Spezia Centrale then onward to Riomaggiore, the most southern of the five Cinque Terre villages. There was a nice 3-hour delay with our train that stopped inside a tunnel, meters before a gorgeous view of the water. Regardless of where you stay, expect stairs and steep walking from all the stations. The train station at Caglioni is close to the water and there are 383 steps to get up to the village. I counted. I love complaining about this when there are 86-year-old Italian women with arthritis who carry 10 kgs of groceries on the daily.
There is a hike that connects all five villages and we did it. JOKES we did part of the hike then ended up eating charcuterie boards and drinking prosecco. You need to buy an overpriced ticket to hike and there are entrance checks at the start of the path… occasionally. You’re in Italy so at 16:48 they have probably packed it in to go for a drink. We did the day ticket option and the Italian woman forgot to mention that some of the paths were closed. Such as the first easy section from Riomaggiore to Manarola along the water called L’ armore path. The only alternative was to follow the steep road that takes you to the steep vineyards, steeply. I advise you to dress appropriately in running or hiking shoes. My friend a few years ago was denied entry because he was in sandals.
We ended up:
- Hiking from Riomaggiore- Manarola
- Train to Corniglia
- Train to Vernazza
- Hiking from Vernazza- Monterosso al Mare
Finding accommodation that matched the price tag was nearly impossible. The same goes for the Amalfi Coast. You need to book a few months early and even then; you will find expensive rooms that are low quality. You need to really up your budget if you want an average hotel. We booked a place that had a private room with a bathroom and then there was a shared kitchen, which I clearly didn’t understand the concept of. One morning, guests walked in on me making tea in my undies.
Cinque Terre YUM’S! (Hint: there are none)
For the most part, don’t expect good food in the villages. There wasn’t one memorable meal since it was all overpriced and touristy.
We then went to the land of unreal food- Tuscany. We took two trains first to Pisa and then to Florence. After eating at my fav panini place Panini Toscani and grabbing a few road paninis we went to my fav gelato place Gelateria La Carraia. Then, we walked 30 minutes to the Hertz car rental. We paid for a Fiat and were given a Renault Capture, it’s the fanciest I felt all trip.
Our drive from Florence to the Tuscan vineyard was full of silence because I had a bad dream but when we arrived at the fairy-tale vineyard of Querceto di Castellina, that all melted away.
We did a kick-ass drive through the Tuscan hills, stopping at Abbazia di Monte Oliveto Maggiore (okay from up close but pictures from afar would have been just as good), ate at Locanda Paradiso (YUM!) and took photos at the wee Chapel Vitaleta. We could have spent a full couple of days around here but we had to scoot back for a dinner in the vineyard.
Eating at Il Vescovino (Ristorante) was unreal (YUM!), with stunning views.
We drove the non-toll route to San Marino, which took 4.5 hours. I wanted to vomit for 4.3 of those hours since the roads were so windy (not windy, they’re spelt the same). It was super rainy when we arrived, so we got bags of bulk candy, and a slice of takeaway pizza then we napped like children. Dinner was at La Terrazza (YUM!) with beautiful views. Since San Marino is its own country, they have this Duty Free Airport/ International Waters vibe to it. Welcome to the gun show, they sell heaps. It seems like they do shady dealings but the prettiness distracts you, so you kind of ignore all that. If you go to the Tourist Office/ Post Office you can pay 5 euros to get a stamp in your passport.
The next day we drove to the cool medieval town of Tivoli. We took the toll route and it was a doozy. One toll was €15.00 and the other €14.50 but it did save us something like 3 hours of driving. And since I am a cranky spaz in all cars, it was probably well worth it for my ex. Tivoli is where the emperors went to escape the Rome heat (must be nice). I think that is true but it is a tad personal knowledge. Villa d’Este and Hadrian’s villa were top picks to see.
On our way out, driving to Sorrento, we filled up on 1.80 full-service gas. It pains me to this day how much of a rip-off it was.
In the planning stages, we decided not to drive the Amalfi Coast because we didn’t particularly feel like dying. The Sorrento Hertz rental company was super stressful to get to since there was construction and no parking in front. We ended up parking on a sloped driveway near the office and ran inside to ask the guy to move it for us, similar to how I get my friend to parallel park for me.
We took the 14:55 ferry to Amalfi which stopped in Capri and Positano. You can buy your tickets near the ferry docks, there are a bunch of stands. I heard some tricksters will sell you a late ferry to Capri but there won’t be a return ferry scheduled for that evening, so you need to spend the night in Capri. So be prepared to sell your kidney to pay for the little excursion.
Swimming off the rocks in the town of Atrini is top-notch. We paid for umbrellas/ chairs in a few other spots in Amalfi and it wasn’t as good.
Amalfi Coast YUM’S!
Eating at Agricola Fore Porta was an absolute dream. It is a bit of an inclined walk (sounds better than the term hike) to get there but you pass lemon groves and miracles. We emailed two days before to book a lunch spot. We maybe could have gotten away without but I wouldn’t take my chances. I am serious when I say this could be a relationship ender. Say, one person wanted to book ahead the other did not, you arrive only to be told there were no tables. This didn’t happen to me but it could have.
Pizzeria Donna Stella is an absolute delight. The pizza is scrumptious and the lemons trees create a canopy above your head. An Italian woman goes around with a broom knocking off the almost fallen lemons. It was the best. It gets busy though so if you are wanting takeaway I would call ahead.
Eating at Ristorante Lo Smeraldino had good seafood and gorgeous waterfront views. We even witnessed some Italian drama with yelling and fighting!
Day Trippin’ Positano
Positano is a beautiful ferry ride away from Amalfi. The ferries get packed so get your elbows out if you want a good seat at the top. I recommend grabbing a ferry timetable from the ferry kiosk to plan your days.
You can always tell what kind of person I am by this. There were two restaurants: one had higher ratings; the food looked fab but it wasn’t directly overlooking the water. The other had low food ratings but gorgeous views provided you got a decent seat. Which do I choose? Always the food. ALWAYS. The Tiramisu was beyond amazing as were the other dishes at Da Vincenzo Positano.
Fornillo Beach was good, we had to pay for a chair since there wasn’t much of that sit here for free space.
Franco’s Bar. It doesn’t deserve its own section but here it is.
More like It Will Drain Your Banco’s Bar.
I read on numerous blogs this was one of the best views of Positano and it’s highly rated on Tripadvisor and Google. DO NOT BE FOOLED. It costs 20 euros for one alcoholic drink. 20 EUROS!! A jug of natural water was 5 euros. I nearly fell off my chair. I looked around and saw similar reactions across the board. We arrived just before 6 and boy, that uncovered marble flooring with nothing but tables and chairs really heats up. I felt like I was a baked potato stuffed with cheese and wine. They have douchy fedora hats available, that’s how hot it gets. There are about 4 tables that have views right along the edge. Yes, the view is nice but my view was of a decorative tree that provided no shade along with the road. An even better view with a zero-dollar price tag is the parking stall next to Franco’s Bar. Maybe you aren’t technically supposed to enter the private garage but if you are like us, kind of shifty, then you can. You get unobstructed snaps of the coastline.
Views from Instagram
I am sure you’ve seen on the gram, pictures of Villa Rufolo in Ravello. The rumour mill says it’s one of the best views you can get of the Amalfi Coast. Naturally, it was closed when we got there by bus because there was a summer concert series. You can’t access the view without paying €7 to go into the Villa.
Another for the gram is the beach at Fiordo di Furore. It is a bit of bitch to get to by public transport and make sure you buy your tickets in advance since they won’t let you on the bus without them. Naturally, it was closed when we got there. I am talking about concrete slabs blocking the way down to the beach since the pathway was crumbling. Yet, I saw many a photo on Instagram that day with sunbathers on the beach. The lies!
All Roads Lead to Rome, but They May Charge You
Trying to catch our 10 in the morning train to the Rome Airport from the Salerno train station was the worst. It was a Sunday; I get it, but there is no Uber and taxis run in the 100’s of euros. We bought tickets for the bus at the tobacco shop the night before, including a ticket for luggage since we didn’t want to take any chances of being denied boarding on our 5:40 am the next morning bus. We were told by two tourist info ladies that the scheduled bus won’t go all the way to Salerno, but will stop in the town before so we would need to take a 20-minute taxi costing 50 euros for the last part of the journey. It was a pleasant surprise when the bus kept going all the way to the station.