Please sign in to post.

COVID-19 Road Trip - Switzerland and Northern Italy

Hello everyone,

I'm not usually one to write from the road, but due to the current global pandemic, we've changed our travel style a bit, giving us some more "downtime" (doesn't feel that much like it!)

We live in Stuttgart, Germany, and have not traveled out of country since January. This 2 weeks my husband has off may be the only time he gets this year or well into next, so despite everything we looked at the data and the news and decided we could handle a road trip with our 2016 Mini Clubman, bought here in Europe, which I'd recently damaged in our parking garage of all places, so what's another scuff?

Our pre-COVID plan was to spend some time in mainland Greece before a week doing absolutely nothing on our favorite island, Agistri, but flying to a country without a great healthcare system started to seem like a bad idea as early as March and everything followed our fears, our next plan was a road trip to various parts of France, but by June/July that was also looking bad. The one spot on the map that was looking good was Italy, ironically, but we are a little scared of driving in Italy due to friends we know who lived in Italy telling us! But I demanded a beach, so the Italian Riveria seemed to fit the bill.

Our plan:

3 Nights in Hasliberg, Switzerland

2 Nights in Piedmonte, Italy

5 Nights in Camogli, Italy

2 Nights in Cerniobbo, Italy

Long Drive home

So after a list minute salon and nail visit (I'm 40, it requires some work if I'm going to an Italian resort town) we departed yesterday, Sept. 1, around 12:30, with a very smart stop on the US Army base to fill up on cheap gas and buy cheap beer and snacks.

Our drive down the 81 was mostly uneventful, but always slightly harrowing for me, because I hate the no-speed-limit zones. And it was raining on and off, with a real downpour right before we crossed the border. We bought our vignette at a gas station a few km before our crossing and were waved on through, no issue. My phone got a bunch a messages about the virus, but coming from Germany to Switzerland is still entirely copacetic by the rules. In fact, in Switzerland, masking isn't required indoors, unlike Germany, so that is very strange to us.

We'd only been to Basel a handful of times before, and once driven around Lake Constance (not at all worth it on the Swiss side) so driving here was new to us and was very chill until the end when we had to get up towards the Breuning Pass. We were behind a large trailer truck that was frequently in the center of the narrow lanes, and were dealing with aggressive Swiss drivers once we left the truck. We're both fans of California Highway 1 - I mean, I grew up driving the twistiest parts of that road - and these roads are a different beast, as are the drivers. We stopped in Meiringen for groceries (Nigel, the Migros is fine but doesn't sell alcohol, so we still had to stop at the Coop!) before going back up to the pass and down again to the Haslital, specifically Reuti where our apartment is located at Chez Martail.

It's a nice little apartment - rustic, but comfortable - and importantly, just over 100 Euro/night, with views sure of construction but also of amazing peaks and valleys, and a fully outfitted kitchen, which is great in Switzerland regardless of COVID because this trip is reminding me why I avoid this country! It's gorgeous, it has amazing public transit, and I wonder WHO CAN AFFORD IT. Because we sure as hell can't! More Swiss rants and raves to follow.

Posted by
2932 posts

Switzerland, where do I begin with you?

I've been to the most scenic parts of the Bavarian and Austrian Alps many times before, and had even recommended Austria over CH due to costs, but now that I'm in the Berner Oberland, I get it. I keep telling my husband that I feel like I'm in some glorious matte painting in a fancy CGI movie. Everywhere you turn is just unbelievable scenery, and it's constantly shifting with the clouds and sun. I've never seen anything like it. Last night, the snowy peaks from our terrace were partially obscured due to clouds, so when I opened the door today I literally just exclaimed an expletive (I'm not a poet, sorry) because it was just that stunning. There just isn't anything like this.

So this morning we paid 12 CHF for a smallish but filling and decent breakfast at the hotel which normally I'd just supply myself but I realized that's a steal for this area, and it was worth it, comparatively. The previous night I'd paid the same for a small bowl of delicious "alpsuppe" (potato and cheese cream soup) at one of the two hotel-restaurants in our village.

But I'd spent the last 3 days pouring over maps and offers trying to make sense of what worked for us. We have a car, so in theory - in Germany - we can go almost anywhere. But not so in the Berner Oberland. Our main concerns were seeing alpine peaks via hiking, visiting Sherlock Holmes sights, the Aare gorge, which sounds simple enough, but when you look at the admission and transport costs, versus the various passes, it's suddenly a lot of math, especially if you're on a budget. And I'm an ocean girl, mountains and their lifts and all that stuff is just confusing to me. Even as a planner/tour guide. CH makes me feel out of my element.

It worked out OK. From Reutli, we decided to leave the car but also save money by hiking the historic "Kirchweg" down. I tried to research the trail to see if it was suitable for us in athletic shoes but no poles and it seemed fine. Well, it was 1500 feet straight down on gravel mostly, no respite for the downhill. Now we're not athletes, but we're in our 40s, my husband is a runner, and I walk up hill giving tours for a living and usually walk at least 2 miles a day, so we're usually fine walking, but this was a challenging way to start the day. The views and trail were glorious, but it was just down, down, down for about 90 minutes which is a bit much if you're not used to it.

Our 1st stop in the town of Meiringen was the Sherlock Holmes museum, but having strange hours of 13;30-18:00, wasn't open yet. We were already hungry but again, looking out for money, didn't want a sit-down lunch so figured the Doner Kepab by the Bahnhof to be the best cheap option. It took way too long and as a result we had bad doner for 24 dollars and missed the train to the eastern part of the Aaerschlucht gorge. (We did see some Swiss Army guys get their order from the Doner shop so we knew it was the cheapest in town, at least). In the Bahnhof, the TI was closed from 12:00 to 16:00, when it reopens for just one hour. Lovely. We had a tourist card from our hotel that we didn't know what to do with without a TI but let's just make up random hours, I guess?

We walked back to the museum but some ladies were taking way too long to inspect the gift shop umbrellas, and we decided to just walk the 1.5 km to the Reichenbach Falls Seilbahn. We were starting to get a little testy. Despite all my research nothing was working out, but we were able to purchase the Combi-ticket to the Falls AND the Gorge for 16 each, so that seemed like a win.

Reichenbach was amazing, we hiked up part of the trail to the bridge, but my legs were already shaky from 1500 ft straight down and I was worried if I kept going up I'd have a hard time going down again. But we saved 18 CHF by hiking downhill? I don't know, guys. It's a time vs. energy vs. money thing here.

Posted by
2932 posts

We'd planned on taking the train to the Aareschluct (which when pronounced sounds way too much like something else to us), but from the bottom of the Seilbahn to Reichenbach falls, it's only a kilomter along the Aare, so we walked it. As predicted, our sunny morning gave way to afternoon clouds and late afternoon rain just as we entered. Somewhere in my research I was told to start at the east entrance, but we'd walked to the west, which is the more "normal" direction, so we went with it. It would have been a mistake normally - the drama of seeing the gorge narrow from east to west would have been great - but with the increasing rainstorm, had we started east to west we would have been protected by the rockwall and tunnels towards the end.

But that's not what we did. We were covered as it was sprinkling, and did the last, open half as it was pouring. I had a waterproof shell, and my husband a cheap plastic parka (take it up with him, I try, I swear I do), but the wooden footpath just became water so our pants and shoes were soaked by the end. On the plus side, the train in the tunnel station at Aaareschlut Ost was pretty cool.

Once back in Meiringen, my husband toured the small and to him, not impressive Sherlock Holmes museum while I got postcards, Meurienges (invented here?) and cash. We peeked our head into the hotel Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had stayed in while using the area for his setting of Sherlock's "death" and made our way to the gondola, where we paid 9 CHF to go up what took us 90 minutes getting down.

Home at 18:30, got in dry clothes, set up for a raclette dinner, which probably cost us around 15 CHF at the store with enough for 2 nights, and we're lucky to be staying at a place with the ability to do so. We do raclette at home in the winter, but this cheese you buy in CH is better than in Germany, and with some schnapps and wine it was delightful. Until I had to start pouring over maps and comparing lift tickets to figure out our hiking for the next day...

That's where we're at. I adore the beauty here but some of my favorite things about travel - happening upon unexpected places, randomly delicious free food (this time 1 year ago we were in Istria, then Rome; 2 years ago, Northern Spain, 3 years ago, my beloved Greece) and just an uncomplicated style of travel isn't how it works here. Ideally you plan really well, spend minimum 1 week, buy a travel pass that saves a ton of money (but is still very expensive), and either just be fine with spending around $100/day for food and drink or cheap out by picnicking/eating at your lodging, but that again requires advance planning.

Our plan for tomorrow is spending too much for a lift ticket, then hiking with sandwiches and snacks, maybe indulging in a beer on a sunny terrace somewhere, then getting back mid-afternoon and repacking, planning for Peidmonte, and Raclette redux. We have a very excellent (and cheap by Swiss standards) dinner reservation near Alba on Friday I'd rather save our cash for a true foodie paradise.

So yes, i'm both sold and unsold on Swizterland. I think if I had more money it wouldn't bother me so much, but there's a reason I've been here 10 years and this is my 1st time outside of Basel!

Posted by
6515 posts

Thank you for letting us travel along with you in our travel deprived world! Beautifully written.

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
glad you got on the road and are cruising for a great vacation. happy for you salon and nail visit cuz we're still closed here in california for them to open, i have covid hair since june 22 and nails since july 7. hopefully governor numbnuts will allow salons to open since his aunty nancy pelosi broke the rules and guidelines to get her hair done.
liguriaguide.com/beaches in camogli
travelblissnow.com/things to do in camogli "house of wives" women ran the place while husbands went out to fish
tripsavvy.com/italian riviera tourist map or italian riviera top coast towns
cinqueterre-travel.com maybe a pesto making class.
treecycle.eu rickshaw tours thru genoa, a train ride away and birthplace of christopher columbus
visititaly.com/liguria/camogli
since the area is known for pesto, focaccia, sardines. stop at a tourist kiosk in piazza center for what is available for things to do. market/food tour, boat/ferry ride, walk or hike in the area, sit and relax at beach.
enjoy everything that is available, so much to see and do. have fun and relax during your holiday.
aloha

Posted by
615 posts

I will take Switzerland rain or sunshine. Yes, its best explored with train passes and a carefully throughout plan with a decent daily budget. Love your writing style, I felt I was practically there myself standing at that window and not singing poetry. I have had those moments in Switzerland. I should have been in Germany/Austria this past July. Now back at school somewhere near an army post in the middle of the mid-west and with all the anxieties that are going along with that. Glad you stocked up on cheap gas and snacks.

Thanks for your trip report it brightened my day. Can't wait to hear about your Italian adventure.
Margaret

Posted by
137 posts

My thanks as well for your entertaining and informative travelogue, Sarah. It is a most welcome and bright spot I enjoy from my none far travelled corona perch. I'm anticipating wonderful reporting from Piemonte and wonder if you might be traveling to Cuneo? I have just enjoyed a fascinating and delicious-looking post by Lisa Anderson (on Adventures With Sarah's FB page) from the Chocolat D'Art pasticceria on Via Sebastiano Grandis. Fabulous handmade chocolates (admittedly a touch out of season now in late summer but c'mon, isn't there nothing better than a good friend, except a good friend with chocolate?) and pastries plus some pranzo items. Looks like a great spot if you happen to be there. Either way, looking forward to you giving us all the deets on your first Italia sojourn.

Posted by
1381 posts

So much fun to read. Thank you for taking the time to write and share it.

And please, more from Italy!

Posted by
4575 posts

Hi Sarah,
Thanks so much for sharing your road trip with us!

Can’t wait to hear about your experiences in Italy!

Buon viaggio! 😉

Posted by
8187 posts

Thanks for sharing your experience. We were supposed to arrive in Lauterbrunnen for a one week stay on September 22nd. I am planning a redo (hopefully) for next September. We will be with another couple and had rented a 2 bedroom mobile home at Camping Jungfrau that has a kitchen. The plan was to do our own food thing to save money. I’m looking forward to reading about the rest of your adventures.

Posted by
6394 posts

Hi Sarah — thanks so much for posting about your trip so far. I am so curious about Switzerland so it’s great to hear your take on it.

I hope you will have a nice relaxing time in Camogli. I tried to get my husband to take us to somewhere on the coast in Liguria for a few days away while we were at his mother’s last month, but he seemed to have a visceral reaction against anywhere along the coast there in August. I bet it will be perfect now.

One of my friends has a house there, I have always wanted to go!

Keep on having fun .

Posted by
2932 posts

Wow, what a great response! I'm a native Californian, and our families have been stuck inside since, well, shortly after I left California in mid-February, and my heart breaks for my friends and families there. We had our own awful experience earlier on (my husband probably had the virus in mid-March, but a "mild" case) and we have been very grateful to be able to be outside in general in Germany, take a few weekend trips in-country (Speyer/Worms and Brewery Hiking in Franconia) but getting out of Germany is always a highlight.

We had a bit of an easier day today. We decided to stick local, even though I know there's amazing things to do a little further afield, but our proprietor practically insisted at breakfast that we visit the Alpen Tower, and that's basically what we'd decided to do last night. The 3 zone hiker's day ticket was 42 CHF each, which felt high, except compared to other nearby mountaintop experiences, it's practically a bargain. So after breakfast we walked a few minutes to the Reuti gondola station and went up 3 stages to the summit at 2250 meters.

If I'd realized it was possible, I would have splurged on a combination breakfast buffet and lift ticket at the Alpen tower, which reduces the 32 CHF buffet (with eggs, bacon, you know, "real" breakfast!) to 20, which is actually reasonable even by German standards. But despite reading every bit of literature I came across in the days prior, I didn't see a brochure for this offer until we were already at the Alpen tower.

So I'm a bit dodgy on heights, and thin air, so we were both a bit wobbly up there, and with our calves incredibly worn out from the previous day's descent, we mostly snapped pics and took in the view and tried to figure out which mountains were which in the 360-degree panorama. It's very strange being so high above the paragliders and eagles! We had great views of the grosse and kliene Sheiddig, and even the Schlithorn. We also got lucky with the weather - sunny with only a few stray clouds and high of 65 below, obviously a bit chillier at the top. We also got to take pictures of an actual Bernese Mountain dog, which was so Swiss it was ridiculous.

All the trails at that height were already meant for people without issues with heights and with hiking boots, and involved obviously steep downhills, so we decided to take the gondola to the next stop Maegisalp, which has a lovely restaurant with a terrace with an unbelievable view and a picnic area. We'd planned on hiking from here, as the descent options were less steep and not as far to the next station, but I was entranced with the idea of riding a "Trotti bike", a sort of scooter for adults, down a paved path. My husband didn't think it was a great idea, but was game. The first 5 minutes I was laughing terrified while he was saying, "This is why I told you it was a bad idea!" (We also have a habit of getting minorly injured or ill at the beginning of long trips and are somewhat superstitious now about avoiding situations that could lead to disaster) but within a few minutes we were having the time of our lives, stopping to take pictures of the cows, waterfalls tumbling through alpine meadows. It also meant we made the descent in just about 20 minutes, and it would have been faster if I would've let up on the brake a little. 10 CHF per person, totally worth it!

At the next station, Bimni, we went back up to Maegisalp to enjoy a beer on that perfect terrace, before taking the gondola back to Bimni to hike to our home station of Reuti. The beginning of the hike was wonderful, through meadows and forest paths, but before we knew it we were back on steep gravel, but without fresh calves and the sure-footedness we'd started with yesterday. We made it but we were both shaky and exhausted, but glad we hiked anyway, just about 90 minutes.

Posted by
2932 posts

Anyway, we've now packed up our warmer clothing, hopefully to not use it again, and are ready to eat more melted cheese and collapse into bed, hopefully to wake up early tomorrow and get on the road after breakfast, as we've got about 4 hours to the Langhe region.

For everyone's made recommendations, thank you so much, I will take them all into account.

Most importantly, our very affordable flat at a highly recommended hotel/restaurant tomorrow HAS A HOT TUB. I really hope it's open despite Covid, knowing that restrictions in Italy are being taken a lot more seriously than they are in Switzerland (despite lower numbers). My calves are quivering in anticipation...or that's just the aftereffects of nearly 1000 meters downhill in 2 days!

Posted by
6394 posts

Sarah, I hope that the hot tub is there for you!

Where are you staying in the Langhe? If anywhere near La Morra, I highly recommend L’Osteria del Vignaiolo.

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
loving your report with all the ups and downs. last september we spent 2 nights geneva and 6 nights annecy, near the lake with gorgeous views of the mountains sitting on our balcony with wine, cheese and meats. went to a working dairy farm, ferme de la charbonnierre, for lunch special (23E) reblochonnade cheese with melting machine at table to scrape onto potatoes along with other goodies, so new to me and enjoying it. fondue lunch special in the village walking the canals and shops. people watching and loving the area, then train back to paris for 8 nights.
can't wait to hear about your adventure today and how the HOT TUB will relax you and your husband, maybe with a glass of wine.
just a side note: hair and nail salons & barbershops have opened inside here in COCO county. yeah!! nail lady called and she has appointment this afternoon for me.
aloha

Posted by
4575 posts

Hi Sarah,
Thanks for continuing to share your trip with us!

I’ve enjoyed reading about your adventures, keep them coming! 😊

Posted by
2932 posts

Hello everyone,

A very short update, as I'm on my phone and we have no WiFi. No major complaint, everytime I look at my Facebook stream I see friends who should know better traveling risky with regard to COVID19 and the political news is a little anxiety-producing.

We're in Neive, a lovely Peidmontese hillside town between Asti and Alba, about 4km from Barbaresco. Driving here was stressful from Como until outside Milan. Out here it's great, the town is amazing, the food is the best we've had in Italy, same for the wine. Everything is just amazing. Mostly italian tourists, definitely a hidden gem. This whole region seems like it has a lot to offer.

But we'll have to return later, tomorrow we're on to Camogli, beach trip after some truffle fun in alba tomorrow!

Posted by
4575 posts

Hi Sarah,

Neive looks amazing! Where did you stay in Neive?
Looking forward to reading about Camogli!

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
happy to hear you made it to piedmont and relaxed after your drive. how was the "HOT TUB?" few people have said they really like that area of italy, the beauty, food & wine, "no tourists"
couple years ago we did a private tour (6 hours) to the prosecco region near venice. took train to susegana and met our friendly driver oriana. she was born and raised in the area. tasted so much prosecco from unknown wineries, had lunch at restaurant with great views of the hills and villages. one of our best days for our europe trip. also did a CV2 tour in reims, outside paris, for that champagne fun.
let us know how your next stop is, waiting for your report.
BTW the weather here is so HOT, 105 degrees with very smoky skies and the smell when you open your door.
aloha

Posted by
2932 posts

Guten abend meine lieblings,

I am writing from very late (or early, depending) in Comogli, Italy. We were set to go to bed around 1:30, night owls that we are, when a terrific storm blew in. Our AirBnB flat is 6 stories up directly on the sea, so this is definitely an experience. I should be in bed but I know I'm not going to sleep until the thunder and lightning is no longer directly above us, so I might as well write.

Our stay in Neive was fantastic. We stayed at L'Aromatario, which is a restaurant that has 4 rooms in the main building, and a 1 bedroom apartment in the building behind. The apartment was quite nice and a steal at 85 euros/night, as it came with the best breakfast I've probably ever had in Europe (apologies to Paris at Hotel Kekraflia, now the 2nd best) and I'd stay there again in a heartbeat. It even offered a parking space right in the center of town - driving those medieval warrens was something else.

That said, the proprietor was a bit of a letdown. Just not very friendly or helpful. I'm used to European service so I'm not expecting US-style friendliness, but she was noticeably not engaged, which I thought may just be a personality thing until I saw her check in Italian-speaking customers. (Her English was great, so that wasn't the issue). They didn't let us know we had to move the car Sunday morning due to a local ordinance, until breakfast...Sunday morning, at the time the car had to be moved. But disregard that, who needs to make friends? We had a very good (though not amazing) meal there Friday night after the fantastic apperativo at the neighboring, mostly-locals wine bar that I'm too lazy to look up the name of (but there's not that much in Neive so you can figure it out on the map).

The small but lovely garden and "hot tub" (actually a cold Jacuzzi tub) made up for any issue. Friday night we enjoyed apperativo at the aforementioned wine bar then had dinner at L'Aromatario, enjoying our first but not last raw veal of the trip. Yum!

The next day after breakfast, we had planned to trek to Barbaresco but it was too hilly and way too hot at 90 degrees, so we went down to the "new town" to escape the tourists who'd taken over the town suddenly. Apparently this area is very popular with Italians on weekends, much like Sonoma or Napa. We had an unfussy and delicious meal, also a good value, at the "Tower of the Monastery" with fried Porchini mushrooms, "English-style" roast beef salad, and hand pinched ravioli made with Barbera wine.

The walk back up was brutal, so we tried more Arneis wine - I know this is red territory but during the day it was just too hot to drink red, and I loved the racy acidity and diversity of the local Arenis - we must've tried at least 5 different ones during our stay. We then relaxed and read in the garden of the B&B - the only area we got WiFi, which was a little frustrating but fine - and got in the "hot tub" a little too late in the day (should've jumped in when we were hot from the walk uphill!)

Because of our previous enjoyment of the delicable and free dishes the night before having an apertif, our plan was big lunch and only apertif for dinner, but we'd tried to reserve a table at the same place only to be told they were booked up, very apologetically. We then went on a mad scramble for dinner reservations and were lucky to get a last minute one at one of the nicest places in town, Donna Selvitica ("Can you come in 5 minutes?") We had a truly amazing view over the vineyards with quite good food and amazing service. My husband got the "traditional" menu and I got the black truffle menu. The black truffles we had were not at their peak but I slightly preferred most of my dishes to his. The Barbera Superior we ordered with dinner was delightful.

Posted by
2932 posts

This morning was a bit of a stressor as when I'd moved the car from it's precious position next to our flat, a local had taken our spot, so I'd parked in the public lot, but then had hoped to move it so we could load up (as we're on a road trip and bringing a lot of our own food/wine we have objectively Too Much Crap - a far cry from the Northern Spain trip we took 2 years ago with only a carry on each for 11 days) anyway long story short I did a bunch of driving around a medieval hillside village that ultimately had no point and it wasn't a great start to the day, although it was funny to see all the older people create parking spaces from nothing so they could go to church.

In the end we had to trek our bags 10 minutes downhill and shove them into our car quickly as our parking space in the public lot was in great demand. Our intention had been to go to Barbaresco for lunch (I'd even made reservations) but again, weekend, popular, no parking. We ended up on the road to Alba, and on a whim I turned left and we parked at the nearly empty town of Tresio, one of 4 villages that produces Barbaresco wine, where we finally had time for a dedicated tasting of this lovely wine, comparing 3 different 2015-2017 vintages all from the same area but very different.

Then on to Alba, where we parked outside of the center of this very lovely and elegant town. If you'd like to explore the region but want public transit connections, Alba would be a fantastic place to base for a few days. We had very lovely lunch (I'll just have to include a list of places later) at a restaurant full up of locals (we got the last table) with again, great service. We explored a few churches, managed to find a purveyor of truffle goods that was less expensive than some of the other options in town, and didn't end up departing for the coast until 16:00, whoops.

The drive to Liguria was uneventful until we hit the part of the A7 that went through a mountain pass, which was 45 minutes of very intense, curvy driving. Reminded me a little of sections of the 101 in CA, but smaller, tighter, and with more aggressive drivers. My husband drove beautifully and we arrived in car-unfriendly Camogli but managed to find a free spot in the main parking lot, which is unfortunately about 700 meters from where we're staying. Did I mention we have too much stuff? We lugged our junk to meet with our AirBnB host, who is lovely, who then took us up 6 flights of stairs to the glorious and modern studio apartment in a 17th century building. It's right over the beach, with nothing but roaring ocean and until just now, crashing thunder. Before that we had to unpack and organize pretty well as there isn't much extra space, but it's all used judiciously. I'd highly recommend the flat to anyone, provided you calves can handle the up and down (recurring theme on this trip, everything is elevation gain/loss, we are so sore!) We had to get more stuff from the car and had a late dinner at Jack's Bar, a burger joint that offers American breakfast, too. The burger wasn't amazing but the onion rings fit the bill and we got home full and happy just in time for this crazy intense storm.

The storm has headed east now, with just occasional flashes, and a great breeze up in the "nest". Various storms on the docket for tomorrow so we'll take train to Genoa to explore a bit and for the Maritime museum, then it's sunny skies for the next two days so we'll be hitting the beach.

Feel bad about the heat wave and terrible smoke in California - every time I check in back home, it's the same. I really hope y'all get some early rain and some relief soon!

Posted by
6394 posts

Oh my gosh i can’t believe you were up in the middle of the night for the storm.

I too was wondering about the “hot” tub — glad you could enjoy it even though it was cold.

Sounds like you ate and drank well in the Langhe, brava!! The parking and driving saga does sound like a pain.

Hope you enjoy your time in Camogli. The apartment sounds amazing !!

Posted by
4575 posts

Sarah,

I love reading about your adventures!

I do hope your sore calves recover soon!

And... May the skies remain sunny for the rest of your travels!

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
LMBO about your "hot tub" experience. traveling with good friends, we've rented places with same "amenity", get to our apt/hotel and there's a jacuzzi tub in the living room :)
the intense and curvy ride reminds me of hiway 50, going downhill to lake tahoe, can't stand looking out passenger side down that cliff. gives me the ebby gebbys!
can't wait the hear about your adventure today. how much stuff is too much, been there done that.
especially when you're in the right place italy, when you get lemons make lemoncello!! salute
aloha

Posted by
256 posts

What a great travel report! I would love to see the "nest"!?Thank you!!

Posted by
2932 posts

I've been taking tons of pics and videos including of this very cool AirBNB, but here's the link if you want to check it out for yourself. It's exactly as described - or better! Constant roar of the waves.

We got about 5 hours of sleep after the storm, but in the morning rain, workers were assembling a canopy on the square before us, which amounted to hollow aluminum poles being stacked and rolling around on concrete in the wind, and the waves couldn't drown that out.

It was our first day not having a paid for/free breakfast so it was nice to not rush, especially with the rain. I made a nice breakfast of scrambled cheddar eggs (yes, I have ingredients with me I've schlepped from home, thanks to a little cooler bag) with toast and prosciutto, hit the store for some detergent to do laundry (we are halfway into our trip now), and ended up catching the 13:20 train to Genoa.

One thing about these trains is that they are slooooow. Genoa is only 20 km but the trip took nearly an hour - they stay a long time at each stop. Everyone was masked - compliance here with that is basically 100%, you almost don't even see people wearing it below the nose - and spacing is required on the trains due to signs. This one had windows open too, so it felt about as safe as can be. I really admire the Italian people for their excellent strategies to combat COVID-19 and wish other countries with Switzerland, Germany, and yes, the USA would follow their lead. I'd say about 50% of people wear masks outdoors, which is not something I generally do based on the science as we know it, but they're taking a better safe than sorry approach and given their national trauma due to those horrific months of March and April, I get it.

In Genoa we got off at the easternmost main station to head to the Mercato Orientale, a former traditional market hall which has been recently transformed into a more modern foodie paradise. My husband had some sort of insane foccacia with buffala mozzerella and anchovies and I had fusion tacos, a chicken curry one with a yogurt sauce and a thai fried shrimp one. They were actually delicious! We then took a bus (Genoa is large) near the Maritime museum when....

I know I wrote that I always injure myself traveling and well, it happened. We were walking on a big modern boardwalk near the Porto Antico when the striped faux-wood sidewalk inexplicably dropped a tiny step - maybe 2 inches - but I didn't see it and fell directly onto my left knee. For reference the day before our trip to Istria last year, I fell on the right knee to the point where I had emergency stitches, and the year before that I fell on the right knee while doing an ill-advised muddy hike back from a Sideria in northern Spain at night. So on the plus side, at least I didn't fall on my right knee which I always tend to hurt badly. On the other hand, after shaking it off, as we entered the museum and paid for the tickets I realized something was very wrong and pulled up pants to see my left knee was swollen up, baseball-sized. Whoops.

I tottered to the cafe outside, my husband managed to get me a bag of ice, and I elevated and bemoaned my fate while he went to the museum at my insistence. WebMD said these symptoms needed medical attention, but the nearby pharmacist said that would require going to an Emergency Room and didn't think it was necessary unless I was in "too much" pain. I wasn't in enough pain to spend hours of my holiday in an Italian hospital, so we hobbled through a little bit of Genoa's old town, got a great apperativo spread at a random bar - including Recco cheese focaccia and a couple of sort of pies made with greens and cheese, and of course, tons of pesto. That was basically dinner, and it ruled.

Posted by
2932 posts

Managed to take a bus where I'd normally have walked about a kilometer to the main Genoa train station and got back to Camogli without incident.

I'm a little bummed we didn't get to explore more of Genoa. It's very much a city of contrasts, and I've heard to compared to Baltimore and Marsaille (it's twinned with both!) Early on it seemed very stately and beautiful but some parts of the old town is obviously densely populated and run down, although it never felt dangerous, just clearly not for tourists. That's actually the kind of city I like to explore, as an Oakland girl myself, but walking at about 1/4th the speed of usual in some pain it just wasn't the day for that. Also the big Palazzos with great art collections were either closed because it's Monday or due to restricted COVID regulations. I'll just have to return!

Back in Camogli, weather cleared up, we explored about 2 blocks below our apartment, although we still haven't made it to the medieval core or the actual waterfront yet (even though we're right above it!) We had a glass of wine at a fancy bottleshop/restaurant, then some truly world-class cocktails at a fantastic little joint called "The Living Room". Although I haven't seen all of Camogli yet due to weather and then injury, the small part we have seen is really unique. The town is beautiful, but it also doesn't have that ticky-tacky tourist vibe at all, which is shocking for a beautiful resort town on a stretch of coast as scenic as this. 90% of people seem to be Italians on holiday or residents, we've heard a little German as well, no English speakers yet. We keep getting mistaken for Italian by everyone, which I do take as a compliment.

I made it back up the 6 flights of stairs, the swelling has gone done almost entirely, and our plan for the next two days was to do nothing on the beach, so that fits with my current state! Tomorrow we'll probably rent out chairs below (was going to do free beach, but my knee is a good excuse to pay for chairs and service), and if I'm in any sort of condition we'll hit San Fruttouso and maybe Portofino by boat on Wednesday. Thursday is when we are likely to visit some of the Cinque Terra towns by boat and return by train, if we feel like it, but it's not a requirement. And I've got to review the recommendations people wrote to me here!

Anyway, tonight is far more peaceful than last night so here's to a good rest and trying to squeeze in a whole 2020 of relaxation into a couple days. Ciao!

Posted by
6394 posts

I am so sorry you bunged up your knee!!!! And with you all staying six flights up.

I hope you do get to truly relax and maybe enjoy a boat ride or two these last couple of days.

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
what a drag to go down with a boo boo. happy to hear your husband getting you a bag with ice. we've had couple issues in different european cities getting ice, plus he saw you were somewhat comfy with elevated foot and he got to see museum. did you get anything from pharmacist for pain? don't blame you about ER time not needed on vacation. few years back in amsterdam, had torn meniscus in right knee, never heard of that word but it hurt. our apt host sent me to her dr, got some pills then flew to florence, saw sports medicine dr and he wanted me to start physical therapy ASAP haha. i traveled at my own pace, had 3 other friends and didn't want to hold them back. it all worked out plus lots of wine.
that recco focaccia bread and spread sounds so yummy plus that world class cocktail bar. i would be there every evening for my pre dinner cocktail, looks like a funky/quirky bar. love the bathtub couch, friend in hawaii made the same thing with a thrown out tub,
have to laugh about you're an oakland girl. my best friend has lived near highland hospital for 25 year+, renting top half of victorian. he can't sit still, on the go somewhere and everywhere so i would pack a bag and move in to watch his dog miss margo for 2 to 8 weeks. my other friends say aren't you afraid of oakland, NO. would take amtrak from here in martinez to oakland to shop at chinatown for my "local hawaiian/oriental" stuff. they thot i was crazy.
sounds like an area i' like to explore where you guys are. reminds me of my day trip from rome to naples on train my first time to europe. like genoa, people hate it or love it. yes it's gritty, crowded, enjoyed seeing how people lived and worked in small mom & pop's, great street food and desserts, friendly to us, cops and military in their army tanks, guns ,uzis, no fooling around, was a site to see. we had a fabulous day and always laugh about our getaway day.
glad to hear compliance of masks and with covid. on north shore of oahu, new resident (6weeks) opens a pop up mojito drink stand on the beach, he said he needed to make money and make people happy. beaches are closed and no alcohol allowed, please don't upset the hawaiians and other residents that live there.
hope you and husbands day was great relaxing on the beach doing nothing under your umbrellas, your knee feels better, people/boat/wave watching.
aloha

Posted by
4575 posts

Ouch ! So sorry to hear about your injury... Hope you were able to relax today.

If you don't get a chance to explore Camogli, you will just have to return!

Wishing you a quick recovery ; )

Posted by
2932 posts

Hey all,

I'm back in Stuttgart now. Our time in Camogli went by fast, and I didn't have a chance to update, and later I realized I had left my netbook charger in our AirBnB, and I didn't feel like typing up the rest of my trip on my phone, so I decided to wait until I was home and my husband was back at work on nights to finish the report with a bottle of Arneis wine brought back from Neive.

We spent Tuesday at the beach just below our flat, rented chairs, pretty pricey (50 for 2 chairs and an umbrella and surly staff - next time avoid the green umbrellas, the guys next door with the blue umbrellas were nicer and their section of the beach was a little better as well) but worth it for a full day. We brought our own beverages and snacks down in a cooler bag and just relaxed, swam, relaxed, got some sun, and it was possibly my favorite day of the whole trip, but I'm a beach girl. I don't mind pebble or shingle beaches, as I've got fabulous water shoes, and I prefer the clarity of the water and the lack of sand in lots of ways, and the view from the water of Camogli was something else! We stayed until the the sun started to fade, then had a quick apperativi on the bar above the beach and watched the sunset before changing for dinner.

I'd made reservations at Cucu, based on plenty of good reviews from tourists and Italians alike, and it was great. It's just on the "city" side of our flat, and the menu was both traditional and a little different. We split the "veggie tartare" appetizer, and I had the "Lasagne with supreme pesto" which wasn't a baked lasagne "a forno" but simply wide noodles in the sauce. It looked so humble but it tasted amazing. My husband had fried anchovies, probably the best either of us have ever had in our travels around the Med, so fresh, not at all fishy tasting, crispy, and delightful. This classy but casual restaurant also offered local wine by the 1/2 liter, which is perfect for 2 when you don't feel like splurging for a bottle, and all in all found the service, the streetside location, food, and value to be excellent. One of our top 4 meals for sure (it's Italy, so it's hard to narrow those down!)

After dinner we finally made it down to the harbor and the "old town" which was very medieval and evocative. We had a nightcap at an unassuming little bar on the harborfront with good prices, and had intended to check out a little more of the fairly popular outside bar scene, but dinner had taken longer than we'd realized, and at 12:30, it was already last call, so we headed back up to our flat and enjoyed the balcony and hearing drunken revelers enjoy their evening.

Our host had told us to make boat reservations to San Fruttuoso in advance, and with proof of staying in Camogli, and I'm glad she did because my husband had an issue getting them from the next day at the TI - apparently they are limiting the number of people allowed on the small beach and abbey. So we woke up the next morning with the intent of catching the 11:00 boat. Unfortunately my knee was not doing significantly better, and so I was in a fair bit of pain, the line was too long at the good focciacia place we'd hoped to grab breakfast on the go from, and my husband was dawdling, so we didn't have the greatest start to the day, and it didn't get much better once we grabbed the 12:00 boat.

When we arrived at San Fruttouso, my mood didn't improve. While the setting is stunning, the tiny shingle beach in front of the abbey was SLAMMED, just people elbow to elbow. There weren't even available beds for what were surely exorbitant prices, so after hiking up and down many stairs just to get around the abbey and onto the beach, we were able to find a tiny but decent spot and munch on our sub-par focciacia from the "other" bakery.

Posted by
2932 posts

My bad mood was temporarily relieved when I went for a swim. It was partially cloudy, and if the sun was hidden, no one was in the water, which meant despite the packed beach, once in the sea, it was very relaxing and really gave you the views to die for of this remarkable place. I swam out far enough around a little point, and could see this amazing little restaurant and BnB with it's own private beach - also full, but with only a handful of chairs, it would have been a lovely alternative. Unfortunately we couldn't even hike there for lunch with my bum knee and my husband didn't think they'd appreciate a swim up lunch guest. It's called La Cantina and when I go back, I will book my beach lounge there in advance, it seemed like such a peaceful place to enjoy the day.

We ended up spending a couple hours before taking the boat back, with my knee killing me, my husband haggled for a late-afternoon sunbed deal at the blue umbrellas in Camogli (Bagni Miramare) and relaxed for the rest of the afternoon, although my plans to stay on the beach until sunset were thwarted by heavy cloud cover making it a bit chilly in wet swimsuits. I'd made dinner reservations at a seafood restaurant, but since we left the beach early we did an aperativi and an appealing spot next door called "La Routunda" which was a little overpriced for a spritz, but had a pretty good and substantial plate of nibbles.

For dinner that night I'd chosen A Molo 16, a seafood place on the jetty by the lighthouse that had mostly very good reviews and a handful of bad ones (mostly about service), but I'd called around to many places earlier without success (as in, not getting through, not being able to be understood, etc) and they had online reservations. In retrospect, I started to get a bad vibe as we entered, after waiting for an actual photoshoot with a model (to distinguish from the various impromptu photoshoots of girls making the ridiculous poses for Insta which was a constant thing) after being ignored by a waiter and then nearly dismissed until I convinced them that we had reservations. The owner, who was friendly enough, made a few jokes about Americans and masking, which was cute, I guess, and didn't speak any English but it wasn't a problem as anything I couldn't understand on the menu was translatable via app.

The meal started out strong, with a huge bowl of mussels in red wine sauce (the sauce was to die for), that was technically an antipasti despite being just ginormous. We split fritto misto and a shrimp-filled raviolo in a "delicate" fish sauce. The fritto misto was, well, mixed - the calamari was fresh and delicious, not rubbery at all. The anchovies were OK but not nearly as good as the ones we'd had previously. The whole sardienes were OK, but not really my jam (I've only had them and loved them once, in Split), and I don't eat the giant shell-on shrimp, just not my bag either. My husband, the seafood nut, wasn't into much but the calamari either. The ravioli themselves were good, but the "delicate" sauce (and I forget what kind of fish it was, very meaty and not very fishy) wasn't delicate, it was heavy, like giant chunks of pretty bland fish and it overwhelmed the dish. I can't say I'd go back, as it was pricey (hey, seafood), but Camogli seems to have many good restaurants, and the setting was pretty, but somewhat marred by the giant flourescent lights not-quite-concealed in clamshells that blind you in the otherwise dark setting. And while it's not the restaurant's fault, the body odor of our fellow diner next to us did not at all help the experience!

Posted by
2932 posts

The owner did just bring amaro and limoncello and left it on the table, we joked about getting our money's worth with the free shots but then while waiting endlessly for our check (yes, we live in Europe, we know to ask, service was just incredibly slow by any standard here) we kinda did, and I don't know what's in this homemade hootch but despite being not-infrequent drinkers, as you can certainly ascertain from this report, 1 shot each of the liquors really hit us hard. We'd intended to explore the bar scene in earnest this evening, as it was now Wednesday and things were hopping, but once we reached our 1st stop, Hook Bar, on a lovely setting in the medieval passageway between beach and harbor, it took us an hour to nurse a craft beer each and we realized we were done for the night even though it was "only" 11:00. Time for bed!

The next day was predicted to be cloudy, and it had even rained overnight. Our plan had been to daytrip, although with my knee killing me again, we debated this plan over seaside foccacia from "the good place", Revello. My husband graciously offered to just spend the day on the beach to avoid extra walking, but it seemed a waste with the cloudy skies, so we decided to take the train to the town we'd almost stayed in - Santa Margharita Ligure, actually meeting up with a Rick destination for the 1st time in our trip.*

*We had toyed with Cinque Terra, but I'd wanted to do it by boat, and the only day a boat trip from Camogli went there this time of year was Tuesday, and the only day one went from SML was Wednesday, and since we'd already had plans those days due to the weather, that was out on this trip. I'm fine with that, honestly. Even if I had been able to walk, the CT wasn't at the top of my wishlist, and without being able to walk or take a boat, I didn't see much point in spending all that time on the train.

SML was cute, a bigger Camogli, but with more of that 19th century resort vibe that reminded me a bit of San Sebastian in Spain, or Polensa in Mallorca. I enjoy visiting these kinds of places, but don't find that old world elegance all that enticing for a home base. I'd feared initially that Camogli would be "too cute" or too small, but it was actually just the right vibe and size with enough to try in terms of eating and strolling to keep one occupied but relaxed.

We splurged on lunch at a restaurant in SML called "Levante" which has an astonishing 4.9 stars on Google. That never happens, and the reviews were beside themselves, so we figured, it's our last day on the sea, why not? And it was...fine. It was fine. The seafood tartare was very fresh and good, but my husband's giant Ceasar Salad was barely dressed, and my Genoevese pasta with pesto, potato, and local greens was again, generous, but kind of bland. And at lunch it cost more that our far better dinner at Cucu. I normally don't write negative reviews anymore, but I feel like I might have to give this one a 3 star just to try to get the average down to at least a realistic 4 star, y'know?

We continued by bus to Portofino - a trip I would have happily walked, normally - and did the spritz-and-photo thing there. I wouldn't say anyone should necessarily go out of their way to visit, but it was an easy trip for us, it was fun with the right mindset, making my more celebrity-minded friends a bit jealous and all that. We had no trouble taking the bus and train back, and it was the right kind of outing before, you guessed it, more apperativo! This time we sought out Barracuda, a place that gets particularly high marks for it's snacks, and it didn't disappoint. Unfortunately we ate too much so that by the time our dinner reservation at the most highly anticipated restaurant of our trip - O Magazin - we didn't feel that hungry.

Posted by
2932 posts

We'd tried earlier to get reservations for O Magazin, which only has a few tables outdoors, and failed (getting hung up on when I called and asked "Parle ingelsi?" a few days prior) but my husband had seen it when we were leaving our seafood dinner at Al Molo 16 and I managed to make my rez in person. When we arrived they didn't seem to have any record of making the rez, but they did have a table set aside, so with a shrug we were seated.

This was, by far, the best meal of our trip. The restaurant is seafood only ("no pasta!" they'd told us when we booked) and incredibly creative. Most of it was either antipasti or what they called "street food". Very modern, but not snobby. We got crostini with burrata and sardines as our antipasti, and while I've had burrata in Naples, I've never understood the hype until now. It was just creamy, drippy heaven, with a small, salty sardine filet on top adding just the right note of umami and tang to make the whole thing sing. Wow.

We also ordered the "Tonnab", their take on a Doner Kebab, but with cured/dried and reconstituted tuna. This is the dish for non-fish people, you'd never know those tender, meaty morsels was fish, but it was delicious, with a yogurt cumin sauce. We also went for the raw fish tacos, which were larger than expected with some surprisingly amazing guacamole (I don't trust Europeans with Mexican flavors, for good reason) and despite the weird concept they were also just delicious. 1/2 liter of wine and water, and our entire feast came to 35 euros. Easily the cheapest non-apperativo dinner of the whole trip, and the best. I cannot recommend this place enough.

Because it was our last night and we had to pack, we just had a quick absacker, as they say in the vaterland, at a cute bar we'd passed a previous night called Il Pirata. Very cool inside, but it's COVID time so we took our sangria outside and saw the beginning of the "Communication festival", a sort of "Web 2.0" style conference that was starting this weekend. A band was playing as part of it around the corner and it was well-attended, although I was a little offended when he mocked Italy's Eurovision entry for 2019, "Soldi" by the very talented Mahmood before going into another song. It was one of the best songs that year! No need to diss it, intellectual fancypants guy!

Anyway, last night falling asleep to the sound of the sea, last morning waking up to that making sea-filled view. Sigh.

The morning was just being pack animals with our stuff to the very far away parking spot, and having a quick lunch at a local's bar near the train station called Cafe Photo. A surprising treat, one of the best meals of our trip, we both got pesto, him with lasagne al forno and myself with tagliatelle, and a ensalta caprese, a little glass of wine and water for him, for...14 euro. Really surprisingly great food at great prices in a seaside town!

The drive out of the area was better than the way in, due to a modern causeway on the northbound route that avoided a lot of the crazy twisty driving, and things were pretty chill until Milan, which was a goddamn nightmare at 3pm on a Friday. Just terrifying trucks not staying in their lane, highly aggressive drivers, worse than coming in. Driving in Italy overall wasn't as bad as I'd expected except for this route around the outskirts of Milan which was way worse than I'd figured it would be in the north. Ugh.

We made it to Como, en route to the neighboring town of Cernobio. I had the great idea to stop at a giant supermercado easily accessible from the road and can I just say BEST DECISION EVER for a few reasons! The selection! The prices! THE GIANT HUNKS OF AGED PARMESEAN FOR NEXT TO NOTHING! We stocked up on a ton of meats and cheeses to take back to Germany with us, since we had a fridge at our flat and coolers with us.

Posted by
2932 posts

The other reason it was good we stopped is because we were staying not in lakeside Cernobbio but rather Rovenna, a tiny village some 400 meteres ABOVE Cernobbio. I'd seen on the map it was a bit of a squiggly drive, sure, but we're Californians, used to Highway 1, how bad could it be?

BAD. The road is a series of increasingly steep, incredibly sharp switchbacks up a very steep hillside, often with room for one car, but surprisingly busy. One section had a light, which seemed great, until we were getting screamed at by the car behind us - apparently we weren't pulled up far enough to trigger the light - and then tailgated the entire way up, almost getting hit a couple of times on the blind corners. It was a nightmare. So yes, it's good we'd stocked up at the store below because once we got up to our flat, run by the only establishment in town, a friendly bar/restaurant Abruzzo that serves as THE meeting place for the surprisingly lively for such a tiny village, we weren't going anywhere.

We had a spritz on the rooftop terrace of the humble bar (and tobacco shop, and bus ticket retailer - it's that kind of place!) and a nice little apperativio. We were both worn out though, from the drive, from my knee pain, from what might have been a mild hangover on my part...so we had a quiet night in our very comfortable and large flat, or it would have been quiet had the entire town not descended on the bar and been drinking the night away until about 00:30 when everything finally got quiet. Until 4:00 a.m. when the teens roared back into town. And then 7:00 when the old men of the village started wandering in for their first coffee of the day. I'm not really complaining - we managed to fall back asleep after every disturbance and it was cool to be in a kind of place that aside from some vacation rentals, was mostly inhabited by locals just living their lives. ("Hold the door for the tourists!" a mom yelled at her bike demon kids as we were fumbling with the keys to our flat). The only other foreigners we saw our entire time there was a well-heeled German couple who studied us with great curiosity. ("How did the Americans find their way here?" they seemed to think.)

I'm not going to linger too much on Como itself. The lake is very pretty. It's not really my scene. I'm glad I saw it. I don't know if I'd feel a pressing need to go back when there's so much more in Italy to explore that excites me. We took an hourly bus down the hill our first day there to avoid driving that horrible road again, parking, etc, but after having a nice lunch at a fancy burger joint in Cernobbio (Como Burger, natch) we were too late to go to Belliagio and back, since apparently it's 2 hours each way. So we hopped the boat to Como instead, which was a surprisingly old and beautiful town with a fantastic cathedral, got some apperativi, took the boat back at sunset, more apperativi on the lake in Cernobbio, a cab back up, which was great until my husband realized he'd left his phone in the cab. After some scrambling and another 30 euros, we were able to get the poor cabbie to trek back up the hill to deliver the phone. Crisis averted! One more spritz, packing, then collapse into bed.

The drive home was pretty uneventful, but Google told us the fastest way home was to drive the left side of Lake Lucerne which was very scenic. We stopped only once, at the amazingly fancy rest area on the other side of what was once the world's longest auto tunnel. We didn't even cross any sort of noticeable border from Italy to Switzerland, and no stop entering Germany. Suddenly, we're being passed on the left at 200 kph - must be home!

Posted by
2932 posts

Random takeaways:

-This is the second major road trip we've done in Europe (the other one was driving across France to Brittany 4 years ago). We've also done smaller road trips to Prague and Austria, and all over Southern Germany. I don't like long haul driving in Europe. While it's nice to have the "freedom" (and places like Neive were certainly much easier to visit by car) it's just not my favorite thing in Europe (and I like road trips in the US). And I'm not conflating this with flying/training somewhere and renting a car, but I mean a start-to-finish, drive-the-whole-way road trip. We'll probably road trip to France again, as I think it's easily the easiest country to do distance driving in Europe (sane drivers, normal speed limits, decent roads, etc) but I wouldn't do it in Italy again.

-I will return to Camogli and want to explore more of the Italian Riviera in general. Flights from Stuttgart to Milan are frequent and cheap (even now), so once this COVID thing is under control, flying to Milan, spending a few days, then training to the coast seems like a fabulous idea.

-I loved Piedmonte and the Langhe in particular and will also return, but probably by flying into Milan, training to Turin, and renting a car from there if necessary.

-Switzerland and Como are beautiful and I'm glad I visited, but with limited time left in Europe I don't see myself returning anytime in the next couple of years, except maybe for a short trip to the Rheinfall or the Basel Carnivale, which I've been to before, but it's the best one I've been do and I'd like to do it again (and we have free lodging at our friend's mom's flat when we're there)

-I keep falling more in love with Italy with every visit. I really want to get back to Rome and then I want to go everywhere else! And return to places I've been to! It's hard.

-Don't injure yourself on your trip. I'm still in terrible pain, have a doctor's visit tomorrow. I probably pushed myself too hard afterwards which is why I'm still not in good shape now. I don't think I tripped because I was wearing cute sandals, but if I'd gone with the sneakers I'd planned on wearing, I might have done better. It's hard to say.

-My husband doesn't have any leave available until....who knows when, spring at the earliest, so despite some of the difficulties I'm really glad we managed a big, proper trip this year despite everything. I'm going to throw myself into planning a trip for May, without booking anything until March at the earliest, seeing how the situation goes. We might manage a weekend in the Black Forest or something just to get a change of pace, but with the virus probably going to spike significantly this winter, we won't be able to do much.

-I'm keeping all the west coast people in my heart and thoughts. I have a lot of weird guilt being able to do all this while you guys are suffering so much. My facebook feed is half friends in Europe all going to Switzerland over Labor Day Weekend and the other half posting horrific photos of the sky.

-Thanks for reading this rambling post! As ever this is an unedited "raw" version that I write down so I remember what I did when to get the details down, I hope to turn it into a more coherent blog narrative and will post if I ever actually do that (but I should have the time, so no excuse!)

Posted by
4575 posts

Hi Sarah,

Thanks so much for sharing the rest of your trip with us!

Wishing you a quick recovery of your poor knee...

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
love your report but your knee problems is a bummer. been there done that with my knee problem in amsterdam and florence. would love to spend time where you did. my friend was going to cinque terre with a friend from portugal. don't know when that will happen with covid-19. if your and husband have time to run away again, check out the wine festival (festa del uva) in bardolino on lake garda, last week of september first weekend of october.
gonna follow your adventures. how long will you be in stuggart? another place to check out is annecy lake outside of geneva, great place.
aloha

Posted by
2932 posts

Thanks for the feedback fellow Californians! I've actually lived in Stuttgart for nearly 10 years now (crazy!) But for the last 5 we've basically been in limbo - my husband as a govt civilian could get sent back to the US basically any time so it's made travel planning a bit chaotic as we tend to plan trips last minute as opposed to booking 6 months in advance as would be my preference, so adjusting to COVID-19 travel hasn't been THAT hard, but this trip was last minute, even for us.

Sadly my husband is now working night shift through the end of October at least and any more vacation time is forbidden because they're understaffed until...literally who knows? So I don't see any more travel this fall, even weekend trips are hard when he's on nights, and with a surge in the virus likely and the weather turning soon, won't be able to do much outside. But if we're still here next year (hope so!) that wine festival sounds like a real find!

Posted by
1 posts

Wow, I was so surprised to find a trip report that hit so many of the places we visited on our last trip to Italy in the fall of 2018. We flew into Genoa and stayed for a day and night, exploring the wonderful historic district and waterfront, and sampling the incredible pesto and focaccia. We then stayed several nights in an apt. in Santa Margherita Ligure, which we thought was just a perfect low key resort town. We also took the ferry to visit San Frutuosso, where we had a fabulous lunch under a grape arbor at Da Laura, tucked away behind the abbey.After lunch we toured through the abbey, taking some incredible photos of the gorgeous blue water of the cove and the lovely, uncrowded at the time, beach. I had been to Camogli 30 years ago with my first husband and did not return this trip, but definitely agree with you in temrs of it's wonderful charm and beauty. I especially loved all the trompe l'oile painting on the buildings there, showing windows, even with fluttering curtains , where there was really only stone walls. We then crossed paths with your itinerary when we next went to Piemonte, where we stayed in a wonderful agriturismo in Neive called Fattoria San Giuliano. We absolutely loved Neive and thought the location perfect for exploring the Langhe wine country, including Alba, Babaresco, & Barbera. The Fattoria was located right on the ring road surrounding the old village, so it was just a very short walk to the restaurants in the village and back home after dinner with a bottle of wine, without worrying about driving. We then spent a few days in Turin, which I highly recommend - not very touristy but plenty to see, with unique museums such as National Cinema Museum in their landmark building, the Mole Antonelliana, and a great automobile museum. Not to mention the best aperitivo spreads in all of Italy - copious amounts of wonderful food, free for the price of a drink. We then met up with friends for a few days in Varenna on Lake Como. This was definitely the the most touristed area of all the locations we visited on this trip, and frankly, for all the incredible beauty of the area, I was bit disappointed by the constant buzz of English I heard.
Anyway, I really enjoyed hearing about your trip and the experiences you had. So sorry that you had an injured knee which limited your mobility. I only wish I could have brought home more of the fabulous food like you did. As it was, we carried home (checked luggage) in our 2 suitcases six bottles of wine and a bottle each of local Turin vermouth and gin. When we came through customs at SFO, the agent looked at our declaration and said with a smile "Ah, the party continues at home, eh?" We smiled and agreed.

Posted by
6394 posts

Sarah, how was your doctor's appointment? I hope your knee will start to get better.

I wanted to tell you about a little tip that might help if you do end up wanting to fly to Milan and then rent a car from Turin to return to the Langhe (or head down the coast or whatever).

You can take a bus direct from Malpensa to Turin, it delivers you to Turin's Porta Susa train station. Then you could either rent a car there or one metro stop away at Porta Nuova station or just elsewhere in the city.

This would save you the hassle of having to get into the Milan train station from the airport.

Here's a link to the bus service:

http://www.sadem.it/en/prodotti/collegamento-aeroporti/milano-malpensa-airport.aspx

My husband used it once, ironically when he came to meet me to visit some friends in Berlin, as the flights were much cheaper from Milan than from Turin. (I can't remember why he was coming from there, but I guess just because as usual he had more leave than me, so had gone to see his parents first while I still worked.)

Thank you for your wonderful trip report, I am just convinced I have to go to Camogli now. And now I have great restaurant tips and even knew which guys to rent my beach chair from!!

Posted by
2932 posts

laknightca - Wow, what a coincidence! My planning for this trip was quite last minute, and I was torn between many locations in Peidmonte, Liguria, and Como, and in the end it came down to the best looking apartment accommodations within my budget - I was really close to staying in Levanto, for example. The "hot tub" and the rating as "one of Italy's most beautiful towns" sealed it for Neive.

I kind of wish I'd paid more attention to location for Como, but it was clearly more of an afterthought as a place to break up the long drive home and decide if it's an area we want to prioritize exploring (ditto for our Switzerland stop). As it was, I'm obviously well pleased with basing out of Neive and Camogli athough I'd consider other locations in their respective regions as well.

Kim - that is a GREAT tip! I liked having the car for the Langhe and I really wanted to visit Turin but we just didn't have time on this trip, so that would work nicely for us. Dropping off a car in Turin before training to Genoa and then onwards on the coast would work nicely, too. (Or doing it in reverse because I know I'm buying more wine in Peidmonte next time).

Nigel - My doc thinks I've messed up my kneecap so I've got a referral to get xrays with a specialist. This may be the worst damage I've done to myself on holiday. Is this 40? Ugh. I definitely jinxed myself!

Posted by
25571 posts

oops. knees is tricky stuff - personal knowledge... hope it doesn't bother you too much

Posted by
302 posts

Sarah, thank you for this wonderful report! We visited Turin in 2019, then Milan and then Stresa on Lago Maggiore - but we didn't have a car so trains and buses were out way to go. We loved the Piedmont region and would really like to go back, next time with a car. Your trip report gives me all kinds of places to dream about visiting - thank you! Also glad to hear the hint about taking a bus from Malpensa to Turin, and then renting. We ended up with three trips through Milano Centrale train station - but that also meant three trips to Venchi for air conditioned relief and outstanding gelato and chocolate as we were passing through!

Best wishes for your knee recovery!

Laurie😃

Posted by
2932 posts

Thanks everyone, luckily I didn't fracture anything, just your general bursitis. 3 weeks on and I'm still not fully back, but I have been able to navigate stairs normally the last few days, which is a huge improvement!

Posted by
2932 posts

Just updating to say the knee is all good, back to full range of motion (only took 6 weeks! being older is fun!) and we're back in lockdown "light" as of Monday. Very grateful that I was able to take this trip, it was the highlight of an otherwise bleak year and my piddly complaining about this or that seems silly now staring down this winter.

Also one thing I told my husband when he started to get hives about costs early on: This is the only trip we're taking this year, we will be shut inside all winter spending nothing of our regular going-out money (which is substantial as we learned in spring) so let's just chill and not worry if we dip into savings. Well we've only been back 6 weeks and the trip barely made a dent, which as been fully resolved. Obviously we didn't splurge, but once we were in Italy we pretty much ate what we wanted, did what we wanted, and didn't fret too much about costs and I'm so glad we didn't nickel and dime ourselves. Unless you're traveling ALL THE TIME (which to be fair, has been us in the past) don't sweat the small stuff. Even looking back at our time in CH, we were definitely overworrying about costs.

Posted by
1617 posts

hey hey sarah
thanks for letting us know how you're doing. happy that all worked out. hope you had some benadryl and a chill glass of wine/beer for your hubby about costs. know about the CHF, last year sept/oct, a friend and i spent 2 nights in geneva, on to annecy for 7 nights, then paris 8 nights. it is what it was. on a mission to find great eclairs and paid 18E for one at fancy smancy restaurant. as my friends say here it's beans and rice for the next few weeks. LOL had a fabulous time and that's all that matters.
was planning my annual trip to hawaii to spend a month with family in may and i'm still waiting. not going anywhere, just saving money when hawaii opens.
you guys had a fun time reading your reports.
aloha