Modena

After San Marino, we spent two nights in Modena. We were there on Easter Sunday and Monday, which meant a lot of places were closed. When we arrived, we went to the nearest restaurant (across the street from our hotel) for lunch. It was full of big families having Easter lunch, but they managed to squeeze us in. Modena is famous for its food, and we weren’t disappointed… We started with this amazing fish starter…

Amazing fish starter

Then Michiel had gnocchi, and I had the seafood risotto. It was all really good!

Wonderful gnocchi in Modena

Afterwards we went to the city centre of Modena – this is the central square Piazza Grande, pretty empty on this Sunday afternoon.

Piazza Grande in Modena

Modena cathedral is a curious mix of styles – I was most impressed by this window made of stone!

Windows made of stone in the impressive but slightly strange Modena Cathedral!

We walked around the town with its colourful houses…

Colourful houses in Modena

Before returning to our “castle” hotel – really nice place actually, just outside Modena.

Our 'castle' hotel

The next day we decided to visit the Ferrari museum in nearby Maranello. It’s not that big, but it was surprisingly fun!

The surprisingly fun Ferrari museum

I have to admit, quite impressive…

Ferrari museum in Maranello

On Monday evening it was nearly impossible to find a restaurant that was open and not fully booked. We ended up in this crazy-ugly-seventies restaurant (look at that painting behind Michiel!) which had a smoker’s room and gave out bibs with the seafood pasta. It was actually quite a funny experience, and the food was good!

Seafood pasta came with a bib :D

Our visit was a bit random due to a lot of places being closed over Easter, but we had a lot of fun and enjoyed the regional food. Next stop: Venice!

San Marino

After a wonderful couple of days at Cinque Terre, we got back on the road and drove to our next destination, which was actually another country: San Marino! The reason I wanted to go there was (as has happened before… ) one photo I had seen of the city of San Marino located on a 750 m high hill with great views over the surroundings – it looked magical!

Our hotel was right on top of the hill, and after dropping our bags we went to enjoy the views – they didn’t disappoint!

Admiring the views from San Marino

We enjoyed a lazy afternoon with wine and pizza on an outside terrace…

We spent a long time having drinks and some food at a restaurant with an outside terrace with amazing views

Then at sunset we walked we walked up to the Second Tower to enjoy views of the First Tower. That magical view I had seen in the photo…

The First Tower (or Guaita fortress) at sunset

As dusk fell, all the lights came on – magical! You could see all the way to the coast at Rimini…

As dusk was falling, the lights came on - magical views!

The castle was beautifully lit, what fairytale views…

What a view... you could see the coastline and boats at sea

The next day we explored the city. First, we went to visit the First Tower, from where we had this great view of the Second Tower (yes, exactly the opposite as the photos above!).

The second tower seen from the first tower

And the other way around again, haha… We bought combination ticket to visit almost all the monuments in town. The Second Tower had an exhibition of  weapons, from medieval to modern day. It was interesting, but we found the obsession with weapons in San Marino a bit strange. There’s a lot of shops selling knives, crossbows and guns (from toy ones to real ones…).

And vice versa, first tower seen from the second tower :D

I just couldn’t stop taking photos of the views…

Another view of the first tower

Michiel on the town square…

Michiel at the town square

We also visited the Palazzo Publico (the town hall), which had this incredibly beautiful Chamber of the Grand and General Council…

The incredibly beautiful Chamber of the Grand and General Council in Palazzo Publico (the town hall)

It was a cloudy day, but I loved the rays of sun peeping through the clouds, lighting up the hills around San Marino.

Nice views, and nice sun beams!

In the evening we had a really good dinner – what a great day! We were leaving the next morning, but when I saw that the sun was coming through the fog every now and then, I knew there would be some good photo opportunities. So we went back to my favourite viewpoint, and got treated to these views – a fairytale castle in the sky!

Fairy tale views of the castle in the clouds!

Nice way of saying goodbye to San Marino!

We really enjoyed our visit to this mini-country-on-a-cliff!

Cinque Terre

After Torino, we drove further southeast to Levanto. From there we drove some winding roads up in the hills until we reached the tiny village of Legnaro. The owner of the B&B that we booked came to meet us at the parking lot, to take our luggage in a tiny car, because the streets of the village are too narrow for normal car. This was the B&B, isn’t it beautiful?

Agriturismo Costelletta in tiny Legnaro

It’s called Agriturismo Costelletta (also easily bookable through booking.com), and I’d recommend it to anyone visiting Cinque Terre. The owners are super friendly and the breakfast is fantastic! (And no, I am not getting paid to say this – I just liked it that much)

The first evening we had a picnic dinner on the outside terrace. When I saw how pretty the sunset was turning out, I quickly grabbed my camera and ran back to the parking lot. From there you have this great view of Legnaro and its church, and all the way down to Levanto and the sea. So pretty!

The view from the parking lot, with the church and village of Legnaro and all the way down to Levanto and the sea

The sunset just kept getting prettier, and more colourful…

Fantastic sunset colours

And then all the lights came on in Levanto, and the church of Legnaro was beautifully lit. Magical view!

View just after sunset, magical...

The next day we took the train from Levanto to the furthest of the five villages in Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore. It was a warm sunny day, we were a bit overwhelmed by the crowds of tourists, but Riomaggiore is really beautiful!

Our first stop in Cinque Terre: Riomaggiore

I loved the view of the colourful houses on the cliff, with the blue sea surrounding them.

The colourful houses of Riomaggiore

After visiting the village, we hopped back on the train and visited our second village: Manarola. We climbed up the graveyard, which we had almost to ourselves, and which had the best view of this beautiful village:

The second village we visited: Manarola, so pretty!

We continued by train to the third village: Corniglia, which unlike the other villages is not by the sea. From the station we had to climb 33 flights with 382 steps to get to the village – quite exhausting in the warm sunshine! We bought a sandwich for lunch, and then we started walking to the next village (Vernazza). From the first part of the walk you have really nice views back at Corniglia…

And the third village: Corniglia

Here from even higher up…

We walked between Corniglia and the next village (Vernazza), here looking back at Corniglia from above

Here we could see Corniglia on the cliff, and Manarola further away in the distance.

Spectacular views from the walk, Corniglia on the cliff and Manarola in the distance

At the highest point of the walk (also roughly the halfway point), there was a cafe and someone had made this fun cross-section / information sign about the walking path of Cinque Terre.

Fun sign summarizing the paths of Cingue Terre, from the halfway and highest point between Corniglia and Vernazza (Prevo)

We continued towards Vernazza, on paths surrounding by cacti.

Michiel on the path, with lots of cacti!

Our first view of Vernazza – spectacular! Those views made the long, sweaty, exhausting walk more than worth it!

Our first view of Vernazza - spectacular!

Beautiful, beautiful views…

Vernazza and Italian flag

Beautiful Vernazza

In Vernazza we had a well-deserved ice cream which we ate in the port enjoying this view…

The port of Vernazza

We laughed at these funny tourists going on a boat trip…

Funny tourists going on boat trip ;)

After a while we took the train to the final of the five villages: Monterosso al Mare. A nice village, but not as picturesque as the other villages of Cinque Terre.

The final of the 5 villages: Monterosso al Mare

On our final day in the area we stayed around Levanto, which is a really pretty town with way less tourists – well worth a visit!

Colourful boats on the beach at Levanto

The waterfront promenade in Levanto, which we almost had to ourselves…

Levanto waterfront promenade

We really enjoyed our visit to Levanto and Cinque Terre, beautiful area! I would love to come back and do some more hiking there. There were hiking trails going through the village that we stayed in, which also went through several other hilltop villages in the hills above Levanto – would make for a great walk!

Torino – Lingotto

On our road trip through Italy, we spent one night in Torino (Turin), in the amazing NH Torino Lingotto Tech Hotel. It’s housed in the former Fiat factory which was refurbished by Renzo Piano. I loved the design of the hotel, with very high ceilings and great views. A funny story is that the FC Barcelona team was staying at the hotel the same night as us – this meant constant crowds of fans in front of the hotel 😀

The breakfast room in the amazing NH Torino Lingotto Tech Hotel

We didn’t venture far from the hotel, as there was plenty to do nearby. The hotel is next door to Eataly, which is like a delicatessen supermarket slash restaurant with amazing food!

But even more fun was getting to visit the Fiat test track on the roof! If you ask at the hotel reception, they’ll give you a key and instructions which seem to come straight out of movie treasure hunt 😀 – follow the wall until you find a door just like this one, follow the signs for sport city, when you get there, use this key on the elevator which will take you to the roof. So cool!!

But first, we admired the spiral ramp to the roof, which is now inside a shopping centre…

The spiral ramp that leads up to the test track on the roof

The spiral ramp from below

When we got to the roof, we admired the beautiful views of the surprisingly green city and the Alps on the horizon…

View from the roof towards the Alps

It was hard to take good photos of the test track, as it’s HUGE. At both end, it has some pretty steep turns.

The test track has a steep turn on both ends

This glass bubble (with a helicopter landing pad on the other side!) was added later (by Renzo Piano), and houses a meeting room.

Very cool glass bubble which was added later by Renzo Piano, and houses a meeting room

While we were there, some people were shooting a car advert, which was very cool to watch! These days the test track is mainly used for that kind of car photo shoots. It was also used in the movie “The Italian Job”. If you’re curious to see what it used to look like, check out this photo on wikipedia, which also gives you a good idea of just how HUGE the whole building complex is.

There was a car shoot going on - cool!

Such a cool visit! I feel like they could make better use of the test track, by for example having an outside restaurant there – but on the other hand, the whole treasure hunt and having the roof practically to yourself really adds to the experience!