Sunday, 7 October 2012

European Road Trip! (Tuscany and Isola d'Elba)

Road trip to Elba - Elba island coast, Marciana Marina. Driving in Europe on holidayRoad Tripping in Western Europe: Journey to Elba through Belgium, French Alps, South of France, Northern Italy, Tuscany, and Switzerland

It's the night before we leave for our road trip to Tuscany's Elba Island and I haven't packed. We have been planning to visit too many places and I'm so excited about every one of them, I'm worried we won't actually get to Elba so I try and pick out a few unnecessary ones - Richard is as helpful as when he suggested I only take one pair of shoes when I'd filled my suitcase... What a pointless piece of advice! 

Eventually I resolve to decide along the way without worrying about planning our road trip too religiously. We never did much planning on our first road trip and we saw so much - maybe we'll just as lucky this time, if not more...

Annecy, Haute Savoie, France

The Arches of Annecy Vielle Ville - Old Town

We made our first overnight stop in Annecy in the French Alps because it was highlighted on our map and we were feeling inquisitive (and tired!) 
The Vielle Ville (old town) is a beautiful, characteristic town. There is another part of Annecy called Vieux Annecy (Old Annecy) but this is not the historic centre of the town pictured here.
Pedal boating on crystal clear Lake Annecy

 Pedal-boating on Lake Annecy - about a five minute walk from Annecy old town.

Annecy Park - by the lake

The enormous expanse of park by Lake Annecy with stunning views of the mountains

Montgenevre, Haute Savoy, France

Montgenevre ski resort - easy slopeSkiing the gentle easy slopes at Montgenevre ski resort right at the end of the season. Ski jacket wide open to catch a breeze on this mild sunny day!



Briancon, Haute Savoie, France

Briancon - Auberge de L'impossible - different affordable hotels briancon
For our 2 days skiing we stayed in a pretty town near to Montgenevre, called Briancon. We struggled to find an affordable hotel for the one night we needed to stay, but eventually we came across a little Inn (an 'Auberge') called 'Auberge De L'Impossible.' It was a pretty little building with a sauna and clean, wood-pannelled ensuite rooms and funky little aysymmetrical doorways. The bathroom door is a curtain - just so you're aware!


Mountain roads in the Alps from Montgevevre to Cuneo - road trip to Tuscany
En route through high alpine mountain passes, South from Montgenevre into Italy to find a place to stay. After alot of driving it was late and dark so we had to detour a little to find a place to stay in Cuneo - a modest, pretty and slightly scruffy Italian town in Piedmont


Cannes, South of France

Road trip Italy and South of France - Cannes
We finally reached the South of France - right on time. We had booked a hotel in Cannes in advance as it is very popular. We ate in a lovely restaurant in the old town - up the hill. There is so much to choose from and although quite expensive, the quality and atmosphere more than makes up for it. We went to the tower at the top of the old town for lovely views of the harbour after our delicious steaks.




Monaco Ville, Monaco

Monaco - Road trip Italy and South of France
We parked in any car park we could get our hands on in Monaco, and got the local bus into Monaco Ville. Fantastic views from the old town at the top - mountains, harbour and of course, customary yaughts. Monaco principality is split up into various areas and Monte Carlo is one of these (where the famous Casino and F1 racetrack is located).


Noli, Liguaria, Italy

After journeying on from Monaco we passed the Italian border and things instantly looked more rustic. Beautiful though.
Road trip Italy, Noli restaurant - Italian rivieraWe stopped in a pretty but sleepy and tiny town called Noli, right by the Sea. The Liguarian coast is typically mild and warm whatever the season, due to its protection by the Alps from Northerly winds. Noli had a selection of restaurants but it was late when we stopped so we ate at the only one open. Delicious spaghetti bolognese even though it wasn't on the menu. And of course the really friendly Norwegian couple we met at the next table who happened to be living in Italy!

Noli's Genoese history and pretty stone archway into the Centro Storico (old town). Noli also has an old Genoese watchtower which you can climb up to.


Lucca, Tuscany, Italy

Road trip Italy - Lucca view from tower Guinigi
At the top of Tower Guinigi (one of a number of towers you can climb in Lucca), for best views of the city and its beautiful natural setting. There is a little seating area and an oak tree at the top!





Florence and Pisa, Tuscany, Italy

Road trip Italy - Florence, Tuscany (Duomo and Renaissance architechture)We had time to stop in Florence despite deliberating over it for at least an hour of our journey South into Tuscany from Liguaria. We had a little shopping spree in some cheap Italian versions of shops like H&M, and went to see the enormous Duomo (Cathederal) and the other fantastic contrasting marble renaissance buildings on the Piazza Del Duomo. We also went to The Accademia Museum to see Michaelangelo's 'David' sculpture. Very much worth the wait. You can pay around 7 Euros each to get in and avoid queueing or you can queue and enter for free.

We parked in an underground carpark as close to the centre as we could get. Be careful - driving in Florence's city centre is strictly prohibited and you can get an extremely and preposterously high fine if you pass that point (it's made quite obvious but a load of signs and a couple of cameras, but watch out!

Road trip Italy - Pisa, Tuscany (Leaning tower and Renaissance architechture, Piazza Dei Miracoli)Pisa was on the way to the port we needed to get to, for our ferry to Elba, so we took advantage of this opportunity and had lunch on the grass outside the leaning tower, at the Piazza Dei Miracoli, admiring the view. We bought some rolls, prosciutto and olives to make lunch, and fresh strawberries for desert. We parked in the Parcheggio di Piazza Dei Miracoli, about two minutes' walk from the Piazza itself.

San Gimingano and Tuscan Countryside 

Road trip Italy - countryside in Tuscany
Before getting the ferry to Elba from Piombino we made one last stop on mainland Tuscany, to see the superbly preserved medival town of San Gimignano.  The gentle Tuscan countryside along the way was beautiful (pictured).




Elba - Italy's Tuscan Island

Road trip to Elba - Elba island coast, rocks and crystal clear sea
We got the ferry to Elba from Piombino as foot passengers and left the car in one of the ferry port car parks. We used Stena lines and didn't book in advance. It cost around 65 Euros for both of us (return ticket). 

Beautiful crystal clear coastline on the island of Elba. Seculded little coves like this are accessible by foot down the mountainside from the road. 

Road trip to Elba - Elba island coast, view from MarcianaRoad trip to Elba - Elba island coast, Marciana Marina
View of Elba's stunning coastline, and Marciana Marina from the mountain village of Marciana - located a little way up the impressive Mount Capanne. Up in Marciana there is a lovely selection of places to eat, including a cafe with these panoramic views.

Colourful Marciana Marina in the middle of the day - sunny skies and a cold drink complementig this pretty little marina village. We stayed in pretty and elegant 3 star Hotel La Primula - about 2 minutes' walk from the seafront. Rooms are ensuite with airy and fresh interiors, and balconies. Staff are really friendly and helpful.

Road trip to Elba - cycling on Elba island - view from Marciana

We couldn't hire mopeds as it was not peak season (it was April). Instead, we cycled some of Elba. If Richard had it his way we would have cycled all of it, but I managed to cycle the 300 meters up to the mountain village of Marciana, and along the coastline a number of miles to Proccio. At least I did what I could (or what I wanted!)




Swiss Alps - Bernese Oberland & Fribourg

Trummelbach Falls - powerful waterfalls in Switzerland Lauterbrunnen
Once back on the mainland from Elba, we drove back up through Tuscany and liguraria, and stopped in Swtizerland. We visited Interlaken and the lush and beautiful Lauterbrunnen valley. The impressive and thundering Trummelbach falls are located in the valley and the small entrance fee allows you access up the many walkways which afford views of this powerful waterfall cascading through it's 'corset of rock' into a milky blue pool below.

(To find Lauterbrunnen follow signs for Wilderswil from Interlaken).

Cailler chocolate factory - things to do in Fribourg, SwitzerlandIn Fribourg, not far from Chateau D'Oex, Aigle, or Lausanne, there is the Nestle and Cailler Swiss chocolate factory in Bulle. You now have to pay an entrance fee (around 15 Euros each) however it is worth it for the samples, chocolate and branding history, and of course the choice in the amazing gift shop. The superior Cailler brand is only sold in Switzerland (although I have once come across it a few miles over the border in France). It is made with real milk as opposed to condensed milk and has a much smoother and creamier taste and texture.

Jungfraujoch mountains at sunset in Interlaken, view outside Hotel AlpinaGastholf Alte Post - charming, rustic hotel near Chateau D'oex on road trip through Swtizerland

The late afternoon sun shines pink on the Jungfrau mountains seen from Interlaken. This photo was taken from outside the rustic and characteristic Hotel Alpina. Rooms here are clean and spacious, with thick wooden beams, and ensuites.


En route to the North of Switzerland, we struggled to find a place to stay under 100 Euros. It got to 10:30 and he were still on the road. The Lady Gaga CD had long since lost its appeal and we needed a place to stretch out and snooze.  We ended up paying 80 Euros (approx 100 CHF) for a lovely rustic room in Gastholf Alte Post in a rural village, near Chateau D'Oex by a running stream. It was so pretty and quaint, and the breakfast in the morning was very welcome, it at least took the sting out of the price.


Murten - Fribourg, Switzerland

Standing on the wall viewing Lake Murten on Road trip through Swtizerland
Stretching our legs at a pretty little Swiss town called Murten and standing on a wall over-looking Lake Murten. This was a welcome stop after the long drive the night before, and the lovely little craft shops and characteristic buildings added to the delight.

Hotel Murtenhof - Iconic building in Murten, SwitzerlandEaster eggs - decorations in Murten on Road Trip through Switzerland

The Murtenhof Hotel - an iconic image of this lovely Swiss town.


Throughout Switzerland I kept seeing lovely little easter decorations like hanging eggs. Over the few days we were in Swtizerland this became a mini obsession and everywhere I looked I saw these hanging eggs in shop windows, but not for sale. I finally saw some in a shop in lovely Murten!

Colmar - Alsace, France

Colmar streets and canal (road trip France)
The French town of Colmar, by the Vosges mountains is a picturesque town with unique colourful bamed buildings and an interesting Alsatian culture. We stopped here for a yummy omlette for lunch before driving further North.



Bruges, Belgium

Bruges City Hall in the Centre of Bruges
We arrived near the port of Dunkerque a little earlier than expected, so we de-toured to the beautiful Belgian town of Bruges. It was a great day for wandering around the clean, historic streets, canals, and many varied chocolate shops.




Text and Images Copyright © Lise Griffiths, 2012 All Rights Reserved


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  2. I remember traveling abroad to Europe back when I was in college. I was especially enamored with Italy's beautiful architecture as shown by its monuments, boutiques, and amazing Villas in Tuscany Italy. The food was exquisite, when I close my eyes I can still taste the variety of cuisine as well as smell the aroma. I definitely have to go back there soon.

    1. Thanks for your comment! Yes Tuscany is such a beautiful place and so inspiring in many ways. Your villas look lovely, the locations in the photos look so picturesque!


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