Italy more than any other place is always a good idea and that’s a fact, but when you have Italian trip on your mind the first association is usually car ride along tiny streets and soaking the views. Well all this is Italian travel is possible without a car. Because the trains are cheap, even if you don’t buy the tickets in advance, so being spontaneous is even a greater plus.
Why Italy again? Well it is wedding season, and why not prolong the weekend in “dolce far niente” style.
We just knew which days we need to be present in the area of Perugia because of the wedding, bought flight tickets, from the cities that were easily accessible to the other places (here meaning not more than 2 hours train ride), and that didn’t damaged the bank account, having in mind it was the first of May weekend.
DAY 1 – ROME
Initially our flight was supposed to land in Rome Fiumicino in the morning, but since it got rescheduled, we opted for the faster and a bit more expensive version: Leonardo Express 14euros (32minutes) , other options are change in Fiumicino for 8 euros (ca. 1 hour), so that we can reach dinner in time. Our accommodation was close to Termini station, and everything went fast and smooth.
We had last than 24 hours in Rome and since we have been in the city before the focus was on food and drinks. Fried artichoke jewish style, was something that blew me away, and then we did bar hopping, following the 50best bars list. There are three cocktail bars mentioned on this list in Rome. Drink Kong, which had the best cocktails, Freni e Frizioni which felt like your neighbourhood bar serving aperitivo as well, and the fancy The Court – with view on the Colloseo, charging ca. 25 euros per cocktail but brings all the snacks complimentary.
The next day was reserved for Bonci Pizzarium, we were first to line up after having cappuccino in a neighbourhood bar in the Cipro area. I obviously found out about Bonci on Netflix, and those spaghetti supli were great, the pizza was also nice, but not something you haven’t tried before, having in mind the price you pay for it.
If you have an extra day or come first in line then okay, otherwise visit your closest pizza place. But of course this is only my humble opinion
DAY 2 – ASSISI
And off we go from Rome Termini, to Assisi by train 12.7 euros (2 hours). Assisi was on my list since 2017 when we first went to Tuscany, by car. But then it was a bit off the path, so luckily we had the chance to explore it now. Great for a day trip as well, but we decided to spend the night here. When you arrive at the central station you can either start walking around 30 minutes to reach the town, wait for the local bus (1.3euros) or take a taxi that is aprox. 20 euros. Way up we used public transport, and on the way back we took the scenic “light path” – no cars included.
Assisi is pretty small, but it has so much history and culture it is split on red and blue zone and we were just in time for the festival of the city where the two areas of the town are competing between themselves. People will say that the city is alabout St Francisco, but I would say it is also about great wine, even more cathedrals, local pastries and fresh air. Yes I forgot to mention porchetta, but it was also all around. Our choice was Le Terrazze di Properzio Restaurant, with amazing view and nice food, but the city overall had many well rated restaurants. What I didnt like so much was the Cafe Francisco right in front of the cathedral, since the service was not the friendliest, and you can find all the pastries around the city in other smaller pastry shops. If you were thinking about it Assisi is definitively a “GO”.
DAY 3 & 4 – PERUGIA
I got the idea for Assisi, from my last years trip to Perugia, when I noticed how close and cheap it was to visit it. From Assisi to Perugia by train 3.4 euros (20 minutes). I fell in love with Perugia last year and now i just repeated what was good last year, every single corner. Also got the chance to try so many food spots, even though we didn’t have so much time for exploring because of the wedding activities.
Perugia is super high on my top Italian list, and especially after seeing the medieval aqueduct of the city. It was a place where cyclist were performing, people were filming and it is also nice bridge between the city’s gates and outskirts. I don’t know why, but in Perugia we were based on sandwiches. First one in La prosciutteria, then a porchetta from the famous Antico truck, toast at Cap Toast, one with dried tomatos and mortadella at La Bottega and the top of the tops was at Postogiusto. Maybe because the city breaths “sutudent days” we felt like one, and went with the panini flow. Oh I forgot the one at Caffe Dal Perugino which was a great night spot as well. Of the things I will never forget in my life was the Pistaccio cremino icecream from the Augusta Pasticeria. Try it and thank me for the rest of the life.
More about the sights I have written in my last years post, but whenever you go this beauty is as nowadays people love to say, unmatched.
DAY 5 & 6 – LAKE TRASIMENO AREA
The next short train ride was from Perugia to Passignano sul Trasimeno 4.35euros (27 minutes) you can also go to Castiglione del Lago (including one change and ca. 50 minutes 6.25 euros) in case you want to stay at the Trasimeno Lake.
We chose the first one because of the closeness, for the road to follow. Also because it was 1st of may and we thought it was going to be very busy in the cities and we opted for nature. Passignano is very small, it has one walkable riviera street, few bars on the small “bus” marina, and three-four tiny street with history. Not bad, at all. I guess that when the days are fully sunny and in full bloom it is even better, but for us even like this was nice. There is the lake ferry or bus, that takes you to Isola Maggiore and to Castiglione sul Lago, for 10 euros return trip, and In my opinion very worth it, but in the season there are connections even to the further towns and to Isola Polvese.
Here we tasted specialties from the local lake fish, then everything was about Delicacies from the Norcia region and of course about wine.
Castiglione del Lago was a bit more touristy, with typical walking streets with bars and restaurants, they had their castle but also the tulips festival and all that it goes with a festival, food stands, hand made stands and tulips. Here we were especially happy trying out almost everything from the corner of the good taste – L’Angolo del Buongustaio. They were very efficient and very well service oriented.
DAY 7 – PISA
Off we go to and from, to be headed everywhere possible, From Lake Trasimeno to Pisa the cheap option is 3hours with one change in Florence for 18.4 euros or an option for 2.5 hours for 33 euros. Of course by now we know we go for the first one. It was an easy ride with about 30 minutes change in Florence. Our accommodation in Pisa was 2 minutes walking to the train station, we took it having in mind that we will wander all the time.
First I was impressed because I have never seen a photo of Pisa that doesn’t have the tower on it. And once we took a stroll we were shocked, positively. It is also a student city, it has many little squares with very affordable spritzes, even on the border with cheap. Rossticcerrias were our new find here, and we enjoyed eating home cooked meals that were not pizza or pasta. The one to recommend was Numeroundici, where an older gentleman is in charge of everything. another mind-blowing place was I Porci Comodi, on Dante Alighieri Piazza, they had sandwiches with raw sausages, and many other unordinary things, but everything fresh. Ah also here we tried the typical cake of Pisa – torta coi bischeri, I’ll say chocolate, and pine nuts, and it is up to you to test it. The square Cairoli was another space reserved for bars and eateries, and there was also a spot few blocks up, where between residential building people were having fun in a few beer gardens and aperitivo spots. We sat in SUD or Senza una direzione, and had great time. For chilling in a nice green area, the Piazza Martiri della Libertà was the chosen one. I do not say anything about the tower quarter, as it is something very well known for everyone. Just be aware of tourist traps, and book your tickets online.
DAY 8 – LUCCA & VIAREGGIO
Traveling from Pisa to Lucca is 18 minutes and 3.7 Euros, per direction. In the past I was considering Lucca a small town, biut it turned out it is as big as Pisa, the old town is the main point of interest, but it has life outside the walls as well. The walls of Lucca are the only one in Italy you can walk on, and make a full circle, they are about 4 kilometres. Lucca also has many squares out which the most famous one is the Anfiteatro, but also the Santa Zita Square, or the one in front of the duomo. For the afternoon hours Piazza Naploeone and its bars were full of people enjoying aperitivo. In the circle square there is a home goods store Uashmama which had amazing sustainable stuff. I left my eyes there, and just pick up some small things for friends. Those were the only souvenirs bought from this trip. We had ice cream at Momo Gelati. Baccio was amazing, and we got to try the typical flavour of Lucca, with anise. Interesting, but strong and not for my taste buds. Luca was charming, ad more bikes than i have ever seen in Italy, also had the highest number of Michelin recommended restaurants in the area. We had great and relaxing time here and I it is a place that I would love to return to if I am around at some point.
I wouldn’t have done the next trip if the temperatures were not rising, and if I wasn’t exploring Google Maps way to much the night before. I saw that there is a beach place, which formed a triangle of 20 minutes with Lucca and Pisa, and also the train price was inviting. From Lucca to Viareggio it took 20 minutes and 3.7euros and then from Viareggio to Pisa 20 minutes with again 3.7 euro.
Viareggio was definitively not a love at first sight, it wasn’t even love, maybe because it reminds me of Rimini and I am not the Italian lidos. The beaches were still not ready, so it was just liek a strolling on a shopping street. Maybe it looks different in season, but for this time it is no no from me.
However, I like tha fact that there was a huge park through the city, and I liked the lets say bar/pedestiran area. You could see the locals enjoying aperitivo and it gave me a bit better picture of the town. Our place in Viareggio was 4/20 electriccafe, which was serving burgers in house made buns and good vibes. But also there were other nice looking places on the Via Cavalotti.
DAY 9 – LIVORNO & MARINA DI PISA
New day, means new short trip. From Pisa to Livorno 15 minutes, 2.7euros. Public transport in Livorno 1.5euros valid for 70 minutes. Livorno to Marina di Pisa 1.5 euros. You can go via bus from Pisa to Livorno for 1.5 but it takes more than one hour. Livorno is one fo the biggest cities in Tuscany. Because of being a sea city, or maybe because not such a vineyard city, I never considered it was part of this region, but anyways we decided to explore it tiny bit. This morning started slower compared to all the rest. Te objective of the day was to be in time for the Central market, but even though we went 90 minutes before closing, many of the stands were already ready to leave. I was expecting atmosphere as on the spanish markets where you could have lunch and juices and everything, buut it wasn’t like that.
We entered some shops and then when everything closed we found one spot open in the Venezia Nuova area. Actually there were two open places, both looking interesting, but we decided to go for the one with more shadow. And it was directly on the canal, proper venetian feeling. The place where we accidentally had lunch was called Le Botteghe, and its neighbour which was also packed was Scom Posto. The Botteghe was more on the restaurant side, based on fish dishes, and the other one on focaccia and platters. Our fritomisto was great.
Before coming to Livorno, the only thing I knew about was Mascagni-Terrasse, and that was our end objective of the day, and in the meantime everything was based on easy strolls, Piazza de la Republica, ice-cream at La Mela Stregata di Damiani Monica, chasing cremino, then parks, again icecream at Caprilli gelateria naturale, their Caprilli trademark flavour was amazing, as well as their choco waffle cone. We passed by the teatro, saw some fortresses on the way, untill we reached the Terrace, which was only a terrace overlooking the sea, and locals soaking the sun. It looked nice but in my opinon it is better on pictures.
As the evening was approaching, we decided to have drinks at a sunny terrace in Marina di Pisa. The Sunset Cafe was one of the rare opened at this time of the year, but they were serving campari and good vibes. I would say Bali vibes. The sunset was amazing too. The bus stop is 3 minutes walking from the cafe, but the buses run every 30 minutes, so plan accordingly.
DAY 10 – CINQUE TERRE
The most popular as last one, but it was due the fact, that we wanted to have our legs recovered, after walking 35K steps every day. From Pisa to Monterosso no changes 90 minutes 12.5 euros (hiking to Riomaggiore) Then train from Riomaggiore to Pisa with a change in La Spezia 12.05 euros. Train between every town in Cinque Terre is 5 euros and ride time ca 3 minutes.
We started at Monterosso al Mare, what seemed as the quietest of all the villages. First we attacked the Fornaio di Monterosso bakery, but unfortunately we didn’t buy any cake, this is my reason number one for a return. Especially interesting was the local pie with spinach and rice, and the prices were maybe not like in a hidden bakery in any italian city, but they were pretty down to earth. We had a little stroll around the town, and the bars were already full, even though it was not even 11am. This place was the only one with “proper” beach, not a hidden/hilly/secluded/stoney one, and to my surprise many people were already enjoying the sea. Cinque Terre is a National Park and if you want to hike you need to buy daily ticket for the route Monterosso – Corniglia (vice versa). If you want to hike from Riomaggiore to Corniglia or vice versa, this part is for free. Daily ticket for Cinque Terre hiking costs 7.5euros. Very very worth it.
When the hike started it was a bit crowded I must admit, and we needed around 90 minutes to reach Vernazza. Once you are almost there there is a perfect photo/proposal place, from which you can also see, how crowded the village gets when one tour boat arrives. So it was around 1PM and the town was super packed, I could not see anything, not that there was something special to see, but it was only people, foccaccia places, restaurants and juice spots. There was a small beach as well, but I guess more usable after the daily tourists leave. It reminded me a lot to the beach in Boccadasse near Genova.
I don’t know if it was timing or just the situation is like that, this place was the fullest.
Next from Vernazza to Corniglia the hike is about one hour, the views are amazing along the whole way, just to now, and interesting for this route is that on half the way to Corniglia there is a refreshment spot with a terrace – Bar Il Gabbiano, but also with a long line. Corniglia was maybe least touristy, it could be because of the fact that it is on a hill, so there is no boat tourism. Here we had ice cream, strawberries and all the good stuff from a local supermarket Lisa.
Then the longest part of the route started Corgnilia to Manarola, around 2 hours. I thought that the going up part will never end, until I realised going down was even harder. I consider myself well trained, but I definitively underestimated this hike. Here the scenery was vineyard based, as we were directly passing through some, and just before the Panoramic Manarola sign there was a local winery with wine tasting options Cantina Capellini. I luckily didn’t sign up for that. So as 99% of the people visiting Manarola we went to check out Nessun Dorma, but there were “just” 44 peoples before us waiting, and that meant of we go to the next one.
We learned the hard way hat the Via del Amore or the 20 minutes promenade between Manarola and Riomaggiore was closed, by “kissing the under construction gate”(It should reopen june 2024), and then found out that we needed to take route 531 and hike additional hour. The very hardest one. But the sunset in Riomaggiore was worth it. I think we didn’t explore Riomaggiore properly, as we decided to go back to Pisa and have a dinner there. But what we saw was just fine.
On the way back the connection to La Spezia was interrupted, so we needed to spend one more hour there, and our dinner was instead in a local pizzeria in La Spezia. Masters of adjustments, I would say. Pizza Gourmet was pretty good, but weird thing the only place in Italy so far that didn’t accept card if payment is under 10 euros (except bus ticket sellers).
I liked Cinque Terre, but I think that maybe because of the hike, or because of the hike I appreciate for what it is, compared to going there just for the picturesque spots, and you should too.
DAY 11 – PISA
Last day, was the easiest day ever. I mentioned above all the places that we visited in Pisa, sightseeing and foodwise, and the weather was good, the streets were closed for cars, it was one very good and chilled Saturday, without even going back to the tower square. For me Pisa was such a great surprise, because I found out that there is a great city beyond the main attractions.
Since we were “lacking kilometers” we decided walk to the airport in Pisa, and it took us just 20 minutes, but we travel extra light. A shuttle bus is 5 euros and 7-8 minutes so if you are “packed” go for it.
It was long long time ago that I had 10 days of pure vacation that didn’t include any work day. It felt good, and about Italy it always feels good, of course some places you like more some less. What I am really looking forward is to explore another region next time I am there. And regarding the transport I think now I am even more convinced that public transport is great option.