With my daughter and her friend in tow, there was a limit how unpredictable the Italy trip could be. But what we missed of real adventure we made up for in kilometers — covering a vast amount of Northern Italy in just over a week. The highlight for me, and I think my companions, was Malaspina Castle in the little hilltop town of Fosdinovo, in the extreme North of Tuscany.
While we thought Venice would be the highlight, the city, though beautiful and romantic, is overrun by tourists. Food is a real hit or miss unless you seek out from the more trafficked areas, and the endless souvenir displays can wear you down. I felt conflicted about the short time we had there, on one hand it’s a wonder of the world, on the other, I could help but think Venice’s days are numbered, destroyed by commercialism.
On the way to Venice, we stopped at the Garda lake, where we found this curious theater building.
Our amazing B&B in the hill outside Lucca.
The Malaspina Castle of Fosdinovo dates back to at least the 12th century and is perched on a hill, overlooking the Tyrrhenian coastal landscape. Few non-Italian tourists make it up the long winding road to the top, but the rewards for those who do are spectacular. The castle, belonging to the Malaspina family, is now a museum doubling as a B&B. There are only a few guestrooms, and the staff is amazingly relaxed about their presence. In fact, we had the run of the place and could go anywhere, anytime. The experience of roaming the rooms, turrets, hidden passages, etc. at dark, is hard to top.
According to legend, Dante wrote parts of the Descent at the castle.
Malaspina family crest.
Cinque Terre Trails
A series of old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline, Cinque Terre is a place of rare beauty. In each of the 5 towns (Monterosso al Mare, Vernazza, Corniglia, Manarola, and Riomaggiore), along the steep hillsides, colorful houses and vineyards, and olive groves cling to terraces. The small landlocked villages all have small ports, beaches, romantic architecture, and are ideal stops for lunch or dinner. Liguria is famous for pesto and, of course, seafood. We walked the trails between Monterosso, Corniglia, and Vernazza. The landscape and towns are jaw-dropping, but it’s hard to filter out the stream of tourists from the experience. While the trails are spectacular, there is a train line connecting the small towns so you don’t have to walk back the same way you came.
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