We left Bolzano yesterday and drove south to Riva del Garda on which is the most northern city on Lake Garda. Lake Garda is the biggest lake in Italy.
Since we had to check out of the hotel around noon and couldn’t check in until 3 at the next place, we decided to take back roads to the lake instead of taking the highway. (Doing this also means we avoided tolls so I’m fine driving a little longer to not pay.). The drive started through vineyards, through the fruit trees and then around the mountain pass.
Here is a quick glimpse of the drive. Yes, the windshield is dirty 🙂
Merano is a 30 minute drive from Bolzano. It is a little higher up in the mountains but has one of the most beautiful gardens at Trauttmansdorff Castle. It is no surprise that I could spend a lot of time walking around the gardens. It is recommended that you spend 2 to 6 hours there. One of the nicest things about traveling to this region is there aren’t many tourists besides tourists from the area or an adjacent country. Even though we are in Italy, German is the common language here. Everyone speaks German and Italian so we have gotten by using German.
Here is a short video of our day in Merano:
And here are a couple of my favorite pictures 😉
After walking around Bolzano in the morning, we headed to Caldaro which is about 30 minutes from the city. One of my German friends offered to drive down and have lunch with us. I let him pick the restaurant since he is more familiar with the region than me. We have heard of Caldaro because it is on the wine route but I would have never found this restaurant without someone telling me where it was. My friend was driving 4 hours to meet us so we wanted to make sure we were early. We parked in the lot, which at the time was half full. Within the next 30 minutes, the lot was completely full.
The region is full of beautiful vineyards and amazing houses. It makes the Oregon wine region look very small compared to the rolling vineyards here. We had a nice lunch on a patio where we got to spend time catching up. The lunch portion was so large that I’m pretty sure every plate had the equivalent of a full box of pasta on it. I don’t think I even was able to finish half of my plate. Since he had another 4 hour drive back, the visit was not long enough but it was very nice to visit even if it was a short time.
After we left there, we headed down to the lake. It is supposed to be one of the warmest lakes in the Alps. The parking lot was packed and we were lucky to see someone leaving as we came up the aisle. The only thing we couldn’t figure out was if we needed to pay or not. We are pretty sure the sign said something about being a customer, so we paid an entrance fee to one of the restaurants that had a view of the lake. Our car was still there when we got back, so it must have been OK. I did put my feet in the water and it wasn’t too cold. It was a very nice relaxing Sunday.
Yesterday, we spent the morning walking around the city so I could take pictures. The city is fairly small and very walkable. We started by going to the museum to see Ötzi, which was very fascinating. Ötzi is the nickname they gave to a caveman that they found in the early 1990’s up in the Alps. He was so well preserved from the ice that they can determine what most likely killed him and what his last meals might have been. He is estimated to live between 3359 BCE and 3105 BCE. After viewing the body, you can also see the clothes that they found on him as well as some of his tools. After the museum, we just strolled around the city taking pictures.
One of the reasons we picked Bolzano as a place to stay is that you can do so many different type of things without getting the car out. One of the first things we decided to do was take a funicular up one of the mountains. From there we took a train to the end of the line. The total journey was about 45 minutes. Once we got off, we were able to walk and see the Earth Pyramids. It was a small patch of rock formations on top of clay that has been eroding.
It was a pretty easy walk and nice weather so we decided to keep walking on the trail. Little did we know that at noon every Saturday, they sound emergency alarms in the mountains in this area. We about jumped off the mountain it scared us so much. We thought it meant there was thunder and lightning so we were trying to figure out where we would get shelter. We later learned that they do this every Saturday as practice. They use the alarms to alert of fires. Gave us a good laugh once we were back and safe.
We drove 2 hours from Kufstein, Austria to Bolzano, Italy. After paying a couple of tolls, passing at least 50 semi trucks and sitting in road construction for a half an hour, we made it to Italy. The weather was warm when we left Kufstein and was nice for a couple of hours in Bolzano but then the rain, thunder and lightning arrived. We just spent time before the weather hit walking around the town and found a place to eat after it cleared up.
I will take pictures of the town tomorrow when we walk around but here is a quick video I took on my phone today.
After landing in Munich, we picked up our Opel car and headed south towards Kufstein, Austria. We were using Kufstein as an easy town off the highway to stay for one night. After the long flight, I don’t like driving very far the same day because I don’t sleep on planes. The hotel would have been very easy to get to from the highway if there wasn’t construction. So we had to drive around a little to figure out how to make our own detour. I don’t mind driving in Europe but driving in the center of towns is sometimes confusing because you have to know when cars are allowed on some streets. We did eventually make it there with no problems.
I was lucky enough to have a window seat on the way to Iceland, so I took some pictures of Greenland and our arrival to Iceland. Their landscapes are so different than any other country that I have seen.
A new year brings new adventures. I’m writing this somewhere over the Atlantic Ocean. Although we will be stopping in some familiar places, the majority of the trip will be in Northern Italy. I’m really looking forward to seeing new sights, amazing food and learning about a new culture.
We will land in Munich in about 9 hours after changing planes in Iceland. I’m sure liking the direct flight from Portland to Iceland. Pretty nice to get to Europe in 7 hours. From Munich we will drive south with a short stop in Kuftstein to get some rest before driving the rest of the way to Bolzano. From there we will head to Riva del Garda on Lake Garda. Then we will head west towards Lugano which is actually located in Switzerland but the lake is on the border of Italy and Switzerland.
I’m thinking I will have plenty of pizza, chocolate and gelato on this trip.
I’m looking forward to taking pictures again. I basically only get my camera out once a year now so I’m always a little rusty remembering how to work it.
I was going to try to post a map of the trip but the internet is pretty slow.
My original plan was to finish the blog on the plane but since we had an older plane, I wasn’t able to connect to WiFi. I’m finally posting some pictures of Reykjavik which was a really fun cute town. We spent 4 nights there and I thought the people and city were great. We had great food there and the city was just really easy to see. It is a perfect place to stop on the way home from Europe because of the direct flights offered from Reykjavik to North America.
We were lucky to be there to see Iceland play France in soccer. Iceland wasn’t expected to make it out of the group stage of Euro but they just kept winning. Their luck ran out against France but the country was so proud. We enjoyed watching the game at the viewing party and learning the Iceland chants. They were so easy that even I could manage to participate.
Reykjavik really reminds me of the Oregon coast. The weather changes every five minutes and it has a small town charm. I would highly recommend Iceland because it is just so different than any place I have been.
The last stop on the Golden Circle was a crater. The parking lot was very small and we debated if we should stop or not but I got lucky and there was one spot open. Actually we got pretty lucky all day with parking so I figured we should just stop and see the crater. I guess we are a little spoiled with Crater Lake but it was nice to get out and see the crater while the sun was out. We had about a 45 minute drive back to Reykjavik after this stop. Definitely a lot less driving but I was still pretty tired after doing the Golden Circle.