After a short stay in Cannes we made the beautiful drive to Genoa, Italy, where we returned our rental car and spent just one day touring the city.
The next morning we jumped on a train and headed to Cinque Terre. If you haven’t heard of Cinque Terre it is a string of five picturesque villages clinging to the steep cliffs of the Ligurian Sea, just north of La Spezia, that are connected by steep ancient footpaths. I had visited Cinque Terre when I backpacked through Europe in 1997 and made a point of bringing the family here to experience this place. It is my understanding that the Romans built the stone terraces and the extensive pathways that connect the villages. Whoever built them would have had to put in years and years of gruelling painstaking effort because the scale and breadth of the stone path network is just astounding and it has left an incredible legacy for residents and visitors. We were stationed in the pretty town of Manarola. The weather cooperated and we were able to see all five villages over three days of hiking. It was wonderful.
From Cinque Terre we hitched a train to Rome where we had arranged another home swap. The sun was shining and we enjoyed seeing the major historical sights including the Colosseum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain, St. Peter’s Square and the Vatican, and more. Our visit coincided with Holy Week which made for larger than normal crowds (even for Rome) and a lot of competition from other tourists and pilgrims, but we managed to book a private tour of the Vatican Museums, including the Sistine Chapel, which was the highlight of our week.
From Rome we headed up to Milan where we enjoyed another walking tour and took in the impressive Milan Cathedral that took nearly 600 years to build, and Sforza Castle where Leonardo Da Vinci worked both as an engineer and an artist. We also rented e-scooters (again) and buzzed around the old city.
After three days in Milan we picked up a rental car and drove an hour north to Lake Como where we had a charming house (AirBNB) in Lezzeno along the Strada Regia, another impressive ancient Roman footpath. On the first day we enjoyed the sun and impressive view from our private terrace. On day two we used the ferries to visit the beautiful towns of Bellagio, Varenna, and Menaggio. On day three we rented a boat and did a three hour tour of the entire southwestern branch of the Lake where we saw a number of grand villas including Villa Orleandra (owned by George Clooney) and the magnificent Villa Balbianella, just to name a few. Three days was not enough! Before departing for Switzerland we stopped in to the City of Como for a nice walk through the old town. Lake Como really lived up to the hype. Put it on your bucket list!