From Lake Como to the Coast - The Italian Riviera
When we were handed a bottle of bug spray rather than the key at reception at the Hotel Terzo Crotto, it was welcome. We hadn't encountered any mosquitoes so far but could see they were out in force here. Our hotel was a very pretty building with decent parking, nice staff and a very short walk into the town centre and shore of the lake. Sitting on the veranda clutching a large Aperol spritz with a complimentary parma ham & breadstick chaser was very welcome after another great day in the car.
Cernobbio is lovely and could be an ideal launch pad for the Italian Grand Prix, about 30 miles south and an easy train journey. If we come to see the F1 at Monza, this is almost certainly where we'll stay. We'd considered trying to include it in this trip but there's only so much you can do in two and a half weeks.
Following a nice evening and my first pizza of the holiday, we loaded up and headed south. A reason we chose Cernobbio was the proximity of the autostrada (toll motorway) which would take us past Milan and down to the coast. We discovered the delights of Italian signposting whilst trying to string two or three different roads together to skirt around Milan, as it seems many signposts simply state 'Autostrada', rather than providing the actual road number. Now this is fine if you know what to expect but a little unnerving when you're used to UK signage. As we were to find out (and not just on this occasion), it's actually a pretty good system once you understand it, and the options become clear once you get there!
It was probably the fastest speed we were going to average during the trip and as we shot down the A7 towards Genoa, we were reminded this was Italy by the waves, honks and photos from other road users (they do like a red Ferrari around here). We escaped the autostrada north of Genoa so could 'explore' the wriggly route in. Both the A7 and our SP35 alternative keep burrowing into the hillsides and it makes for an interesting drive. We'd find ourselves back on the big road (once we figured how to get back on) in order to avoid Genoa and when we did, we found it to be an entertaining road of tunnels and bridges that was perfect for our V8 soundtrack.
We dropped onto the smaller roads as we zeroed in on our destination, which would prove to be a nice introduction to the Italian Riviera. We were staying for two nights in Santa Margherita Ligure rather than its more famous neighbour – Portofino, mainly because it's not as expensive although it does take longer to type.
We had our first real experience of Italian parking at the very nice L'Approdo hotel and it proved that lovely scenery often arrives hand in hand with car parks that possess a one in three gradient. Managing to scrape the underside of the front bumper at the entrance (minor thankfully) and not wanting to keep driving in and out, we parked up in the space they had 'reserved for Ferrari' and abandoned it for the next couple of days.
The Portofino area is very beautiful and a worthy stopover point. We discovered Italians spend a lot of time sunbathing, hospitality is very good and mopeds will overtake no matter what, usually when you least expect it and often while you’re overtaking something else. We took a hot and sweaty walk over the headland to Portofino rather than driving, probably a good idea since popular Portofino is quite small. It was worth it for the views and exercise and allowed us to take a pleasant boat ride back around the bay.
Being offered the only flat parking space came with a drawback and after three nights parked underneath a lime tree, the layer of grime that we'd collected through Belgium was now sealed in by a layer of sap. We borrowed a bucket and sponge to clean the windows but the rest would have to wait until we could find a jet wash. We were so sticky, anybody getting too close to the car would be coming with us.
Not to worry though, we were nearly there…
From the Lakes to the Mediterranean
The beautiful Italian coast and a dirty Ferrari.