There are many fantastic day trips from Milan – it’s just a matter of picking the one that better suits one’s needs and interests.
Milan is one of the most interesting places to visit in Italy, and in recent years it has been getting more and more attention from travelers who enjoy its fantastic museums; its fun nightlife; the infinite shopping opportunities and the incredible vibe. However, fast paced as it is, it can get a bit overwhelming at times. The good news is that this vibrant city is very well connected to the rest of Northern and Central Italy, so it is extremely easy to get out, even just for a day. The choice of day trips from Milan is incredible!
This post highlights the nicest day trips from Milan, with a few tips to make the most of them. For the sake of clarity, I will divide my selection of Milan day trips by larger topics – lakes and lake regions; the gorgeous Cinque Terre; wine tours and cities.
Lake Como is the perfect place for day trips from Milan
10 Fantastic Day Trips From Milan
The region of Lombardia, of which Milan is the capital, is known for the many beautiful lakes. Needless to say, among the best day trips from Milan, there has to be one to the lakes and the beautiful, quaint villages that surround them.
Lake Como and the city that gives it its name are an easy 30-minute train ride north of Milan. The lake, which is of glacial origins, is the third biggest lake in Italy and, with a depth of up to 400 meters, one of the deepest lakes in Europe. It is gorgeous, making it a perfect place to enjoy some good day trips from Milan.
The lake has been a popular retreat for wealthy aristocrats since Roman times. With the many beautiful villages (Bellagio, Brunate and Varenna to name just a few), villas (the most famous ones are Villa Carlotta, Villa d’Este and Villa Serbelloni) and palaces (some of them property of famous actors) that are scattered in the area, it obviously is a fantastic tourist destination, ideal for day trips from Milan.
Lake Como itself is fantastic for kitesurfing, windsurfing and sailing. There are several farms in the surrounding area, producing goods such as honey, cheese, milk, and even olive oil. They are pleasant places to visit, even during Milan day trips.
Lake Maggiore is a good place for day trips from Milan
Lake Maggiore is the second largest lake in Italy. Located in the southern side of the Alps, the lake and its shoreline are divided between the Italian regions of Lombardia and Piemonte, and the Swiss Canton Ticino. It’s a lovely place to go to on day trips from Milan, as it benefits from mild weather throughout the year.
Among the most beautiful small towns on Lake Maggiore there are Stresa, Laverno and Locarno. During day trips from Milan to Lake Maggiore it is possible to cruise around the lake to explore its lovely Borromean Islands such as Isola Bella, Isola Madre and Isola dei Pescatori, all the while admiring the Alps in the distance.
Lake Garda is a good choice for day trips from Milan
Lake Garda is the largest lake in Italy, located about half way between Milan and Venice, and on the edge of the Dolomites. It is a very popular holiday destination and, needless to say, it makes for one of the best day trips from Milan, for it offers interesting activities such as boat rides, sailing, kitesurfing and windsurfing.
Scattered across the lake there’s several small islands, that are really nice to visit even during day tours from Milan. The largest one is Isola del Garda, famous for being the place where Francesco d’Assisi founded a monastery in 1220 – though in its place now there is a 19th century gothic style building.
The most popular small town on the lake is the romantic Sirmione, which is packed with interesting tourist sites and good cafés, restaurants and bars. Desenzano del Garda is another lovely village that is pleasant to visit on day trips from Milan. It is a popular bathing resort, but there’s also plenty of cultural sites.
Cinque Terre can actually be seen on day trips from Milan
Cinque Terre probably deserves more than a day, but when time is limited, day trips from Milan to Cinque Terre (or even day trips from Florence to Cinque Terre) are a good way to get at least a feel for it, and prepare to go again.
This part of the coast of Liguria has beautiful, dramatic sceneries. It is so unique that it has been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage site. Surrounding the beautiful, colorful coastal villages there are some fabulous vineyards (the wine in this region is excellent) and olive and lemon groves. There are many nice, small beaches – swimming here is a must even during Milan day trips.
Four of the five villages of Cinque Terre – Riomaggiore, Vernazza, Monterosso and Manarola, which is the oldest of them – are right on the coast and have direct access to the sea. Corniglia is higher up on the hills and it is landlocked. There is an old railway that connects all the villages, making it possible to visit them all during day trips from Milan.
When time is limited, the best way to appreciate Cinque Terre, especially during day trips from Milan, is on a guided tour. A guide will be able to guide visitors through the 5 different small towns scattered along the coast, taking care of all the logistics while tourists can just enjoy the extraordinary views.
An excellent company for day trips from Milan to Cinque Terre is Ciao Florence – which as the name may suggests mostly leads tours from Florence to Cinque Terre. A typical tour includes a boat ride along the coast, which is especially appreciated by lovers of photography as there are fantastic views of the towns from the sea.
The Wine Region
There are many wine regions in Italy, and even those who travel to Milan will be pleased to know that there’s one really close by and that can be visited on day trips from Milan. Franciacorta is less than one hour from Milan, the area is very picturesque and – needless to say – the wines are delicious.
Franciacorta wines are sparkling wines, thought to be one of the Italian answers to French Champagne. The region is very pretty, extending all the way to lake Iseo and packed with vintage wineries that are fantastic to visit even during Milan day trips.
The best way to make the most of day tours from Milan to Franciacorta is by pairing wine tasting with good food. Given the fact that this is in Italy, one of the best food destinations in the world, this isn’t going to be difficult at all!
The gorgeous Bergamo Alta is a great place for day trips from Milan
There are many cities to visit in Italy that can be easily reached from Milan either by car, train or bus, and make up for some excellent day trips from Milan. Here, I report the times of the trains I suggest catching in order to enjoy a full day out. Do make sure to check out the updated timetable on the website of Trenitalia.
Bergamo is at a stone’s throw from Milan (around 45 minutes by train) and it is little by little becoming a tourist destination in and of itself. It is really worth to visit Bergamo, even if only on day trips from Milan. The old city, known as Bergamo Alta, is a maze of narrow alleys, gorgeous buildings and viewpoints from where to take in the magnificent views.
The surroundings of Bergamo are just as interesting to visit on Milan day trips. One of my favorite places is Crespi d’Adda, a fantastic example of industrial architecture dating back to the late 19th century and now a UNESCO site. It’s actually right half way between Milan and Bergamo.
Other places to visit on day trips from Milan that are closer to Bergamo are San Pellegrino Terme (QC Terme is the ultimate place to relax) and Scanzo, where it is possible to go on tours to taste the fantastic Moscato di Scanzo wine.
Venice can be seen on day trips from Milan
Venice hardly needs any introduction. Capital of the region of Veneto, this is one of the most incredible places to visit in Italy, if not in the world. Many travelers complain that it is too packed with tourists or too expensive. I can easily overlook these issues, because Venice is simply, impossibly beautiful. The city does deserve a visit for sure. Though I’d recommending spending a few days there to soak in the atmosphere, if time and budget are limited, going there on day trips from Milan is a good idea.
The train from Milan to Venice takes little over two hours. It’s not the closest place to reach, buti f organized properly it can be done, and it can be a pleasant way to explore another city. If going on Milan day trips to Venice, I recommend to plan to leave nice and early. The first direct train leaves from Milan at 6:45 and gets into Venice at 8:58 am, leaving plenty of time throughout the day to explore La Serenissima (that’s one of the nicknames of Venice).
The city has plenty of interesting places to explore, and it is small enough that it’s easy to see them even on day trips from Milan. Among the unmissable places, there are: Rialto Bridge and the Gran Canale, San Marco Square and the Campanile, Doge’s Palace, San Marco Basilica. I also recommend walking around the Ghetto degli Ebrei, it is quieter than the rest of the city and very pleasant. Last but not least, after a short boat ride it is possible to explore the nearby island of Burano and Murano.
It is possible to see Florence on day trips from Milan
One of the most famous places to visit in Italy is Florence, the capital of Tuscany – and for a good reason. The city is stunning, to say the least. The best thing would be to actually spend a few days exploring. Yet, it is well connected so it makes sense to even go there on day trips from Milan. The train takes less than 2 hours, indeed.
The 7:20 train from Milano Central Station takes little over one and a half hours and gets in Florence at 8:59 am, leaving plenty of time to explore the city, even when on day trips from Milan.
As there are many things to do and places to visit in Florence, I suggest that those going there on day trips from Milan keep it simple. The must sees in Florence are: the Cathedral, Santa Croce church, Piazza della Signoria, Palazzo Vecchio and Galleria degli Uffizi and Ponte Vecchio. It is also ok to stretch it all the way to the beautiful Boboli Gardens.
Bologna is the ideal destination for day trips from Milan
Bologna, capital of Emilia Romagna, is the food capital of the country, and one of the nicest places to visit in Italy. It is so close to Milan that I’d make the effort to jump on the train and go there even just for lunch. As it takes only one hour by train, it’s a fantastic place to go to on day trips from Milan.
There’s plenty of direct trains going to Bologna, and since the trip is rather short, even those going there on day trips from Milan don’t have to wake up so early. However, if keen on visiting the city, I recommend hopping on the 8:30 train, that gets there at 9:32 am, leaving plenty of time to enjoy all that the city has to offer (and all the food).
Among the places to visit in Bologna that can be enjoyed even on day tours from Milan, there are Piazza Maggiore and Basilica di San Petronio, the Cathedral, the Palazzo del Podestà and the Pinacoteca. Foodies have ample selection of local delicacies to pick from and can easily spend the day eating (in fact, doing a food tour may be a good idea!) or even taking a cooking class.
Here are some of Bologna’s must eats: tortellacci; mortadella; tagliatelle al ragù alla bolognese (by the way, please note that in Italy we don’t eat “spaghetti bolognaise”!); lasagne (we call them lasagne, not lasagna). These are the most traditional dishes, so watch out for some alternatives – the city is packed with fantastic restaurants. Those planning to visit on day trips from Milan should make sure to book in advance. Here’s a selection of the best restaurants in Bologna.
The lovely Pavia isn’t so touristy yet and is a great place for day trips from Milan
Pavia is a mere 30 minutes drive from Milan and as little as 23 minutes by train, if direct (there is a direct trains every 2 hours, at 10 minutes past the hour). It is still quite unknown to foreign tourism, but a wonderful city to explore, especially with its surroundings. Thus, it is an excellent choice for day trips from Milan.
The city is an architectural gem. There are over 100 towers, and a university which was founded in 1361 and is a great place to visit. Other places to visit in the city include the many medieval and early Renaissance buildings, churches and squares, the Ponte Coperto, che Church of San Michele, the duomo and the Castello Visconteo. It seems a lot, but the city is small and these can all be seen on day trips from Milan.
One of the most important places to visit is the Certosa di Pavia (Chartreuse), which actually is one of the greatest places to visit in Italy. This is a monastery, a sanctuary and beautiful gardens that were founded in the 15th century. It is located at around 8 km from Pavia. Last but not least, on day trips from Milan to Pavia it is also possible to go on a wine tour in the Oltrepo Pavese region.
Have you ever visited Milan? What are your favorite day trips from Milan?
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I was only 10 the first time my parents decided to visit Trentino for our summer holidays. I don’t have detailed memories of the places we visited (my mother refreshed my memory and told me we visited Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa), but I do remember that we kept being wowed by the incredible scenery and we had a great time. It’s there that I was introduced to the incredible world of hiking, which is now one of my favorite things to do.
Without the shadow of a doubt, Trentino is one of the nicest places to visit in Northern Italy. It’s a lovely region, located between the Southern Alps and easily reached from Venice or Verona. Its main feature is the Dolomites, a fabulous, unique mountain range which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and which it shares with Alto Adige, Veneto and Friuli Venezia Giulia.
Trentino is a land of mountains and lakes; of gorgeous valleys where nature rules (I am still drooling over my pictures of Val di Fassa). Adding to this already fantastic mix there are great food, welcoming people and a few touches of affordable luxury that make it an excellent destination for families, adventure travelers and, needless to say, solo travelers like myself.
My parents would take me to visit Trentino in the summer, as a child
That’s why my parents kept wanting to visit Trentino. We spent a few summers there, and one summer in Chamonix, France, until I turned 18 and decided that cool kids would not travel with their parents but would rather stay home alone in Sardinia during the summer.
After that, I didn’t really visit Trentino until a few weeks ago, when I finally decided it was time to go again and made my way to visit Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa to participate in Suoni delle Dolomiti, one of the best summer music festivals in Italy.
I am so glad I did! I know Trentino is a very popular destination in the winter time, when snow covers the mountains and it’s possible to ski; but I encourage everyone who loves walking and hiking to visit Trentino in the summer.
Yes: Trentino is a great place to spend summer holidays in Italy. In this post, I highlight 10 reasons to visit Trentino in the summer.
Those who visit Trentino get to see the Dolomites: need I say more?
Ten Reasons To Visit Trentino In The Summer
It’s home to the Dolomites
I could have just said mountains, but the Dolomites are not “just mountains.” They are unique, mighty and won’t stop surprising visitors, their vertical walls springing up and diving into the sky at every turn. If most people who visit Trentino will be happy enough to admire the peaks of the Dolomites, those who like adventure sports will want to put their hands on them, quite literally.
Adventure lovers will be happy to know that one of the nicest things to do in Trentino, that is best enjoyed during the summer, is rock climbing: the Dolomites provide plenty of opportunities for that.
Hiking in Val di Fassa is one of the unmissable things to do in Trentino
There’s some fantastic hiking trails
To me, mountains is sinonymous with hiking. One of the top reasons to visit Trentino in the summer is to enjoy the multitude of hiking trails in the Dolomites. I have done 3 short hikes in the space of 4 days, in the Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa areas, and all felt very rewarding with incredible views and unique cultural experiences.
Read more about my hikes in the Dolomites.
I also love multi-day treks (hiking Poon Hill, in Nepal, has been one of my favorite experiences to date), and there’s an abundance of those in Trentino. While I was entertaining myself with the gorgeous views of Val San Nicolò, my friend Margherita challenged herself with a 3-days hike in the Brenta Dolomites. I am pretty sure that the next time I visit Trentino in the summer I will head straight there to hike!
It’s also home to Suoni delle Dolomiti
One of the biggest reasons that prompted me to visit Trentino in the summer is Suoni delle Dolomiti, a music festivals where concerts of various music genres are held in the open, free for everyone to attend. Some of the best classic and jazz musicians are invited. I love jazz so I planned my trip around the jazz concerts.
I went to see Yamanaka Electric Female Trio in Val di Fiemme, and it was a fantastic experience: people of all ages sat on the grass as the band played, pine trees at their back. The concert lasted 90 minutes, which went by in a zip. I was also scheduled to attend a sunrise concert, but when I woke up at 4:30 am to get ready to go it was pouring and I learned that the concert had been rescheduled.
Needless to say, Suoni delle Dolomiti is only one of the many events that those who visit Trentino in the summer can enjoy.
A violin carved into a tree trunk: Suoni delle Dolomiti is just one of the many musical expressions of Trentino
Music is everywhere – literally
I don’t mean to say that, wherever one goes in Trentino, music blasts loudly. In fact, it is peaceful and quiet (unless an event such as Suoni delle Dolomiti is on!). But there’s always a musical theme. Music lovers may already know that Antonio Stradivari, the famous Italian liutist who lived between the 17th and the 18th century, got the spruce wood he used to build his violins in Val di Fiemme.
Those who visit Trentino should not miss the chance to visit the Bosco Che Suona (“music forest”) where the best quality spruce trees that are used to build violins and any other string instruments can be found. Each year, musicians that play at Suoni delle Dolomiti are invited to pick their own tree. Other than the great cultural and musical value found in the forest, this is a great place for a walk or a hike!
But there’s more. Located in Tesero, in Val di Fiemme, there’s Ciresa. This is a factory that works the local spruce to produce soundboards for pianos, as well as violins and any other string instrument. In recent years, Ciresa has patented natural loudspeakers: these are beautiful looking wooden boards that reverberate the sounds at an incredibly high quality level, and on top of it look like works of art. Visiting Ciresa is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.
Castello di Fiemme is one of the lovely villages those who visit Trentino will be able to enjoy
The villages are just too pretty
There’s no going wrong for those who visit Trentino: all villages are simply beautiful. I was lucky to have a car when I went, so I could drive around and explore. The only issue I had was that I kept stopping for pictures, so it took me forever to go from one place to the other!
Cavalese is one of the largest villages in Val di Fiemme. It’s a pleasant place to walk around, and there’s an interesting history museum where it is possible to learn more about the history of the valley, as well as a contemporary art gallery. It’s a great place to stop for a late afternoon drink or a good gelato, or – even better – a slice of strudel. After all, eating is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.
Castello di Fiemme is a lovely small village, also in Val di Fiemme. It’s a very quiet place, with narrow cobbled street and a beautiful church that can be seen from a distance, driving down to the village. It’s the kind of place where life goes by slowly, and night brings silence and peace – and it’s a great base from where to visit Trentino.
Val di Fassa also has some gorgeous villages, and those who visit Trentino should not miss an opportunity to explore them. Canazei, Vigo di Fassa, Pozza di Fassa are all nice, but my favorite is Moena, where the majority of the people actually speak Ladin (one of Italy’s 12 minority languages). The first testimony of the village dates back to 1164, which means that it’s probably much older. As I am a lover of narrow alleys, I loved walking around the Quartiere Turco (Turkish Quarters), named after a legendary Ottoman lone soldier who ended up there and decided to settle.
Not just on a rainy day! Those who visit Trentino will enjoy some lovely art galleries. This one is in Cavalese
There’s some very interesting museums
I get it, most people who visit Trentino in the summer are interested in hiking. The chances of rain during the summer in Trentino are high at night, but slim during the day. But what if it actually rains? Worry not! Trentino is one of the top places to visit in Northern Italy even for history, culture and art lovers. I truly enjoyed visiting the Palace of the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme, in Cavalese, where I could admire some great paintings by local artists and, most importantly, learn about the history of the region.
The Palace of the Magnifica Comunità di Fiemme is open every day except for Tuesdays, from 10:00 to 12:00 and from 15:00 to 18:30. Guided tours are offered, and I recommend taking one and it includes a visit to the underground jails, where prisoners have carved some truly interesting lines and drawings on the walls. Learning about its history is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino.
Cavalese is also home to a great Contemporary Art Museum, which is open from Tuesday to Sunday from 15:30 to 19:30. It hosts some very interesting pieces by contemporary local artists, and it’s recently gone all the way to acquire its own permanent exhibit. There’s also an art room for children, to get them drawing and painting and overall just closer to art and culture – so a fun place to spend a couple of hours for anybody who visit Trentino.
One of the nicest things to do in Trentino is enjoying the food
The food is delicious
Those who visit Trentino never go hungry. I can’t comment on the cheese as I am (sadly) lactose intolerant, but cold cuts such as carne salada (salted, cured beef) and speck (an incredibly tasty cured kind of ham) are fabulous, especially if accompanied by rye bread, which is a local specialty too. Polenta accompanies many a dish, first and foremost the delicious slow roasted pork shank.
Let me not get started with desserts! Just the thought of apple strudel is enough to make me want to pack my bags again. For sure, one of the greatest things to do in Trentino, especially after a long day of hiking, is eating all the mouthwatering food. Rifugi are typically good places to have a taste of the local specialties at very convenient prices.
And so are the drinks
I love wine – or else I wouldn’t have spent 4 days wine tasting in Stellenbosch! Trentino produces some great wines. Local grape varieties include Nosiola, Marzemino and Teroldego, but there’s also Chardonnay and Trentodoc, a local sparkling wine. If eating is one of the nicest things to do in Trentino, those who visit Trentino will have to agree that accompanying a fantastic meal with a just as fantastic wine is a must.
Trentino also has some excellent breweries. And let me not forget about grappa. I visited Distilleria Marzadro, right outside Rovereto, and truly enjoyed learning about the history of the distillery and about the way grappa is made. Grappa originally was poor people’s alcohol, made with the skins, pulp, seeds and stems that are left over when pressing the grapes for making wine. Nowadays, it is a much more sophisticated drink. Trying grappa is a must for those who visit Trentino.
QC Terme is a great place to get some pampering, and a must for those who visit Trentino
It’s a great place to get pampered
Is there anything better than getting pampered after having hiked for one day or more? I don’t think there is! That’s why those who visit Trentino can enjoy QC Terme, a fantastic spa in Pozza di Fassa.
I spent a whole day at QC Terme, at first thinking that my active self would get bored after a couple of hours of doing nothing. I guess I was wrong, because I ended up staying the entire day (I also enjoyed lunch and a light delicious dinner there), moving from one treatment pool to another, from a sauna to a relax room, napping, chilling and enjoying the incredible views of the mountains.
The atmosphere is super chilled
One of the things that make me fall in love with a place is the atmosphere. That’s why I love Tel Aviv, and why I would go back to Cape Town any time. Trentino is the kind of place where I felt I could relax completely. The vibe is very friendly, welcoming: people who visit Trentino all share a love for nature, adventure sports and good food; locals are friendly, genuine and generous – the kind of people that I can’t help but warm up to.
I am sure that these are more than enough reasons to visit Trentino in the summer, and for those who decide to do so, here’s some logistics information to organize a trip there.
Next time I visit Trentino, I hope to stay in the gorgeous Val San Nicolò
Where to stay and eat in Trentino
Those who visit Trentino will be happy to know that there’s an excellent range of accommodation options, as well as some fantastic restaurants. I have selected a couple of hotels in Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa that also serve dinner – though I recommend eating out for the best food!
As eating is one of the best things to do in Trentino, I recommend going to the following restaurants to enjoy food at its best:
- Miola di Predazzo, in Predazzo, Val di Fiemme, offers some of the best traditional food in the area. I had a delicious salad with walnuts and local apples, a selection of local cold cuts which included “carne salada” (salted cured beef) and pork shank.
- Baita Paradiso, in Val di Fassa Passo San Pellegrino can be reached from the ski-lift (Seggiovia Costabella) or after a short hike, has the best beef fillet cooked in a bread shell along with onions and pine needles; as well as the best polenta in the area (not to mention an incredible selection of wines.
How to get to Trentino
There are no international airports in Trentino. Those who visit Trentino are better off flying to Verona, which is roughly a 2 hours drive from Val di Fiemme and Val di Fassa, and then rent a car to go all the way there, or get a bus to one of the many beautiful villages in the region. Other airports would be Bergamo Orio Al Serio, a budget airlines hub, or Venezia Marco Polo, which is better connected internationally.
Dressing appropriately is one of the things to do in Trentino
What to pack when visiting Trentino in the summer
Those who visit Trentino in the summer should make sure to carry comfortable clothes that allow layering up, as it may be quite warm in the middle of the day, but chilly in the morning and early evenings and night. Here’s what I recommend packing:
- A pair of hiking boots, best if water proof and with good ankle support. Also pack a pair of comfortable walking shoes.
- Hiking pants, best if water repellent. My favorite pants for hiking are the Kuhl Kliffside Convertible and I find the Kuhl Skulpt Skinny to be easy to dress up if I wear a nice top.
- Plenty of cotton shirts. I love Kuhl Kyra and Nora Tank. I find Alva to be the top pick on colder days.
- A sweater (I love Kuhl Lea Pullover). I also recommend taking a wind and rain proof jacket. My favorite is Kuhl W’S Airstorm Rain Jacket.
- A small backpack for the hikes. I recommend the 20 liter Osprey Daylite Plus.
- A flask – tap water in Trentino is really good and it’s better to drink that than keep buying bottled water and cause unnecessary waste.
- Sunglasses to protect from the sun and the wind, and a hat.
- Sun screen with a high protection factor, since the sun can be really strong when at an altitude.
- A swimsuit for those moments at the spa.
- An umbrella, as it may well rain.
- A good camera and lens to capture the magnificent views. I have a Nikon D3300 and a 70-300 mm wide lens. I also travel with my iPhone 6S Plus, which takes some pretty sweet shots.
Would you ever visit Trentino in the summer? What would you like to do there?
Legal Disclaimer: I was a guest of Visit Trentino during my trip, and I wish to thank them for showing me their incredible region. Needless to say, the views expressed in this post are my own.
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I have always loved road trips. When I was a child, my parents would pack the car and off we’d go to explore a new place. I was fascinated by the views that opened in front of me, the sights that unfolded and the change of scenery. I loved the whole singing in the car thing, I didn’t mind getting lost and having to ask a (usually funny and welcoming) local for directions. Besides, going on a road trip is one of the top things to do in Sardinia.
Even more than that, I love Sardinia, the region where I was born and raised and which I still call home. From the cities to the smaller villages, from the beautiful beaches to the mountains, from the unique archeological sites to the festivals, not to mention the food and the wines, I will never get tired to say that Sardinia offers endless possibilities for exploration and entertainment, and should not be left out when backpacking Europe.
After getting a motorbike driving license a few years back, I considered buying or renting a motorbike just to drive it around the island. I thought of joining a group of bikers and figured that finding motorcycle parts wouldn’t be much of an issue if I ever needed them.
Cala Fighera is one of the hidden gems of Cagliari I discovered while traveling on a rickshaw
Eventually, that road trip around Sardinia took place – as it was obvious. What was not so obvious, on the other hand, is that I actually toured Sardinia on a tuc tuc. I rented a tuc tuc in Milan, drove to Genova (a whopping 200 km which took me the best of 7 hours to cover), did some research on how to reach Sardinia by ferry, and found a good deal, boarded one along with a bunch of cars and under the puzzled looks of other passengers, and landed in Olbia, in the north east coast of Sardinia. From Olbia to Cagliari, I drove around to discover – and in some cases re-discover – my beautiful island.
It was an exhilarating experience, in some cases tiring but always a lot of fun. Sure enough, I made lots of heads turns and laugh. Indeed, although tuc tucs may be a common thing to see in developing countries, they are not common at all in Europe, and they are mostly unseen outside of major tourist cities, where they are occasionally used as taxis.
Fooling around with our rickshaws
Discovering a lesser known Sardinia
The beauty of using a tuc tuc as a mode of transportation is that it forced me to travel slow, to truly savor the views. I had to mostly pick secondary roads, as the rickshaw does not go faster than 65 km per hour. On a few occasions, there was a line behind me – and drivers would have been angry had they not been too amused by the fact that the line was caused by a tuc tuc driven by a woman. They’d pass me, phone in hand, and take a quick shot of me then waved away.
An interesting discovery – Nuraghe Nuraddeo
Most of the time, I drove through places that were completely off the beaten path. I came across archeological sites I didn’t know existed, such as the Nuraghe Nuraddeo near the village of Suni (which by the way I had never even heard of). Or I went through areas of Sardinia that would have seemed more in place in Africa – I stopped to take pictures, thinking that at any moment a lion would walk in front of me. These places were so isolated that I had the sites and the road all to myself – the only thing that broke the silence was the wind.
It may look like Africa, but it actually is Sardinia
The gorgeous villages and small cities of Sardinia
Driving along secondary roads, I reached some of the most beautiful and best known villages of Sardinia. Some of them I had visited before, others I discovered for the first time. Castelsardo was just as beautiful as I had imagined, and perhaps even more. I explored the walled city, its tiny cobbled alleys where life went along at a slow pace and the locals smiled at me. I also got to some incredible view points.
Castelsardo was as beautiful as I expected it to be
Further south, on the way to Oristano, I stopped in Bosa. I had been there before, and was eager to go back. This is one of the most beautiful villages in Italy, yet lesser visited than other ones in Sardinia. From the Malaspina Castle, the view of the Temo river slowly making its way towards the sea and among the colored homes was simply stunning.
The impressive view of Bosa from the Malaspina Castle
All the scents of the Mediterranean
As the tuc tuc is completely open, I could really smell the air. It wasn’t too pleasant in the few cities I drove through (especially if it was rush hour), but it was lovely when I managed to get out. I could notice how a different smell accompanied a different view: the coastal roads smelled like the Mediterranean, with juniper, myrtle and pine trees being the predominant scents. Areas that had a high concentration of farms smelled like fertilizers (and a bit gross to be honest).
Fooling around in the middle of nowhere Sardinia
The friendly locals
My tuc tuc got me a lot of friendly smiles. Whenever I drove through a village, people pointed at me, laughed and waved. Each time I stopped at a gas station, customers and workers alike would come close to ask me a bunch of questions: why was I traveling on a tuc tuc? How fast could it go? Was it fun? How much did it cost?
Once I even met another tuc tuc, in Costa Smeralda. I had almost lost hope in finding a parking spot in the crowded (and expensive) Capriccioli, one of the best beaches in Sardinia, and was about to leave, when I bumped into another rickshaw, practically identical to mine. The driver stopped the minute he saw me, I told him that I could not find a place to park, and he motioned me to follow him. It turned out he worked at a local resort, driving guest to and from the beach, and he let me park my tuc tuc (for free) at the private beach La Celvia. Sure enough, this wouldn’t have happened had I been driving a car!
I ended up in the beautiful La Celvia, in Costa Smeralda
Tips for traveling around on a rickshaw
Doing a road trip on a tuc tuc is a lot of fun, but it can also be tiring and quite challenging. I advise to do it during the summer, as that’s when the weather is most reliable. I was lucky enough to never get any rain, but I know that some people who did it were note as fortunate and got soaked a few times.
Furthermore, the conditions of the road may be variable and not always ideal to drive around. Sardinian secondary roads are not very well kept, and due to the nature of the island (hills, mountains and coastal roads) driving at times was difficult.
A beautiful sunrise in Sardinia
Knowing what to expect and being prepared for the worst is a good way to go, just in case.
Here’s a few tips for anybody who wishes to embark on this great experience.
- Wear layers: even in the summer time, mornings and late afternoons can be chilly. The tuc tuc is completely open and it gets a lot of wind, especially on the backseat, and having a good wind and rain proof jacket is a good idea to protect against the chill.
- Wear shoes: especially if planning to drive, wearing proper closed shoes is necessary. The break is on the right hand side, and it is maneuvered with the feet. It is important to have shoes with a good grip, just not to slip on it.
- Wear driving gloves: it may sound cheesy, but a decent pair of driving (or even biking) gloves helps holding the handlebar and avoids getting blisters on the hands.
- Wear sunblock and a hat or scarf around the head: if planning to take the sunroof down, make sure to wear a scarf around the neck and head and a lot of sunblock on the face. Seemingly not too strong, the sun is actually unforgiving. The last thing anybody would want is getting sunburnt while driving.
- Carry a bike lock: there is no booth in tuc tucs, but bags can be placed on the back. The villages one drives across are so small that hardly anybody would dare steal anything, but a good lock to chain the bags to the rickshaw are a good deterrent, just in case.
- Carry wireless speakers: there is no sound system on the tuc tuc, but music is a good company on long drives.
- Try not to drive at night: the tuc tuc is fully equipped with lights, but even so visibility isn’t the best at night. Plan to leave early in the morning and to be at the final destination well before the sun sets.
- Never put more than €5,00 of petrol: the tank isn’t big at all. It is better to fill up regularly than have the tank overflow and waste petrol (and money).
Finally, and most importantly, always wear the best of smiles: tuc tucs in Europe attract a lot of attention. People are curious and welcoming and a smile will surely go a long way.
Legal Disclaimer: This article was written in partnership with Generali and The Gira as part of the #viviamopositivo campaign. All the views and opinions expressed are my own and based on my personal experience. The views expressed are honest and factual without any bias.
We Italians get easily recognized wherever they travel. Whether we visit the United States, go on vacation in Cuba, venture the culturally more similar Argentina and Uruguay, people can easily spot us as Italian. Conversations soon start, appreciation shown for our beautiful country. Then, the old stereotypes kick in. However, although most of the world defines Italian by the pizza, pasta and mafia stereotype, an old national saying states “Italiani brava gente” (good people) and we’d rather think of ourselves as a country of poets, artists and sailors. Yes, there are a number of abilities Italians have over everyone.
So, here’s my list of nine abilities that Italians have over everyone:
1. We have turned a stereotype into a virtue
Since we are known for the pizza and pasta country, we have gone above and beyond our limits to create the most amazing pizza and pasta dishes. Italy is the only country where pizza is a gourmet dish and where just 3 ingredients are necessary to prepare a sophisticated pasta course. Not bad for a stereotype.
In case you wonder, this is how a GOOD pizza should look like!
2. There’s nothing that a good meal can’t fix.
Whether we celebrate Christmas, a wedding or a promotion at work, we are bound to have a meal. But it won’t just be a simple lunch. It will be a 15 courses meal that will last anything between 2 to 5 hours, during each we stuff ourselves as if we are camels drinking before the longest ride through the desert. And when we feel a bit down, we indulge in some treats – a mouthwatering gelato, a delicious torrone snack, or a good spoonful of nutella. Eating is a huge part of our culture. We spend endless amount of hours shopping for the best ingredients, preparing our meals and even just talking about what we ate or what we plan to eat next.
Feeling low? EAT! Celebrating? EAT EAT!
3. We appreciate beauty.
Our love for beautiful things has brought us to express ourselves with some of the most incredible art, music and culture. Italian design, fashion and luxury goods are only some of the modern ways to express the artistic genius of which Leonardo, Machiavelli, Caravaggio and many others were our world ambassadors. The same goes with Pavarotti, who sang Italian opera in the world’s best opera houses.
No doubt the most beautiful city in the world to me
4. We always manage to communicate.
We are not exactly masters at foreign languages. We get by with Spanish and we may know a little English, but we are so expressive and communicative that we always manage to make ourselves understood. An Italian will never get stuck for being unable to speak the local language! On the other hand, if you don’t speak Italian, you may confuse a plain and friendly conversation for a heated argument, just because of our hand gestures and our facial expressions. Nothing to worry about!
Yes, yes, I got it!
5. We are one yet many.
We manage to overcome all our differences, forget our regional rivalries and become one big family as soon as we step outside the country. But the minute we step back in, it all goes back to being very local and there is no way a Sardinian would want to be mixed up with someone from Naples or Venice.
I had to show my Sardinian pride even when I was in Chile!
6. We forget all our problems if our national football team is playing.
The financial crisis won’t get any worst just because we stop worrying about it for 90 minutes to watch a football match. And if our national team wins, we don’t mind so much that the country may be going bankrupt; there may have been a recent natural disaster for whose reconstruction the government plans yet another raise in the taxes and unemployment rates may be skyrocketing. It’s time to celebrate!
Worry later, celebrate now!
7. We always help others.
We may complain about it, we may feel we don’t have the resources for that, but we are never going to push away and turn our backs the thousands of desperate people who flee war and poverty and cross the Mediterranean in search for a better life. We are the geographic centre of the Mediterranean, but we like to think of it more as its beating heart.
8. We have a good sense of humour.
Isis threatens to attack Rome and the Vatican? We don’t really worry so much. They will never find their way through the congested traffic of the capital. And if they do, we may as well make sure that they make the most of their experience in the country and give them the best recommendations for restaurants and places to stay.
Welcome, Isis! – photo courtesy of Legal Insurrection
9. We take summer flings to a higher level.
We may know that it is not meant to be, we may know that there are no chances it will work, but we give each relationship our best. We don’t just pretend to be be in love. We really are.
Do you have any Italian friend? What are their funniest abilities?
Best beaches in Sardinia: Crazy gorgeous fjords of Cala Domestica
Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sartiglia in Oristano – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia
Things to do in Sardinia: watch the Sant’Efisio parade of traditional Sardinia costumes – photo courtesy of Marcello Treglia
Where to go in Sardinia: Roman ruins and lighthouse in Nora
Visit Sardinia: Su Nuraxi – Barumini
At the heart of the Mediterranean, Sardinia will make you feel like you are a world apart from the rest of the world. Here you can switch off from your daily routine, without having to cross an ocean; you can enjoy lush nature, incredible beaches, wild mountains, tasty food and a secular cultural traditions. The good news is that although it is almost mythologically described as a place for a few rich people, it can actually be visited on a budget and there are so many things to do in Sardinia that you could spend a year without ever getting bored.
Here are a few simple rules for your low budget holidays. For more ideas on things to do in Sardinia, check my post “A Local’s Guide To The Things To Do In Sardinia”.
Do book your flight in advance, making sure you catch one during the week (avoid weekends) and playing around with the dates (be flexible). This way you can even catch a round trip ticket for less than €50. There are three airports: Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia, all a great starting point for a tour of the island. Most budget airlines have fights to Sardinia from a number of cities in Italy and Europe.
Do use public transport: it links the main cities, villages and tourist destinations. While a bit slow, it is cheap enough, and once you get to your destination you can walk, rent a bike, or participate in organised tours that offer pick up services. For information on bus and train schedules visit the pages of ARST and Trenitalia.
Do consider a car rental. A splurge if travelling alone or as a couple, but if there is a few of you it may actually turn out cheap and you will have the opportunity to roam around independently. Most well known agencies have stands at the airport and are quite convenient. But book in advance to catch special deals.
Do book your accommodation early. Most cities have budget places and all tourist destinations provide camping sites. Rooms are easy to find in the low season, but during the summer, when Sardinia is at its peak season, it may be harder to get cheap accommodation. Camping sites are good options if you can carry your tent, and they often have bungalows for rent.
If travelling in a group, do consider holiday home rentals: prices are surprisingly cheap and estate agencies and apartments can be easily found online. Considering you will have your own kitchen, your budget will benefit in the end.
Do enjoy your days at some of the best beaches in Sardinia, which all have free access: carry your umbrella, towel and plenty of sunblock and relax for free.
Do go on a boat tour: some of Sardinia best beaches, especially in the Golfo di Orosei or La Maddalena, can only reached this way. Although not too cheap it is completely worth it. Do book a day or two in advance!
Best beaches in Sardinia: Cala Luna
Do go on a free trekking: hiking is one of the best ways to visit Sardinia. There is a gorgeous path to Cala Goloritzé leaving from the Altipiano del Golgo; a well signaled hike to Cala Domestica; a roughly 2 hours walk from Cala Fuili to Cala Luna; or try any of the trails in Isola dell’Asinara.
Do enjoy free festivals and cultural events. If you are searching for what to do in Sardinia and feeling in the mood for some cultural activity, you will be glad to know that on first of May Cagliari hosts the spectacular “parata di Sant’Efisio”: people from villages all over Sardinia, wearing their traditional dresses, go on a march in honour of the Saint patron of the island (Sant’Efisio). In February, the beautiful Sartiglia takes place in Oristano: men (and women) wearing traditional carnival costumes gallop down a street mounded with sand as fast as they can and attempt skewering a hanging star using their foil – pure adrenaline.
If you are a jazz and nature lover, don’t miss Time in Jazz in Berchidda, patroned by trumpet player and native Paolo Fresu. Picture a whole week of jazz, across a number of villages in the area, with open air concerts (free to attend) and the possibility to stay in camping sites. This is only one of the many jazz festivals here: listening to live quality music is one of the things to do in Sardinia.
Do enjoy nightlife in Cagliari: locals go out no earlier than 10 pm. You can either walk around Largo Carlo Felice, or, for some fresh air, Libarium, in Castello, which has a great terrace and view of the city; or Caffè degli Spiriti or De Candia in the Bastione – the lattest occasionally have some live concerts: look for local bands such as Sikitikis for real fun. Cocktails cost between € 7 and 9, wine and beer are cheaper (around 3 or 4 euros).
Do enjoy a romantic dinner at Quintilio, right outside Alghero, and admire the great view of the city, the bay and Capo Caccia. Sunset is the best time to go. Do book in advance to seat outside.
Do try traditional Sardinian food: piglet on the spit, malloreddus (small gnocchi), mussles soup, fregola (a sort of cous cous made with seafood), pecorino cheese, seadas (sweet fried pastries filled with cheese and topped with honey)… There is a lot of variety.
Don’t miss Isola dell’Asinara, originally a fishing community, later on a criminal colony, a peasant colony and leprosy centre, and a maximum security jail; it was finally turned into a National Park in 1997. Should you not have much time to sleep on the only hostel in the island (highly recommended!), book a guided tour on a jeep. This will allow you to visit the sites of historical and natural importance, such as the historic jail of Cala d’Oliva and of Fornelli, and some of the best beaches in Sardinia, such as Cala Sabina, Cala Trabuccato and Cala d’Arena. You can also go on one of the many hikes (free and well signaled) or opt for a bike tour.
Where to go in Sardinia? Asinara, for sure!
Donkeys are the only inhabitants of Asinara, together with boars, cats, goats…
Don’t miss a sunset walk on the beautiful bastion overlooking the sea in Alghero. The same goes for Cagliari and its lovely bastion or the Poetto beach: they are gorgeous at sunset. You can’t visit Sardinia and miss a sunset here!
Don’t think Sardinia is only beautiful in the summer. It is just as nice in the winter, although weather in Sardinia can be brutal in the winter months. But of course summer is the best season to enjoy the beaches.
Don’t litter: all beaches have bins for garbage and if they don’t, carry your garbage back with your and throw where appropriate.
Don’t forget to try “gelato artigianale”: ice-cream made from scratch. Tip to know it is the real thing: it melts really fast!
Don’t miss a sip of mirto or fil’e ferru: the first one is a strong liquor made of myrtle berries. The second is more like a grappa. They are very much Sardinian!
Don’t miss the archeological sites such as the beautiful roman ruins of Nora, are easy to access from Cagliari, or the many “nuraghe” which are unique to Sardinia such as that of Barumini. Take lots of pictures!
Don’t miss some off the beaten path places, such as Is Aruttas beach, with its incredible white tiny pebbles; S’Archittu, with a rock formation in the shape of an arch, Masua Pan di Zucchero, Buggerru and Cala Domestica, and Porto Pino, famous for its sand dunes.
Sardinia best beaches: Masua Pan di Zucchero
Don’t be afraid to communicate with Sardinians, as they are very friendly. They may not all speak English, but they will always help out.
Don’t forget to read my other posts on Sardinia for more information and to ask me if you have any more questions!