We are on the home stretch of our vacation and heading north up the Italian Riviera to my Grandfather’s hometown of Castellamonte. Join me in our travel log as we stop along the way in Genoa, spent time relaxing in our beautiful B&B and even took a day trip to Switzerland and Lake Como.
Day 13 : Although we were sad to leave the picturesque area of Cinque Terre so soon, I was excited to continue our adventures north into the region where my Grandpa’s family came from. The initial interest behind our trip came from Mom wanting to experience even just a touch of her families Italian heritage and with her celebrating a milestone birthday the year before, we made it our mission to make it happen.
As we drove north from Cinque Terre we wanted to stop at either Positano or Genoa. Since I fell asleep and missed giving the directions for Positano, Genoa inevitably was our lunchtime stop. I had this city marked on my radar for one simple fact, it’s the birthplace of pesto. Coming into this trip, I really didn’t touch the stuff, but after having it paired with our caprese or on top of a pasta, I was absolutely hooked.
Genoa is another pretty populated city and is known for it’s port. At one point in time it was known for its central role in maritime trade for hundreds of years. Needless to say, it’s another beautiful city nestled on the waters. We weren’t sure where to go, what to see and were doing this all on a whim while trying to tell my Dad which way to go. Without intentionally meaning to do so, we ended up at the Boccadesse which is a small, seaside fishing village. It was charming and filled with locals perched on a rocky beach or swimming in the shallow shores. There weren’t many options for dining, so we chose the charming character of Il Guscio di Boccadasse. The menu is in all Italian and with most dishes featuring something caught straight from the sea that day. It was quite lovely.
The real treat though was the historical gelateria just a few stores down from the restaurant there by the shore. We learned along the way that if you can tell the gelato is made in house, you are getting the real deal. If you can’t see the machines or you can tell there isn’t room for them to be making in house, skip it and find the next place (there are plenty of them!). This was probably hands down, the best gelato of the entire trip. The flavors were so fresh and creamy, it was pure heaven.
Wine Bottle Count : 48
After our short stop in Genoa for lunch, we drove the remaining 2 hours to Castellamonte. Since many of you wouldn’t have heard of this tiny comune, it’s located about 30km north of Turin. If you need a history lesson, Torino (Turin) held the 2006 winter olympics.) I got to drive this leg of the trip and we certainly had some good laughs over a few misdirections I performed (all turned out to be beneficial might I add). As we continued for a few miles out in the countryside we finally arrived at our B&B, Il Vecchio Mulino di Bairo.
Hands down this was my favorite place to stay at. The grandchildren of the last “miller” renovated this old saw mill built in the 1500’s. They did a marvelous job at preserving the historical aspects of the mill all while modernizing it to make it suitable for guests. As you can imagine why I loved it so much, it contained the most beautiful aspects of industrial, rustic and countryside touches with an updated flare. They were able to utilize old tools and parts into the decor to give it the added character as an ode to its rich history. Beyond the decor, Walter & his family were so kind, generous and put together a lovely arrangement for breakfast each morning. If we wanted directions or ideas of where to go, they provided that as well. I literally could have moved in & never left.
Off of our room was an expansive front patio where we kicked back with a bottle of champagne, took a nap or watched the passing rainstorms. In the mornings, my Dad & I would take long walks on the gravel roads that led from one farm to the next. It was such a difference in life from where we had been this entire trip and I found it to be exactly what I needed as we were nearing the end.
Did I mention that the brothers made these pieces of furniture by hand??
After settling in and enjoying a bottle of prosecco, we headed into the actual town of Castellamonte for a nice, elegant dinner at Albergo Ristorante Tre Re. After enjoying a few local bottles of red wine, we ventured out to enjoy the small street festival that was happening in town.
Wine Bottle Count : 50
Day 14 : The following morning my Dad convinced us to take a short drive into Switzerland! Since we were in the northwest region of Italy, it was approximately an hour drive so we decided on a whim to go for it. We headed for the Great St. Bernard Pass which is the third highest road pass up a mountain in all of Switzerland. It connects Aosta Valley in Italy with Martigny region of Switzerland.
I’ll be honest, I wasn’t sure what to expect when we got to Switzerland, but this scenic route up a mountain is absolutely incredible. We go from hot weather in Italy to half way up the mountain I can barely get out of the car I’m so cold, to being at the top (which is the St. Bernard Pass) where it’s absolutely frigid. Yes, I was that girl wearing a cute summer romper and everyone else was wearing their Patagonia style jackets with stocking caps and hiking boots. I have my Mom to thank for running into a general store and grabbing me a stylish hoodie!
Opposite of oddly enough, the Great St. Bernard Pass is home to the Foundation Barry. This is where the Museé et Chiens du Saint-Bernard (St. Bernard Museum) is located and home to the infamous hospice dogs that wear the barrel around their necks. Freezing or not, we wanted to see these dogs up close & personal and that we did! I’m such a big dog lover that I couldn’t wait for the opportunity to pet one of these gentle giants (or to use them for warmth!). It was a quick experience, but one in which we will never forget!
We continued onward into Switzerland and stopped for lunch in Martigny. New to us was getting to experience a serious bike race that was in town, so while eating a crepe we helped cheer on the local talent!
Back to our B&B for a relaxing break on the patio with another bottle of wine while we decided what to do for dinner. We were craving pizza & Walter had a great suggestion of going local to Burrifico Curtis Canava. I promise you this, if someone did not tell you about this place, you would NEVER find it. We surely thought that Walter gave us the wrong directions, but sure enough down these dirt roads out pops this cool restaurant with a happening vibe. We indulged on caprese, pizza and wine and reminisced at what an amazing 14 days it had been so far.
Wine Bottle Count : 53
Day 15 : On our last full day in Italy, we started off by driving to a small town, Valperga, to look up some of my Mom’s ancestors. With the help from some lovely locals, my Mom was able to make a little progress on her family name but we unfortunately weren’t able to connect with anyone. We weren’t upset, we were just so glad to be in the area that my great-grandparents grew up and get to experience some of their local culture.
We left the Castellamonte area and drove northeast through Milan to Lake Como. I kept my eye out for George Clooney, but didn’t have any luck spotting him (though we think we know which house is his). The actual city of Como is crazy busy, but it calmed down once you got to the actual lake. Don’t be mistaken in thinking you are going to cruise around the entire lake in just a few short hours. With the narrow roads and vast size of the lake, we gave up about 1/3 of the way around and finally stopped for lunch. We found a great place, Ristorante Bar II Pescatore, that was perched high up with a panoramic patio of lakeside views. Since it was our last lunch, we feasted on more caprese, bruschetta and pizzas. Of course, another bottle of wine too!
Wine Bottle Count : 54
Since our flight was departing out of Milan the following morning, we had a hotel near the airport. Unfortunately we didn’t feel up to embarking into the actual city, but opted to stay local near the hotel as we had an early wake up call. We checked in and headed back out to the lobby to catch one of the Italian soccer matches being played in the World Cup. If you have never experienced watching soccer in an European country, it is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. They are VERY committed fans!
Thanks to Yelp for a dinner recommendation, we ended up at this small locals spot that wasn’t much to look at from the outside, but boy was it the place to be! After a 35 minute wait, we were finally seated and ready for the “last supper.” Our eyes were bigger than our stomachs and we actually had to end up canceling the pizzas we ordered because we filled up on the most delicious spaghetti bolognese ever.
We said CHEERS to what an amazing past 15 days we had together traveling throughout the different regions of Italy. It was a trip I only dreamed of going on and to look back at the 1000+ photos I took and writing these posts, I’m beyond grateful for the experience. I have made a commitment to keep on creating memories rather than things because there is nothing that can ever take away these moments spent with the ones I love.
For those of you keeping track … Wine Bottle Count : 56 + countless glasses of wine tastings!
Be sure & check out the other 5 posts from our incredible Italy vacation!
Keep Living a Stylized Life.