Leaving Vernazza

We left Vernazza after two nights thinking we had seen all we wanted to see and would find some where to stay between Vernazza and Modena. We decided to not take the autostrada and drive by old roads which is a lot slower but we were not in a hurry.

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We thought that about 1/2 way to Modena would be good and we could find somewhere to stay the night. We drove for about two hours working our way up the mountains until the top of a mountain pass at 1100 meters. The weather was closing in and as we got to the top there was thick mist covering the mountain.

There was a shop and a bar with accommodation so we got out and had a coffee and asked about the room. The room was 35 EURO per night and we asked to see it.

We took the room, it was cold and were told the heating would take 20 minutes to heat the room up. Pam then decided that she hated the room and had a little sulk. So I has to go back to the lady who spoke almost no English and told here we no longer wanted the room and we left the mountain. I quite liked the idea of waking up at the top of a mountain, but it was not to be.

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We drove down the mountain and there was nothing that looked like accommodation at all close by. We kept driving and at about 80 km to Modena we decided we needed to find something soon,  so we entered HOTELS in the TOMTOM and followed its route.

We found the village but there was no parking signs everywhere and it was raining quite hard by then. We flagged that one after trying to find how to drive there with the TOMTOM wanting us to drive down footpaths. I guess they are called “via something” which translates to “something road” hence why it was wanting us to drive down there.  We left that town and kept on driving. We drove past a B&B sign on the main road 400 meters so we looked for that and could not find an entrance, so we did a u-turn and drove back and found a bridge about 400 meters before the sign. The sign said 400 meters both ways – da!  We drove over the bridge and followed the track for ages, up very windy hills. We never found the B&B and turned around after about 3 KM.

We then selected another name in the TOMTOM and drove there. Up a small windy road, and then up a very steep drive way but it was closed. We pulled another from the TOMTOM and drove to it, but it did not exist. This went on for ages, we found one in a village that Pam said looked nice, but it was closed on Mondays.

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We then gave up and phoned the place where we were going to be staying (Ca Penelope) for the next 6 nights and asked if we could come 1 day earlier – they said yes so we at least had somewhere to go.

The rain was very very hard, and the roads entering Modena were very very busy with people probably going home, the visibility was bad.

The roads into Modena also gave me a bad feeling about this place in that it is just a large city, something I can’t be bothered with. We drove off towards Maranello which also looked like a major city and found the farm where we are staying – right on the edge of town. The rain kept coming down, and we drove in and got out of the car.

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I did something like 6 hours driving when I was only planning on 2 hours, I was very buggered after the drive.

We checked in and were shown the apartment, really a room with a small kitchenette. It was clean and inviting. Pam cooked some pasta with the small amount of ingredients we had and we opened a wine out of a milk carton – 1 EURO 39 cents – it was crap but we had to see what it was like.

A pretty quiet night and out like a light.

Triora to Vernazza

We left Triora today at about 10am – I was quite sad to go as I really loved being there, Pam had even started to get use to the steep paths. Another week or two and she may have become a mountain goat on the paths but alas we had to leave.

We said goodbye to Carl and told him how much we loved staying there. If we were closer we would go back but at 25,000+ KM from home it is probably a once in a life time trip to Triora. Normally I am quite happy to move onto the next place to visit and explore but this time I would like to have had another week.

We left Triora and headed down the mountain and stopped in a town called Bardaluco

We went to an ATM and tried to get 500 EURO but it told us the bank had declined it so we tried 250 EURO – that was OK, we then did another 250 EURO and that was OK we so got out 500 EURO in cash.

We went to the local bar and got a coffee (0.90 cents each) which was very nice so we had another, used their toilet, and then bought two faccaccia sandwiches one with tomato and mozzarella and the other with an egg and spinach omelette – 1.5 EURO each. We also got two pieces of desert, one was apple and custard, the other a red fruit tart – 1 EURO each.

We headed back to the car and then left the mountains and hit the autostrada soon after. We got on the autostrada at Taggia and left at the exit for levanto about 3 hours later. Most of the roads are 130 kph, except around Genoa which was 80 (not that anyone took any notice), and generally after Genoa it was 110 kph.

We did not stop once we hit the autostrada since there really was not anywhere to stop, there were petrol stations, and SOS points but none seemed an option.

Pam counted (I know counted) 122 tunnels from Taggia to Levanto. The tunnels ranged from 100-200 meters to 2.8km in length, so taking 200 meters on average we drove more than 20km in tunnels.

We drove down the road to Levanto which was quite good quality, and drove to the centre of town. We could see signs around about no parking 24 hours per day, others 1 hour free, some 9 EURO per 24 hours. Motor homes – 10 Euro for 12 hours and 15 EURO for 24 hours.

We had read on the Internet that you could drive past the church about 500 meters and park for free. We decided to check this option out and went down a road, but it was a bit off the main road and did not feel safe. We then came across a place next to the roundabout that had a white parking border (free parking) and decided to park our car there. We are still not sure if the car will be there when we get back in 2 or 3 days.

Triora – last full day – a trip to France

After yesterdays rain we woke to find a stunning day and decided to head to France.

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We drove down from Triora to Taggia where we got onto the motorway and headed for France. We paid our last Italian toll 4 Euro 60 cents just before the French border and went through a tunnel and a sign with FRANCE was shown and then everything was in French.

We bought fuel at a fuel station on the edge of the motorway and then found we had to pay a 2 EURO toll at the start of our journey in France. So unlike Italy where you get a ticket and then pay at the end you appear to pay at the start.

We drove into Nice, and found a place to park. We bought a ticket to stay there for 1 hour and left the car and wondered around the local streets – there was not a lot of see since it was just a city.

The prices of food seemed to be quite expensive, a roll with ham + cheese was 4 EURO. Simple meals in restaurants where 12-15 Euro.

We had a look at some fruit shops but the produce looked pretty crappy and old and stuffed.

Pears looked rotten to me and other vegetables did not look inviting at all.

We looked at a could of butcher shops and we ended up buying a rotisserie chicken for 4 Euro 50 cents. And a load of bread for 60 cents.

We went back to the car and looked for somewhere to eat our lunch – the city is quite busy and nowhere to park up so we left town and ended up being behind a tour bus. It was driving quite slowly and then pulled over – we also pulled over and it was a scenic view point (not of Nice) but the next bay around.

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We sat on a park bench and ate our lunch which was very pleasant.

We cleaned up and continued on our journey to Monaco which is only just up the road.

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We pulled into Monte Carlo with its steep streets and navigated to a car park building. 2.5 Euro per hour.

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Driving from Triora to the coast and back

We decided that today (Tuesday) we would drive from Triora and visit some villages and work our way down to the coast and buy from more groceries.

Pam had a list of villages she wanted to see:

  • Castel Vittorio
  • Pigna
  • Apricale
  • Dolceacqua

We left Triora sometime after 10am and started our journey to Castel Vittorio – 28 km away but the TOMTOM said it would take 55 minutes. The road is very windey and narrow. We drove up a long way to a maximum of 1150 meters above sea level – Triora is at 750 meters above sea level.

The TOMTOM unit lost the road quite a few times and told us to go back but we ignored it and it found the road again – I think it did this about 6 times.

The winding road was overall quite good quality except at the top where the road surface was starting to have lots of holes. Some of the corners you had to toot your horn as you could not see if anyone was coming at all and the road was certainly 1 lane only in parts.

The mountains were covered in trees and it looked very nice while we drove along.

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We found Castel Vittorio at about 11:45am, it was a spectacular village as we drove up to it. We found the car park and parked the car. We were not sure what the signs were saying  in the car park and I had to translate using the Blackberry Translate application I have. Basically it said that if you park there on a Friday they will remove your car – so no problems for Tuesday.

We stopped at a bar and had a coffee sitting on the edge of the street – cost 1 EURO each.

We then walked up around the village and left after about 20 minutes.

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Castel Vittorio from a distance Pam having a coffee in Castel Vittorio The clock tower in Castel Vittorio
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A religious figure in a wall Pam in the alley From Castel Vittorio looking over Pigna
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Castel Vittorio Castel Vittorio Chris at the bottom of the clock tower

Pigna was only 5 km away from Castel Vittorio – but about 12 minutes driving, so we drove there.

The village looked great from a distance but we decided to just drive through when we got there.

Apricale was next after Pigna, 20 minutes and 10 km away. The road was actually quite good in parts here and we got there by early afternoon.

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Apricale from a distance A close-up of Apricale Apricale from the car park
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Art on the walls of the buildings in Apricale Art on the walls of the buildings in Apricale Art on the walls of the buildings in Apricale
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A piazza in Apricale A piazza in Apricale The main road in Apricale
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The wee jug is what my wine came in A view from Apricale The main road to Apricale
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A typical building The clock tower – a bicycle on the top? Not sure what the figures mean
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A nice scene A pathway to hoses a typical path

The village looked amazing perched on the hill top and this was one place we had thought about staying at.

We drove up and along the village edge until we found a car park. We parked up there and looked for somewhere to have lunch.

The first place we found was on the road we have driven on and had Pizza and Pasta and looked ok, the next place which was similar, but it smelt like diesel outside so we flagged that one, we then headed up to the village.

Some of the streets in the village stunk of cat piss.

There were a couple of restaurants we found but looked expensive – 30 EURO + for a full menu which is actually a lot of courses – but 30 EURO is about $80 NZD far to much for lunch each.

We wondered down to the first restaurant and settled in there. Pam ordered Ravioli with Fungi, and I ordered a dish of gnocchi with a cheese sauce. We ordered a bottle of water, and a 1/4 litre of wine for me.

The gnocchi was quite boring – no real flavour, and were like little bits of glue. Pam did not really like her pasta but it was a lot nicer than what I had. I did not think there was anything wrong with hers, and she had a nice sauce with it and the mushrooms were nice. The wine was so-so – quite light in colour and body. It was a local wine to the area – one I would keep away from – I did not note its name – house wine so it is never good.

So overall 22 EURO - $50 NZD for a pretty bland experience.

Back to the car and now off to Dolceacqua. It was only about 6 KM down the road. The road now got very good and generally two full lanes all the time. There were a lot of Tour buses when we arrived in the town. We saw the bridge (the main attraction) as we drove along and I guess after seeing a lot of other bridges and medieval villages it was a bit of a let down for me. There was no where to park so I continued on. The TOMTOM said to turn right so we did and found ourselves in a rather tiny road up on the side of the hill. It told us to turn left where there was no roads so we ended up doing a U-Turn and go back the way we arrived. I found a park but I could not leave the car so Pam went and checked out the bridge.

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We then wanted to find a supermarket to buy some food – there was one in a large town called Ventimiglia. We found that OK, but could not find the supermarket in the shopping centre. Pam asked and it was down below us. It was quite a drab type of place and a lot of the vegetables looked pretty sad.

We bought Tomatoes, and Onions, Tomato Paste, more Toast, Water, Tonic Water, and Wine – about 22 EURO.

After this time was getting on for 4pm.

We decided to head back to Triora via the coast until a town called Taggia were we go back inland, and up into the mountains again.

We travelled from Ventimiglia through Bordighera and onto Ospedaletti and into San Remo. It was now about 4:40pm so the roads was getting busy.

The TOMTOM said we should be back at Triora at 6pm but the roads were real slow. And they got worse.

We ended up in a queue of traffic that just did not seem to move at all. Over 30 minutes we moved 500 meters and the TOMTOM was now saying wee would not get home to 6:30, but this traffic was not moving. We assume there was an accident up ahead as this could not be rush hour traffic.

About now I had enough of this and did a U-Turn and got the TOMTOM to find an alterative route back.

It told me to turn right, I did, but it was not a road, more like a driveway, so we backed out of there and continued and let the TOMTOM find another route. This time it said to take a sharp right (very sharp – 3 point turn) and head up hill. We zigzagged up a hill in San Remo about 20 times and we were now about 200 meters above the sea. Again we were not sure if this was the correct way but continued on anyway. At the top there was a sign for the Autostrada so we were happy the TOMTOM was doing its job again.

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We got a new toll ticket and went onto the motorway, 130 kph is far better than sitting in traffic. We only drove for about 5 minutes and were told to exit the motorway (we has passed through 8 tunnels in that 5 minutes). The toll was 2 EURO.

We exited and headed for Taggia which is the same town we had came through on Saturday so we were now on familiar roads.

We passed close to a town called Badalucco and took a couple of snaps

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We got back to Triora and took the groceries and walked back up the hill and got back to the apartment at about 7pm so overall a long day.

I got some stats form the car for our trip:

Total Distance Travelled : 136 KM

Total Driving Time : 5 hours 35 minutes

I then cooked Pasta for dinner, had a nice wine with dinner which was a Primitivo  - quite full bodied for Italian wines – note to self – buy some when back in NZ

Milan to Triora

We packed up our bags and left them at the hotel and went to the train station to pickup our rental car – I could not help myself and had to have a final coffee on the way – great as always – 90 cents

We went to the EuropCar office at the train station and filled in the paper work for the car and then had to wait until someone bought the car to the train station. It was obviously a busy day as a couple of girls came in looking for a car for 1 day and the man said they only had 1 car left which was 120 EURO for the day which is about 300 NZD

We waited for about 20 minutes for the car to arrive which was an Alfa Romeo – 159, only 30,000 on the clock, 6 Speed Manual Gearbox


First off I could not even work out how to start it – I knew from Top Gear that you put the key in the hole and click the Start/Stop button but it did not work. I finally got it going without really knowing what I did.

We fitted the TOMTOM to the window and entered the hotel address as the destination since driving is different than walking the route.

We reversed out and onto the road and into the street. Since I drive an automatic I am not familiar with the 6 speed manual gearbox and we stopped at a set of lights and I placed it into 3rd instead of first since it looked the right spot – I stalled the car and then could not work out how to start it again – STUCK in TRAFFIC – people honking behind me – at least it was a Saturday.

I finally worked out you had to put your foot on the clutch and hold it down to start  (should have worked it out at the station).

We drove to the hotel and picked up our bags which fit in the boot nicely and programmed the TOMTOM with TRIORA as the destination – 300 km and about 3.5 hours.

We drove through Milan central where the roads were sometimes not much wider than the car and found the Autostrada (Motorway) entrance and we were off (did I mention the TOMTOM? great – no hassles – I think it would have a been quite hard work with Pam giving me directions as she is terrible with directions saying the maps are not left handed)

The Autostrada speed limit is 130 kph which is 81 mph. Most people go a lot faster – I would say some would be driving 180 kph quite easily especially the Mercedes, Porsche, BMW’s and there are heaps of them all everywhere.

The road is good – 3 lanes out of Milan on the A7 until we changed to the A26 where it dropped to two lanes.

On the way from Milan to where we turned off near the coast to Triora I think we went through about 150 tunnels. Some short 100 meters, some 2km long.

We decided to stop in Savona to get some groceries for our 7 nights in Triora – so we had to leave the Autostrada and pay out first toll. It was 10 EURO from Milan to Savona.

We were not sure were to go to buy food so we put into the TOMTOM we wanted a shopping centre and it found a few – the first 1.1 km and next 35km so we took the first option.

We found the shopping centre and all the parking was underneath it so we drove in the car park but I was not comfortable parking it down there as it takes time to work out the width and length of a new vehicle so we drove out again and parked on the road.

We went in side and found the supermarket or in this case a COOP on the second floor – We found a trolley (normally you have to pay 1 EURO and you get it back later when you drop it back) and went inside. You can buy a stereo, television, game machine, clothes with your groceries in this place.

We went for the food section – there is so much variety there compared to NZ:

  • 1.5 Litre water – 45 cents
  • 6 eggs – 1 Euro + 80 cents
  • Parmesan cheese – depends on the quality but from 12 to 30 euro
  • Olives – plastic bag 50 cents to glass jars 2-3 euro but it depends on the type and size
  • Pork Chops – 7 euro / kg

We spent 80 euro on food which included 3 bottles of wine – mostly cheap stuff since I don’t know anything about Italian wine.

We bought some 24 month old parmesan, about 350 grams for a bit under 6 EURO

They have interesting toast here – it comes in a package like a pack of biscuits – and yes it is toast – pre toasted – Brittle but actually quite nice

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They have lovely other cheeses everywhere and cheap – so we bought a selection. We also bought eggs, pasta, olives, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salami, prosciutto, lemonade, coke, artichokes, butter and jam.

After the shopping centre we put Triora back into the TOMTOM and off we went (picking up a new motorway toll ticket)

We drove for another 30 minutes and exited the motorway and had to pay 9 EURO in tolls this time so 19 EURO in tolls.

Now we leave the coast and work out way into the mountains – the roads now get quite narrow and in some places very hard for 2 cars to pass each other. Pam mentioned that there is a bus in Triora and it would not be good to meet this on a narrow corner  - we inched around a corner with another car from the other direction and the found the bus, but at least we had a wider section of road now.

I put a software application called HEIGHT on the TOMTOM that tells you your height and we could see we were climbing quite fast- our destination is at 700 meters.

Change of plans

We have decided to change our plans and drive from Milan to Triora via Torin instead of Genoa to Triora.

This makes the driving portion a lot longer, the journey will be around 5-6 hours instead of 1-2 hours, but we should see a lot more of Italy this way.

Our Italian tutor thinks we are mad to drive this route but hopefully we will survive it and have a good tale to tell afterwards.

View Larger Map

Approximate Costs
52.02 EUR (Toll: 13.80 EUR, Petrol: 38.22 EUR)

Approximate Time
5 hours and 22 minutes of which 1 hour and 57 minutes are on motorways

Approximate Distance
338km of which 196km are on motorways and 13km on scenic roads

The cost of driving a vehicle in Italy

The cost of driving a vehicle in Italy

I have never been able to find out what sort of charges there are for toll roads in Italy. A lot of roads mainly the motorways, charge for parts of the journey, but today I found a site that can show you an approximate cost for them including driving instructions from point A to point B.

The site is called ViaMichelin and is available at http://www.viamichelin.com/

This site allows you to enter a starting point, and a destination and up to two stopovers along the way. You can also specify if you would like to calculate the route using five different methods:

  • Recommended (mainly motorways)
  • Quickest
  • Shortest
  • Sightseeing
  • Economical (basically no motorways)

The site also calculates the cost in tolls, and likely price of petrol that you will use along with the number of KM of motorways and Scenic Roads.

You can also generate GPS files of the routes for TOMTOM, ViaMichelin, Garman, NavMan, Navigon and Mio

The TOMTOM format used is OV2 (which TOMTOM uses for Point Of Interest files) where as I would have thought it would have used an Itinerary file (*.ITN)

So I am not sure what I am suppose to to with an OV2, you can however use http://poieditor.com to convert from .OV2 to ITN, or a Google KML file

The site also generates a route plan and includes a lot of details including where you pickup a toll ticket, and where and how much it will cost when you need to pay. You can also print this route.

An example route:


Here are some examples of the differences the engine can make for the following route:

Start of Journey Milan
Via Torin
End of Journey Triora

Recommended Route
Costs 69.49 EUR (Toll: 26.90 EUR, Petrol: 42.59 EUR)
Time 4 hours and 55 minutes of which 3 hours and 23 minutes are on motorways
Distance 397km of which 341km are on motorways and 42km on scenic roads

Costs 69.49 EUR (Toll: 26.90 EUR, Petrol: 42.59 EUR)
Time 4 hours and 55 minutes of which 3 hours and 23 minutes are on motorways
Distance 397km of which 341km are on motorways and 42km on scenic roads

Costs 52.02 EUR (Toll: 13.80 EUR, Petrol: 38.22 EUR)
Time 5 hours and 22 minutes of which 1 hour and 57 minutes are on motorways
Distance 338km of which 196km are on motorways and 13km on scenic roads

Costs 47.96 EUR (Toll: 6.90 EUR, Petrol: 41.06 EUR)
Time 6 hours and 41 minutes of which 1 hours and 12 minutes are on motorways
Distance 353km of which 113km are on motorways and 66km on scenic roads

Costs 38.58 EUR (Toll: 0 EUR, Petrol: 38.58 EUR)
Time 7 hours and 11 minutes of which none are on motorways
Distance 378km of which 0km are on motorways and 58km on scenic roads

The maps while not as pretty as Google’s are very good and you have Map, Satellite, and Hybrid types.

You can also overlay weather, conditions, parking, hotels, restaurants and tourist points of interest on the maps.


Copyright © Chris & Pam - 2020