This article will cover the highlights of my family road trip from Nice, France past Genoa and down the western coast of Italy finishing in Positano on the Amalfi coast. While most of these destinations absolutely deserve books written on each fairy tale destination, I’d like to draw you to my favorite experiences. Enjoy!
1) Nice, France
While not fully telling, this is the first term that comes to mind when I think of my stint in Nice. The restaurants on the stunning rocky beach front are a great place to plop down with a nice glass of wine sourced from regions such as Bordeaux and take in the fresh Mediterranean air. The whole family naturally ordered seafood on our first evening and boy, was I glad I ordered the sea bass. The whole fish was served on bone and all, sprinkled with pomegranates. It was one of the freshest fish I have ever eaten. Sometimes you reflect back and wonder, was it the quality of the food or the atmosphere surrounding me? I like to think it’s often both.
The casinos along the waterfront provide a great distraction from the ambiance of the beautiful beach, palm trees sprinkling the boulevard and yes, the people. Not that such a distraction is required, but walking along Promenade des Anglais, (as the walk along the beach front is dubbed) is a great way to spend a day or night in Nice.
Nice is nice.
You’ve heard it before, you think it’s cliche but don’t be surprised if you quote it once you go. Therefore, include Nice on any trip itinerary of Southern France and you won’t regret it.
2) Cinque Terre, Italy
It’s likely that you’ve seen postcards, posters, and advertisements of Italian fishing villages with every pastel color imaginable splashed upon walls of homes tucked between mountainous valleys that trickle down to the sea. There’s also a strong chance these photos are from one of the five (“cinque”) villages (“terre” or “land” in Italian) in the Cinque Terre.
You’ll have no trouble finding an amazing outdoor setting to eat the traditional fresh seafood likely infused with pesto, which originated in Genoa to the north. Whether you’re in the village of Riomaggiore, Vernazza, or Manarola, you’ll likely find great restaurants along the main streets where you’ll be under the cascading levels of pastel buildings on all sides. Alternatively, if you’re adventurous enough to climb through the meandering side streets, you’ll find breath taking scenes overlooking the Mediterranean Sea. Hence, try to do this at sunset as a lot of the views will be facing west.
Finally, a parting but most memorable thought from Riomaggiore, was the surprise of bioluminescent plankton on my final night. Now, I can’t promise you will be rewarded the same way I was as bioluminescent plankton are more common on a clear yet moonless summer night when the sun has been shinning all day. It was around 11 pm and I decided to take a walk around the southern tip of the village where the cliff juts out. There is a walkway which allows you to get down to the beach to the south. It was here, under a starry night, I waded in the water surrounded by hundreds of thousands of neon blue particles. An unforgettable experience to say the least.
3) Porto Santo Stefano, Italy
Porto Santo Stefano doesn’t likely come to mind when you are thinking of must-see places along the Italian coast but I will say, this port town certainly impressed. If you decide to make a stop at this lovely port town, ensure to either stay along the water in town to allow for the stunning views once the buildings are lit at night OR stay at an inn along the many cliff bluffs that the island offers away from the crowds or people.
Located the same island of Porto Santo Stefano, there is a restaurant perched about half a mile up overlooking the Island of Elba. The views from here at sunset considering it is facing west, are not to miss. The name of this restaurant is Ristorante Il Bottegone. As I sat there with my family and enjoyed the sunset, it was then that I became extremely grateful for this gamble of a stop along our trip.
For an incredible beachy blue lagoon experience with clear water, head to Cala del Gesso. It’s private and great for cove lovers. Ensure to wear sandals as the rocks can be uncomfortable for bare feet here.
4) Positano, Italy
Arguably the gem of the entire mainland Italian coast, the Amalfi coast embodies what everyone coming to Italy wants to experience with its lush green mountains and cliffs diving deep into the majestic waters of the Mediterranean.
The town of Positano provided the location of my favorite dinner the entire time I was in Italy with my family. With enough limoncello to make anyone’s head spin and the fresh mussels, clams, and octopus, it was a meal to cherish. Furthermore, a traditional Italian style ‘mariachi’ band serenaded us throughout the evening. Oh, and then there was the infamous tour bus incident. A tour bus ripped around one of the hair pin turns by the restaurant and collided into the back of a parked car while we were eating. (Note: driving on the Amalfi coast is hair raising, in my opinion it should be reserved for professional rally drivers only). No one was injured but it certainly provided another element of excitement to the evening.
Positano will leave you breathless with its unimaginable views that just don’t seem real while you’re in the moment. As John Steinbeck wrote,
‘Positano bites deep. It is a dream place that isn’t quite real when you are there and becomes beckoningly real after you have gone’.
Needless to say, it was an ambitious itinerary for two and half weeks. Once everything was said and done, we experienced an assortment of delicious meals spanning many cultures along the way. The drinks certainly pleased from the Riesling of Southwest Germany, bold Chianti of Tuscany, or the hearty Weiss biers (wheat beers) popular in Germany and Northern Switzerland. Additionally, the relics of the past in each region, evident in the architecture of castles, coliseums, and homes alike, satisfied my historical curiosity all along the way.
This post is a continuation of my previous story on a family road trip from Frankfurt, Germany to Interlaken, Switzerland. Therefore, if the region of southwest Germany or the Berner Oberland in Switzerland are destinations of interest to you, then do yourself a favor and read my post titled “Road trip from Frankfurt to Interlaken: 5 destinations NOT to miss”.