Trip Review:10 days in Northern Italy + Switzerland
So, as many of you know, Cam & I tackled our 10 day Northern Italy + Switzerland tour the other week, and well...there's a lot to write about...
Our route was this...Milan, Lake Como, Torno, Lugano, Lake Como, Milan, Verona, Bolzano, The Dolomites, Bolzano, Verona, Venice, Florence, Rome.
Sounds exhausting, right? Well, we had ten days and a lot of ground to cover for our future customers and wanted to make sure we could document and cover as much as we possibly could. Now, I'll skip over the boring train-transfers, but still, there's a lot to talk about, so let's get to it.
If you're the kind of person who prefers a Facebook album, well then just hop to ours for this trip here.
In layman's terms, this trip was totally AWESOME. But, I am not here to bore you by typing out a minute by minute recreation of what happened. Because even after I did it personally, I might find it a bit too much to take in. 10 days is a long time to travel, we know that, we get it. But this is by FAR, our biggest, most intense tour so far, so I wanted to take it one blog post at a time.
Short, sweet and informative is what I am going to shoot for here. Probably won’t happen but give me credit for thinking about doing it. Let's start with Milan. A gorgeous place, and has decent architecture.
And We Are Off!
Personally, I have been to Milan on a couple occasions, and of course lived in Florence for a healthy amount of time, but Como, Lugano, Bolzano and all of their surrounding areas were fairly new to me. Seeing them in person has us here at VoyEdge RX confident they are the perfect type of places that we want in order to create these new experiences for people and make them walk around with their jaws scraping on the hiking trail or the cobblestone streets.
Quick note about Milan, we dropped into CrossFit Porto Ticinese, had some pizza and took the subway once or twice. Milan has great architecture, but don't spend too long here, there's too much to see on this trip.
As this trip goes on and you visit each place it is hard to comprehend that the next location could get any more spine-tingling but this trip really does. Every city you end up in, you question how this place could be more beautiful than the last, it's really quite amazing.
The sheer hills that go up from the shores of Lake Como have you cranking your head to see the top or to try and figure out which pad belongs to one George Clooney (who has yet to still book his first trip with us). One of my favorite things about this trip, is the amount of time spent outdoors, whether it's a boat tour, hike, CrossFit box drop-in, or wandering aimlessly through the streets of a new city, you'll constantly be amazed, and in awe at some of these places. That happened to me on the first hike of the trip in Como, where starts with a fun ride up the local ‘funicolare’ and ends at the edge of Brunate.
From there it is a trek to hit the small shore town of Torno. A new found favorite place of mine filled with small cafes overlooking the shores of Lake Como and surrounding mountains. Truly, a mind-blowing kind of place.
Here you will find those small Italian roads. The kind where if you think you have that one extra croissant they might need to grease up your sides so you can squeeze through. A nice boat cruise back to the town will give you some time to get on the lake and reflect on the day. The night life in Como is a bit more subdued but there is a wonderful beereria (yes, a 'Birreria' as it's known in Italy) that has over 400 beers and many local craft beers on tap. Wine bars also dot the cityscape, and in the summer you can find all of them along the promenade and riviera area.
Well, That Was Unexpected
Next up on the tour was Lugano, Switzerland, a short train ride from Como with incredible landscape views. Seriously, the train was super smooth (you could tell it was Swiss engineering) and the wide glass windows made for a seriously epic train ride through the mountains and lakes.
The train station is ironically halfway up a mountain, so the walk INTO the city is incredible. The walk back, however, not so much....anyway, there's a currency change, so time to get your francs and scour this amazingly beautiful city. From the Riva to the modern shopping center you can find something for everyone. Lugano is small however, so if you are expecting to hear a little German in your life at this point on the trip, think again bucko. The city is 98% Italian through and through but you will not regret giving it a visit on this splendid day trip. With all the available beer and pastries you could want on vacation, a nice seaside stroll among the mountains makes for a perfect 8 hours or so.
By the way, CrossFit Lugano is legit. We've been to a couple boxes in Europe now, and with most of them being in shoebox type warehouses where they don't even let you drop weights, this box was the real deal. HUGE space, every item you could want/need and the best speakers we've heard in Europe so far. Awesome stuff, can't wait to go back. Check out CrossFit Lugano here.
The way it works with our Northern Italy + Switzerland trip, we'll just stop in Lugano for the day, then will take the train back to Lake Como for the night to stay in our hotel.
Want Some German? We Got Your German - and by German, I mean on the border of Austria and Italy.
Oh Bolzano. Where does one begin? If you want to experience Austria/Germany at Italian prices, there is no greater spot. And if you want the best of both Italian and German cultures, then Bolzano should be your next favorite place on Earth. The fine cuisines of both cultures, mixed with the pace of Italy and engineering of the Germans.
Not to mention, the Dolomites are INSANE to see in real life. Not even joking, the hiking here is world-class, and the mountains, gondolas, beer and everything in-between will wholeheartedly make this a special place in your heart.
Now, with that in mind...let's get to it.
We started out in Bolzano being very hungry (not a good thing to be when you're traveling in Italy) and after some travel time and we were happy to find a local German brewery. And not only did they make some delicious beers, but the food we shoved down our gullets hit the spot. It was about this time where we noticed English was not so prominent and that feeling was very refreshing.
Take in the fact, there were also NO AMERICANS to be found, we constantly either heard German, or Italian (depending on the street we were on) and it was awesome. Also, every other store either spoke German, or Italian, so we were constantly shuffling back and forth, as we didn't know a lick of German. Luckily for us, everyone seemed to 'deal' with speaking in Italian.
Now, Bolzano is a special place not only for the majestic mountains and green slopes, but the architecture and innate layout of the town kept us coming back for more. The perfect alleyways, the street markets and ornate piazzas...it was really the perfect sized town and made you feel right at home. The only thing they were missing is a CrossFit box...maybe there's a business idea in there somewhere...
Cliff notes on the hike in Bolzano...take the gondola up to Sopra-Bolzano and then make your way as deep into the Dolomites as you wish. There is a tram that will take you to Collalbo-Klopenstein, but the 2 hour walk is WELL worth it. See some of the photos from our excursion and 6+ hour hike in the scrolling album below.
Now we really amp up the excitement. The Dolomites are a mountain range that extends through Northern Italy and houses some of the most amazing views that one could imagine. Starting out early in the morning with a gondola ride up to Oberbozen you can already get a sense of what is in store. I will not go into detail since it is something that you should see for yourself, but the next hour and half led us on a winding trail I will never forget. If I had to pick one of the multiple trips highlights to talk about, this would be it.
Birthplace of the Renaissance and more importantly, VoyEdgeRX
Cam and I met while working in Florence and the rest is history. Work out a bunch, traveled a lot, and the idea for VoyEdge RX was really born here in the Renaissance city...long story short, we are getting old and the time in Florence seems like ages ago. That being said, it's still one of our absolute favorite cities in the world.
Guess it helps when you know every bartender in the city...
Back to VoyEdge RX stuff,: The last stop on the trip will have you taking in the sights, sounds, unfortunate smells, (and fortunate smells) in this timeless city. There is a lot to love about Florence - but like anything, the more time you spend in a place, the more you begin to see the downsides...
As it is, Florence doesn't change very much - and with literally MILLIONS of tourists coming through Florence each and every year, the city remains the same, while the shops change over every few years.
As with everything, I could go on and on but it is really a place you need to see to believe. Cam and I have seen probably about 120 sunsets each from Piazza Michelangelo and yet every time the view leaves you in awe of the city and surrounding hills. You can see Fiesole, and practically every neighborhood in Florence. From the red tinged terra cotta roof tiles, to the shimmer as dusk approaches, Piazza Michaelangelo will entertain you (and about 2,500 other tourists) for an epic sunset.
Just make sure to leave in time to head off for a wonderful Italian meal at any of the countless number of restaurants. (we have a couple favorites) Long story short, you'll never be bored in Florence....there's just too many people and TOO many things to do here. See the album below for more insight on what we mean.
Florence also serves as a great launching point to other areas around Tuscany. You can easily get to Cinque Terre for a day trip, Pisa, or Tuscany, where we rented some scooters for a day and hit up a couple wineries around Chianti. No matter what your choice, it is impossible to make a wrong one. THERE'S JUST TOO MUCH TO DO IN FLORENCE! And you'll see just what I mean. Whether you choose to see the sights all day, or escape outside the city center, you'll find a never ending flow of charming stores, bars, restaurants, shopping areas and no matter what you choose, it's all the perfect decision.
Last tidbit about Florence - We dropped into CrossFit Firenze and had a nice burpee/toes-to-bar WOD that left us sweaty on the ride back into the city center. It was good, but definitely a little ways out from the historic center of Florence.
But Tony, What Did You Learn?
According to all of the locals, it is going to be hot hot hot in August! Which is good because we like to sweat (don’t worry we can do some laundry if need be). I have always thought this way a little, but it is important to go with the flow and my main takeaway from this trip is that all of us cannot let the big cities cloud our heads. It is easy to get to Rome, Paris, Amsterdam and places like that. But when you visit these smaller cities (Like Bolzano) you never know what you will find and you certainly will not find it in any guidebooks. It won't be published, blogs won't be widely written about it - and that's a good thing. Get off the highway and hit up the dusty trail!
This post is not being put out there to puff our chests and say, ‘you need to book a trip with VRX at this second RRAAWWWRRR’. If you want to take this trip and do it on your own, you do it!! We're here to help motivate people who LOVE travel & fitness. That's it.
Our goal is to get people out into the world no matter how, so that they can explore the world around them. We started this company because we know there are people out there who love travel & fitness as much as we do. And we believe there's a way to connect those individuals through making badass itineraries to the places off the beaten path.
We want you to travel and workout, yes, but more importantly, if you come with us, there will be a few extra bonuses along the way...and maybe we'll throw in some extra motivation to complete a couple squats/pistols in a few of the most incredible places in the world.