And just like that, our fantastic break came to an end. We decided it was best to retire Stinky the tent (by ‘we’, I mean Gina), as he’d given us a lot, and was starting to show his age, and namesake. We dropped him in the bin of the campsite, and started our epic journey back home to Freiburg! Fantastic holiday.
The weather forecast knew exactly what was going on, and for a second day, we woke up to pure sunshine! Excellent news for us, as we were planning to go back up into the mountains for another day of ferrata.
For the second time, we drove up to Campo Carlo Magno, and got ourselves the same cablecar as we did yesterday to all the way up to Rifugio Stoppani (2500m). This time though, we were going to head in the opposite direction, and up towards the mighty impressive Cima Grostè massif, on Sentiero Alfredo Benini via Ferrata. This is what the internets has to say about today’s ferrata:
The Alfredo Benini equipped trail is often seen as the northern extension of the famous “Via delle Bocchette”, the best known and most fascinating high altitude equipped route in the whole Alps.
This Ferrata winds its way in a superlative environment, characterised by the impressive needles of the Grostè, Falckner and Sella peaks. The most challenging part is the final one : from the foot of Cima Sella down to Bocca di Tuckett with a succession of ladders and sections at times vertical and exposed. However, you also enjoy the spectacular views of the Ghiacciaio Pensile (hanging glacier) and Scivolo di Brenta (Brenta chute): a truly extraordinary experience.
From the hut, we walked up into the mountains until we reached a wonderful plateau with incredible views in all direction. We were above cloud level too, which made the view that more impressive.
We continued up towards up towards Cima Grostè, and was greeted by the start of the Alfredo Benini path, marked on a large boulder. We took a moment to kit up in our dashing gear, and took some more impressive photos.
After getting as much photos as we could, we continued along the ferrata – with some it’s impressive suspended ledge that traversed the eastern side of Cima Falkner, and the long downhill section with equipped passages and ladders.. On the decent we stopped again to enjoy some spectacular views of Ghiacciaio Pensile (hanging glacier) and the Scivolo di Brenta (Brenta chute):
Whilst we were here, enjoying the view – our minds went onto the fact that the cable car that we’d taken up, was stopping it’s run down hill in about an hour or so. If we didn’t make the last cable car, we’d be faced with a 3 to 4 hour walk downhill, which we both didn’t fancy doing. So! We changed gear, and walked as fast as we possibly could towards Rifugio Stoppani where we first started our walk. I don’t think we’ve walked so fast in our lives, overtaking everyone, and demanding to know from everyone that came towards us how close we were to the hut. With only 10 mins to spare (no joke), we saw the hut on the horizon. Gina ran into the bar and got herself (probably) the best beer she’s ever had in her life before we had to jump on the last cablecar down towards Claude.
And just like that, we were back down with Claude. Today was Gina’s nameday, so a quick stop off at the store to buy her some chocolate was in order, and a lovely evening pizza meal in our favourite pizzarea for our last evening.
Our research had paid off. It was gloriously sunny – blue skies everywhere with only a dusting of clouds here and here. This was perfect. As I’d freaked out on day 1 with Via Ferrata Michielli Strobel, we’d thought it would be a better idea to start me off a bit gentle, so on todays agenda was Sentiero Gustavo Vidi Ferrata – a really nice traverse hike, with only a couple of places where we’d need to clip-in to manoeuvre the ‘tricky bits’ here in the northern Brenta group.
We drove over to Campo Carlo Magno, and got ourselves a cablecar all the way up to Passo del Groste to Rifugio Stoppani, a hut that’s located high on the plateau at 2500m.
At the top, the weather could not have been any better, sun was blasting, and Gina’s shades were out in full force.
From the hut, we headed over towards the trailhead signs, and followed the trail as it began to steeply climb into a pass on the Pietra Grande ridge. The ferrata started with a nice sign telling us to secure ourselves, and plenty of photo ops. as we had an insane vista towards Cima Grostè and the central Brenta peaks.
Once we reached the highest point of Sentiero Vidi, we traversed across the western side of Pietra Grande, and for a couple of hours, we were having a great time climbing ladders and cables, and admiring the fantastic landscape.
Once we were out of the ferrata bit, we settled down on a nice mountain edge for some lunch, and just admire the views. From here, we hooked around the mountain, and up to Bocchetta dei Tre Sassi (2614m), where we were greeted with even more impressive views of the valley below, where more photos took place!
Once the photoshoot was over, we started to make our way back down to the lower of the two huts, which was a bit of a mission through all the loose rock – but! we were however pleasantly surprised to hear a beautiful sound in these mountains, a Svist!! (Marmot!) As we were walking down, she was just ‘svist’ing’ the whole way across the valley, to warn her pals that two no-gooders like us was in the area, creating havoc! It was really nice, and made me fell in love with Marmots.
The hike down was a bit of a mission, but thankful we managed to make it down to Claude, who was waiting nicely for us. We continued down the valley to try and find us a nice camping spot for the evening, and found a great one over in a small village called Carisolo; Parco Adamello.
The drive down the valley was magnificent, nice winding roads, with plently of lay-bys for us to nip into to take a few snaps on the way down, this is where I managed to take this dramatic photo of the Brenta group in all it’s glory.
This evening, we were pretty beat from all the activities, and headed into town for an epic pizza, and then returned to the tent with the hope that the weather will still be great for tomorrows mountain activities.
Our next destination was the fashion and design metropolis that is Milan! I *think* we had a leisurely morning over in Levanto, and slowly cruised up with Claude to the big city.
I loved Milan. A very beautiful city, and it seemed there was a lot going on here, but we didn’t fancy hanging around too long, as we’d been watching the weather all week – and we’d spotted that the weather in the mountains was now clearing up, and it looked like there was glorious sunshine up North. After all, this was supposed to be a Ferrata trip!
We arrived at Milan at around 14:00, and the first stop was the glorious Cathedral square.
The Cathedral was mighty impressive, the facade was in-sane. So much detail, with crazy statues and gargoyles decorating the whole thing. We spent a good few minutes walking around the square, admiring the impressive front before heading inside for a ground floor tour – which was impressive! The quality and detail on everything was spectacular!
We then decided to potter around the centre a bit, just to experience what Milan had to offer, and came aross the mighty ‘Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II’ one of the world’s oldest shopping malls – and was filled to the brim with designer fashion shops. From here, we headed back towards the Cathedral for a few more pics, back to Claude, as we had an epic journey on our hands – back to the Dolomites!
Ahead of us we had a 4 hour car journey from Milan to Madonna di Campiglio – back towards Lake Garda and up high into the Dolomites. Once we reached the mountains, it became really dark – and I was driving through a massive thunder and lightning storm, it was incredibly dramatic. we found ourselves a nice camping spot, and settled down to the sound of distant thunder – hoping that the weather reports were correct for the next coming days.
The plan for the day was the amazing coastline hike of Cinque Terre. Here’s what the internets has to say about the area:
Cinque Terre is a string of centuries-old seaside villages on the rugged Italian Riviera coastline. In each of the 5 towns, colorful houses and vineyards cling to steep terraces, harbors are filled with fishing boats and trattorias turn out seafood specialties along with the Liguria region’s famous sauce, pesto. The Sentiero Azzurro cliffside hiking trail links the villages and offers sweeping sea vistas.
Sweeping sea vistas indeed it was! We grabbed some breakfast from Levanto, and sat on the seafront eating with a cup of coffee, and enjoyed the view as some locals took a nice, early morning swim in the Ligurian Sea.
To get to the starting point of the walk, and the furthest village away from Levanto we had to catch the Cinqu Terre train. The train departs at Levanto, and stops at each village along the way. The last stop, and our first village was; Riomaggiore.
Really pretty village, nicely built into the river valley that runs right into the sea. We had fun taking photos of the amazing views, but unfortunately, the skies were completely overcast. We made a quick dash over to the pretty church and square they had, and grabbed a quick cup of coffee before venturing down to the sea front.
Once at the sea front, we could see all the way back to Levanto, and loads of rocky bays weaving in-and-out into the coastline. We started our walk, heading towards the next village of Manarola. Manarola was quite pretty, as it was located just behind a large rock face as we approached it.
Mangrola seemed to be very busy, with a couple of small boats coming into the harbour as we were overlooking form above, and even people jumping from the cliffs into the sea below. Tourist numbers were now also starting to creep up so we decided to continue our journey towards Corniglia.
Corniglia seemed a lot smaller than the other villages so far, and was a bit less dramatic, as it didn’t seem flow down right into the sea, Gina did however make a new friend, in the form of a beautiful, bushy black cat. Gina played with her for a bit, whilst I chilled out.
we continued on, through some vegetation, trees and tall grass, over the rocks towards Vernazza. Vernazza to me was the prettiest of the villages, as it had it’s own little headland cropping out into the sea, and an old looking watch tower at the top, over looking the bay. The village had some really nice narrow, tall streets, with houses built completely ontop of each other.
We decided to have a bit of a rest here, and waited around for the sunset to take some nice photos. However, here in Vernazza, I managed not only to destroy my camera, but also Gina’s lens that I’d been borrowing for the trip. I was trying to overtake some tourists on the narrow steep stairs, and my sandals slipped, causing my camera to swing out and smash against a metal pole. Devastating. From here onwards, I had to fashion together a hack, with duct tape and gentle balance of the lens in order to take the pictures. (My camera never recovered, and I never was able to fix Gina’s awesome lens. Sorry love.)
With that, we decided to catch the train back from Vernazza to our camp at Levanto, as the sun was setting and we were getting tired – so much sea air!
We got up bright and early, and decided it would be a great opportunity to head back over to our favourite square; Piazzale Michelangelo to see it without much tourists, and to try and catch the sunrise. We were greeted to some cloud cover though, but not much tourists. We had a nice little photo shoot, but then decided it was best to hit the road, as there wasn’t much chance of the sun coming through those thick clouds.
We headed West – over to probably the most famous tower in the world; The leaning tower of Pisa. This place was super filled with tourists. Everyone doing the same ‘leaning-against’ photo which was quite amusing. Gina had her own fantastic take on the photo (probably my fave photo ever). We hung around the Piazza del Duomo area for a little while, just trying to get some nice pics – including some 8 pic, stitched panorama of the Cathedral & Tower.
The whole square area where the Cathedral and tower was located was really beautiful, there was some fantastic details on the buildings, but otherwise, we found Pisa to be a bit strange. They had one other gem, the only still-standing Roman parts of this historical city, Baths of Nero which we popped over to see.
After a quick bite to eat, we headed North to Levanto. We found ourselves a beautiful little campsite called ‘Camping Acqua Dolce’ located right in the heart of the village – and had a really nice green feel to it. We setup camp, and headed straight over to the sea, as the whole coastline look amazing. I had a fun time snorkelling around, and Gina had a great time swimming around.
We headed back to the tent to chill for a couple of hours, and made sure to come back for sunset as we knew the light would be amazing with the sun setting right over the sea.
After our awesome photoshoot, and quick walk along the seafront / promenade, we headed back to the campsite for a delicious dinner at the campsite cafe, before heading to bed as we had a big walk ahead of us tomorrow!
We woke up incredibly early – as we knew Florence would be full to the brim of little gems for us to go and see, and with a whole day scheduled, we didn’t want to waste any time. After a fresh breakfast, we hurried up a couple hundred meters up the road to our favourite new view point; Piazzale Michelangelo – but now as the sun was just rising, it would paint Florence even prettier than it was last night.
After taking in the beauty from the Piazza, we made our way down towards the River Arno, and walked up towards Ponte Vecchio, “a Medieval stone closed-spandrel segmental arch bridge over the Arno River, noted for still having shops built along it, as was once common” – but as we were crossing over it so early, shop was closed. Our first port of call was the World famous Uffizi Gallery, an art gallery that’s among the oldest and most famous art museums of Europe (!!). We were terribly excited.
The museum itself was pretty fantastic, unfortunately – as with much museums, taking photos was strictly forbidden, so we didn’t manage to take any of the beautiful rooms, but we were awe struck by some of the works on displays, the building itself was also amazing, with some really amazing corridors and views over the River Arno – and looking back towards Ponte Vecchio.
From here, we headed back outside to take in Florence’s architecture – as pretty much every single building we saw was incredible. We saw various statues from masters such as Leonardo da Vinci casually out in the street on an old chapel called Orsanmichele, to very interesting ‘gargoyle’ type decorations in the streets.
We continued to walk around the streets, and came across a replica of Michelangelo’s ‘David’, which was located in the sculpture’s original position, in front of the Palazzo della Signoria – which blew my mind. Also, where ever you looked on this Plazzo, every single sculpture was amazing – I’ve never seen anywhere like it, and I’m extremely happy to have been there.
Everywhere you look, the one dominant feature on the Florence skyline is the Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore (Florence Cathedral) – so a swift walk to Piazza del Duomo was in order – this is the main square which sits around the Cathedral, and the Baptistery.
Once the crowds calmed down, we did manage to get into the fantastic Cathedral, but unfortunately, I didn’t manage to get any photos from inside.
By now, we were getting pretty tired – as we’d done a LOT of sight seeing. I had a great idea, of heading back to the tent for a couple of hours, just to chill, and get something from the campsite bar and wait for it to get dark – as I thought to myself (and then later told Gina), that with all these amazing sculptures and buildings dotted around, the good people of Florence surely has the correct idea to light up these amazing works in the night with pretty lights, so it would be worth our while to come back later on in the evening to get some night photography shots in. After getting a well deserved Italian ice cream, we headed back up to the campsite.
So, after a quick break – we headed back to the best places we’d seen during the day, and took some night time shots! And, as I had predicted – everything was indeed spectacular.
We woke up, to see that the brunt of the storm had passed us over night, and what was left was a couple of rainy patches. After packing up stinky, we headed back up the road, so we can have a nice view of Lake Garda in all it’s glory.
We then decided to drive along the coast of Lake Garda, South towards Verona. Along the way, we stopped off at a beautiful village, with it’s own castle located right on the lake: Malcesine. Here we packed Claude up, and walked a few hundred meters along the lake right into the beautiful medieval town – and have a look around.
After watching a couple of people brave the wind on their windsurfing boards, we headed straight down to Verona. Verona is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and had lots to offer for us, it has a lot of Roman ruins, such as the Coliseum style ‘Arena’ to the famous wee balcony of Juliet’s house (Romeo & Juliet).
After another pizza :) (and over-hearing a Tourist ask herself if there’s a Pizza-Hut close by), the sun decided to shine – so we slowly made our way back to Claude, and prepare ourselves for the dive South to the beautiful city that was Florence.
We arrived just after the sunset, and drove around a bit – while trying to locate one of the campsites that Gina had found for us before hand, and boy we were in luck. It was a couple of hundred yards away from the beautiful viewpoint: Piazzale Michelangelo – a lovely square, perched up above the river with magnificent panoramic views of the whole city.
We retired to the campsite for the evening – as we were both pretty tired, and hit the campsite bar for a relaxing evening.