A City to Slope Road Trip in Italy
The contrasts of Northern Italy make it a region ripe for a winter driving adventure. From the boutiques of Milan to the mountains of Piedmont, it’s a part of the country in which culture and nature share a billing with high-end shopping. This 4 hour 40 minute, 250-mile Italian road trip, takes you right through its heart, leading west from Verona and winding a steady route towards the peaks of the Alps.
As the setting for Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, Verona is seen – not unjustly – as one of the most romantic cities in Italy. Lavish but laid-back, it’s also somewhere to admire Roman ruins, browse for exclusive labels and settle down to a warming bowl of the city’s famous risotto all’Amarone. Try it at rustic bar-restaurant Antica Bottega del Vino. Round off a stay by visiting the Casa di Giulietta, where you can see the balcony said to have inspired the Bard’s timeless love tale. The onward drive to Bergamo takes you past Lake Garda.
The Venetians ruled Bergamo for more than three centuries, leaving the likeable Lombardy city with a dignified Old Town. Ringed by 500-year-old walls, its spires and palazzos led the 19th-century writer Stendhal to describe its centrepiece, Piazza Vecchia, as “the most beautiful square on Earth”. For a cultural treat of another kind, try to catch a concert at the impeccably restored Teatro Sociale – first opened in 1808. Back on the road, the route continues for an hour before reaching Milan.
Fashion Week hits Milan at the end of every winter, and the city’s famed eye for style makes it a fitting host for such an event. Serious shoppers should head to the so-called Quadrilatero d’Oro (“Rectangle of Gold”), made up of exclusive streets such as Via della Spiga. The Navigli Antiques Market, held on the last Sunday of the month, is a good vintage alternative. Elsewhere, La Scala remains a hugely prestigious opera house, while a visit to Santa Maria della Grazie Church to see Da Vinci’s The Last Supper is near obligatory. The road then leads west towards Turin.
With its UNESCO-listed Savoy palaces and ducal heritage, underrated Turin makes for a suitable inclusion on a road trip that’s big on history. The shopping is of a high quality – don’t miss the elegant stores at the 19th-century Galleria Subalpina. Be sure to pick up some of the region’s premium hazelnut milk chocolate as well. Once you’ve driven clear of the city outskirts, meanwhile, the road trip enters its most dramatic territory yet. Framed against the winter sky, the Alps lie ahead.
The beauty of car hire in Italy is that a few hours at the wheel can take you somewhere that feels a universe away from where you started. Such is the case with Sauze d’Oulx, a mountain resort sitting just 50 miles from Turin. It hosted the freestyle skiing during the 2006 Winter Olympics, which says plenty about the quality of its pistes. But this isn’t somewhere purely for expert skiers and snowboarders – copious intermediate slopes help make it an attractive end-point to the journey.