This is part two of the post about my road trip around Italy. If you missed part one, you can catch up on it here. 

Road trip Italy – Siena to Veneto

Earthquake in Perugia

On the eve of the devastating August earthquake in Italy, we were none the wiser as we continued to enjoy our evening in Perugia. Though we stayed on the border of the Umbria region, we didn’t emerge unaffected by the early morning event. Everything in our bedroom – including us – shook with each tremor. My first earthquake could only be described as terrifying, but we were one of the lucky ones to leave unharmed.

 

 

 

 

Road trip Italy - Siena Veneto: The calm after the earthquake in Perugia

The calm after the earthquake in Perugia

A sleepless night developed into a weary day. As more tragic news emerged from the destroyed town of Amatrice, I discovered that Italy was more prone to earthquakes than I’d first realised.

Magical Siena – road trip around Italy

I feel guilty for writing this, but I was happy to leave Perugia behind. The experience and aftermath of the earthquake had, for me, slightly tainted its beauty and charm. When we arrived in Siena, a city in the Tuscany region, I felt a great sense of relief. The sight of the medieval brick buildings – that I’d only ever seen before in photos – provided a beautiful distraction. The feeling of being within a small town grew stronger as we wandered through the narrow cobbled streets.

We eventually found ourselves standing in the glorious Piazza del Campo – a fan-shaped square so grand in size it’s easy to feel miniscule. Other buildings of interest are the Palazzo Pubblico, the town hall, and Torre del Mangia, a tower dating back to the 14th century. If you’re familiar with the Palio horse race, Piazza del Campo is where the twice yearly event takes place.

road trip around Italy - Seeing is believing: Duomo di Siena

Seeing is believing: Duomo di Siena

The most memorable moment came when I set eyes upon the Siena Cathedral (Duomo di Siena). My heart stopped upon seeing the Italian Romanesque-Gothic masterpiece, and a huge smile swept across my face.

All the photos I took – and there were many – do little justice to captivating this magnificent church. Siena is full of tourists, but quite rightly so. The small city with its historic buildings, impressive piazzas and majestic architecture makes competing with the tourists all the more worth it. Speaking of tourists….

Road trip in Italy – battling the tourists in Florence

Firenze (Florence) is one of those cities that’d always been on my travel list, but I’d never managed to visit. My hopes were high as we arrived in the capital city of Tuscany, particularly after being in Siena. If, like me, you stay on the outskirts of the centre, I’d highly recommend walking than taking a taxi/local transport to get into town. You get the chance to better explore the area, plus take in some enjoyable exercise. It will definitely come in handy for what’s coming next.

Siena Veneto: Tourists everywhere at Ponte Vecchio

Tourists everywhere at Ponte Vecchio

You know when you’ve hit the city centre as you suddenly get a feel of all things historic. Ancient looking buildings, church domes and stone statues align your view.

If you’ve seen photos of Firenze, then you don’t need me to tell you how beautiful it is. Seeing the intricate detailing on the churches, not to mention the magnitude, is 100 times better than any camera could capture.

Other highlights such as Ponte Vecchio, is well worth a visit, but be prepared to battle other tourists for some photo opportunity space. If you’re not a fan of sharing the sights with tourists, you should consider booking a guided tour. You’ll be in good company with a local host, and learn even more about Florence than going it alone.

 

 

Aside from seeing the sights, there was one other reason why we came to Firenze, and this one, you could eat.

Bistecca alla Fiorentina – a road trip around Italy

The infamous Bistecca alla Fiorentina is a must (at least for carnivores) when visiting. Essentially, it’s a T-bone steak that comes from the Chianina cow – any other breed is not the real deal. Bistecca alla Fiorentina has to be the tastiest steak I’ve ever eaten, not to mention the biggest. Most sizes range from 800 grams to 1.2 kg, so you’re advised to try one on an empty stomach!

There are many restaurants that claim to do the best Bistecca alla Fiorentina, but for me, Buca Lapi wins hands down. It’s a smallish sized restaurant not too far from the centre with a warm atmosphere and unbelievably tasty food.

road trip Italy - Siena Veneto: The best bisteca in town

The best bistecca in town

The reviews we’d read beforehand were all spot on: pricey, yet friendly waiters and a welcome from the owner. The restaurant is only open a few hours for dinner, so reservations are a must before going.

Traveling Italy by car – Ragù in Bologna

We reached the capital of the Emilia-Romagna region the next day, after over an hour’s drive from Firenze. Similar to Perugia, Bologna is a renowned university city, so the streets beneath the sweltering sun were far bare than usual. This detail only bettered our short time there, as we were able to enjoy the quiet streets and abundance of history.

All roads seem to lead to Piazza Maggiore, the heart of it all. Within the square is the 10th largest church in the world, (by volume) San Petronio Basilica, the Duomo of Bologna.

Seeing Italy on a road trip - Siena Veneto: Duomo di Bologna in...Bologna

Duomo di Bologna in…Bologna

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Piazza Maggiore is also home to the impressive Palazzo d’Accursio, which used to be City Hall but is now a museum.

When it comes to deciding what to eat in Bologna, you are spoiled for choice. Bologna has so many delicious things on offer, it can be tempting to try everything. Notable dishes include Spuma di Mortadella, Tagliatelle al ragù and meat-filled fresh egg tortellini.

Last stop: Veneto – road trip Italy

A telling sign when you have crossed into the Veneto region, is when you pass by the distinctive River Po. The river in northeast Italy is a starting point for anyone wanting to explore the northern regions of the country and beyond.

There is a saying that if Sicily is the place to eat, then Veneto is the place to drink. This was told to me by many Italians throughout my travels, and when I arrived, I understood why. Veneto is wine country, or region, and the seemingly endless sprawls of vineyard only reflect this. Its popular exports include Valpolicella, Soave and my favourite, Prosecco.

road trip around Italy - from Siena to Veneto: Happy hour starts early in Veneto

Happy hour starts early in Veneto

There is a noticeably stronger drinking culture in Veneto, but not of the ‘get completely trashed’ kind. The ever popular Aperol spritz is not reserved for the evening Aperitivo, but can be enjoyed mid-morning. It’s not unheard of to take a spritz and a tramezzini (small triangular sandwich) around 11.45am!

The capital of the region is Venice, which though magical in its own right, is not the only place to see in Veneto. The historical city of Verona is a must, though the tourists are a lot to contend with, and Vicenza and Padova are equally worthy options.

If I had to sum up my first road trip in 3 words, it would be ‘not long enough’. Italy’s a remarkable country to visit and travel through, with each region and city offering something unique. I was fortunate to leave with many memorable (good) experiences, and I ‘m already looking forward to the next one.

Have you been on a road trip around Italy? What was your experience like? Leave me a message in the comments, I’d love to hear them!

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Lisa Rivera

Lisa Rivera

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Welcome to my site! I'm Lisa, founder of Following the Rivera. I write primarily for a ‘flashpacker’ audience; a demographic (late 20s onwards) that enjoys glamping over camping, staying at boutique/luxury boutique hotels, sampling the local food and wine, cultural activities, and indulging in a spot of wellness on their travels. Read more here…

       

 

84 Comments

  1. Natasha

    Wow that is scary about the Earthquake! I have not experienced one yet but my partner has and it sounded terrifying. I agree that Italy is beautiful but I have not been for years. I think you would need months to do a great road trip there!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It was frightening! Just glad we made it out safely. You must return, especially with your son, he’d love it!

  2. Amanda

    So jealous. I’ve been to Italy and was only there for a day on a Mack flight (military flight). I was there long enough to see the Vatican and go straight to the airport. I have always wanted to go back.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Amanda, it’s a beautiful country, so full of travel memories waiting to be made, hope you get back there one day!

  3. Sid

    I hope things are getting well with the earthquake in Perugia. Such a pity thing!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Sid, yes, it’s really sad what happened, it will take a while before things are back to normal.

  4. Eleni

    An amazing adventure in an interesting place.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Eleni, glad you enjoyed it!

  5. Pavlina Toren

    Looks like a amazing trip, the photos look so beautiful

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Pavlina, it really was an amazing trip!

  6. klaudia

    Brilliant post 🙂 My other half is Italian, I have been to South Italy many times, but you have seen a lot more than I have! I need to go to Bologna, Fiorenze, Siena ….oh dear, I will need to book 2 months holiday to get to see everything on my bucket list. Right on top of my list is Capri!!! The Blue Lagoon is still a must see for me.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Klaudia! Yes, Italy is one of those countries that deserves a more than a month to really see everything!

  7. Leah

    Great post! I’m heading to Italy in September and couldn’t be more excited to indulge in the food and historical architecture! I love the way you write. I always feel like I can place myself in your shoes.

    Leah

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Leah, that’s really kind of you. I love being there, and try to convey this through my posts 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Becca Talbot

    Siena is such a magical place, you’re so right! I went years ago to visit a friend who was living there, and we had the best time exploring the beautiful old city. The Duomo is amazing, like towers of licorice allsorts inside ? X

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s totally breathtaking Becca, honestly, I think my heart stopped for a second when we entered the piazza! Many thanks for commenting, glad you enjoyed it!

  9. Christie Sultemeier

    I hate earthquakes in general but to be in a foreign country during one sounds quite terrifying. I’m actually scared of going to Perugia already because of the whole Amanda Knox debacle so that would REALLY turn me off Perugia! Italy is my fav but I haven’t yet made it to Siena or Veneto so this was fun to read… Although I don’t eat meat so the part I didn’t love 😛 Going to pin this for when I make it there to visit! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Lol no worries! There’s a lot of meat eating in Italy, but equally good vegetables and fruits too! I understand about the Know story, but don’t let that put you off 😀

  10. Suzanne

    Gosh! What an eventful road trip! That earthquake experience must have been terrifying. I’m glad you all were unharmed and still able to enjoy the other lovely cities in Italy. I have yet to visit that beautiful country.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Aw, that’s such a shame! I can’t believe you have’t yet travelled to Italy because it’s wonderful!

  11. Inma

    Didn’t you love Siena?
    It is indeed my favorite city in the Northern part of the country and one I cannot wait to go back to!
    Thanks for bringing me such great memories.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Yes, it’s very beautiful – not my favourite, but still a must visit.

  12. Rachelle

    Oh no! I’m so sorry that there was an earthquake during your visit! Hopefully it doesn’t leave a horribly long lasting impression on your mind and you can enjoy further visits! That steak looks absolutely delightful. I would love to sink my teeth into one of them!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Ooh the Fiorentina is soooo good, and I don’t usually eat so much meat! It did’t leave a horrible impression, just a memorable one!

  13. yukti

    Oh you have witnessed the natural calamity(Earthquake) so closely. Must be so terrifying and scary. But then also you managed to tour around and took stunning captures which is a true spirit of a travel freaks. Siena really looks so appealing due to its gothic styled cathedrals, cobbled streets and specially the Duomo di Siena. Lovely post!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thank you! Siena is a charm and the Duomo is jaw-droppingly beautiful 🙂

  14. Mel Butler

    I lovely everything about Italy, the food, history, the building etc. I would love to do a road trip for Italy taking my time to explore. Oh my that Bistecca alla Fiorentina at Buca Lapi looks so yummy that it is making my mouth water. Sorry to hear about the earthquake during your trip but I am glad that you are ok.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thanks Mel! We were ok, just a little shaken in the aftermath. Buca Lapi is excellent, and I urge all meat eaters to try the bisteca!

  15. Sonja

    This sounds like so much fun (apart from the earthquake part!). Italy is such a beautiful place and I haven’t even been outside of Rome! I want to plan a trip with my husband so you’ve given me some great ideas, thanks!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You’re so welcome, and you need to explore waaaay beyond Rome! There’s so much to see and do, I encourage you to plan it well 🙂

  16. Abigail Sinsona

    I have heard about that earthquake in the news. It is good to hear that you were safe, although it was pretty devastated! Italy is always filled with beauty wherever you go. I love learning about these smaller, less popular sides of Italy through your blog!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Aww thank you, I’m glad to educate and inspire! The earthquake was scary, but we’re so lucky that Perugia didn’t experience nothing as close to what other cities in the region did 🙁 Italy’s a beautiful country, and I urge everyone to see it!

  17. Joanna

    I am actually moving to Italy for a month in October, next to Florence, and I am looking forward to traveling around to all of these places. I have been to Venice a few months ago but I was disappointed by how expensive it was so I won’t be going again this time. However, I am looking forward to Florence and Sienna, especially to try the Bisteca Fiorentina. It looks so delicious!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      You’re not the only one who wasn’t as enamoured with Venice! It’s beautiful but once you’ve seen it, you can tick it off the list and discover far better, and cheaper, places in Italy.

  18. Arnav

    Have seen so many posts about Italy,and your wonderful pictures just refuelled my wanderlust to visit Italy.
    I have been intrigued by the building architecture, and always wanted to witness the sheer beauty in person.
    Hopefully in the next couple of months.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thank you, these are the type of comments I love to read! Hope you return there soon 🙂

  19. Nafisa Habib

    Thank God you all were safe! Liking to read your interesting journey in Italy. I always enjoy road trip but never been to Italy 🙂

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s a beautiful country, and I’m lucky I get to visit frequently.

  20. Twinspirational

    Thanks for sharing this. We visited Italy over ten years ago, and need to visit again soon.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  21. Katie

    That’s crazy that you got caught up in an Earthquake. Must of been terrifying! On a brighter note, this road trip sounds fabulous When I the building here look so pretty.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It was terrifying, especially as it was my first! It’s a great road trip through a beautiful country!

  22. Margriet

    Wow, how scary that you had to experience an earthquake when you were traveling. I really liked reading about the things you’ve done. I’ve never been to Italy before, but it’s very high on my bucketlist. It just looks like such a beautiful country, with beautiful nature as well as architecture.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Aw you must visit soon. Italy’s gorgeous and really worth exploring in full one day.

  23. Alice

    Gosh that food looks amazing, making me very hungry!! It looks so beautiful there as well. I’m off to Italy in May so am looking forward to using some of your tips during my trip!!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Wonderful Alice! I hope you make it here and can visit some of these places.

  24. Kavita Favelle

    It must have been quite scary to experience the earthquake and I think it’s understandable that you were relieved to move on. Siena is one of the Italian cities I’ve still not visited, even though it’s on my wishlist. Your post makes me want to book a trip as soon as possible. Florence is also on my list, though I fear the crowds and need to consider an off-season visit. Bologna is a favourite that we loved visiting and I’d happily go back there for the incredible food alone, let alone everything else. And Venice, another favourite, we are heading back for our third trip next month having left it over 11 years since our last trip, I can’t wait to revisit!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Oh wow, it’s been a long time! Siena is one of my favourite Italian cities, it’s stunning and I highly recommend it.

  25. Nicole Anderson | Camping for Women

    I would love to one day do a road trip around Italy. If possible at a very leisurely pace to really enjoy and absorb the atmosphere, learn much of the history and meet people along the way. Naturally I would prefer not to include any earthquakes in that formula and I can only imagine how scary that would have been. I do get what you mean when you say that photos sometimes don’t do a place justice as there is just so much photos can’t capture relating to the feel of a place. Nevertheless I think you took some lovely ones here which also made me hungry and thirsty in the process!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Sorry Nicole! Italy’s a great country to do a road trip, and with plenty of delicious things to eat and drink along the way!

  26. PossesstheWorld

    It must have been so scary to go through the earthquake, I cannot imagine what that would be like. Siena was one of my favourite destinations in Italy and I would love to visit again in the future

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s an incredible place, and definitely worth a second look 😀

  27. Aditi

    Road trips are so much fun as per me, I enjoy them especially if you travel with like minded people, inspite of challenges, I am sure you would have enjoyed it. That Bistecca alla Fiorentina is truly inviting and being a hard core non vegetarian I would love to relish it.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Excellent! It’s the best steak I’ve ever had and I salivate whenever I think of it!

  28. Kate

    Ah, Tuscany–one of my favorite regions in the world! We still haven’t made it to Siena (next time!), but we spent a month last year living in Florence, and agree that the food is such a highlight. So glad you managed to make the rounds of the best dishes while you were in town! So sorry to hear about your earthquake experience–that can definitely influence your perception of a place!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      The earthquake was super scary! But more devastating for the people whose villages were completely destroyed.

  29. tanya

    That is scary! It’s a bit hard to write about how amazing the food and buildings look, but they do. Can understand from your post why Italy is a must visit destination.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It really is! Everything is delicious and the history is second to none!

  30. Katie

    Wow getting caught up in an earthquake is such a scary expereince! Glad you are okay. On a brighter note the rest of your trip looked amazing; the food and the pretty architecture.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It was awful, but we’re so lucky we got out okay. Italy is incredible 😀

  31. Ramelle

    Happy you are safe and travels from now see good things for you and yours.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thank you.

  32. Denny George

    I’m glad you escaped unscathed from the earthquake. I had skipped Bologna during our time in the region. Now I see that it was a mistake. We also gave the bisteca a miss since we thought that it might have been a bit too much for two small sized Indians to finish :). Sienna and Florence were definite highlights of our trip as well. I hope you were able to enjoy the variety of Tuscan wines in offer in the region.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Such a shame you missed trying the bistecca! It’s as much a highlight in Bologna for me as it the Ponte Vecchio! Maybe next time you’ll have more of an appetite 🙂

  33. Korianne Muya

    Great post, it’s a shame about the earthquake. Regardless looks like you made the most of it and enjoyed your trip. You’ve made me even more excited to head to Verona.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Wonderful! I’m there often and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it too 🙂

  34. Wandering life - Catarina Leonardo

    So glad that you escaped, what a thing… Italy is one of my favorite places in the world. All the places are amazing, the food is so good ant the way that talk…. Beautiful 😉

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s an incredible place, and I’m lucky to have been! x

  35. Kalyan Panja

    Italy surely is one of my dream destinations and is a haven for an architecture lover like me. Nice reading your experience and lovely photos too.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Cool! You’ll love the architecture here, it’s an amazing country.

  36. Missy

    Florence holds such a place in my heart! Italy was my first trip abroad and this post makes me want to go back (even if for that steak alone, I’m drooling)

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s such a lovely city! And yes, the steak is so good 😀

  37. Daniel Kiteski

    Getting caught up in an earthquake is always a bad expereince but I’m glad you’re okay and didn’t let that spoil the rest of your trip, which looks fantastic btw.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thank you, it was! And no, it didn’t ruin the experience at all 🙂

  38. FlySoulmates

    I visited Siena 5 years ago. It was really good time there. Duomo di Siena is my favorite place 🙂

    Reply
    • Lisa

      It’s a lovely place, and the duomo is spectacular!

  39. Rachelle Gordon

    I’ve never heard of Bistecca alla Fiorentina before, but now that I have I can’t stop drooling! I’m a carnivore, so this would be on my “must-do” list in Italy. I’d love to do a road trip through Italy, taking my time to really stop and enjoy not only the major cities like Florence, but also the smaller country towns. It sounds like you’ve had an amazing time!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      The steak is probably my favourite of all time! Really, there’s no comparison, and a road trip in Italy is incredible 😀

  40. Arunas

    Beautiful photos of Siena. Italy is my favourite country! Glad that you are also in love with this land.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Thank you! Yes, we had an amazing trip, and I feel lucky to have had the experience.

  41. eli

    my mouth watered at the picture of the steak. Craving Italian food now. Hope to be back there this summer because I have yet to see Siena or Veneto!

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Lovely! I hope you enjoy your time there, it’s like my second home 😀

  42. Daphne D Adams

    I love the views and art of the city of Italy.

    Reply
    • Lisa

      Me too!

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