We just came back from our spectacular road trip around Europe visiting Italy, San Marino, Switzerland, Austria, Lichtenstein, and Germany just in 10 days and we would love to share with you our experience as well as our 10 day road trip itinerary for Europe.
Who likes road trips just as we love them? It was our 4th road trip during the last 2 years (We went to French Riviera in April 2016, Ireland in September 2016 and Scottish Highlands in November 2016).
Why do we like road trips so much? Well, first of all, all your transport is sorted out, when you have a car. You don’t have to worry about not catching a bus on time or a canceled train. Your car will always be your loyal road companion (of course if you drive carefully and fuel it on time). Secondly, you can always decide where to stop, how long to spend in a destination and most importantly, where to go. European road trips are affordable and easy to organise.
This time, we found really cheap tickets to Bologna with Ryanair, so we decided to make Bologna our starting point for our road trip itinerary for Europe. We hired a car with Rentalcars.com (it was actually a Hertz car, we were really disappointed in Hertz and wouldn’t suggest you hire a car from Hertz. EVER. You can read why in one of our next posts).
Hotels in Bologna downtown were a bit pricey and our aim was to keep this trip as cheap as possible without sacrificing the comfort, so we decided to stay in a better place outside Bologna. Besides I had 17000 miles with Aeroflot and it was enough to book two nights in a hotel Meeting next to Bologna Airport.
The Meeting Hotel Bologna was a wee bit old, it felt as if we were in the 70s (and it probably wasn’t renovated since then). But the room was big, the bathroom was refurbished and we even had a breakfast included. We didn’t mind the hotel since we were spending the days outside anyway in order to see as much as possible during our European road trip.
On the second day of our European road trip (the first one was just arrival, hiring a car and checking in) we decided to go to San Marino and then return to Bologna and explore the city. The drive to San Marino was less than 2 hours, but I must admit, it wasn’t cheap. The highways in Italy are the most expensive roads I’ve seen in my life. So for this part of highway from Bologna to San Marino, we paid a bit more than 8 euro. In total, we spent around 80-90 euros on roads in Italy. You can use free roads to get to places and they are actually nicer and more picturesque, but if you don’t have enough time (just like us), you will have to use highways.
This post's overview:
San Marino is the oldest country in Europe. It’s also quite a unique country because of it uninvolved in the most of the recent wars and its borders are still the same! San Marino is really tiny – there’s a small town near the mountain and the mountain with the old town and the castle. However, all the cars have different plates – San Marino plates and prices are a bit cheaper than in Italy. Like many countries in Europe, San Marino earns most of its GDP from the banking sector.
We decided to include San Marino in our road trip itinerary for Europe literally last moment, when we realised, that San Marino is located just 2 hours away from Bologna. In total, we spent around 3 hours in San Marino. It was enough to walk around the city, have a delicious lunch on the top of the hill and hide from the rain in the old castle walls. It was still a bit cold in March, but we are still happy that we’ve included San Marino is our European Road Trip Itinerary.
When we arrived in Bologna, it was around 5 pm, so we had only one hour before it would get dark. We went to the main square, saw the two towers and had a lunch in a very popular cheap Osteria D’Orso, where we ate pasta for 6 euros.
The whole next day we spent in Bologna too. It was nice and sunny, so the famous galleries of Bologna didn’t really serve their purpose for us. We saw the university of Bologna, entered the main cathedral, peeked through the Secret Window (did you know that Bologna was almost like Venice before? And then all the canals were destroyed and normal streets were built). We wanted to have a coffee with a panoramic view, but the terraces of all the hotels were closed until May. Instead, we headed to Basilica St. Luca on top of the hill near Bologna and enjoyed the view from there.
Later in the evening, we relocated to the lake Como, where we hired an apartment for one night, called B&B villa Olmo. Our host was really nice and kind, and the breakfast she cooked for us was delicious.
In the morning, we had a couple of hours to explore Como – so we headed straight to the city center. It wasn’t very sunny, so the city didn’t look as colorful as it’s always displayed on the postcards.
Our next destination was Lavertezzo, Switzerland. If you’re going to drive on highways in Switzerland, don’t forget to buy a Vignette and attach it to your car’s front window. The worst thing is that there is no option for 1-2 or more days, you will HAVE to buy a card for the whole year and pay 40+ euros for it. The customs don’t usually check the Vignette on the border between Italy and Switzerland ( in Lugano, because you’re entering the city), but in case you don’t buy one and you will be caught, you will have to pay a fine of almost 200 euros.
Lavertezzo really impressed us a lot – the best discovery of our European road trip. And again, it was included in our road trip itinerary for Europe last moment, when we were in Como. Lavertezzo is a wonderful medieval village and we were lucky to find it completely empty. The main landmark in Lavertezzo is the bridge, that was built back in the 17th century and is a great spot for photos.
From Lavertezzo we drove to Bad Ragaz to have a fondue. We had this idea for quite a while and wanted to eat fondue in Switzerland. Bad Ragaz was the only town on our way, so we headed there and found half of the places closed. However, we managed to eat a fondue in a small hotel in the middle of the town, but it was insanely expensive (56 euros) and not very tasty. Bad luck, I guess.
Our next stop was Vaduz, but it was raining a lot there and the city didn’t look much different from Bad Ragaz, so the only thing we saw in Lichtenstein was the shop where we bought as Vignette card for Austria. Austria has a similar system to Switzerland, but in addition to the Vignette, it also has paid roads. There are 5 or 6 paid roads in Austria and we were “lucky” to experience 4 of them. However, Austrian Vignette can be bought for just 10 days, for example, and it was around 8 euros.
In Austria, we slept in a hostel Jugendherrberge Feldkirch. It was very expensive for non-members of Youth Hostels, so for the private room with 4 bunk beds for just 2 of us, we paid 59 euros. Same as for the nice apartment in Como with breakfast. Feldkirch looked really neat and had a nice food market in the morning and even some big shops like H&M, C&A, and Mueller in the city center.
Our main goal for the day was to find a nice Therme – a Spa complex with an open pool. We found a nice affordable Therme in St. Anton am Arlberg – famous Austrian ski resort. It wasn’t part of our road trip itinerary for Europe, but we decided to include it last minute. In March, there was still a ski season there, so there were loads of snow everywhere and people walking with the ski equipment. The Therme was nice, but I wish the water would have been a bit warmer though.
From Arlberg Therme, we went to Braies, Italy to see the famous Lago di Braies. Unfortunately, was completely frozen and hidden in the snow in March, so we saw nothing but a huge pile of snow.
However, the Dolomites were so beautiful and we also enjoyed our stay in one of the traditional Alpine Chalets in South Tyrol – Pension Bergheim. We had a lovely view of the mountains from our window, so when we woke up and pulled the blinds apart, we were just astonished by the fantastic view that just opened to us! In case we plan another road trip itinerary for Europe anytime soon (and preferably in summer), we will include Dolomites in our trip again.
From South Tyrol, we had to go all the way to Bischofswiesen in Germany to visit my brother and his family. The drive was around 3.5 hours and really scenic, so we didn’t complain. We passed the tallest mountain in Austria – the Zugspitze and saw a couple of other ski resorts.
Bischofswiesen and Berchtesgaden
Bischofswiesen is a tiny German Alpine town located close to a more famous town, Berchtesgaden. Berchtesgaden is famous because Hitler’s Eagle Nest was there – residing on one of the tallest mountains near Berchtesgaden. Due to the weather conditions, we couldn’t hike to the Eagle’s Nest, but in Summer there’s an amazing panoramic restaurant there. Hiking in Germany in March is generally not recommended because the snow is melting and some trails might get really dangerous.
On this day we also went to Hallstatt in Austria. Hallstatt was 1.5 hours away from Bischofswiesen, so we arrived there around 4 pm and found it completely empty, except for 2 buses with Chinese tourists. I don’t know why, but Hallstatt is a really popular place among Chinese people, they even copied it and built the same town in China. Of course, it doesn’t even nearly look as nice as the original one.
Later we returned to Bischofswiesen and spent a night in Salzburg, visiting the famous Muellen brewery, where beer was served in some huge jars and you could actually bring your own food there.
Next morning we went hiking to Almbachsklamm. Well, technically, the path is closed in March, and it’s forbidden to hike, but we had the best and most experienced guide with us – my brother. However, even with our guide, it was a bit dangerous – we had to walk under a couple of waterfalls and in some places, there was no path, so we had to climb. However, I don’t advise you to hike the Almbachsklamm in March or April!
After hiking, we had a nice spa retreat gifted to us by our brother – all in a neat hotel in Oberau. It was so nice to get soaked and have a wonderful back massage. We stayed in a lovely hotel AlpinaRos Demming – check our review of the hotel here!
The next day of our European road trip we spent walking around Berchtesgaden and looking at the city from the walk surrounding it. Another reason to visit the towns in Southern Bavaria (Bayern) – it’s all about hiking there. In Berchtesgaden, you can also buy a traditional Bavarian outfit – dirndl for women and lederhosen for men – there are plenty of shops selling the outfits. However, prepare to pay 100+ euros for them, if you decide to buy one.
After a delicious lunch, we headed to Venice, getting closer and closer to our starting and ending point – Bologna. However, on our way to Venice, we had a flat tire. That was really unfortunate and it could have changed our road trip itinerary for Europe, so we called Hertz, and they told us they don’t have a roadside assistance, so we should change a wheel to the temporary one located in the trunk, and then head to the nearest Hertz office in Salzburg. When we changed the wheel and finally got there, they told us to go to their center and change the whole tire, paying 133 euros. However, 2 weeks after they changed us additional 140 euros saying they had to change the tire again (even though we changed it in the certified Hertz center). We are still arguing with Hertz because we think it’s not normal, but if you don’t want to have problems, DON’T RENT cars from HERTZ.
When we got to Venice, it was already quite late and we were only able to go to dinner. The next morning we took a bus to the Railway station of Venice (because we actually stayed outside Venice, in Mestre) and then took a Vaporetto to the Rialto. Vaporetto is a tiny ferry, which connects the railway station of Venice with the historical city center. It costs 7.5 euros one way and saves you 40 minutes of walking. Moreover, it’s a great place to take photos of Venice from water not paying 80 euros for a gondola ride.
We also found a very nice osteria with a view – a great place to have lunch in Venice.
After spending nearly half a day in Venice, we headed to Verona, which was almost two hours and 8 euros away from Venice. In Verona, we stayed a bit outside the city center and regretted it a lot. After walking the whole evening in Verona and exploring the city, we felt really tired and wanted to get a taxi to the hotel. But guess what, there were no taxis.
We even asked locals, how can we call a taxi and they said it’s almost impossible at this time of the evening. Well, we had no choice to we took a bus and then walked for 10 minutes back to our hotel. Strange city Verona.
In Verona, we only walked around, not visiting any museums. It was hard to find a place for a dinner at 7 pm since many well-rated restaurants were already fully booked. In order to get a place in not so fully booked restaurants, you need to arrive at 7 pm sharp. In case you arrive at 7:40 PM, for example, there’s a high probability that you won’t get a table.
Next day we visited the city center of Verona once again, in order to look at it in the daylight. Verona is really pretty and I definitely recommend you to visit it for a day or more. We only had few hours in Verona, because of our flight from Bologna airport, so we soon left this beautiful city and went back to Bologna Airport.
Summary & road trip itinerary for Europe
To summarize, I was really satisfied with our trip, I wish we could see Lago di Braies without snow, but I know that we chose a wrong season for that. It’s perfectly possible to visit 6 countries in just 10 days and see a decent amount of things. Our 10 day road trip itinerary for Europe was as following:
Day 1 – Bologna Airport, hotel
Day 2 – San Marino, Bologna
Day 3 – Bologna, Lake Como
Day 4 – Lake Como, Lavertezzo, Bad Ragaz, Lichtenstein, Feldkirch
Day 5 – Feldkirch, Sankt Anton am Arlberg, Braies
Day 6 – Lake Braies, Bischofswiesen, Hallstatt, Salzburg
Day 7 – Oberau, Almbachsklamm, Bischofswiesen
Day 8 – Berchtesgaden, Venice
Day 9 – Venice, Verona
Day 10 – Verona, Bologna Airport
Hopefully, this information was useful for you. Should you have any questions about our road trip itinerary for Europe, don’t hesitate to ask!
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