Two stops on our around-the-world trip were in Italy. From Austria, we took a train to Bolzano. This quaint town right in the Italian Alps is only a short drive away from the UNESCO World Heritage Site: the Dolomites. Of course, its great location for hiking and adventuring in the Alps is not the only reason why we booked a stay there, the great Four Points by Sheraton in town was also a super good redemption. Travel hacking to Europe was a huge plus and honestly, it is the only reason we could afford to stay there for so long. A few credit cards here and there really makes a difference!
The breakfast was great, and the location was ideal for us. Even if it was in an industrial district, it was only 10 minutes away from downtown.
We enjoyed their restaurants and the service was outstanding. Really happy with this free hotel.
On our first day there, we mainly stayed around the hotel, enjoyed the spa, and explored the neighborhood. The second day though, we went into town and walked around the central area before sitting down in a park for lunch.
It was unplanned but we got there right in time for their annual biking festival. The classic rides were cool.
From there, we went on to explore the city by foot. We saw the main attractions, ate a lot of pizza, and took it slow.
The city of Bolzano is beautiful. There are the main tourist spots but also an extended crawl of small streets, spanning for miles and miles, each hiding there own little gems.
What is fascinating is that each building is unique and, unlike in North America: old. The colors are vibrant and construction sturdy.
On another day out, we walked up the Guncina Promenade in Bolzano. These walking paths offer a great view of the city skyline and are lush with greenery. From exotic cacti to local trees, the Guncina had plenty to offer.
Another amazing viewpoint was the gondola ride up to Soprabolzano. For only € 10 each, we took the 12-minute Rittner Seilbahn gondola ride up, starting right in downtown Bolzano, near the train station. With a gondola departing every 4 minutes, there’s practically no waiting time.
It was really nice to see the city from above and walking around the small village up in the mountains. For another € 5, we could have gone to another small village by train but Baby had had enough.
Later that night, we walked to the local Avis to rent a small Fiat for the trip to come. Obviously, we got this car rental for free with credit card reward points. 🙂
The next morning we went on to climb the Italian Alps. This UNESCO World Heritage Site was truly breathtaking. Driving through the Dolomites is something we would recommend anyone traveling through the Italian Alps. Each turn tighter than the previous one, each road narrower than the previous…
So from Bolzano, we drove all the way to Sass Pordoi in the Province of Trento. The drive and the mountaintop offered some of the best views we ever saw.
Once at the parking lot, instead of taking the gondola up, we hiked a little path going up to the viewpoint. It was free (instead of about $30 per person for the gondola) and the hike was amazing.
Our next stop in Italy was Padova, a small town near Venice. We chose to stay there since the hotel was a third the price (in reward points) as in Venice and only a 30-minute bus ride away. With a bus stop almost at the door of our hotel, we could get to downtown Padova in 10 minutes and Venice in half an hour. This travel points redemption was one of the best one so far and the cheapest of all our European journey.
Being a bit out of the action was also a great move on our part since we realized Venice was too much for us. First of all, there at no drivable roads so everyone is carrying their suitcases through the cobblestone paths and a bunch of stairs. That would have been terrible with our stroller.
Secondly, there are just too many tourists in Venice. With the rise of cruises stopping for the day and the romance the city has to offer, way too many people are crowding the paths and attractions. It quickly got overwhelming for us.
However, as a day trip, Venice was amazing. We got to walk the nice tiny roads, watch the boats go by, walk the bridges. We ate some O.K. pizza, drank some good wine, and got some amazing gelato.
If you have never been, we highly suggest you stay around the city and commute in for a few day trips. The hotels are cheaper and the commute is really easy.
For us, one or two days seems plenty. We are not really into these hyper-touristic spots.
After 5 nights in Bolzano and 5 more nights in Padova, we went on to our next stop, Munich, Germany.
Unfortunately, we forgot our passports and wallet in the hotel’s safe and had to put our fate into the hotel staff and the friendly delivery guy at DHL to ship them to Germany but everything ended up O.K., there are still some good people in this world. 🙂
All-in-all we really enjoyed our stay in Italy. The Italian Alps, in particular, were truly breathtaking. We would really like to go back during winter time.
We then stayed at the Westin Grand in Munich and enjoyed German culture, Oktoberfest, and the everything Bavaria had to offer us. Stay tuned for that in our next post.