Europe Road Trip (Page 4 of 6)


La Pizza and its sister restaurant directly across the pedestrian-only Rue Massena are among the busiest restaurants in Nice’s aging entertainment district. Over the past three decades the French Riviera’s biggest city has slowly lost tourists to the smaller, less gritty neighboring resort towns of Cannes and Antibes.

Monte Carlo

After the obligatory peek at the Casino de Monte Carlo and the crazily overpriced snack at the Café de Paris, experience the refinement and sophistication that are Monaco’s true attractions by strolling streets like Boulevard des Moulins and Ave des Beaux Arts. Enjoy some pretty pastries at a quarter the prices you paid for far plainer items at the Café de Paris.

This view from the steps of the Bond-famous Casino de Monte Carlo shows how touristy the plaza has become. To the right is the Café de Paris at which visitors stop for exhorbitant drinks and cursory snacks. The tiny city’s taste and sophistication is only apparent when you leave behind this plaza for nearby streets.

Sanremo, Italy

The center of the so-called Italian Riviera is Sanremo, a modest resort city of 57,000. Its unpretentious feel is in stark contrast to the chichi air of Cannes, Antibe and Monaco. Our two-hour stop allowed a walk past the working-class beach to the east, less upscale, side of town for dinner in a homey square where a group of neighborhood boys were playing soccer. We wound our way back up the narrow twisting roads leading up to Expressway E80 for Genoa feeling we had gotten a taste of “the real Italy”.

The Italian Riviera’s working-class resort town of Sanremo is at its most charming and memorable in its back streets where small restaurants offer a chance to soak up the sights and sounds of everyday life.

Genoa’s Historic Center (Centro Storico)

No other city lives so casually with so many certified historic treasures. An atmospheric two-mile stroll that begins at Piazza Acquaverde at the top of the harbor and curves clockwise southeast to the ancient Porta Soprana (and the adjacent putative home of Christopher Columbus) offers a density of sights, dining and shopping, especially in the narrow, steeply stepped alleys crisscrossing Via Macelli di Soziglia. Genoa is all the more appealing because there are far fewer tourists per square mile than in most cities with less to offer.

Piazza de Ferrari is one of the grandest plazas in Genoa’s historic downtown. It is a popular meeting place near the heart of the city’s dining, shopping and entertainment districts.


A short evening drive back west on the E80 Autostrada dei Fiori (Expressway of Flowers) from Genoa led us to the delightful town of Verrazze. After a sunset dinner by the beach we strolled to the marina and joined a waterside crowd dancing to 70s oldies, some of which was played by a talented teen band on the upper deck of a yacht. The grand marina promenade was flanked by many impressive yachts and tastefully understated restaurants and cafes.

Thanks to its proximity to both the French Riviera and to Genoa, many of the Mediterranean’s most impressive yachts are docked at the marina in the town of Varrazze. The land side of the marina’s broad promenade is lined with upscale restaurants and cafés.

Alessandria Around Piazza della Liberta

A pleasant tree-lined open-air parking lot serves as the town square of the capital of Italy’s Piedmont region. We lunched on the edge of the square near tables with well-dressed office workers on lunch break, marveling at how orderly and modern the town looked compared to the rest of Italy. Alessandria is the most American city we saw, representing a region with one of Europe’s highest per capita GDPs.

This café, libreria (bookshop) and gelateria (ice cream parlor) rolled into one is a charming lunch stop on Piazza della Libèrta, the pleasant town square of Alessandria in the Piedmont region of northern Italy.

Torino Along Via Roma Near Piazza Castello

TV coverage of the 2010 winter Olympics couldn’t possibly show the attractions of Torino in summertime. Thanks to the mighty Po River, it’s a graciously green city full of grand and dignified piazzas filled with spirited young people and well-groomed older folks. Walking down Via Roma or Via Giuseppe Verde from Piazza Castello is like a journey through time to Italy’s heroic period.

Piazza San Carlo is three blocks south of Piazza Costello, the heart of Torino’s historic downtown. Like others, San Carlo is encircled by long covered arcades lined with shopping and dining.


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