Nothing behind me, everything ahead of me. As is ever so on the open road. – Jack Kerouac
As we curate our experience driving over 30,000 miles through Europe, we realize that our European road trips were so much more than a form of travel. We remember the drop and the sweeping curves of the Italian roads and bumping along joyfully in Slovenia. We remember the graceful wind in the French countryside and the abandoned border crossings that hinted at a more divided time. The freedom we felt as countries perfectly aligned like pieces in a once foreign puzzle was life-changing. Driving through Europe was once a romantic notion. Now, as we remember the terrain intimately, it is no longer a notion but an ever-unfolding, lasting love story.
The 12 roads we selected for this article are only a sampling of our time traversing Europe and they are in no particular order of preference, but all came at the perfect time in our journey:
Portuguese Coast: From Albuferia on the southern tip of Portugal all the way through Porto, near the Spanish border, we marveled at the Portuguese coastline. The landscape was so diverse from the whitewashed towns of Olhos de Agua and Falesia to the more vibrant towns of Ericeira and Costa Nova. Never pretentious, always delightfully inviting.
Costa Verde, Spain: Jagged, snowy peaks that plunged into spring green valleys and rolled into miles of golden sand. Nearly 1,200 miles of verdant coastline along the Iberian Peninsula is still alive within us.
Dordogne, France: From Beynac to Limeuil we were surrounded by ochre fields set against new spring leaves and butterscotch colored stone homes that looked like they had graced the hillside forever. The deafening birdsong at sunset was the perfect accompaniment for our efforts to take in every last moment of light offered as we traversed this pristine countryside.
Luberon Villages, France: We all agreed that a lifetime in Provence would be a good start to understanding and taking in the overwhelming beauty of the culture and countryside. The roads between the villages that comprise the Luberon Region of Provence were just as spectacular as the villages themselves.
French Riviera, France: During our drive from Monaco to Cassis, we had a picnic in Monte Carlo, ice cream in Saint-Tropez, a baguette in Antibes, and apéritifs in Cannes. We had a rock skipping contest in Nice, a spin on the Ferris wheel in Marseille, and a swim next to gypsy caravans in Saints-Marie-de-la-Mer. To this day, it seems like a dream.
Romantic Road, Germany: We wound through the Bavarian countryside as the romantic road revealed itself in unexpected ways. The kids were glued to their windows anxious for any form to reveal itself through the mist. The fog lifted just in time for us to see a pack of horses running through a lush, emerald valley. There was just enough light on a black, soupy lake to see a lone white swan gliding under a stone bridge. It was wet and dreary and unforgettable in its cloaked mystery.
Black Forest, Germany: Trails of soft, inviting moss that certainly lured Hansel and Gretel, were plentiful. Darkness descended that the Big Bad Wolf could certainly lurk behind, before revealing himself to Little Red Riding Hood. Around every corner, there was a Rapunzel-like castle spiking out of the conifer-rich canopy called the Black Forest.
Lake Bled, Slovenia: As the castle came into view, we had to pull over. The beauty stopped us in our tracks and stunned us into silence. We drove slowly around the lake in a dreamlike state determined to stay long enough for the magnificence to feel real. From Vintgar Gorge to Lake Bohinj, the natural beauty of Slovenia kept revealing itself in spectacular ways.
Zillertal Alps, Austria: We wandered deeper and deeper into the Zillertal Alps and spent many days alone with some of mother nature’s monuments. We will never forget the power of the “Wasserfalle” in Krimml. It is the largest waterfall in Europe and the fifth-largest in the world AND it is still dwarfed by the peaks from which it tumbles.
Cinque Terre, Italy: After traveling to the five villages of the Cinque Terre by boat, train, and car we have decided the drive was the most memorable. Although we have walked some of the trails, many were in need of repair during our time in Italy and not safe with children. We thought the next best thing would be driving the once inaccessible region, and we were rewarded, and on the edge of our seats around every curve. The Amalfi Coast was riveting but crowded and on the roads of the Cinque Terre region, we were all alone to soak in the wonder at our own pace.
Tuscany, Italy: We drove through every region in Italy and had many memorable moments on Italian roads. We all agree that the snaking drive up Michelangelo’s Carrara Marble Mountains in the Apuan Alps with snow drifting lightly across the valley is at the top of the list.
Sicily, Italy: Driving the northern coast of Sicily from Taormina to San Vito Lo Capo was like entering a different country. We felt like we understood Italy in many ways until we arrived in Sicily where we found layers of surprises in store revealing a new side of Italian culture and cuisine. We stopped in Cefalu for lunch and Palermo for dinner but dessert was the most memorable. The cannoli in Taormina was legendary and it came beautifully wrapped making it the perfect road trip treat.
What European roads have you driven that leave you wanting more? If you’re planning a summer road trip, we would love to help!
Today’s Tweetable: 12 European Roads That Inspire Wanderlust