15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for a Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

20 days of summer. 6 European countries. 15 cities and towns (19 if I visit all 5 towns in Cinque Terre)Inspired by this month's travel linkup - in which we writing wanderlusters discuss destinations as a starter (short haul), mains (a looong trip) and pudding (a destination that leaves a lasting impression) - today I share the itinerary for my upcoming trip: My 15-Course Travel ‘Tasting Menu’ across Austria, the Balkans, and Italy. 

Ya'll should know by now that I am super extra. Like, "consolidate my 'save for later' online shopping purchases into a master Excel spreadsheet and picture collage" extra. Extra, extra! Read all about it! So when I picked up the updated edition of Tim Marshall's Prisoners of Geography I naturally devoured the book in 4 days. Then I re-read the Joe Sacco graphic novel The Fixer: A Story From Sarajevo. Curious to fill in the hole that is my lack of understanding on world history (thanks a lot, Malaysian Sejarah syllabus. What were we taught about WWII? Literally only: the Japanese f*cked up our sh*t and then the Americans f*cked up their sh*t. The end. Whut) I did what any lazy person would - learn about it on YouTube. So after watching Feature History - Fall of Yugoslavia, I wound the clock back a World War and discovered that Franz Ferdinand is more than just an excellent rock band from Glasgow.

Thanks to this information black hole I've now got the Balkans on my mind. How does one go forward? The only way is Essex Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, and Montenegro. Oh, and throw in a bit of Austria and Italy too for good measure, why not? This summer I'm spending just under 3 weeks touring *deep breath* Vienna, Maribor, Ljubljana, Zagreb, Plitvice, Trogir, Split, Sarajevo, Mostar, Kotor, Budva, Florence, Cinque Terre, and Pisa. Here is the Itinerary for My Balkans 'Tasting Menu' ft. Austria and Italy.

• SUMMER 2017 




Maribor and Ljubljana, SLOVENIA

Zagreb, Plitvice, Trogir, Split, and Dubrovnik; CROATIA

Mostar and Sarajevo, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA

Kotor and Budva, MONTENEGRO


Florence, Cinque Terre, and Pisa; ITALY

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip
VIENNA, AUSTRIA: The formal gardens of Schonbrunn Palace. source

DAYS 1 & 2: 

Bless Emperor Franz Joseph I, for ordering the one ring road to rule them all. The Ringstrasse (Ring Boulevard) circles the city centre, spanning some of Vienna's most splendid historical buildings including the Opera House and Hofburg Imperial Palace, making sight-seeing ever so easy. After walking the entire 5km I'll have earned an indulgence of sachertorte, that famous Viennese chocolate cake invented in 1832 for Prince Wenzel von Metternich, at Hotel Sacher. The Museums Quartier is my dream come true: I can't wait to geek out over Old Masters in the Kunsthistorisches Museum and giggle at the Sigmund Freud Museum, among many others. There will be time for royal residences: I'm looking forward to visiting Maria Theresa's Schönbrunn Palace and also Schloss Belvedere

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

DAYS 3 & 4:
Maribor & Ljubljana, SLOVENIA 

Maribor's small population and laid-back nature may seem provincial, yet it's worth a visit for the National Liberation Museum - a collection documenting Slovenia’s struggle for freedom throughout the 20th century, particularly during the Nazi occupation. 

Back in Ljubljana, unmissable sights include the Cathedral of St. Nicholas, Ljubljana Castle, and Triple Bridge

I'm most looking forward to making a day trip to Lake Bled - an Alpine lake with Slovenia's only island. Visitors travel to this tiny island in traditional wooden boats called pletnas to visit and ring the church bell - legend has it that it'll make one's wishes come true.

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip
ZAGREB, CROATIA: The piano bar of The Sheraton Zagreb

DAYS 5 & 6: 

Croatia's booming capital, bursting with a lively arts and culture scene! I missed the chance to visit last summer so this year I'm making up for it by staying at The Sheraton Zagreb (above). It's a Starwood Hotel, and being a fan of the chain I'm keen to see how this 5* Zagreb hotel stacks up against its luxury brothers and sisters.

After the compulsory sightseeing of Lower Town to Upper Town and all things historical in between, I'm heading for what I'm really here for: The Museum of Broken Relationships. It sounds comedic (and just the right kind of schadenfreude) but I promise, I'm there for the poignant exhibits of that universal human yearning to be loved -personal objects left over from former lovers accompanied by their stories.

DAY 7:
Plitvice, CROATIA

I hope the crowds won't be too hellish at Plitvice National Park (I'm going in the first week of September). The Plitvice LakesKorana Canyon and its 70-meter high waterfalls and spectacular panoramic views of Tomicevo Pogledalo are said to be so breathtaking that I'll endure the human soup. I'm staying at Hotel Jezero, the only hotel within the park itself. The hotel's dated decor has been diplomatically described as straight out of a Twin Peaks episode...this should be interesting!


DAYS 8 & 9: 
Trogir & Split, CROATIA 

I visited both Trogir and Split last summer, and stayed within the former royal labyrinth that is Diocletian's Palace. Read my guides on what to see, eat, and do in Split:


15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

DAYS 10 & 11: 

Sarajevo, where it all started: the Latin Bridge is where Archduke Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, sparking a chain of events that led to the First World War. 

A visit to the Sarajevo War Tunnels Museum and a chance to talk to one of the survivors will cast a more intimate understanding on the Bosnian War: a catastrophe that's distant yet ever-present for anyone who grew up in Malaysia in the 90's, because of its humanitarian aid appeal.

DAY 12: 

The reconstructed Stari Most (Old Bridge) supports more than just pedestrians: it carries the weight of symbolism and meaning in a country at the heart of conflict. The 16th century Ottoman Bridge is a prime example of Balkan Muslim architecture and connects the 2 parts of Mostar city. Its destruction in 1993 at the hands of Croat forces during the Croat–Bosniak War is a sad icon to the conflicts of the different ethnic groups of the former Yugoslavia: dubbed "a deliberate destruction of shared cultural heritage and once-peaceful co-existence".


DAYS 13: 
Kotor & Budva, MONTENEGRO 

Cao lepe! Has it really been 4 years since I sped across the Bay of Kotor (the only fjord on the Adriatic coast!) with the sea spray in my face and in my hair, the wind from the black mountains Montenegro is named for? The medieval Old Town of Kotor certainly felt like a distant, hazy dream: one I'm keen to revisit alongside its equally picturesque sister, Budva.


DAYS 14 & 15: 
Dubrovnik, CROATIA

Dubrovnik is famous as the scenes in Game of Thrones, what with its cobblestone city forts but I'm there for more contemporary draws. For one, the brick-dropping 4 minute cable car descend from the city walls to Mt Srd. Secondly, War Photo Limited: a gallery dedicated to ‘exposing the myth of war’ curated by conflict photojournalist Wade Goddard.

I'll be staying at the Hotel Croatia Cavtat, part of the Escape collection and Adriatic Luxury Hotels.

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip
DUBROVNIK, Croatia. source

DAYS 16-17:
Florence, ITALY

After an intense conflict-themed 2 week study of Balkan history, it'll be a relief to experience La Dolce Vita in the capital of Italy's Tuscany region. 

The pace here will be decidedly languid - all I'll be doing is seeking out the best gelato and taking in the world's greatest collection of Italian Renaissance art at Galleria degli Uffizie: Michelangelo’s 'David', Botticelli’s 'The Birth of Venus' and da Vinci’s 'Annunciation', for starters.

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

DAYS 18 & 19: 
Cinque Terre, ITALY 
The plan was to go to Cinque Terre with a group of my Malaysian friends, but last summer we all ended up together in Barcelona instead. No matter - this year I'll tick the "fabulous five" off my 2017 Travel Bucket List. I'll be meandering the steep coastal trails with friggitoria (bite-sized seafood piled into a paper cone) in hand, starting with Riomaggiore (the unofficial capital of Cinque Terre) before heading to Corniglia's famous vantage point where I can see all 5 towns at once.

DAY 20:
Pisa, Italy

If, by the end of this trip, I should start to feel a little wonky I will at least be in the right place. I like to think as myself as far too sophisticated and worldly than to indulge in obvious and puerile sight gags, but c'mon, it's THE Leaning Tower (see what I did with the Italics?) - pointy fingers and pushing hands from a forced perspective will probably happen. The jury is still out on whether I'll climb the tower - I know it's perfectly safe, but my decision will probably depend on how much pizza I've had...

15 Cities, 6 Countries, 20 Days: The Ultimate Itinerary for an Austria, Balkans, & Italy road trip

What are your summer plans? Have you any elaborate trips and well-planned holidays you're looking forward to? Or do you, like me (bar this one rare exception) just live from moment to wanderlusting moment?


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