In 2017, we decided in light of the successful motorail trip to take our eldest son down to the Italian coast for a few days, followed by a drive back through parts of Italy, Austria and Slovenia through back to Vienna. The trip was a longer one than we had done the summer before and the intention was to see parts of South Tyrol (Südtirol), East Tyrol (Osttirol), Carinthia and Slovenia, before heading back through to Vienna with a stop-off in South Styria (Südsteiermark). This post also ties into the 2016 motorail post, and it is possible to combine sections of the route used for that trip into the route used on this trip.
The motorail from Wien Hauptbhf leaves in the early evening, and you arrive at around 7:30 in the morning at Livorno. It is worth checking that your car height is below the maximum – we had to do a height check, and we saw someone removing a roof box and rails off their car in a mad panic. The height restrictions are lower than on the Motorail to Feldkirch, so it is worth making sure you check your car model including the year of build. I’ve also heard stories of people deflating tyres to scrape under the limit – definitely not advisable, especially if you have problems getting on or off the car transport coaches.
As with the previous year, our first few days were spent locally, admiring the surrounding areas and relaxing after the journey down. And of course for those who fancied time on the beach, that was exactly the reason to head to the coast. We were about 30 minutes away from Pisa, so went over there for the day to see the sights (and not to take pictures of us pushing over the leaning tower). Once we started our return journey, we headed up to Parma via a lunch stop in La Spezia. We stayed in a converted pasta factory in Parma (as a business hotel it was empty during what is a traditional holiday season).
For our next leg, we drove up to Mantua for lunch and then on to Lake Garda, choosing to skip Verona as we had both previously been there. The hotel in Garda was very disappointing, and proof that the star rating could be abused. We headed on further up along Lake Garda and then up into the Alpe Adige (Südtirol) to Bolzano (Bozen) where we stayed for a couple of nights at the excellent Park Hotel Laurin – think Agatha Christie style hotel, with a beautiful walled garden directly in the city centre, excellent cocktail bar, and a glorious brunch. (Note: Bolzano/Bozen can be easily reached through the Brenner Pass if you were to fancy travelling from Innsbruck as part of the return leg having motorailed to Feldkirch).
From Bolzano/Bozen, we pressed on through to Lienz, where we stopped for lunch, before heading on through the Gailtal, and towards Villach. We then took a turn down to the Slovenian and Italian borders, stopping off for an overnight stay at Kranjska Gora, just over the Slovenian border. (Note: as an alternative if you wanted to stay in Austria, Carinthia’s lakes, e.g. the Wörthersee and the Millstättersee are worth a trip, and staying over for a night or two, and you could also consider the Großglockner Hochalpenstrasse from Lienz to take you up to Kaprun or Zell am See as an alternative to going through Carinthia).
In Slovenia, we had a relatively short leg, with a quick trip down to Lake Bled and then on into Ljubljana. We spent a couple of nights in Ljubljana and were able to do most of what we wanted to see on foot from the city centre, and then headed up towards Graz via Maribor. Since we had been to Graz before, we opted instead to stay in Stainz south of Graz at the Stainzerhof, where there was an excellent restaurant in the hotel, and which was also very quiet. From Stainz, we headed back up to Vienna, stopping on the way to have some lunch in Baden. (note: you could also take in the Steirische Weinstrasse for a couple of days if you want to extend your trip) or alternatively take a slow route back through Burgenland to add on a day or two.
Note: Please check regulations related to travel and any restrictions that apply due to Covid-19. While neither Alpe Adige (Südtirol) or Slovenia are subject to traffic restrictions at the time of writing, readers are advised to check government travel warnings.