Is it just me or does everyone else enjoy the drive to Italy

07/22/2013 - 19:25

Is it just me or does everyone else enjoy the drive to Italy - if so what are your highlights?



It will be my 1st time driving myself in August but i have been a passenger many a time in the early and late 90's and loved the whole experience of getting off the ferry and knowing your on the continent.Driving through Switzerland there are some lovely places to stop off and admire the amazing views.I admit its going to be a tiring drive but i think it will be enjoyable non the less given that your in the holiday mood. 

Sounds like you were a young passenger in the early/late 90's? - and now you're driving in your own right.  I hope it goes well and that you enjoy the journey.  You'll be on a high so dont worry you wont feel tired.Do you mind my asking, but which part of Italy are you hesading too?

In reply to by chris18

i was in my teens back then, my parents drove and i just enjoyed the experience. My father used to do the trip in 36 hours door to door with only a few hours sleep at the service stations and then crack on again. All in all its 1700 miles 1 way for us.We are heading to a remote part of  Reggio Calabria, around a 15 minute stay away from the port that docks to head over to sicily.As we have a family villa in calabria and we are there for 17 days for us its about getting there as soon as possible to enjoy as much time there as we can. If i had over 3 weeks i would take more time getting there but its not possible to take more time off with work commitments etc for now.The benefit is that theres 2 of us driving.

sounds fantastic. i thought i had  bit of a run as we do 1200 miles door to door to Lucca, but 1700 is a fair bit more!  Dont forget, even with two drivers, if you do feel tired pull over and rest., but at the same time I understand what you mean about wanting to get there asap.  Have you been over to Sicily?  I know Siracusa on the east coast and Trapani on the west.

In reply to by chris18

No havent been over to sicily, but our family villa is high up in the mountains and we get a view of Sicily during the night seeing it all light up and Etna!Thanks for the advice Chris, i think the hot weather will make us even more tired when driving. We will be making plenty of stops, Italy has lots of parking areas off the motorways and the service stations are well equipped so that help.  ThanksTony

We like it - and have no real option out of season (flights from NWest England fade away in September!).  We have 1650 miles, and now take the Folkstone/Tunnel route; listen to 'nagging woman in dashboard' which takes us down to Reims, and thence to Basel - through Switzerland and out to Como.... etc.Stops: Holiday Inn Strasbourg; Holiday Inn Luzern; Holiday Inn Milan - all depend on our timing...  Our main one is Luzern going down...On the return, I've found a convenient and clean independent on the services at Montepulciano ~ through the car park and off to the back.  There are two different hotels - one on each direction.Different subject... This year I obtained the Telepass 'gizmos' for France and Italy..  Ok, startup fees and a %age fee - but what a godsend.  You 'get a bit of a smug on' as you drive down the telepass lane, particularly Milan at rush hour. I recon we saved half an hour there alone.....( 

It can be a very enjoyable drive if you take your time doing it.  We do 2 overnight stops on the way down- the first is close to the Channel Ports - we have used the holiday Inn at Englos near Lille the last couple of trips- the second is usually around Colmar [or Besancon depending on the route taken]Highlights - not blasting down the motorways, but taking [still major] roads that are less frantic.                 - crossing the Vosges on more minor roads [i.e. - not dual carriageways]                 - Swiss scenery [of course] - especially the Gotthard pass

Thanks Alan.I think a 2 night stop is a very civilised idea. Thanks for the tip on HI Englos.I think at some future point I might be able to take a bit more time - until then though I'll be blasting down the motorway looking to get there asap so as to unload the noisy teenagers!As mentioned in an earlier post we tend to stay over in Strasbourg and then complete the journey on day 2.  Apart from Gottard upon which we could happily spend some time in its own right, driving through Como around 6pm in the evening is beautiful.  I'd quite like to stay there on the way.

In reply to by chris18

Holiday InnI joined their 'frequent flyer' type scheme - you earn points each stay. AND  - on the two stays since joining we have received vouchers [at the hotel] giving, in one case a free pudding each at the evening meal, and on the second occasion a free drink each in the bar [much better!!!]

The route planner on the Drive Alive website is pretty good It allows you to 'drag' your route to vary it, gives a running time total for the journey [useful for booking overnight stops], and also has lots of hotels/campsites etc shown on the map.The website also has plenty of additional info on driving abroad

We love dring to Italy. Have just come back from 2 weeks travelling round the north. Usually have night in Folkestone then 2 nights in Chamonix to break the journey. This year we drove through Switzerland after that and over the Passo del Sempioneand had a night in Bavaria and a visit to one of King Ludwigs castles and then a stop in Belgium on way home. In fact this time last week we were on the A22 going north. Missing Italy already. Roll on next year and early retirement which includes plans to move to La  bel paese.

Thanks for your post Helen.  You've described a wonderful journey. I know Geneva, but i've never been to Chamonix which is popular all year round.I hope your memories of your trip keep you going until next year, and that you realise your early retirement plans.  Quite a few Brits who settle in Italy get into the tourist industry running B&B's - who knows, at some point in the future it might be you greeting visitors to La bel paese.  

Recently got back from our 2 week trip to calabria, was a great drive, 2 of us driving non stop we got over to Dunkirk saturday 10th August at 3am and arrived at our holiday villa on Sunday 11th at 1 in the afternoon, a 34 hour drive stopping for fuel, and breaks. Spent around 550 euros for fuel and all tolls in Italy there and back. I have a vignette which looks like new if anyone is interested. In total the car did 1700 miles each way. Weather was fantastic, food and beaches even better, til next year!

Hi Tony,Thanks for the update on your drive, sounds really good. If the two of you can share the drive then all the better.  It always feels to us like something of an achievement to have driven so far in such a short time - particularly when you you see the landscape change as you travel.We expected to drive this year too, but ended up going for 2 weeks 3 days, and it turned out to be cheaper to fly and hire a car.  Calabria sounds fantastic, but tbh i've never been to any part of Italy that i've not liked - if you get the chance from where you are in Calabria, drive over to the west coast of Sicily go to San Vito Lo Capo - total beach party culture.  Beach parties start at 8pm and go on to 8am.I totally understand your comments about the beaches sun and food - what a wonderful place it is.  I think the bottom line here is that a bit of Italy gives us northern europeans enough of a lift to carry on until the next year when we can head back to Italy again.  Next year we're planning to go out in mid june to end on june; then following a wedding in the UK which we have to attend end of first week in July, we'll go back out until around 18 August.  Can't wait!

In reply to by chris18

Great post there Chris,I totally agree that the experience of italy gives you enough of a desire to want more and carries you on until next year until the time comes to be able to head back again. This is exactly how i feel.  As i have italian blood and picked up italian from my parents at a young age i would move there if the job/pay situation could be matched with what i do her in the UK but the south of italy offers little prospects from what i have seen.The actual drive down can be gruelling if its not your thing, especially considering that your going to be in a car for around a day and a half. My preference was to get there asap but we took more time getting back andd stopped in Rome for 2 days to break the journey up.  But i really enjoy driving and going past some of the most stunning views and sights you will ever see makes the journey  so enyable for me. Switzerland is one of my favourite places!I will definitely check out San Vito Lo Capo next summer - the beach party culture is definitely up my street! i did a bit of driving around th coast and experienced some fantastic sandy beaches which you expect to only get in the most exotic of locations (Bova Marina & Locri right at the tip of italy to mention a few). I do love the south of italy and plan to move there when i retire, only 35 plus years to go i predict!  All the best Tony 01 October 2013  

Maybe I drive a bit fast but we are generally do Dover-Italy or vice versa in 10- 12 hours,we go via Belgium,Luxembourg where fuel is rather cheap,touch on France and into Swizerland.We generally stop around Como or Milan for a night .This Route seems cheaper on tolls/tunnel charges than France and via the 2 French /Italian Tunnels and we save on the Luxembourg fuel.We Try and spend a day or three somewhere on the Journey down through Italy and then do the Run to Sicily and Home in one hit.Lately we have used the Palermo /Genoa Ferry which works out to cost about the same as driving that part but has the Bouns of being fresh as a Daisy for the run between Dover and Genoa.We do miss the Italian drive though.  A decade or so ago we used to do the Journey non stop and sleep in the car wherever I flaked out at god knows what time of the small hours.It was quick but those days are well past.I just cannot do it any more and besides I realised some years ago that we were missing so much.I love the drive and ,although we do use Ryanair a fair bit now, we always manage  the drive once or twice per else would we get our contraband back?????? Wine from the huge Oak Barrels at the Local Trapido( not sure if thats the spelling)  ,Olive oil from my trees, Barberra Coffee at 1/4 price,even crates of Lemons and Tomatoes  and whatever the parenti have forced upon us,Several Quality Provola and Salami,A number of fresh Bread loaves as they keep for ages and are great for Propette(Polpette) once beyond use as Bread or whatever  we seem to end up with ,we are always full and I mean over loaded with Fresh and unprocessesed things you appreciate and miss once back in the UK.Only back 3 days and am eager to be going back already. 

Ciao e tutti,We have just returned from Italy using the now famous Alan H. Route (with Lörrach variation) notwithstanding a slight hindrance by hurricane Jude on Sunday night!Once again the route proved invaluable. Perhaps I may suggest a couple of other variations. We usually take two nights on the journey and now prefer Freibourg to Mulhouse on the way down. It has a nice cheap IBIS (Hotel ibis budget Freiburg Sued) for about €40. Freibourg is a delightful town with very good food (for Germany) in the market hall is a multi-ethnic food court & near the Hauptbahnhof is a nice Thai restaurant (Leaf Thaiküche). It involves a short toll-road to get there, about €3.As another alternative; the nearby town Colmar is pleasant, with an astonishing masterpiece in it's then usually stop in the IBIS in Como. It is the usual Industrial-estate-place but with better than average rooms. There is a surprisingly good restaurant/pâtisserie/pizzeria almost next door & Como town centre is only a short drive away.On the return journey we wanted to see the Notre-Dame du Haut chapel at Ronchamp so we stayed in yet another €40 IBIS in Belfort. This was extremely pleasantly-located hotel in the tranquil suburbs of a rather crusty old French town & involved a another small (easily avoided) French toll of about €5. Belfort is nothing to write home about but has a nice Thai restaurant (Le Voltaire) & an Indian that is reported good (Taj Mahal).The next day we proceeded to pick up the usual Alan H. route in Epinal, via the N19 & E23 & incurred no further tolls at all. Although this route looks longer than the original scenic route through Bussang to Mulhouse it seemed quicker & easier. It certainly would be in inclement wintery-weather!Safe driving to you all wink

Really enjoyed reading all of this. Each year we do this journey from the Uk down to Umbria. Originally it was ferry and two stop overs but we've refined it over the years. We now use the Tunnel and share the driving to Colmar. Nice little town with at least 3 budget hotels by the airport (not noisy!). From there we go through Switzerland and down through Como. Then we tend to vary it as the second day is less driving. We have visited lots of lovely places, sometimes staying over. Gubbio was a joy as was Montepulciano. Plans to see lots more too. Last time I went back along the ordinary roads rather than motorways in France and it was hardly any longer and considerable cheaper. Plans for 2014 are to 'do' Liguria on the way down so will approach from France. Excited already.

Great post Jacki.  Your route sounds like ours.  We use the tunnel then stay on the French motorways through to Strasbourg, stay over night in Strasbourg and then head through Colmar/Mulhouse, into lovely Switzerland, Gottard Tunnel, and head towards Como.  We go to Lucca so we follow a different route from you after Como, from there heading to Parma and on to Lucca.I've come to the conclusion that we should be staying over in Colmar not Strasbourg so i'll follow your tip on the budget hotels. The first year we drove we went through France/Belgium and Luxembourg then back into France to stay over at Strasbourg.  Maybe we were unlucky, but the traffic in Belgium was horrendous.  Its seems like a cheaper route (no tolls of course) but took longer.  The French motorways from Calais right through to Strasbourg seem to be almost deserted so we stick to the Fench motorways now, but i'd definitely be interested in trying the ordinary roads in France if only to strip out the toll road charges. I think everyone on this thread would be interested to hear how you get on in 2014, as Liguria is beautiful.

Over 20 years ago we (this the royal we as I dont drive) drove to Italy via France, Belgium , Luxembourg, Germany and Switzerland. Since then we have flown but really want to go by road again before we get too old. We are happy to stay for as many nights en route as we need and make the journey part of the holiday. I am interested in Jackie Molloy's comment that she took ordinary roads through France and wondered what her route was. I would like to avoid Switzerland if possible. We probably wouldn't book accommodation but just stop when we wanted. I would be grateful for suggestions on a route. We are going to Southern Liguria. 

Hi We have been driving to Italy now for many years. I live in NE England and we normally go to Lago Di Maggiore or Lago Di Como area. We normally take our caravan down with us. I have two routes which I take,NE England down to Cambridge, overnight stop, then Cambridge to Calais for overnight stop, then rump it down to Basel via Lille, Lux,Metz,Strasberg,Basel. Overnight stop in the first service area in Basel. Then next day down through the Gothard and into italy. Setup in campsite by lunchtime with a nice Italian beer. Due to health reasons my wife cant drive whilst towing the caravan so I do all of the driving. Door to door 1150miles. Summer just gone, we had a wedding to go to and we decided to do the overnigth from Hull to Zeebrugge, then romp it down to Basel etc.More expensive on the ferries but a lot quicker. All in all, probably cheaper in time and fuel even though I get nearly 50mpg towing. I just wish the towing experience in England was as good as that on the continent. And as far as staying in service areas, you just need to use your sense as to which type to stay in. Always stay in proper areas with restaurant and facilities not just the sidings with a toilet. The likes of th caravan club like to scare monger. Steve

Great post Steve, thank you. There are a number of people on this website who head down to Italy from the NE and I think they'll find your post very useful.Although I don't tow, I understand exactly what you mean when you talk about the towing experience on the continent compared to UK.  Whats your favourite Italian beer?Chris

We drive to south Calabria in August from Southampton fast craft to Cherburg and use the motorways through to St Etienne overnight in hotel (we take the dog!) then use the West coast to Sienna and then  straight to the appartment. This year we hired the Telepass for France & Italy so good it saves so much time. On the way back early September we  where stuck in a jam for half an hour managed to go off on a slip way where there where miles of cars trying the same thing. They kept a lane open for Telepass uses and we went straight through saved a few hours, must have been a few looks watching a UK plate overtaking every one!  

Hill Driving in north Italy is so much lovely and romanting ride, some local services agencies provide luxury cars for your event, in Lake Como I know a real estate firm named Proeprty At Lake Como that also offer luxury cars for lake como holidays, so don't miss driving around lake Como while you visit north Italy. Visit website for more details.

"anybody out there dusting down their roadmaps to Italy?" Yes - starting planning  leisurely drive down with our dog.  First time with a pet, so changes to route/times required.  Will be using Eurotunnel rather than Ferry - dog will stay in car with us, not put in cage on ferry, and will spend 3 nights on way down [and back] to reduce time in car each day

That sounds really good.  We take our dogs and go via the chunnel.  I think we'll be heading to that Ibis Hotel in Colmar that  you mentioned in a previous post, instead of Strasbourg.  Did you say there's a Thai restauarant not far from the Ibis?

" Did you say there's a Thai restauarant not far from the Ibis?"Not me - the Ibis is out by the airport.  Having used it once, I won't be going there again  [Room was damp etc etc].  You need a car to get into town for good restaurants

Because of the dog, and also in preparation for avoiding the 100 SF charge for the Motorway Vignette in Switzerland next year, we are looking at a new route down to North West italy [Lake Maggiore/Lake Orta area]We are planning 3 night stops on the journey to cut down the daily in-car time for the dog to approx 5 hours a day max.  We enjoy a leisurely drive down and back anyway, its part of the holidayRoute may well be;-

  • Day 1    Eurotunnel and first stop near Lille Englos, at the Holiday Inn express - we've had good stays there before, and ther is plenty of space to walk the dog
  • Day 2    Lille to Epinal area
  • Day 3    Epinal to Sion in Switzerland - posssibly the Ibis there.  The route will be cross country to Pontalier in France [avoiding Besancon] then into and through Switzerland on non motorway roads.  The lakeside road from Lausanne is a most enjoyable drive, and it goes on through to Sion
  • Day 4    Sion to our place near Lake Orta- only 2 or 3 hours drive


  • Return Jouney will probably follow the same route and stops

Distance wise this isn't much longer than more direct routes we usually take, but it will add a 2 or 3 hours to the overall journey time because of Days 3 and 4 Anyone got any comments?   [but not about the need for 3 stops overnight, that's a 'given' for us] 

We enjoy the drive to Italy and back, the journey for us, from north Aberdeenshire to Puglia, is usually around  2,200 miles depending on the route which we often vary to see a little more of Italy and other countries. We tend to travel outside of the Summer season and usually cross the Channel by ferry although sometimes take an overnight ferry via Hull or Newcastle. Our preferred routes through France take us through Monte Bianco, and after many years we still find  the views of the Aosta Valley breathtaking at any time of year. In the late Spring the drive through Ventimiglia is exhilarating, but can be finger biting driving around Genoa because the local drivers have absolutely no patience with any vehicle driving within the speed limit. A stop in Switzerland makes a nice change but it is very formal, expensive and driving through the many tunnels is very tiring due to the pressure of traffic.The Adriatica coast offer so many places to stay, so we rarely plan a stop, just leave the Autostrada when bored and look the coast for a pleasant place to stay.