Some advice about ferries & routes?

11/27/2011 - 21:02

Ciao e tutti,After 13 years it has finally become necessary to drive to Italy! I suppose it was inevitable. This time we have to take far more kit than Ryanair could cope with so I would like to get some advice from the seasoned motorists & lorry drivers among you.We are thinking of going in late Feb or early March. I think we would like the cheapest & most enjoyable route we can find with one or two of relaxing overnights on the way. Our destination is Orvieto, which is about 1 hr. north of Rome.I have been trawling the archives (here) & ferry sites but would be grateful for some suggestions of your favorite routes or places to avoid.Thanks in advance

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We live in Brussels but have a house in Umbria just south of Todi. We always drive down if we intend spending more than a week there since the cost of hiring a car makes it prohibitive otherwise. Now, bearing in mind that I don’t like going through Switzerland and the Gotthard tunnel, and that I hate the A1 motorway in Italy, the following route, which we have been doing since time immemorial, adds about 100k to our journey but is by far the best for us to cope with my unreasonable demands: Brussels, Luxembourg, Metz, Nancy, Dijon, Bourg-en-Bresse, just missing Geneva (Fr), the Mont Blanc Tunnel, Aosta, Alessandria, Genova,  just before Livorno cross to Florence, take a little bit of the A1 to get to the A1 to Perugia superstrada at Bettolle (which you wouldn’t need to get to Orvieto) and then on down to Todi from there. For the time being, I’m not too concerned with motorway and tunnel costs, I prefer having motorways almost free from traffic which this route does, other than around the big towns. We also do the trip in two days stopping whichever side of the Mont Blanc suits depending on our timings. Good luck with your planning.

Well Chris, you’ve certainly asked a question that has so many possible answers.  Here are a few of my thoughts, based on your aims of -  “.. the cheapest & most enjoyable route we can find with one or two of relaxing overnights on the way. ”  FERRIES I would suggest that the cheapest crossings are from Dover to Dunkirk with DFDS  http://www.dfdsseaways.co.uk/ferry-routes/ At present you could get a return fare in Feb/March for about £60.  Don’t worry about it not being to Calais – the distance to Orvieto is virtually the same, and it is the start of the cheap driving route  JOURNEY DISTANCE About 950 miles from Dunkirk, giving a driving time, including stops for food, toilets etc, of about 19hrs.  A good journey planner is the Bing one, as it allows you to change the route easily by dragging it to a new position.    [I find that whatever the journey planner says, if you take reasonable meal breaks and loo stops, and don’t exceed speed limits, I invariably average 50mph twhendriving to Italy]  ROUTE MY favourite is one I’ve often put forward as the cheapest option [NO TOLLs until you reach Switzerland [Carnet] and Italy [Autostrada tolls].  It is Dunkirk – Lille – Charleroi – Luxemburg – Metz – Nancy – Mulhouse – Basle Bypass – Lucerne – St Gotthard Tunnel – and into Italy  This link may work  http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2.00&cp=44.666279554367044~10.84797978401184&lvl=16&sty=c&rtp=pos.51.036995_2.376930_Dunkirk%2C%20Nord%2C%20France___e_~v.48.343239_6.312139_E23%20%2F%20D57%20a~v.47.606771_7.701719_A98~pos.42.717171_12.104990_Orvieto%2C%20Umbr.%2C%20Italy___e_&mode=D&rtop=0~0~0~&form=LMLTSN&encType=1 Advantage of this route is it takes you into Luxembourg  - cheap petrol – all petrol stations [inc the 2 on the motorway] charge the same price.  Petrol in Switzerland is also cheaper than France or Italy – see the AA website for latest petrol prices  http://www.theaa.com/onlinenews/allaboutcars/fuel/2011/november2011.pdf WHERE TO STAY Now we have a couple of variables that affect where you choose to stay,  One of the cheapest options is Formula 1 hotels – but I tend to use Ibis or Novotels.  A good website to start on is the Accor one, which includes all price ranges http://www.accorhotels.com/gb/united-kingdom/index.shtml Where you stay depends on what time you leave Dunkirk.  On a journey to Orvieto, I would tend to suggest an evening crossing and an overnight stay near Dunkirk – say at Dunkirk itself or around Lille.  This allows a good start time in the morning and the time loss of the Channel crossing and time Difference has already been used up Next overnight stop would be around Epinal –  about 7hrs driving – more than enough Stop 3 would be around Piacenza  - leaving 4 to 5hrs to Orvieto You could cut out one stop by blasting down to Mulhouse on the first day on the continent, and then getting to Orvieto late on the second day  One thing to avoid – Stopping overnight in Switzerland – it’s expensive  If you have time [and it’s open] it’s worth adding half hour or so on doing the St Gotthard Pass rather than the Tunnel – views are magnificent and there is a café at the museum at the top   I’m sure there will be many other suggestions- but do have an enjoyable trip down – for us the holiday starts when you get on the ferry.

Hi Alan, Well we have decided to have a go at your second option "blasting down to Mulhouse on the first day on the continent, and then getting to Orvieto late on the second day" We have booked a ferry arriving at about 6 a.m. in Dunkerque on a Friday (16th March). So we should perhaps aim to reach Mulhouse on our first day & stay overnight. We don't know whether to get up at silly o'clock & make for a pre-8 a.m. arrival at the Gotthard tunnel on Saturday morning, or whether to let the morning rush? die down a bit & arrive at about 11 a.m? If the traffic is going to be bad then we might take your other suggestion: "If you have time [and it’s open] it’s worth adding half hour or so on doing the St Gotthard Pass rather than the Tunnel – views are magnificent and there is a café at the museum at the top" Any advice from the seasoned travellers? Pip pip

Hi Chris We have done this journey many times for 12 years. St Gottherd tunnel in our experience only has long queues in the summer and at Easter. It is very likely when you travel that the pass will be closed because of snow. I have only once been over the top and found it terrifying. We use euro tunnel by the way and travel from colchester to Lake Trasimeno. Also we very often use Ibis or Novatel. It is a journey like any other so buono viaggio Portia

Cheapest option is definitely Dover Dunkirk from where you are  We travel from Northampton, so I think that your biggest problem will be avoiding the M1 & M25  morning rush hours - so it's either an early start - about 5 am at the latest, or a later one about 8.30am onwards.  I'd definitely consider a late crossing with the overnight near Dunkirk as your starter.

We have driven this route every Summer for years - Cambridge to Rome.  When we had to do it quickly, due to having a dog, we took the tunnel and stopped at Lake Lucerne just short of the Gotthard tunnel. We would then leave early to get through the tunnel as early as possible (huge queues) but then realized that if the weather was fine, over the pass was much more scenic and cheaper. Costs involved: the vignette for Switzerland and French tolls but only one hotel overnight. More recently we have experimented with two overnight stops and we still prefer the Colmar area then Lake Como. This Summer we left Rome at 7 am, stopped in Menaggia on Lake Como and Riquewihr near Colmar and were home comfortably on the third day. Scenery to die for (we went over the Gotthard as well), relaxing drive but you have to consider the costs.

Our preferred routes into Italy CALAIS - ST OMER - ARRAS - ST QUENTIN - LAON - REIMS - CHALONS SUR MARNE - VITRY LE FRANCOIS - ST DIZIER - CHAUMONT - LANGRES - GRAY - BESANCON - PONTARLIER  - JOUGNE - VALLORBE - SWISS BORDER - ORBE - (SWISS M/WAY) - LAUSANNE - VEVEY - MONTREUX - MARTIGNY - SION - SIERRE - (A/ROAD) - VISP - BRIG - THEN VIA SIMPLON PASS INTO ITALY AT ISELLE - DOMODOSSOLA - STRESA/LAKE MAGGIORE.......... CALAIS - ST OMER - ARRAS - ST QUENTIN - LAON - REIMS - CHALONS SUR MARNE - VITRY LE FRANCOIS - ST DIZIER - CHAUMONT - LANGRES - GRAY - BESANCON - PONTARLIER  - JOUGNE - VALLORBE - SWISS BORDER - ORBE - (SWISS M/WAY) - LAUSANNE - VEVEY - MONTREUX - MARTIGNY - GRAN ST BERNARD PASS - AOSTA ...............

 hi mike,always suprised at the variety of routes people take.we always go thru belgium -germany-austria-italy coming down thru verona bologna.The advantage of germany is that for most of the time you can really push (on the accelerator which is GREAT) the other thing is that if you want/need to stop you can come off almost anywhere as being without tolls german autobahns have lots more exits and entries and it's easy to find comfortable inexpensive accomodation and food everywhere.At the end of the day this route ends up being even cheaper and no longer if you're coming down the east side of italy and you miss french speed traps,swiss speed traps,switzerland where they seem to have problems with people who have stuff in their cars/vans,vignettes and tunnel tolls.BTW if it's convenient for your timing the sea food in Oostende is fantastic at this time of year...  

In reply to by elliven

elliven, what do you use; a donkey and cart ?? I know I'm quick as I do it overnight (14 hours Calais - Lucca with stops) but more than 1 overnight stop is having a laugh; unless you have several incontinent children to take care of (no offence intended if you do)!!

"St Gottherd tunnel in our experience only has long queues in the summer and at Easter. It is very likely when you travel that the pass will be closed because of snow. " The pass may well be closed when you travel in March.  Its status [Open/Closed] will be well sign posted before you get to the 'turn-off'. About the long queues - these happen, but this can be when its quicker to take the pass, as the inside lane of the motorway is, for the last couple of miles or more, set aside for people going over the pass - so you can fly past the queues.  [I suppose you could use the inside lane to cut back into the tunnel traffic near the tunnel [lights stop cars queueing in the short tunnels on the approach], but that's probably illegal and I'd bet they have cameras checking on that]   "I have only once been over the top and found it terrifying." I can't believe that - its fantastic, and not a difficult drive, as long as you take it easy on the downhill bit

"........ more than 1 overnight stop is having a laugh; ....." I disagree - if you make the journey part of the 'holiday', there's a lot to be said to taking a few days to get to and from Italy.  And you don't need another holiday to get over the journey

Well alan, how long does it take to travel 1400km? assuming you are not doing a touring holiday as the thread had alluded to. I suppose it all depends on what type of route you take, whether you stick to Autostrade or no toll roads; and if you are going on holiday just how long you want to spend at your destination. All this depends on the person and their ability to travel. But if you insist on averaging less than 700km a day when travelling abroad and given a reasonable time to complete this milage perhaps one should choose another mode of transport i.e. Plane or Train. Also SAGA do a nice line in cruises.

" ........... if you insist on averaging less than 700km a day when travelling abroad and given a reasonable time to complete this milage perhaps one should choose another mode of transport i.e. Plane or Train. ....." I wasn't aware that anyone was insisting on less than 700km a day, although my personal preference is for about about maximum of 8 hours travelling a day - say 650km including stops.  What one needs to recognise is that different people have different travel 'requirements', but nobody is saying that any particular option is right or wrong.  And I do also travel to Italy by train and plane as well - horses for courses really

....A wee bit further than I have to go : from Newcastle. I get the boat over to amsterdam and down through Germany. I usually overnight around the Fuessen/ Hohenschwangau area on the austrian border which takes about 8 hours from Amsterdam if the roads are clear. In Fuessen I pay a visit to the V Markt, which is a big supermarket on the main road going out of town, (open till 8pm) and get a few crates of Bavarian beer - cheaper than you can get it in italy and far superior than heineken or any of the italian stuff (but that's only my opinion so don't slate me for it) Also with a refundable deposit on the crates which you can claim when you take the empties back : excellent..! Next day is a long 12 hour haul down to Puglia, and I have to be honest and say I drive considerably faster than 60mph whenever I can - not on the curves through marche and abruzzo, but certainly on the straights, and consider it perfectly safe to do so as long as you keep your wits about you and don't take any daft chances : defensive driving, but around 80-85mph whenever possible..... One tip I can offer you : don't clog up the outside lane driving at 60mph in Italy because the Italians will drive right up your butt in their frenzy to overtake and it can get a bit hair raising.  Just use the outside lane for overtaking when you need to and be careful when you want to pull out because they can come up behind you very very fast....... Almost forgot one other little thing - if driving on the autostrada and you indicate to pull out and someone flashes their lights at you it means the exact opposite of what it would mean in the UK. Flashing someone here generally means ' ok, it's cool, go when you're ready'   In Italy it means ' I'm not slowing down for you and I'm absolutely not going to let you pull out so don't you dare move or I'll crash right in to you' :  no kidding, so be warned... nice as they are, the Italians are inconsiderate and psychopathic drivers! This trip I'm considering going a bit further than Fuessen/ Ho'gau on the first leg; maybe as far as Telfs which is near Innsbruck and will knock a couple of hours off of the 2nd day. If anyone has the inclination to try this route, I can heartily recommend it. Germany is great. The roads are safe and fast, and as someone else said, you can come off and on to the Autobahns whenever you like as there are no tolls. Likewise for Austria, although the stretch between Fuessen and Telfs which goes over the Fern pass isn't motorway after the town of Reutte : very beautiful though, and well worth the effort. There are several different routes I have tried down through Germany. They are all pretty much of a muchness, and all fast, although I would avoid the Autobahn A3 if poss - it's a nightmare.  Try going over from Amsterdam to Osnabrueck, Bielefeld, Paderborn and pick up the A7 which will take you all the way to Austria. (Small part of autobahn A33 not yet completed past Bielefeld where you have to come off and go through town but it only takes 1/2 an hour or so) After that it's the Brenner pass and down into Italy past Bolzano and Garda where after about 3 hours from Brenner I pick up the A1 and then the A14 down to Puglia. That's my tuppence worth. Hope you find it helpful.

Well Many thanks to all! Alan H. We used your route. We got a £15 Travelodge near Dover & caught the 4 a.m. ferry to Dunkirk. We stopped at the ETAP in Mulhouse (warm, clean, cheap & basic ) & then drove to Orvieto the next day. Two hours from/to Mulhouse towards Epinal we found a brilliant pâtisserie in a village called Ramonchamps very highly recommended for lunch, or purchasing food for later. Much nicer than anything we found on the motorways outside of Italy. https://foursquare.com/v/les-délices-de-clémence--pinot/4df3447814954f21cf2d9193 On the way back we took it a bit easier, to Mulhouse in one long day then Dinant overnight & a leisurely 6 p.m. ferry back to blighty. The only thing to watch out for is the Belgians have changed the signs for Lille to Rijsel in a fit of pique! It didn't fool the SatNav though. The Gottard pass is still closed by-the-way.