Camping our way to Italy

06/28/2012 - 17:40

Well, having just made a posting about living frugally in Italy, I have got in the mood and I am on a roll and there is no stopping me now. This time I want to talk about travelling by car through to Italy. We've done it a few times and usually we take the route through Belgium, Luxemburg, Lugarno, and then Milan and on to Tuscany. This has been fine in the past, but the problem now is becoming the cost of hotels, breakfasts and evening meals en route. It's okay if you do this occasionally, but we visit our place in Italy many times throughout the year, so we need to economise wherever possible whilst still having a great time and ensuring we enjoy every minute whether travelling or relaxing.SO. We have decided to buy a TENT. (A big one with bedroom and lounging area). We've been spending hundreds of £s on hotels in France. Now we have a tent, a whistling kettle, a blow up bed and lots of ideas about routes, information on ***** star camplng sites, municipal camping sites, and plenty of doubts. In three weeks time we'll put the new strategy into effect. We'll get off the ferry in Dover late afternoon, and then head for a municipal camping site. Allan will have to put up the tent whilst I find my hairdrier and search out where I can plug it in.Does anyone have experience of CAMPING? The idea is to save money, so we don't want these posh camp sites I've found on the internet with their swimming pools, night entertainment and discos. We want a pretty site, near an interesting small town, and clean toilets. I think our first stop on the way out will be near Calais, and then perhaps somewhere near Colmar. Any ideas anyone?



Why don't you just drive faster? Calais to Tuscany is 12-13 hours (without speeding). On camping, just avoid any sites close to any water, where there will be mossies galore, or anything where sand is involved, where there will be gigantic ants. Best of luck!

Why camp when you can get a cheap hotel like Premiere Classe or F1? The time  spent farting about with erecting the tent and checking out the ablution facilities is not worth it. We love camping but it's not the best for a speedy trip south.

Afraid I agree with Bunterboy.  We love camping but do it because we like to camp rather than stay in a cheap hotel.  However, frequently an F1 works out cheaper.  Camping, particularly with a large tent takes up an awful lot of time just living.  If you want to camp get a cheap hike tent that can be put up and down instantly (our's puts itself up virtually) and limit all the gear - you don't need it - imagine unpacking and packing the car each time - its virtually a day's job in itself. How many of you travelling - we find flying much cheaper - we have decided to bring one car down at Easter and leave it here until after the olive harvest.  Cheaper to fly back and forth inbetween.  Sorry to be a wet blanket - but you may find you get the camping bug.

Forgot to add that driving straight through is the cheapest way.  As we have a dog we drive straight down to puglia in one swoop from Surrey - less than 24 hours from Calais, two drivers, swapping and stopping as necessary.  We actually find it less tiring than taking just a stop over in a hotel.  We find we can do as we have our own place, know what we are coming to and can just flop and sleep as soon as we get here.  If you are only going to Tuscany its a doddle!

"Why camp when you can get a cheap hotel like Premiere Classe or F1? The time  spent farting about with erecting the tent and checking out the ablution facilities is not worth it. We love camping but it's not the best for a speedy trip south." I have to agree - if you want a cheap overnight stay, that is 'quick and easy' - use the PC or F1 'hotels' - the hassle of faffing about with the tent isn't worth it for an overnight stop.  Different matter if its a leisurely drive down with a couple of days camping here and there.

Oh dear, I just wanted someone to suggest a good camping site in a pretty location near an interesting town.  We've done the journey by car several times over the last 3 years, and taken the 'plane 3-4 times a year on others.  We like to take the car once a year (not for Heinz beans transportation) but because it saves money on car rental when we are there for a few weeks.  Taking the car throrugh Europe makes a nice change, as long as we don't have to sit on motorways for hours at a time.  We both like driving, but not for long periods.  We have stayed at budget hotels as well as some very nice ones.  We usually end up enjoying a good meal in the evening whether we are at a budget hotel or not; take a buffet breakfast to start the day, and then a lunchtime stop somewhere beautiful/interesting and have a mooch about.  The tent will allow us to save money that we can use in local restaurants in the evening.  The idea is mine - so it had better work out! The tent we have bought Allan can erect in 15 minutes, and he's only tried it once in the back garden.  He's an experience camper from years ago when he used to cylce all over Europe, including over the Alps and across Scandinavia.  Apparently, the camp sites he used then were sometimes farmers' fields.   I don't think we'll have trouble unpacking the gear as the tent goes into a holdall, the bed into another, and the stove and whistling kettle sit on top.  I have got loads of room left in the car boot for the child seat for when my daughter comes out with the baby, and all the other odds and ends I have decided to take with me. I am looking forward to our trip as we are going to use a French route rather than the Belgian mortorways (boring). Please can I ask again, does anyone know a good site around Colmar?  Allan tells me he has sent off for a book or magazine that lists lots of sites, so maybe we will do our homework, and then stop where the fancy takes us.  However, a recommendation would be welcome please.

Just a word of warning, a freind of ours came over to stay last year with her boyfriend, and chose to do it over a couple of days with camping overnight. They stopped at a site the first night near Chalons en Champagne, and next morning they awoke to find a large cut in their tent, and their backpacks and bag rifled through outside with money, phone and cards stolen; luckily they had left their passports and other documents in their car and her boyfreind had left his keys in his shorts pocket. When they told the site owner he just shrugged and said it happened a lot to tourists......

Thank you very much for the link above to sites near Colmar and the link to the municipal site close by.  The warning too is a reminder to be careful.  However, all the comments saying it is too much messing about and not worth the effort to save a few pounds I find defeatist.  I am 64 and can't help looking upon this camping venture as a bit of a change.  I like a bit of uncertainty and the chance to change our minds about location at the last minute.  I've got my i-phone to check availability as we draw close to where we might stop for the night. I went camping a few years ago in the desert in Morocco, and it was a lovely experience.  Almost everyone else was at least 20 years younger, but I slept better than many on my own roll up mat and in a light weight super efficient sleeping bag.  I cleaned my teeth the next day with bottled water and didn't get a shower until the evening when we reached a village in the High Atlas.  A few nights in a municipal camp site is a doddle in comparison, although it is true I would like to use my hair drier. I thought someone may have camped on their way to Italia, and I just though they might have a good recommendation of a place to stay.  After all, that's what this forum is for isn't it?

Can't make any recommendations since camping not my thing by I'd say go for it FNO!  It must be cheaper than staying in a hotel and I must say even I thought about camping possibilities in Switzerland, where I bet they have fantastic camp sites in wonderful locations. Let us know how you get on - you might even persuade me (though OH a diehard on the matter!)

Hi Esme, sorry to disappoint you but although the spirit is willing the knees would not stand the challenge of climbing mountains!  We travelled in 4 wheel drive vehicles across Southern Morocco, the Sahara Desert to the lush oases of the Draa Valley. We explored kasbahs and ksours of the Atlas Mountains and ended up in fabulous  Marrakech.  You know about Toubkal - does this mean you climb yourself? We are going ahead with the camping idea.  We have cancelled our previously booked hotels, and we've got the book of French campsites to take with us.  I agree with Annec that there are probably lovely campsites in Switzerland, but it is Lugarno that temps me most.  If this camping lark is too good we may never get to our place in Lunigiana!  

Well ....we drive to Piemonte twice a year for a month and always camp on the way and back. We stay in municipal camp sites in whichever town/area we end up near and find it is the cheapest and most relaxing way to travel , some of the sites have a bar or cafe and the showers and loos are great.It is always nice sitting outside in the evening with a glass of red and a candle,for me better than the airless hotel box rooms, although to be honest we roll in fairly late and leave early to get on the road again. We stayed in a Formule 1 once and there was a room breakin so that can happen anywhere and for me i find the cheap hotels very claustrophobic and not suitable for pets unlike the camp sites. As for places to recommend we travel straight down France so a different route but a little research will show municipal sites for chosen towns...always struggled around Calais so would love to know if you find any good places. I don't bother too much with cooking stuff just a mini cooker for espresso and one pot emergency grub if we really cant find a good local cafe. Good luck and happy travels.

I think it's a wonderful plan to make the journey into an adventure. We always fly now for time and cost reasons but my favourite journey to Italy was our first one over 20 years ago in our 2CV. We didn't camp but found little B+Bs en route and stopped to explore if anything took our fancy. I love setting out in the morning and not knowing where I'll be ending up in the evening, but I must admit I've become less adventurous as I've got older. I'll have to take a leaf out of your book. Actually, I've just realised it's because of the internet I dont bother leaving things to chance now. It's so compelling searching out all the different interesting, quirky looking places that are possible to stay at when we have "holidays" within our holiday in Italy. 20 years ago it was easier to just take your chance. Have a great journey!

It's a while but I have camped throughout Italy and mostly free. Why spend money in a campsite which will cost almost the same as an hotel. Find a nice clean spot early and when the locals or owner come around just explain what you are doing and they will always be accommodating. have a coffee and wine in the local bar. A bit of knowledge of the language would be good but maybe not essential.

We used to just take pot luck on our camping holidays, staying in a municipal wherever we decided to stop for the night. You get more good ones than bad and it adds that little bit of adventure. Latterly we have done "glamping" in a folding camper (flushing loo etc) but rarely booked sites in advance. We still intend to camp around Italy with small tent and minimal kit - when we get round to it! Good for you - personally I would do my utmost to avoid those depressingly cheap and nasty motels. Terry 

Hi, the best resource for great little campsites is Cool Camping. They've got stacks of groovy sites listed across France and have just expanded their portfolio into Germany.  Their Italy section is well worth a visit as it's growing all the time and by far the best way to find all those tucked away little gems.  Their latest Cool Camping Europe book is due out any day now so keep an eye out for it - it's well worth taking with you to refer to on your trip if you can't get internet access.  Have a great trip, you'll love it!  We did it a couple of times in our old VW Camper before we moved here, and had a ball each time smileyyes