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Driving to Italy from UK... any advice?

(26 Posts)
Lymond Sat 10-Apr-10 16:04:31

We've already booked a fortnight holiday in an Umbrian holiday home for July, but hadn't yet booked the flights. We've just realised that DH will be between jobs all summer, as he has just given notice and isn't starting with new employer until September.

So, we're thinking about driving out. Doing it over the course of 3 or 4 days each way, and stopping in various nice places to stay in hotels here and there. Added advantage that we will have our own car with us once there (renting something big enough is nigh on impossible).

We have 4 DC aged between 1 and 8. Are we mad?! I've just looked it up and its almost exactly 1000 miles!

We would aim to drive most of the morning, stop somewhere nice for some sightseeing in the afternoon, drive again early evening when the younger DC can sleep, and older ones can listen to story cd's, and arrive at pre-booked hotels to sleep and start again the next morning. Will mostly need to have the DD's sleeping in one room with me, and DS's in another room with DH as finding interconnecting rooms can be a hassle.

Any advice/hotel or sightseeing recommendations/ etc..?

tootyflooty Sat 10-Apr-10 23:35:38

we have done the drive to Italy so often we barely use the map !!, it is also 1000 mile door to door for us, we sail dover to calais, normally sailing at about 7.30 am, and drive with not that many stops until just before switzerland, generally at Besancon, and stay in a formula one place ( a bit like travel lodge) The rooms sleep 3 with a double bed and single bunk over the top, so you may need two rooms, it is also very tight if you are taking a travel pay seperatly for a continetal breakfast, roughly 3.50 euros a person. If we set out again by about 8.00 next morning, we reach our place in Tuscany late evening that day, about 8ish. i do strongly recommend the motorways all the way, I know the tolls are a bit pricey, but the motorways are much more civilized abroad.In switzerland you are supposed to buy a motorway pass, but since the aa stopped selling them in advance years ago, we have never bothered, you can always purchase one at the border if you are stopped.
If time and patience allows, and you are going via the st bernard pass, don't pay for the tunnel,the road is very windy, but only adds on about 40 mins to the journey, and there is a lovely lake at the top, tourist stalls and a hotel that sells wicked hot choc and cappucinos, there are also some real st bernard dogs.
It can sometimes get a bit fraught in the car with loads of kids we have 4 as well, but we always try to make the journey part of the holiday rather than just going from a to b. ( portable dvd players have been a godsend the last few years, didn't have them when my oldest two were small) I'm sure you will have a fab time, at least you won't have to worry about excess baggage. And do also take some basic supplies for when you arrive so you don't have to shop as soon as you arrive. For us two weeks in Italy is cheaper than a week over here in a caravan!
Oh, sorry this is sounding like a travel guide, but you also should get a gb sticker and headlight converters, plus spare light bulbs and high vis jackets and a warning triangle, some of this is now a legal requirement in europe.

Lymond Mon 12-Apr-10 11:09:36

tootyflooty - that is excellent advice and so helpful. Thanks.

We're really up for making it a 3 or 4 day thing each way and visiting some interesting places, so getting the St Bernards pass recommendation is great - I love St Bernards!

When we arrive we're staying just over the Tuscany/Umbria border, near Lake Trasimeno. We've always stayed in Chianti before, but fancied a bit of a change. Do you know much about that area?

Portofino Mon 12-Apr-10 15:15:04

We're driving to Tuscany in July and will drive back slowly - current plan is for a few days on Lake Como here and a few in Switzerland here

Haven't decided on what to do on the way out, but we have 3 days max. Haven't driven that way before so also interested in any tips. San Berndino vs San Gottardo? Heard this could be nightmare for traffic. We driving from Brussels so would be the direct route.

Lymond Wed 14-Apr-10 08:57:46

Thanks for those links Portofino.

monkeysmama Mon 19-Apr-10 10:27:49

I'm very envy - my parents took us on the very same trip every summer for the whole of our childhoods and we loved it. As soon as I can drive I'll be doing it myself instead of flying back.

The area near Trasimeno is great for visiting other places. Do you know which village you're staying in / near? I stayed there two summers ago in an amazing villa. Tbh we had a slight problem with mosquitos but I think that was only a problem that year. Basically the council decided to spray the entire town killing all the female mosquitos. The male ones went crazy and apocalyptic scenes followed with literally swarms of mosquitos descending . We couldn't use our pool or eat outside for 4 days! It was surreal but have friends who were there at the same time last year and had no issues at all. Would advise taking good mozzie spray/nets for kids though if you're by the lake.

That sounds like a real downer doesn't it. Don't mean it to at all. It's a beautiful area. Driving there is lovely. Buon viaggio.

Lymond Mon 19-Apr-10 10:34:48

We're 7km from the lake. Will put mozzie sprays and nets on the packing list, thanks for a helpful tip.

I only learned to drive a few years ago, and have never driven on the "wrong" side of the road so I think (hope) DH will do most of the driving on the European side.

MmeLindt Mon 19-Apr-10 10:46:00

Just want to add to Tooty's fab post.

Whatever you do, if you are going on a motorway in Switzerland, buy a vignette - toll badge. Not just if you are stopped at the border.

If they catch you at any time without one it will cost you CHF 200 plus the cost of the vignette, CHF 40.

You have to stick it onto your car, they don't want you handing it over to someone else.

You can go via Dijon/Geneva or Strasbourg/Zurich. Go one way there and the other way back.

If you go via Geneva, you can either go through the Mont Blanc tunnel or head for Annecy, Bourg St Maurice then or go on the to Val d'isere and the Col de Iseran - Lac du Mont Centis to Susa then on to Turin. It looks really far on the map but we did it in a day with a two hour lunch stop at the Lac du Mont Centis and loads of other wee stops.

Depends how long you want to dither around.

MmeLindt Mon 19-Apr-10 10:51:56

Have made this gallery public so you can have a look

We went down through Mt Blanc tunnel, spent the day in Turin, drove back up to the mountains, searched for a hotel and stayed overnight. Second day we drove up through the mountains.

It was so stunningly beautiful.

Eve Mon 19-Apr-10 10:53:21

we do this a couple of times a year, actually just got back Sunday.

Sometimes we take San Gothard tunnel sometimes mount blanc, but as we go further south in Italy usually stop further down.

Stops in past have been disney, Chamonix, Pisa on French route


Luxembourg, somewhere in lakes area, Rimini, Frankfurt, Dusselfdorf, on Swiss trail..

we try to stop somewhere different each time.. great way to travel, my boys have been doing it since little and love the trip.

We have stopped in Paris before, in August, with sat nav, at a weekend, driving though Paris is not too scarey.

Lymond Tue 20-Apr-10 13:55:36

Mme Lindt, I recognise you from Switzerland chat, where I've been lurking as the company DH works for are moving half the company to Switzerland and we're waiting to hear if he'll be one of those moving.... (Will depend a bit on election result so we'll know in a few weeks).
Thank you for sharing those photographs, wow! I'm really looking forward to the drive now! Yes, I'd seen on the map it was either Geneva or Zurich route. The Zurich one seems to be shorter, but that's a good tip (go one way, come back another). And also about the vignette. Where can they be purchased from?

Eve - glad to hear I'm not nuts and that children can enjoy it. Off to google some of the places you mention.

kreecherlivesupstairs Fri 23-Apr-10 09:24:06

Vignette can be got at the customs when you arrive in Switzerland. They cost 40chf and last a year. We used the Gotthard tunnel last year when we drove to venice. It was a disaster. We'd left home at 04,30 arrived at the tunnel around 5.45 and had to wait until 7.30 to drive through. Then there was an accident so we spent about an hour and a half inside the bloody thing. We use the pass now, but do check the snow situation. It can linger until May due to the height of the pass ad the depth of the snow.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Fri 23-Apr-10 09:37:18

We have been through Mt.Blanc several times, and through the Gotthard tunnel once.

The good thing about going via San Gothard is that you can go to Lucernce. We had 2 nights there on the way back from honeymoon in Venice and loved it. I can recommend a fab (but not cheap) restaurant where they cook your schnitzel and noodles at the table in front of you - it's like theatre and I think your DC would love it!

Kreecher - gah I would have had a fit being stuck in there.

Lymond, my parents drove 3 of us down through France to Avignon and then over into Italy down to Milan, then north to Salzburg and then back home via Strasbourg. We were 9,7 and 3 and we all loved it - so it's definitley do-able.

We drove to Italy this winter to go skiing with DS who was 18 months at the time. We went via Mt.Blanc tunnel as our resort was just the other side, and we stopped in Reims on the way and near to Epernay (also in Champagne) on the way back.

Lymond Tue 04-May-10 17:29:56

Alibaba & Kreecher, thanks for those additional tips. (Where do I "recognise" you from Alibaba..? Have we talked Francis Crawford on another thread? I know we're kindred spirits over something...)

BeachedWhale Tue 04-May-10 17:55:59

We are off to Italy too this summer. This will be our 4th time driving and with 3 DC's. People do think you are mad but it's great fun. Never had any whinging from the DC's. It's just a big adventure.

I love the freedom of putting your stuff in the car and off you go. Did fly Ryannair one year and adhering to all their rules and restrictions was a nightmare!

We usually do it over 3 nights/4 days and try to set off early each morning (7 ish) to aim to get to the overnight stop by 3 ish in the afternoon. Then there is time to have a look around where you are staying or if we've managed to book a hotel with a pool the DC's can swim.

Always gone the Gothard route before with no problems going through the tunnel but this year we're going Mt Blanc for a change. would deffo get the Swiss motorway pass as we have been checked every time at the border. You can buy them at motorway service stations from what I remember.

The best bit is when you come out of the tunnel and the sun is hot and when you cross the border there is a great sense of achievement that you've DRIVEN TO ITALY!

Have a great time.

Alibabaandthe40nappies Tue 04-May-10 17:56:54

Lymond we have indeed discussed the delicious Master of Cutler

ItalyLovingMummy Tue 04-May-10 18:06:27

We have driven to Abruzzo in Italy every May for the last four years, the last two years of which includes our DS. It is a great experience, but just make sure you have enough to keep your DC's occupied such as books and games, although the older ones will probably love the scenery. If you are going via Switzerland and Como, there is a very family friendly hotel near Sondrio (a town just above Como) which we always use It is a quirky little alpine style hotel which is family friendly, reasonably priced(about 80 euros a room) and has a good restaurant. The only thing in Italy (which is odd for a child loving country) is that they don't provide baby changing facilities at any of their service stops. Bit odd, but we got used to getting around this and had a changing mat in our car and changing DS on the back seat. Agree with BeachedWhale - the San Gottardo pass is stunning! We have also gone via the Splugenpass, also fun. Depends where you want to go. In France we usually stop in Alsace, staying in either Colmar or Eguisheim. Hope that helps!

ItalyLovingMummy Tue 04-May-10 18:14:15

Following Monkeysmama's advice, another tip! Our friend recommended that we take Brewers Yeast tablets daily 2-4 weeks before our holiday last year and we didn't get a single mozzie bite, so I have done the same this year. I think older children can take them too, but check with Boots/Holland & Barrett or wherever you buy them.

On this year's trip we are stopping in Chambery, Cologne and Interlaken. There are several exciting options. Have a lovely holiday!

Lymond Tue 04-May-10 22:23:29

Thank you beached whale and italylovingmummy... I must buy a big map and look at all these suggestions with that to refer to, as I keep getting myself confused whilst flicking between this and multimap.

Alibaba, oh glad I was right there! Yes, delicious; also complex, sardonic and mesmerising. Bloody terrifying too, in "real life" but that doesn't stop me dreaming about becoming Philippa....

Alibabaandthe40nappies Wed 05-May-10 00:35:53

grin <wanders to bookcase>

Lymond Wed 05-May-10 09:22:10

You wander to the bookcase at half past midnight?! I don't love even Francis that much!

sharonmr Sun 20-Jan-13 17:21:32

We want to get to lake garda from uk this september and will be taking our caravan, never driven in europe before so looking for tips, routes to take, touring campsites for overnight, routes suitable for caravans, best routes to take, taking in monaco on the way and back through zurich on the way back?

Binfullofresolutionsfor10thjan Sun 20-Jan-13 21:16:08

Hi all the info from the past few years on here still stands - vignette for Switzerland etc.

If you are driving via the Gotthard Tunnel remember to go to the toilet before you enter! It's very very long.

The best of Switzerland is really mountains and lakes. Interlaken is amazing and definitely worth visiting. You can camp at Brienz and I really recommend this site

The Italian speaking cantons of Lugano and Ticino are worth stopping at. Bellinzona is a Unesco heritage city. There are loads of lakeside campsites around Lugano. Book in advance as a lot of Dutch camp here.

Swissminatur is a really cute place to visit - little model village near Lugano.

You might want to take a day trip to Milan on the way too.

Although it sounds strange, petrol is generally cheaper in Switzerland. You'll often see clusters of petrol stations on the Swiss borders.

TheWestonClan Mon 27-May-13 15:16:39

Hi there were looking at driving from the UK to Lake Garda in August next yr , our children will be 13 and 11, I have driven in France before so this is not a problem , but if anybody has tips on cheap places to stay while we are there and B&B's on the way there and back, we would be greatful, we want to make the journey to and from Italy an holiday in its self as can be depressing having to travel home,after a fab holiday . thanks grin) xx

adiia Thu 04-Jun-15 22:33:09

Has anyone done this trip in a shorter time? Say leave early morning around 4 am and drive straight to north Italy (including wee and lunchp breaks obv?) Or is a crazy idea to do that with children?

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