Of all the wonderful countries you can tour in your motorhome, nowhere beats Italy. With its stunning scenery, rich culture, sunny weather, friendly people and delicious food and drink, Italy really does have all the ingredients for a truly special holiday.
So, what do you need to know about a driving holiday in Italy? Where should you go and what should you see? What preparations do you need to take before setting off, from learning a few Italian phrases to choosing the right insurance for your motorhome?
Read on for our guide, and buon viaggio!
What to take on your Italian motorhome holiday
One of the many great things about travelling in a motorhome is that you’ve got plenty of space. However, that space will quickly become filled – particularly if you have children and dogs to think about! So, it’s advisable to pack with care.
Firstly, there are some legal requirements. Even if you’re a seasoned traveller, remember that the rules may change from 1st January 2021, once the UK fully leaves the EU.
You need your passport with at least six months left before the expiry date, and it’s also wise to have good health insurance. Bring your driving licence, too. You must also make sure your car has a GB sticker, if this isn’t included on the number plate.
You might also need an International Motor Insurance Card, also known as a Green Card; an International Driving Permit; and the logbook (V5C) for your vehicle. Pet passports are also changing from 1st January 2021, so check yours is valid.
There are also legal requirements concerning the equipment you must carry in your vehicle when in Europe.
You should have reflective jackets for every passenger, and a warning triangle. You’ll also need to use headlamp beam deflectors on UK vehicles, and carry a spare wheel.
In France, Germany and Austria, it’s compulsory to have a first aid kit in your car. France also insists you carry two breathalysers.
Other vehicle safety items that it’s advisable to carry are fire extinguishers, replacement bulbs, torches, a spare fuel can, and a road map in case of any issues with your sat nav.
Remember to pack any medication that you or your family needs, as well as general items such as plasters, insect repellent and sun cream.
How about camping equipment? While your motorhome is your home on wheels, it’s nice to spread out a bit once you’re settled at a campsite.
Tables, chairs, awnings and barbecues will all help you make the most of Italy’s sunshine! Specialist motorhome insurance from Motorhome Protect will cover camping personal effects up to a value of £3,000.
If you’re travelling with children bring games for the journey and the evenings.
When packing clothes, remember that northern Italy is colder than the south and that evenings can get chilly in a motorhome.
Finally, don’t forget good walking shoes or sandals so you can get out and about, exploring this fantastic country to your heart’s content.
How to get to Italy
The distance from London to Milan in northern Italy is about 800 miles and can in theory be driven in around 14 hours non-stop. However, that would be a pretty crazy way to travel!
For a start, you’ll need some proper rest stops, even if there are two of you sharing the driving. That’s one of the essentials of safe travel, along with following the rules of the road and taking out the right insurance for a motorhome.
Plus, your route will take you through some incredible places, not least the Alps. Why not take it easy, make the journey part of your holiday, and stop for a few nights? That’s the beauty of motorhome travels!
Your first choice is how to cross the channel: over or under it!
Eurotunnel offers a flat rate for motorhomes over 1.85m high, and you stay in your vehicle for the 35-minute shuttle crossing. Pay attention to the safety regulations, especially around the transportation of LPG gas.
Ferry costs vary depending on the operator and the size of your vehicle. You’ll leave your vehicle during the journey, though pets must stay on board.
You’re most likely to travel to Italy across France. Its roads are less prone to jams than the UK’s – but that comes at a price. Motorway tolls for motorhomes, which are charged at a higher rate than cars, can really add up, so factor them in when budgeting for your trip.
Your route might then take you through Switzerland, in which case you’ll need a vignette for motorways.
If you’re travelling to north-east Italy, the best route might instead be through Belgium, Germany and Austria. Belgian and German motorways are free for passenger vehicles, while Austrian motorway tolls vary depending on whether your vehicle is over or under 3.5 tonnes.
There are also charges for many of the crossing points into Italy, for example the Alpine tunnels at the French border.
Rules of the road
Whichever route works best for you, remember to read up on all the relevant road rules for each country.
Here’s our quick guide to what you need to know about Italian driving rules.
You drive on the right, overtaking on the left. At crossings, give way to the right.
Speed limits depend on the weight of the vehicle you are driving. If you’re in a car or smaller motorhome, weighing under 3.5 tonnes and with no trailer, the limits are: 50 km/h in urban areas; 90 km/h on minor out-of-town roads; 110 km/h on major out-of-town roads; and 130 km/h on motorways. In bad weather, the limit is lowered to 110 km/h on motorways and 90 km/h on trunk roads.
If your motorhome is over 3.5 tonnes, you must stick to stricter speed limits: 50 km/h in urban areas; 80 km/h on minor out-of-town roads; 80 km/h on major out-of-town roads; and 100 km/h on motorways.
There are speed cameras and it is illegal to use any device that blocks these.
You must wear seatbelts in the front and, if fitted, in the rear of your vehicle. If police stop you and you’re not wearing them, both the driver and the passengers can face on-the-spot fines.
You must keep your headlights on and dipped when driving on motorways, even during the day.
In towns and villages, trams and trains have the right of way, and you are only allowed to sound your horn in an emergency. Look out for ZTLs, which restrict vehicle access to historic town centres in order to limit pollution and congestion.
Parking in urban areas is indicated by white lines if it’s free, and blue if you need to pay. You can buy tickets from machines or local newsagents.
Drink-driving limits are lower than in England, Wales and Northern Ireland at 50mg per 100 millilitres of blood. This is the same level as in Scotland and much of Europe.
Stick to all these rules and you should have a safe, happy holiday. Make sure you’ve got great motorhome insurance, too, as accidents can happen no matter how carefully you drive.
Where to go
In Italy, you really are spoiled for choice. You could spend months touring this wonderful country, and still feel that you’ve hardly scratched the surface.
Where you go depends on whether you’re after culture, beaches, walking or food – Italy offers it all! There’s sunshine, too, particularly as you head further south.
For mountain lovers, there are the splendid Italian Alps in the north. As well as Mont Blanc and the Matterhorn on the borders with France and Switzerland, you’ve got the Dolomites: breath-taking, jagged limestone peaks that are a delight for walkers and climbers.
In the foothills of the Alps, you can relax at the world-renowned lakes such as Garda and Como. As well as enjoying the sight of crystal-clear waters against a mountain backdrop, these are great places to spot celebrities!
Then the backbone of Italy is formed by another mountain range, the Apennines. Just like the Alps, they offer some fascinating scenery – and some hair-raising winding roads! Remember to get quality motorhome insurance in case of any mishaps.
Or perhaps you prefer the gentler hills of Tuscany and Umbria, with their olive groves, vineyards, and picturesque towns and villages? This is a wonderful landscape to explore at a slow pace, soaking up the atmosphere and enjoying the local cuisine and culture.
Then there’s the coast: all 7,600 glorious kilometres of it, dotted with breath-takingly beautiful towns and villages. The eastern Adriatic coast is gorgeous, but the southern Amalfi coast is even more renowned. Here, you’ll find sparkling waters for swimming, picture-perfect villages for exploring – and, of course, mouth-watering food and drink.
Don’t forget the Italian islands! Sicily, Sardinia, and Capri are among the largest and most famous. Or you could explore the volcanic Aeolian islands off the coast of Sicily: some of these are car-free, so leave your motorhome parked in a secure spot.
Italy’s cities are no less spectacular than its countryside. There’s fashionable Milan, historic Rome, and lively Naples. You can also visit Florence, the birthplace of the Renaissance, or Verona, to see the setting of Romeo and Juliet.
Finally, after all that driving, it’s time you took a break from the road with a canal cruise on a gondola! No trip to Italy is complete without a stay in Venice – there’s no city like it anywhere else on Earth.
While its incredible history and landscape are probably what attracted you to Italy, you’ll be delighted to find that the country is also well set up for motorhome holidays.
It has a great network of ‘aree di sosta’. These are like the French ‘aires’: places alongside roads where vehicles can stop for a break. You’re likely to find basic services such as water, a wastewater drain, and toilets.
Many aree di sosta allow you to stay for a night for free, though you won’t be able to put up camping equipment such as tables and chairs. Some even provide more facilities and allow longer stays, though you’re more likely to be charged a small amount to park at these.
In popular tourist areas, such as the coast, there are fewer aree di sosta and they do get full quickly. So, it’s wise to book campsites, often called ‘campeggio’.
Like in any tourist hotspot, thieves are in operation. Lock up your motorhome when you’re out and keep valuables somewhere safe. If your vehicle is damaged by thieves or vandals, you might be able to claim back the cost of repairs on your motorhome insurance policy, depending on the type of policy you have.
You won’t find English spoken as widely in Italy as elsewhere in Europe, so it’s especially important that you learn a few phrases of Italian – particularly if you’re planning to explore off the beaten track.
Even being able to say “buongiorno” (hello), “per favore” (please), “grazie” (thank you), and “mi scusi” (excuse me) will help to keep things friendly.
While driving, you might need to know that “stazione di servizio” is service station; “autostrada” is motorway, and the plural is “autostrade”; “pedaggio” is toll; and “parcheggio” is parking.
But one thing you’ll quickly discover is that Italians have an amazing ability to converse with you even if you can’t speak each other’s languages! This is a welcoming country, and people take pride in their hospitable nature.
So read up on routes and places to see, get your paperwork in order, spruce up your vehicle, choose adequate motorhome insurance, and start dreaming of your Italian adventures!
Get a quote from Motorhome Protect
At Motorhome Protect, we love to help people who are planning their camping holidays around Europe.
We’re specialists in arranging motorhome insurance for vehicles up to a value of £150,000. We can arrange policies that offer unlimited cover across all countries in the EU, with unlimited mileage.
If you’ve had any claims or convictions, we’ll still happily consider your application.
Start planning your unforgettable trip to Italy today by getting a quote for motorhome insurance from us.
Policy benefits and features offered may very between insurance schemes or cover selected and are subject to underwriting criteria. Information contained within this article is accurate at the time of publishing but may be subject to change.