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Italy motorhome country guide
Rome was not built in a day and Italy has so much to see and do it is hard to know where to start. For centuries Italy has been a firm favourite with grand tourers and if we only had one month to travel Europe we would spend three weeks in Italy. Adventurous winter Sun-Seekers should head south to Sicily and drive around Etna, the largest volcano in Europe and one of the most active in the world. Visit www.funiviaetna.com for more information about visiting Etna.
Campsites, Motorhome Stopovers and Offsite-Parking in Italy (free wild camping)
Italian campsites are very expensive and you are unlikely to feel that you are getting good value for money. Poor facilities, and unlevel pitches are common and you are advised to visit campsites that are in one of the discount schemes. A database of Italian campsites is published online at www.camping.it Look out for ‘Agri Tourismo’ signs as you travel as you will often be able to park overnight for a few euros.
Italy has approximately 1000 Motorhome Stopovers called ‘Aree di Sosta’ translating to area to stop. Motorhome Stopovers near tourist attractions are more like motorhome campsites; elsewhere they are located in municipal car parks and often have simple custom built Service Points. There are several guidebooks available. The Italian motorhome club produces an Annual guide called Italian Aree di Sosta CamperLife, which lists 2711 stopovers, and agri tourisimo sites. There appears to be a large number of car parking areas in the guide that have no signs to indicate that the area has official motorhome parking. All the Aires Mountains published by Vicarious Media and available for free at online.vicarious.media details campsites and Motorhome Stopovers in the mountains of northern Italy and in Sicily. Guides are available at www.vicarious-shop.com. Details of Area di Sostas can be found online at www.camperonline.it. Offsite-Parking is possible in Italy as long as the traffic and parking laws are complied with. Italians have an interesting take on what remote car parks should be used for so bear this in mind when choosing overnight parking. Thankfully the lovers tend to be quiet but local youths will party late on Friday and Saturday nights. This can be a little alarming to start with but you soon learn to sleep through it.
Driving your motorhome or campervan in Italy
Whilst travelling south down Italy you will notice that road conditions continually deteriorate the further away from the industrial north you get. Motorways tend to have tolls, see www.autostrade.it, but the minor roads that run parallel are free and are often more interesting and challenging. Roads have been renumbered over the past few years, so maps and addresses may be out of date. Cycling clubs are common and pelotons snake their way along minor roads on Sundays. Road drainage appears uncommon in southern Italy, so avoid driving during rain. Road signage can be difficult to interpret so take some time to get it right. For example a straight on sign often looks to be indicating left or right. If you need to stop and think about which way to go putting your hazard lights on will be enough to encourage people to drive around you. The south of Italy is less busy than the north but Italians love their cars so there is always some traffic. Appalling congestion occurs after supper, because everybody with a car cruises around town so try to avoid driving between 7-10pm. Perhaps the recession will encourage them to promenade instead.
Some ski resorts can only be accessed by crossing high mountain passes that are prone to blockages after light snow or wind. All tourist offices receive daily updates about mountain pass conditions and a three-day snow forecast. Winter tyres are required between October 15th and April 15th.
There are rumours that the Italians are mad drivers with one hand always on the horn. OK, they are expressive with their horns, but it is an unofficial language, that is easy to learn. One short beep from a following car is a warning that they are overtaking or simply ‘I am here’. Two beeps means ‘ciao’ and they are generally saying hello to someone they know. A progression of beeps or one long beeeeeeeep usually means you or something is in the way; either they have nearly driven into you or there is a parked car blocking the route. Italians drive at two speeds, fast and slow. People driving slowly are happy to drift along and are not concerned by confused tourists. People in a hurry will drive with full beam lights on and will flash manically; as a general rule everyone gets out of their way.
Parking is an Italian sport and any space is fair game, even if it blocks the road. When confronted by a blocked road it is standard practice to give a long horn blast, shopkeepers and passersby soon inspect the situation then summon the owner to move the vehicle. Tailgating is something you have to accept.
If you have a bike rack or anything that protrudes from the rear of your motorhome, ensure you identify it with a hazard warning sign. These are 50cm square, with red and white reflective stripes. Many cities do not allow tourist traffic through the historic centre, so park on the outskirts and use public transport to get in. LPG autogas is widely available. Fuel stations may discount fuel prices at weekends, and self service pumps are marked ‘Fai Dante’ and are often five per cent cheaper.