You will want to return again and again to the kicking boot of Europe
Things To Do
Incredibly popular (over-crowdedly so) in summer, make it springtime or autumn to discover the lakes of Lombardy. Lake Garda is by far the biggest, with the north-west shoreline the quietest. Lake d’Iseo, Lake Como, Lake Lugano and Lake Maggiore make up the other most well known lakes. To find something a little quieter and more intimate, head to Lago d’Idro and Lago di Ledro (strictly speaking in the neighbouring region of Trentino).
Take a vineyard crawl around, arguably, the image of Italy – Tuscany. Chianti is one of Italy’s best-loved wine regions, the vineyards interspersed with poppy-rich wheat fields, plus hillsides dotted with cypress trees and crenellated castles. Look out for bottles with a black cockerel, the symbol of Chianti Classico, considered the best.
Take a hike along the ancient Sentiero Azzurro to explore the five colourful villages of the Cinque Terre in Liguria. These coastal villages cling precipitously to the cliffs along the rocky coastline of the Riviera di Levante. Or visit by boat from La Spezia.
You’ll discover plenty of wildlife in the Parco Nazionale d’Abruzzo, Lazio e Molise, a rich and beautiful wilderness in the south of the country. Mountains, rivers, lakes and forests are all within the national park – in addition to brown bears and Apennine wolves!
Discover ancient civilisations on the island of Sicily. You’ll find amphitheatres and Doric temples a-plenty, plus the spewing Mount Etna, a fertile land of walnut and citrus groves and beautiful sandy beaches when R&R prevails. Hop on a boat from Genoa, Naples or Reggio di Calabria to reach the island.
When To Visit
Italy has a long tradition of fabulous annual events, creating spectacle and colour, and providing regional variation. Many seasonal religious festivities (particularly Roman Catholic) are still honoured and celebrated with feast days and public holidays. In addition to regional activities and seasonal food and drink festivals – everything from asparagus and the strawberry to wine and olives – you’ll also find major international events such as the Venice Film Festival, the Giro d’Italia bike race and, on Easter Sunday, the Papal Address from the Vatican.
For some good old-fashioned entertainment, try February’s mask and costumed Carnevale and April’s Festa di San Marco (a gondola race across St Mark’s Basin), both in Venice. Or June’s Calcio Storico – 16th century football in Florence – and July’s Corsa del Palio in neighbouring Siena, a medieval flag-throwing contest and impressive horse race. Further south, September’s Sagra dell’Uva is an entertaining harvest festival celebrating, in particular, the grape.
The main routes into Italy are: from France, the E80 along the Gulf of Genoa, the Fréjus Tunnel (the E70) towards Turin, the Mont-Blanc Tunnel between Chamonix and Courmayeur/Aosta Valley; from Switzerland, the E27 via the Great St Bernard Tunnel – or Pass if you fancy going up and over the mountains – (Martigny to Aosta), E62 (Brin to Lake Maggiore), and the E35, via the San Gottardo Pass, or E43 towards Lugano; from Austria, the E45 via the Brenner Pass and E55 from Villach to Venice plus, from Slovenia, the E751 towards Trieste in the far east of Italy.
All Italian motorways operate tolls, using booths along the route, with the highest tolls paid at the mountain tunnels and passes. You’ll also find low emission zones and congestion charges around various Italian cities – too many to mention here, but go online to check where they are in operation, and whether they affect your motorhome.