This post is the third and final of a three-part blog documenting mine and Hannah’s roadtrip around Italy in my newly converted British Gas/guerrilla camper van. Read the blog from our first and second leg here. To receive email updates of our next post, enter your email address in the ‘Subscribe’ box to the right. No spam, ever!
There’s that usual gutwrenching feeling when it’s time to come home from a holiday. Turning around at Sorrento and heading north had felt like we were immediately coming home, despite still having loads to look forward to before leaving Italy. And as our first stop Tarquinia failed to excite us, the drive back suddenly felt like it was going to be a real slog…
After the scorching heat and busy crowds of Pompeii, we decided to skip Rome; which would be hotter and busier. We drove past Citavecchia and onwards to Tarquinia; where we’d heard of a fantastic, beachside campsite in the shade of the woods. Unfortunately, we had timed this part of our trip with the exact week that swarms of Italian locals all take their annual holiday to the beach; and we left disappointed, regretting our decision to not stop at the rocky, clear beaches of Citavecchia.
“I think we’re mountain and lake people,” Hannah said as we left early in the morning. We’d booked our second AirBnb of the trip, in a tiny Tuscan village, for a few days ahead of where we now found ourselves on the map. Cue two unexpected days in the Tuscan hills in the most beautiful campsite, La Soline, and a full day getting lost and eating pasta in Florence, which rivalled Venice in terms of photogenic backstreets. (For vandwellers aiming to visit Florence, park in the huge Co-Op outside of town and catch the tram from Nenni-Torregali in for unlimited, free and secure parking!)
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⛪️#Florence was really nice albeit a bit busy. Best to just get lost in the side streets away from the bustle 🇮🇹🚐💨 . . . #firenze #duomo #cathedral #church #basilica #italia #roadtrip #citybreak #travelling #holiday #italy #vanlife #homeiswhereyouparkit #selfbuiltcamper #vanlifediaries #city #streets
Camping for free in another Co-Op carpark in Torre Del Lago (there’s more free camping spots right by the beach, as we discovered in the morning), we enjoyed a quick swim in the sea before checking in to meet our hosts. Craig and Elly, Scottish ex-pats, welcomed us into their beautiful villa and pointed us in the right direction for mountain hikes and local pizzerias; but we spent an equal amount of time lazing on the lilos in their pool. Using their home as a base, we explored Cerreto Laghi, a ski-resort high up in the mountains, where we wandered through the frog-filled chestnut woods until we got lost and took a chairlift up into the clouds. We decided to stay an extra night here after checking out, and parked up for free in a beautiful spot overlooking the forests and mountains. Opening the doors on the following morning is a memory that will stay with me forever.
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We achieved peak #vanlife last night. A new backyard every day 🇮🇹 . . . #roadtrip #holiday #travelling #tuscany #tuscana #tuscia vanlifer #vanlifediaries #selfbuiltcamper #diycamper #freecamping #homeiswhereyouparkit @vanagonlife @vanlifecamper @project.vanlife #italia #mountains #views
The days until our Eurotunnel booking were now very limited, and it only made sense to head directly north for as long as possible. This led us to the final surprise during our time in Italy: an evening at Lake Maggiore. We arrived with enough time to enjoy a swim in the lake, watch the sun go down with a pint in hand and have our final meal on the trangier. Out of Lake Como and Garda, this lake felt the most inclusive and inviting, and there were dozens of places where people could camp (between 8pm-8am) and enjoy the water for free. The next day, we genuinely had to tear ourselves away from the town of Stresa, with “just one” more shop, or coffee, or swim…
The van didn’t want to leave Italy either, as immediately after crossing the border back into beautiful Switzerland, the back-end began to scream in pain. Brakes? Suspension? Exhaust? We drove slowly and with regular stops at service stations, finally pulling into Dole, France, for “one last expense” – a three course meal out. The next day, squealing axle in tow, we finished the journey and arrived at Calais, and boarded the train back to Kent.
Back to work, back to staring at maps, back to the mechanics (the abrupt stops, swerves to avoid mopeds, and 3500km of hairpins had taken it’s toll on the brake calipers). If you enjoyed this blog post, please subscribe to receive email updates for our next adventure. If you found this series of posts helpful in planning your trip or simply getting you inspired, feel free to comment, ask questions below or share the link around on social media as well.