Six reasons to do Italy in a camper van
By Helen Wright
If you have always wanted to visit Italy but let the sky-high prices of the Italian cities put you off, have you considered a budget camping trip? We did just that last summer, renting a camper van from Rome and hitting the road. It ended up becoming one of our favourite ever trips! You can read our full itinerary here. But if you still need a little bit of extra convincing, here are six reasons to do a camping road trip around Italy.
On a quick calculation, using lastminute.com, 14-nights staying in 3* hotels in Italy’s three cities Florence, Venice and Rome plus on the coast at Cinque Terre would amount to approximately £950. Plus, you’ve got to get between them all (approximately £310 by train, £900 car rental). Renting a budget-friendly camper car from Spaceships rentals costs £490 for 14 days and provides bed, board and means of travel. Since the van comes equipped with a stove and basic kitchen equipment, you can cook your own meals as little or often as you want, saving big bucks on those budget-busting Italian restaurants. Renting a campervan is cheaper than interrailling. If you’ve never camped before and are unsure of how good the facilities will be, I can tell you that most of the showers were more powerful than a lot of showers I’ve used in London! They were clean, regularly maintained (the sites we stayed at are listed here) and never seem to be short of hot water. Also, big bonus – most of them had huge swimming pools! We opted for a budget ‘camper car’ through Spaceships Campers (that was fine for a couple, my boyfriend is 6’1 and he just fitted in) but larger options are available.
Seeing multiple cities in one trip
I absolutely love little mini-breaks to explore individual European cities but if you have a few weeks to tick off some major bucket list items, this is the way to do it! We managed Rome, Pisa, Venice, Florence, Lucca and the Cinque Terre in two weeks as well as a few surprise places that we also loved. The beauty of driving your own accommodation around (like a snail) is the freedom to choose where and when you want to stay put and when you want to leave. A couple of places we loved so much we stayed extra nights and some we felt we’d seen enough of and headed off sooner than planned. The flexibility of the trip made the experience almost totally stress free.
The journey is part of the fun
Driving in Italy is not as stressful as I was expecting! In fact, it was quite laid back. Newly built toll roads (with a small fee payable) made covering the larger distances easier and relatively traffic free. The winding, picturesque routes that weave through the Italian hills gave us the gorgeous scenery we were hoping for as well as the opportunity to go off-course and explore some of the landscape and towns you would DEFINITELY miss going by train, plane or as part of an organised coach tour.
I love hotels (like, really love them – seriously, I’m basically Howard Hughes) but the one negative of staying in a hotel is that you don’t always get the chance to meet other people on a similar trip / wavelength to you. I have come to realise that campsites attract visitors from all walks of life. We met young couples(some in matching Spaceship vans!), older couples on long, luxurious trips in their luxury RV, ageing hippies who spend their life on the road and energetic families. Everyone we’ve ever met at a campsite has been really friendly and we’ve had a lot of fun drinking wine and putting the world to rights with them late into the night.
I already touched on this above but another thing that really plays to my stress free travelling nature is the ability to dump all my stuff. I don’t mean by gradually lightening the load as though I’m in a hot air ballon, but merely to not have to lug all my stuff around and re-pack everyday. To be fair, in the compact van you cant exactly ‘unpack’ but I had a section for all my toiletries and girly stuff and a smaller bag for my everyday things and that was luxury enough. Plus, not having to drag all my stuff about from place to place (on trains / planes) also felt pretty luxurious! Basically, once you pick up the van, you can dump your bags and not worry about them again until the flight home – excellent! Plus, the added bonus of no hotel checkout times!
Three holidays in one: beach, city break and camping trip.
If you’ve only got one holiday a year, or if you’re travelling with a family or group who all want different things, this is a cost effective way to do a bit of everything and keep everyone happy! A few days of relaxing beach time breaks up all the cities and stops the sights from blending into one big Italian mega city. And of course, ticking off different bucket list places gives you plenty of Instagram footage!
Watch the videos of our Italian road trip here
Find out more about the budget camper car we rented from Spaceship Rentals in Rome