The Complete Guide to Touring Italy by Motorhome

The Complete Guide to Touring Italy by Motorhome

Taking a motorhome to Italy is an experience not to be missed. This gorgeous country, full of beautiful light, fabulous food and landscapes straight from a film set, will not disappoint. In this post, you’ll find all you need to know about touring Italy by motorhome.

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Italy is truly a country of two halves. The wealthy and cosmopolitan north and the deprived and undeveloped south. This contrast is marked when spending more than a few weeks in the country and makes a motorhome holiday in Italy especially interesting. Head to Isola della Correnti, a tiny island off the southern tip of Sicily and depart via the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps for a truly remarkable and diverse motorhome tour.

Resources for Motorhome Travel in Italy

Driving to Italy in a Motorhome

There are many, many road routes to Italy by motorhome or camper van, each with its own merits. Whether you are heading off for a two week campervan trip to Italy or a motorhome tour of Sicily, the best motorhome route to Italy depends on how much you want to spend on tolls and fuel and how quickly you want to get there. 

Visit Via Michelin or Mappy for help with working out fuel and tolls costs, along with driving times, or check out our post about driving from England to Italy, where we’ve already done the work for you! 

You may wish to consider getting a boat to Italy if you are in Spain or Greece for example, it will save on fuel costs and time. Civitavecchia is the post closest to Rome and can be reached on a ferry in 24 hours from Barcelona. Bari is an ideal port to head to from Greece or the Balkans and offers quick and easy crossings. You can find out more about these routes from Direct Ferries.

Motorhome Routes from UK to Italy

Let’s assume you’ve arrived in Calais with your motorhome (although the crossings from the East of England work just as well, these are the best motorhome routes to Italy;

The Quickest & Cheapest Routes

 Driving from France to Italy on this route, you’ll find excellent motorway and national roads as you pass through France and Switzerland before using the Gotthard Tunnel to enter into Italy in around 12 hours (driving time).

Calais – Reims – Troyes – Dijon – Lyon – Geneva – Turin – Genoa

To explore the adventurous route, The Netherlands route and the winter route, click here

Fly & Hire a Campervan or Motorhome

   

When to Visit Italy in a Motorhome

Italy can be blisteringly hot in the height of summer and freezing in the winter. There are officially four temperature zones in Italy; mild continental in the Po Valley to the north of the country, cold in the Alps, Mediterranean on coasts and islands, and cool and windy in the Apennine Mountains, which run down the middle of the country.  

April and May will bless you with perfect weather if you stay out of the mountains. July and August are the hottest and most crowded months, especially in Tuscany.

We think the spring and September are the best times to visit; it will be warm in the day but you’ll need a fleece for the evenings. October and November may be OK in the south but the mountains will have snow and evenings will be cold. December, January and February may be warm but unpredictable in Sicily.

You will avoid the worst of the summer tourist crowds, particularly in the cities and regions of Tuscany and Umbria, if you travel to Italy in your motorhome in the shoulder seasons of spring and autumn. For more detailed information about weather by region, click here

Driving a Motorhome in Italy

The quality of the roads and abilities of Italian drivers are mixed. The further south in Italy in your motorhome you go, the more the road network requires investment. Read our post about how to drive in Italy to get a flavour. 

Italian Speed Limits for Motorhomes

  

Documents You Need to Travel & Drive in Italy

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Vehicle Safety Equipment for Italy

  • Warning triangle.
  • Reflective jacket (not mandatory to carry but you can be fined for not wearing one if you’re on the hard shoulder!).
  • You must fit snow chains or winter tyres between 15 October and 15 April, or when conditions dictate.
  • If your motorhome has an overhanging load at the rear such as a cycle carrier then you must display a fully reflectorized square panel measuring 50cm x 50cm with red and white diagonal stripes.

Check here for more information about driving in Italy.

Information About Driving a Motorhome in Italy

  •  Italy drives on the right.
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  • You must not carry or use a radar detector and if caught could be fined and the device can be confiscated.
  • In many historical centres and major towns traffic is restricted from entering areas known as ‘Zone a Traffico Limitato’ or ZTL’s.  You can expect to receive a fine by post if you drive your motorhome into a ZTL as only residents are permitted to enter, so don’t go there!  You can find out more here. 
  • Police can impose on-the-spot fines to drivers of foreign registered vehicles and collect a quarter of the maximum fine there and then. A receipt must be given.
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  • If you’re on the motorway, emergency telephones linked to an SOS telephone network are installed at 2km intervals. There are two types of emergency telephone on Italian roads, from which you either connect to the emergency call centre and speak directly to an operator, or press a ‘spanner’ button for mechanical assistance or a ‘red cross’ button for medical aid. A red light will then let you know your request has been received. 

Italian Toll Roads

Tolls are more expensive than Spain but much cheaper than France. Not all autostradas have tolls or only have them on some sections. Generally, it is far cheaper, easier and quicker to take the toll roads due to the sometimes poor construction of lesser roads, although we did see potholes on toll roads on occasion.

Motorhomes tolls are calculated for a class B vehicle, regardless of the number of axles. One hundred kilometres of toll road will cost around €6. This website has great information in English to help you work out the cost. 

Toll roads are pay as you go, try and avoid using large notes. If the machine has no change, it will give you a credit note which you can exchange for cash at some obscure highways office in a random town, where there will be no motorhome parking and no-one will understand your bad Italian. Use the correct money or your credit card! Alternatively use a Viacard, or Telepass device to allow you to pass without using the non-barrier lanes and pay via a credit card.

There are two toll roads in Sicily; the Messina to Palermo A20 autostrada and the Messina to Catania A18. You will have to use one or the other if you arrive by ferry from Villa San Giovanni, depending on your direction of travel.

Fuel in Italy

The price of diesel in Italy is comparable to that of France and slightly cheaper than the UK.

Many Italian garages have two fuel prices; one for fuel served to you by a forecourt attendant and one you serve yourself. Look for the signs when you enter a garage in your motorhome; servizio for service and self for self-service. 

Unscrupulous forecourt attendants may try and direct you to the wrong pump and sometimes when you are parked at the self-service pump they will try and serve you. The difference in price is usually €0.15 more on what is already some of the most expensive fuel in Europe, so it’s worth parking in the right place and filling the tank yourself.

How to stay safe and legal in your motorhome
Staying Safe & Legal in Your Motorhome

If you live or travel in a motorhome then you need to know how to stay safe and keep on the right side of the law.  You will find everything you need to know here about staying safe and legal in your motorhome.

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Motorhome Services in Italy

    Use an app like Park4Night to locate motorhome and campervan services.

 

Motorhome Stops in Italy

Italian Sostas

Motorhome aires in Italy (called aree di sosta) do not always have motorhome service facilities to empty your toilet cassette and many do not have access to potable water. Lots will charge extra for a hot shower. 

You will often pay the same rate at a sosta as a good campsite, upwards of €25 per night (out of season) so make sure you check what you’re getting for the price before committing. Use Park4Night to find motorhome sostas and other free camping places in Italy. Make sure to check the date of the last reviews, we found some had disappeared when we arrived.

Wild Camping in Italy for Motorhomes

Motorhome wild camping in Italy is very possible albeit with a few restrictions;

  • not within 1km of a built up area
  • only with permission of the landowner
  • not within 50 meters of national routes
  • not within 150m of where drinking water is extracted
  • not within 100m of historic or artistic buildings. 

You are allowed to sleep in rest places on the autostrade, but that would be a security risk and we would definitely not advise this.

We were in the country (including Sicily) for around ten weeks and were able to wild camp in our motorhome trouble free for around 60% of the time. We found Park4Night to have the best wild camping options. 

If you are in Sicily and southern Italy in summer motorhome wild camping, you may be asked to pay a ‘protection fee’.  This is not unusual and our advice would be to cough-up, it won’t be much but could save you a lot of hassle, so not really motorhome free parking after all! Read more about life in Sicily here.

motorhome Italy free camping
Wild camping in Calabria

In Camper Con Gusto

In Camper Con Gusto operates in the foodie regions of northern Italy. Buy the card and gain access to farms, vineyards and producers, as well as a couple of well-placed camper stops. 

Agricamper Italia

Similar to the France Passion scheme, Agricamper Italia offers stopovers for motorhomes and campervans in rural areas including vineyards, farms and even the odd dairy!  You pay for annual membership which gives unlimited access to over 170 stops, plus an app and membership area online. 

Van life Italy
Heading to a vineyard stopover in Tuscany

Italian Campsites

Campsites in Italy for motorhomes are expensive, so the ACSI card can give a good saving here. Don’t expect the same level of facilities and sophistication that you might find in France or Spain.  In the south of the country, the electricity is often poor, with most offering a paltry 4 or 6 amps and no option to pay for more.  

Many Italian campsites will expect you to pay separately for a shower and provide you with a token. This is true even on ACSI sites, although the token is provided for free.  Make sure you know how to operate the shower to get the most of your three minutes (five if you’re lucky) of hot water!

Italian Life

Italian culture is steeped in the arts, architecture, music and food; tradition, extended family and pride play a strong part in Italian life today. 

  • Italy observes the siesta, sometimes called the riposo in northern Italy and pennichella or pisolino in southern Italy. Many museums, churches and shops close from 1:30 pm to 4:00 pm so that proprietors can go home for lunch and sometimes a nap during the day’s hottest hours. In the bigger tourist towns and cities you will find some establishments open but siesta is taken very seriously so don’t be surprised when the biggest attraction in town is closed. In smaller towns and villages you don’t have a hope; if you’re planning on nipping out from your motorhome for a pint of Italian milk, think again.
  • The same applies to Sunday’s and the many public holidays celebrated in Italy; eleven in 2019. Check here for dates and book in advance if you’re planning on staying on a site or you may find yourself parked in your motorhome on the road outside overnight!
  • If you are planning to visit places of worship (this is Italy after all!) you must cover your torso and upper arms. Shorts and skirts must reach below the knee or you will be denied entry and considered disrespectful.
  • In some places, noticeably the far south and Sicily, you will see a lot of rubbish. Some of this is to do with infrastructure and lack of proper services coupled with self-perpetuation that leads to acceptance. 
  • There are few big supermarkets on the south of Italy. Shops are small and generally have limited choice. They usually do not stock fresh fruit or vegetables, these are bought from a cart by the side of the road, you will find fresh, local and seasonal produce in abundance.
  • Cash is king and may places will not have facilities for card payments.  Cash machines are few and far between so stock up on cash before you head south on your motorhome tour of Italy.

Touring Italy by Motorhome
Where to Go and What To See

Rome

We’re not massive city people, but how could we come to Italy by motorhome and not visit Rome? We couldn’t! This beautiful city blew us away; we spent 36 fabulous hours in Rome and loved every minute of it!

We stayed outside the city on an ACSI site, Camping Village Flaminio, notable for the classical music played in the sanitaries! We travelled in by scooter but you could easily use public transport; buses into the centre stop right outside and take about 30 minutes to get you to the main attractions.

Next on our agenda were the abbey and war graves at Monte Cassino. This stunning abbey was everything I had imagined and more.  We parked our motorhome in the car park the night before and woke to the most incredible views of the surrounding mountains.  With so much of our former lives tied up with the military, this was a moving and emotional day.

free camping Italy
Spending the night in Monte Cassino Abbey car park

Naples, Vesuvius & Pompeii

Our camper van route of Italy took us south down the A3/E45, a reasonably motorhome friendly autostrada costing around €6 in tolls for the 100km we drove. Check this website for information about tolls, roadworks and so on. 

Vesuvius and Pompeii were our next stops.  We were on a mission to get to Sicily and thought we could do both in day…depending on how you like to visit places, it is entirely possible. Perhaps check your sat nav on this leg of the journey. Naples is legendary in motorhome circles to be avoided, we knew this but because we didn’t check the route we ended up driving through the middle of the port and city for several very stressful hours, which I never want to repeat!  

There is a very convenient motorway exit for Vesuvius, for some reason our sat nav took us to the most inconvenient exit possible! We stayed overnight on the slopes of the volcano overlooking the Bay of Naples, which sort of made up for the hideous drive but not quite!

Having said all that, Naples on foot is a must. Use Park4Night to find somewhere to park which does not involve apoplexy and head into this quintessential southern Italian city.  Naples is glorious once you move past it’s seedy outskirts and a UNESCO World Heritage Site to boot. Check out Naples in a Day for ideas and inspiration.

We left early the next morning to beat the crowds and traffic and had been to the top of the incredible and awe-inspiring Mount Vesuvius and arrived at Pompeii by lunchtime!  We spent a few hours in Pompeii and wished we had longer to fully understand this beautiful and fascinating place.  Consider a tour to get the most from your visit, I wish we had!

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A Bucket List Amalfi Coast Road Trip

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How to Visit Pompeii & Vesuvius in One Day

You cannot pass through central Italy on a road trip without making the detour to Naples to visit Mount Vesuvius and Pompeii. Both are iconic Italian landmarks and share a remarkable, if devastating history. If you are wondering whether you can visit Pompeii and Vesuvius in one day, then you will be delighted to know it is possible, and even easy if you follow our guidance and tips.

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The Amalfi Coast

From here it was a short hop across to the the Amalfi Coast, which you can’t drive along in a motorhome or camper van…probably for the best!  Luckily, we carry a scooter in our motorhome which allowed us to follow this incredible road from Sorrento to Salerno.  It is also possible to do the road by coach if you book an excursion, or maybe you’re campervanning in Italy, in which case you can take the road (but only if your van is a VW size).

There are a few campsites on the Amalfi Coast where you can take a motorhome. We stayed at Santa Fortunata Village Camping overnight which proved a good base for exploring this most beautiful and iconic of coasts and best of all, had a swimming pool! 

This post has information about the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast; when you go will make a huge difference to how much traffic you encounter.

Sicily

The next leg of our motorhome tour of Italy took us to Sicily, where we spent five weeks hiking, kite-surfing, ruin hunting, visiting Palermo and being constantly surprised by the sheer beauty of this tiny island, one of our favourite places in Europe. We could have spent longer but had to be back in the UK for our MOT by late June, so headed east for Puglia.

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How to Road Trip Eclectic Sicily

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Beautiful Puglia – A Road Trip Itinerary

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Puglia

Puglia is a beautiful place to spend a week in a motorhome or campervan; rolling countryside and delicious local food, all surrounded by the turquoise Mediterranean and white sandy beaches. See our detailed week long road trip itinerary for Puglia, including an interactive map and stop-overs, for ideas and inspiration.

The Abruzzo Mountains & Scanno

North from Puglia we headed for the Abruzzo mountains. The weather changed and we experienced our first drops of rain.  It rained on and off a bit for most of the day and by the time we arrived in Scanno, it was chucking it down!  We parked the motorhome here and headed into the town in search of food.  

Scanno is an interesting town with loads of history, particularly photographic, but I think we visited too early in the season and on a Wednesday. We found out later that Wednesdays in Scanno are the equivalent of a half-day back home (a bit of an outdated concept in UK!) and so nothing was open.  We spent some time looking for somewhere to eat and ended up in the dodgiest looking pizza place where we had a surprisingly good meal and bottle of wine…never judge a book and all that!   We spent a pleasant couple of days ambling around and visited the famous heart-shaped lake, which looks better from the air when you can admire the shape!

Heart shaped lake surrounded by mountains at dusk
Lake Scanno

L'Aquila & Assisi

We continued to head north and made a brief stop in L’Aquila, a medieval city surrounded by mountains and stuffed full of Baroque and Renaissance buildings and churches.  Sadly, much of the old city was badly damaged by a 6.3 magnitude earthquake in 2009 and so many of the buildings we wanted to visit were being refurbished.
 
We headed on to Assisi in Umbria, one of our favourite places on this motorhome tour of Italy. The birth and burial place of St Francis, this is a religious town dominated by the imposing Basilica of St Francis, which dominates the skyline for miles. The town is full of twisting (and sometimes steep) narrow streets and charming squares lined with cafes and shops. They lead you through the town to the ultimate destination of the dramatic Basilica.  This is a town packed full of atmosphere and interest, where pilgrims cross paths with tourists and there is history in every brick. 
 
We stayed here at the foot of Assisi and walked up, it’s quite steep but worth the leg work!  Consider a small group tour so that you can learn about the history and world heritage site status from an expert.
 
How to Tour Italy in a Motorhome
Assisi

Lake Trasimeno & Montepulciano

From Assisi, we headed cross-country through scenery straight out of a film set. We stayed here in Passignano Sul Trasimeno, a pretty lake-side town with lots of bars and restaurants. The drive was what  we had come for; the rolling wheat fields, silver olive groves and vineyards of Umbria and Tuscany.  The road was amazing, dipping and swaying through the fields and around the lake, the perfect Italian motorhome and road trip route offering endless photo opportunities of this archetypal landscape. As you can probably guess, we loved motorhoming in Tuscany!
 
Passignano Sul Trasimeno

We arrived at our next stop, Montepulciano, more than ready for a glass of, oh let me guess, something local and red maybe?

This medieval and Renaissance hill town is famous for its’ wine of the same name and we had long wanted to visit. We stayehere but do check your sat nav route carefully as the shortest way is most definitely not the easiest. This is one hill town you do not want to get entangled with!  

From the wild camping spot it’s a short walk into the charming town, where you will most defiantly find good food and wine. Renowned for pork, cheese, pasta, lentils and honey, we ate an amazing wild boar lentil stew followed by local cheese and honey; if you’ve never tried these two together they are a match made in heaven!  Try a vineyard tour with lunch and learn about the making of this very drinkable local wine followed by more delicious local food.  

Siena

From here, we headed west to Siena for lunch.  We parked the motorhome here and took a 15 minute walk into the centre.  We enjoyed a leisurely lunch at a small restaurant just off the main shopping street and sampled ribollita, a Tuscan stew with bread in it, which was surprisingly delicious. We spent the rest of the afternoon wandering and admiring the architecture and amazing array of ornate wooden doors, of which there are hundreds!  The central square of Piazza del Campo really has to be seen, the symmetry and architecture are breathtaking. 

Piazza del Campo, Sienna

Florence

From here we headed on to Florence where we would be staying for a couple of days. Options for motorhomes are limited and expensive.  We stayed at this paying sosta and took our scooter into the city, although a bus also runs literally from the front gate.  It’s not the best place we’ve stayed but it felt safe and provided services. 

Florence is one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, but incredibly busy and very ‘touristic’, as our European friends would say.  Make sure you book the major attractions weeks in advance and spend time wandering and enjoying the ambience. If you skipped it on your way down the coast, now is a great time to take a day trip to Cinque Terre or Pisa, the leaning tower has to be seen to be believed!

Portofino

We loved Portofino, hang out of the rich and famous; we mooched around the town and ate parma ham and pecorino cheese by the harbour, over a great bottle of wine. You can’t actually take a motorhome to Portofino, there is a large and prominent sign on the only road there, forbidding it. We parked here and took the scooter in, but you can also get a bus every ten minutes or so.  Its quite noisy for sleeping and not very pretty but it did for a night!  You could also park in Rapallo, the next nearest town to Portofino.

Just a few hours south are the stunning Cinque Terre, which can be reached by train from La Spezia. This two day itinerary in the Cinque Terre is ideal and will help you decide whether to stay in Cinque Terre or squeeze the whole lot in on one day! 

How to Tour Italy in a Motorhome
Portofino

Bologna, Verona & Emilia-Romagna

We headed across the Po Valley to Bologna, making a quick stop in Modena to see balsamic vinegar being made at Acetaia di Gorgio, highly recommended although be prepared to take a deep breath when they tell you how much a bottle costs! We also visited the Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena, which was superb. Check out their website for special events which are held regularly. 

We stayed here in Bologna, again not pretty but secure. Be very careful where you stay when touring Italy by motorhome, especially in the Po Valley, as there are a lot of motorhome thefts in this area.  

Bologna is simply amazing, a beautiful city with beautiful food!  We loved it so much we put together a self-guided foodie walking tour of the city. We cooked the hand-made fresh pasta we bought in Bologna in our motorhome that evening and ate like kings!

From here, it’s a short stop to either Verona or Venice. The former is a beautiful city famous for its’ Romeo and Juliet balcony. The old town has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, as well as wandering the small streets here you can find lots of other amazing things to do on Verona, the perfect stop before you hit the mountains.  

The latter, Venice, is the perfect place to get lost in for two days if you have the time! One of the most famous cities in the world, you will need to park or camp outside and head in on public transport. Go in February for the once in a lifetime experience of the Venice Carnival – it will be super busy but seeing this incredible spectacle is absolutely worth it.

Whilst in the region, you might also want to visit the Il Salone del Camper, Italy’s biggest caravan and motorhome show, held in September every year in Parma.

Bormio & the Stelvio Pass

We skirted round Lake Garda and vowed to come back – motorhome touring the Italian Lakes is high on our next trip to Italy. By this time I was dying for a bath, so we decided to treat ourselves and head for a spa hotel where we could soak in some thermal waters for a few hours and celebrate our last night of touring Italy by motorhome. 
 
If you have an extra few days, take a detour for some hiking in the Dolomites. These monumental and dramatic Italian mountains are actually part of the Alps, but have their own distinct character and vibe. If you like hiking, you’ll love the Dolomites!
 
We continued north to Bormio and the Hotel Bagni Vecchi.  A number of blissful hours later and feeling like prunes, we emerged from the spa well rested and ready for our onward journey into the Alps, Switzerland and then France.

We woke to blue skies and a clear forecast…great news as we would be driving our motorhome over the Stelvio pass from Italy into Switzerland. How to describe the Stelvio pass?  Surely one of the best driving roads in Europe; this road is simply breathtaking and the fulfilment of a long held dream. It was cold at the top (there was still snow in early June) so we stopped for a coffee on the other side to admire the road, zig-zagging down the mountain like a silver ribbon.  We crested another two passes on our route to Zurich and stopped by a lake in Davos for lunch to celebrate our epic, incredible and unforgettable tour of Italy by motorhome!

How to Tour Italy in a Motorhome
The Stelvio Pass

If you don’t have the time required for a long tour, stay in Tuscany and Umbria, or check out the Italian Lakes. This is a perfect itinerary for touring Italy in ten days, which covers Rome, Florence and Venice. 

If this guide to touring Italy by motorhome has been helpful, check out our other destinations and motorhome touring guides of Europe here on our motorhome and road trip blog.

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Travel Italy in a motorhome

4 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to Touring Italy by Motorhome”

  1. Hi Duncan Thanks for your feedback, I’m glad you took something away from the post, even if it was not to visit! BUT, I urge you to give northern Italy a try, it is a truly beautiful country as long as you’re aware of some of the cultural differences to back home. Can you let me know what it was in our post that put you off going to Italy in your motorhome? You can email me at hello@thegapdecaders.com if you’d prefer.

  2. I have read your guide with interest as we are currently heading through France enroute to Italy via the Alps. I’ve always wanted to tour Italy in my motorhome Sadly this post has put me off going to tour Italy now.

  3. Hi Marco
    Thanks for your comments and feedback. I have re-read the post and agree that some of my statements were sweeping and have edited the text to give a more balanced view. I have removed your comments about the UK and Brexit, as the post you are commenting on is not about the UK (and believe me,I would mention the state of the roads if I were writing about it) and I didn’t think your comments about the UK leaving the EU were appropriate as they have no connection to the post you are commenting on. I always try and write about what I see as honestly as possible but would never want to be offensive, thank you for taking the time to make me re-visit ad reflect.

  4. Your review of Italy is great, apart from the sweeping statements about parts of it being “third world” and “all roads being of awful quality” UK roads are far, far behind the road network in Italy, suffering from decades of total lack of investment… Really offensive, and a shame because much of the review past the pathetic sweeps at a country you only know by passing by is detailed and quite charming and well written.
    I hope you take this as it is meant to be, an insight on how to be a little more thoughtful about the way you go about criticising your European neighbours (oh, I forgot, we are no longer your neighbours…).

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