Touring Italy by motorhome 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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How To Tour Italy in a Motorhome
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Italy is truly a country of two halves. The wealthy and cosmopolitan north and the poor and almost third-world of the south. This contrast is marked when spending more than a few weeks in the country and makes a motorhome holiday in Italy especially interesting. We spent ten weeks here in 2018, literally going from top to toe; heading to Isola della Correnti, a tiny island off the southern tip of Sicily and departing via the Stelvio Pass in the Italian Alps.
When to Tour Italy by Motorhome
Italy can be blisteringly hot in the height of summer and bloody 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.
We started touring Italy by motorhome in early April and were blessed with glorious weather pretty much for the duration of our time in the country. July and August are the hottest months. 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.
For more detailed information about weather by region, click here. You will also avoid the worst of the summer tourist crowds, particularly in the cities and regions of Tuscany and Umbria, if you head to Italy in your motorhome in the shoulder season.
Driving to Italy in a Motorhome
Motorhome Route Italy
The map below is not meant to be specific a specific motorhome route, more of an idea to show how much you can cover on a campervan road trip of Italy in ten or so weeks. You could of course just pick out the bits that interest you and make your own Italian motorhome route. There is more detail about motorhome stops and attractions further on in the post.
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 for help with working out fuel and tolls costs, along with driving times.
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 routs from Direct Ferries.
If you are thinking about motorhome hire or campervan rental in Italy, then Google campervan hire Italy or motorhome rental Italy for the best deals. There are lots of sites offering motorhome hire in Italy; make sure to read the reviews on each site and don’t just make your comparison on cost alone.
Driving in Italy
The quality of the roads and abilities of Italian drivers are shockingly poor. The further south in Italy in your motorhome you go, the more pronounced this becomes. Read our post about how to drive in Italy to get a flavour! Of course, it is possible to drive around Italy in your motorhome without mishap, as long as you don’t mind drinking a bottle of vino a night to help you come down!
- You must carry your driving licence and have a minimum of third party insurance cover for your motorhome. Post Brexit you will need a 1968 International Driving Permit and a green card as proof of insurance.
- You must also carry a warning triangle, a reflective jacket (for the driver and all passengers) and fit snow chains or winter tyres between 15 October and 15 April, or when conditions dictate. Check here for more information about driving in Italy.
- If your motorhome has an overhanging load at the rear such as a cycle carrier then you must display a fully reflectorised square panel measuring 50cm x 50cm with red and white diagonal stripes.
- 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.
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 poor construction of lesser roads.
Motorhomes are class B with one or two axles. 100k 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 (or does, who knows?), 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!
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!
Motorhome Stops in Italy
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 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.
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 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. Read more about life in Sicily here.
Italian campsites 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 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.
- There is a lot of rubbish here. There is a lot of rubbish in most countries, but most countries dispose of it properly. Not so in Italy; it is left on street corners, on every patch of waste ground and by the side of roads where people chuck it out of their car windows on the way to work. The rubbish issue is characteristic of Italy’s anti-authoritarian rebelliousness, revel in the latter and get used to the former as you trundle round Italy in your motorhome!
- There are few big supermarkets on the south of Italy. Shops are small and generally have limited choice. They generally 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
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 two fabulous days here 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 Montecassino. 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.
Naples, Vesuvius and 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. Generally speaking, taking the toll roads, particularly south of Rome is cheaper, easier and quicker than taking the poorly constructed lesser roads.
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!
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. We stayed at Santa Fortunata Village Camping overnight which proved a good base for exploring this most beautiful and iconic of coasts. This post has information about the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast; when you go will make a difference to how much traffic you encounter.
Head for Ravello, half-way along the road and visit Villa Rufolo where you can capture the most amazing views of the sparking Mediterranean through statuesque coastal pines and cypress trees.
Find out about the best time to visit the Amalfi Coast
The next leg of our motorhome tour of Italy took us to Sicily, where we spent five weeks hiking, kite-surfing, ruin hunting and being constantly surprised by the sheer beauty of this tiny island. We could have spent longer but had to be back in the UK for our MOT by late June, so headed east for 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 motorhome itinerary for Puglia, including an interactive map and stop-overs, for ideas and inspiration.
The Abruzzo Mountains and 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!
L'Aquila and Assisi
Lake Trasimeno and Montepulciano
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 stayed here 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.
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.
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 a beautiful city, 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.
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. However, you can’t actually take a motorhome to Portofino, there is a bloody great 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!
Bologna & 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!
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 and the Stelvio Pass
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? Mindblowing, breathtaking, cold at the top (there was still snow in early June) and the fulfilment of a long held dream. 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 in Davos for lunch to celebrate our epic, incredible and unforgettable tour of Italy by motorhome!