As Superman likes to remind us every now and then, flying is still the safest way to travel. No objections there. It is the quickest as well. But let’s face it, if you chose to live in a van, it probably means that time is not a concern. Personally, I find, as does Clémence, that there is no better way to discover a country than taking a nice, long drive on its most secluded roads. It’s actually a big part of the fun of vanlife, in my humble opinion, and in that regard, Italy has a lot to offer, as we have discovered in the last couple of months during the start of the Roammates adventure. So, if you are planning to visit, here are a few pointers! Although, one thing you need to know is, Italy is a giant pothole, so you might want to keep both eyes on the road while someone else is taking pictures…
1. The roads of Tuscany
Let’s put it that way. Hang a map of Tuscany on a wall, throw a dart, and there’s a good chance it will point to a gorgeous place, such as Chianti and Val d’Orcia. To properly see Chianti in all its glory, you need to go south from Florence to Greve in Chianti, from there to Panzano in Chianti on SR222, Radda in Chianti (SR429, SP2), Castello di Ama (SP408, SP102) on to Sienna . Some parts are just dirt roads, but don’t be scared, they are suitable for any vehicle. South-east of Sienna, you will find your typical Tuscany landscapes, winding roads, cypresses… Go to Montalcino and aim for Pienza on SP14, SR2 and SP53, and more precisely for a little farm called Terrapille. You might recognize the place from the movie Gladiator, it is absolutely sublime in the late afternoon light!
2. The road to Maratea (SS18)
Maratea is a cute little coast town in the South-West of Italy. While it is not on the Amalfi coast, it is just as beautiful. Beware though, SS18 is a winding road going along the coast with pretty much no opportunities to overtake, it might therefore get very busy in the high season. It was however fairly quiet in January, and we were lucky enough to drive down from Sapri to Castrocucco on a sunny day.
3. Parco Nazionale del Gargano, Puglia
Small ellipsis, we are now on the East coast of Italy, in and around Parco Nazionale del Gargano, what you might call the spur of the boot that is Italy. The roads that go around the park and along the coast (essentially SS89 and SP53) are again very sinuous. I mean, seriously sinuous. But they offer breathtaking views over the Adriatic sea, as well as plenty of spots where you can park for the night (Torre dell’Aglio). From Vieste, you can also take SS89 to the North-West then SP52 bis to go through Foresta Umbra, where there are many places where you can picnic.
4. Driving around Lake Como(SS340, SS36), Lago Maggiore (SS33, SS34, SP69) and Lago di Garda (SS45 bis and SR49)
You can basically pick any major lake in the Milan area, more generally in the Italian Alps, and there will be a road going along its shores. And obviously, each one will be just as gorgeous as the next. One thing you do need to know is that those roads can get pretty narrow, and fairly busy even is the low season, therefore you may want to avoid certain periods. Again, for movie lovers, Villa Carlotta on Lake Como will remind you of a few scenes from Casino Royale or Star Wars Episode II (although you may not want to remember that one). There are plenty of towns and villages where you can stop along each of those roads, with a special mention for Cannobio, an old medieval town on Lago Maggiore.
5. The Dolomites
We were in the Dolomites in the winter, and even though it was super cold, we have no regrets whatsoever. The road from Brunico to Dobbiaco (SS49), and from there to Cortina d’Ampezzo (SS51), is not to be missed for mountain lovers. It is fairly smooth compared to what you can find in the southern parts of Italy, and the views are quite simply magical in the winter if you’re lucky enough to have some sunlight. I think the pictures speak for themselves! As Cortina is a busy place in the winter, the roads are quickly cleared of all the snow when needed.
Honorable Mention – If you’re driving from Switzerland to Italy, you have to take the Gotthard Motorway (A2). It will take you along gorgeous lakes on a very easy drive.
Obviously, this is just a sample of the roads we took with the Lieutenant on our Roammates adventure, and I’m sure there are plenty more to discover. Maybe you can let us know if you find new ones we may have missed. This is what our community is all about! We can’t wait to see your pictures, but most of all, drive safely!
Cheers from Roammates: Clémence, Thomas x Nel!
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