Vacation rentals in Italy (villas, farms, estates, agriturismo, apartments)
Driving from England to Southern Italy
For the past six summers my family and I have driven from England to Central Italy and back again. The drive was always part of the holiday, and with my wife Philippa to share the driving it's never felt like too much. This Easter we decided to try something rather further, partly to see how possible it was. I'm happy to report that it all turned out fine.
This is a brief account of our trip driving from our home in England to Puglia in southern Italy. Our car is a medium sized diesel estate (wagon): quite relaxing at motorway speeds. Given the distances, our route was motorway virtually all the way.
All our overnight stops along the way were planned ahead and prebooked.
The Outgoing Trip
Day 1 - England to Baden Baden, Germany
Took the ferry from England to France. Left Calais around 10:00am. Lunch
on the autoroute: Autogrill Reims-Champagne. The Autogrill chain is becoming
more frequent in France, though L'Arche is the main, and preferable, chain.
Arrive Baden Baden at 5:00pm. Check into hotel, wander through town, and up
to the Caracalla Spa: the best way I know of de-stressing after a long drive
(we discovered it last summer).
Day 2 - Baden Baden to Parma, Italy
South on the Autobahn, where the black Mercedes and BMWs don't seem as
aggressively tailgating as previously: has there been some sort of TV ad campaign?
Into Switzerland at Basel. Up though increasingly attractive alpine meadows,
lunch at the Gotthard Raststtte and into the Gotthard tunnel (no extra toll:
it's included in the Swiss Vignette, the pass you need to drive on the Autobahn
in Switzerland). Into Italy, round Milan, and arrive at Parma about 6:00pm.
Day 3 - Parma to Puglia
Leave 8:10am. Breakfast on autostrada, Modena. Lunch just north of Pescara.
Arrive Ostuni 5:00pm. Unpack, shop, meet friends in bar, drive to Brindisi
airport to pick up our son Nicholas, back to Ostuni for pizza, bed.
The Return Trip
And, after a week in Ostuni, the return journey. Decided to take one extra night for this.
Day 1 - Ostuni to Umbria, Italy
Left Ostuni at 9:00am; take Nick to Bari airport (shining new terminal,
opened just a couple of days before). Shop at the huge Auchan outside Bari
(having your own car means lots of wine to take home!). Just as Autogrills
are invading France, so the French hypermarket chain Auchan is moving into
Italy. Lunch just before leaving Puglia. Up to Civitanova Marche on autostrada,
then across country on the SS77 to Foligno, stopping off at one of the many
roadside stalls on the Colfiorito plain to buy a sack of potatoes (superb
little red ones). Arrive in Bevagna, Umbria at 5:45pm.
Day 2 - Umbria to Piedmont, Italy
Leave 9:20am. Over the top of Lake Trasimeno and join autostrada at Bettolle.
Up past Florence. As ever, there was a coda - traffic jam - around the Certosa
exit: a minor shunt caused about an hour's near-stationary non-progress. Across
to Viareggio, up through (mostly under and over) Genoa, Alessandria, Asti,
and arrived 5:15pm at Capriglio, north of Asti, in the Piedmont region.
Day 3 - Peidmont to Bourg et Comin (Picardie), France
Leave 9:25am. Up Val d'Aosta and through Mont Blanc tunnel (an expensive
toll of 30); lunch at Valleiry L'Arche. Up through France to Reims, leave
autoroute and along to Bourg et Comin, on the Aisne just south of Laon. (Bourg
et Comin is in Aisne department, Picardie province.) Arrived 6:30pm.
Day 4 - Picardie to England
Leave 9:30am. Arrive Calais 12:00pm. Take the ferry back to England.
Total journey mileage: Calais-Ostuni 1358. Ostuni-Calais 1525
One thing we noticed about driving in March/April rather than in high summer: far fewer traffic holdups. So those times of ours are quite quick (average cruising speed on autostrade was around 85mph).
We've used that Adriatic motorway quite a lot: it's good for le Marche and further south, of course. Not so good for Umbria, because you have to cross back over the mountains somewhere, and that's often slow. On high traffic days there are often holdups around Cesena and Cattolica, but it was fine on Easter Sat this year.
Slow Travel Italy - The Autogrill: Rest areas on the Autostrada
Thanks to FLOW - Flags of the World - web site for these great maps! www.crwflags.com
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