What brings so many British caravanners and motorhome owners to Italy every year? PETER FROST explains the attraction.
More than 40 million tourists a year flock to Italy many of them from Britain. After your first visit you will begin to understand why.
My wife Ann and I, along with all those millions, head south to Italy in our Italian built motorhome for so many reasons.
First and foremost we come for its priceless ancient monuments, the art, the architecture, all part of Italy’s rich and colourful past.
Not for nothing does the country boast more UNESCO World Heritage sites than in any other nation in the world.
We come to visit Rome, Venice, Florence, Pisa, and a score of other towns just as elegant and fascinating.
When we tire of the culture – and we do eventually – we are not averse to chilling out on Italy’s beautiful coastline.
Lakeside or seaside campsites are easy to find and we love the relaxing atmosphere that Italians on holiday create and enjoy.
Take a look at the map. Italy is located on the great boot shaped Italian Peninsula in Southern Europe.
Cross the Alps and you have a huge and diverse country to explore and also, as a bonus, the two largest islands in the Mediterranean Sea, Sicily and Sardinia.
Here is another bonus. Actually inside Italy are two independent gems. These are the tiny states of San Marino and the Vatican City both amazing holiday destination in their own right.
Once you start to tour the country you will discover it is mostly mountainous, but with a narrow and remarkably beautiful coastal plains and elegant and ancient towns.
There are fine beach resorts and simply miles of perfect touring through Italy’s mountains, lakes, vineyards, forests and superb and peaceful countryside.
Italy has been the home of many European cultures, such as the Etruscans and the Romans, and later was the birthplace of of the Renaissance.
Everywhere you go you find reminders of a rich and colourful history.
Italy’s capital, Rome, has been the centre of Western civilization, and Vatican City, located in Rome itself, is the centre of the Catholic Church and a place of pilgrimage and religious devotion for centuries.
All in all Italy has made an incalculable contribution to the culture of Europe and the rest of the world.
It has given the world writers like Dante, and Boccaccio. Artists such as Leonardo da Vinci, Caravaggio and Michelangelo. Composers such as Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Rossini, Verdi and Puccini.
Remember Italy gave the world opera.
It isn’t just high culture. Italy is justifiably famous for its food. Not just the inevitable pasta and pizza but some of the best cooking and ingredients anywhere.
Fine hams, exotic fruits and vegetables, rare truffles, rich oils and some wonderful wines all add up to a chance to eat, drink and be merry second to none. The Italians call it la Dolce Vita!
And they finish their meals with the best coffee in the world. Choose from the nerve jangling jolt of a real espresso. Or the soft comforting caress of a genuine Cappuccino.
Contemporary Italian artists, filmmakers, and designers too contribute significantly to our shared Western culture from high fashion to fast Ferraris.
From Lambrettas to smart Italian suits you can sum up Italy ancient and modern in just one word – style.
The journey to Italy
Let’s face it is a long way to Italy. Well over a thousand miles for us from our home in the Midlands.
You can, of course, simply rush south driving for long days and by sharing the driving do a couple of long days.
That’s not the way we do it. We make the journey, there and back, part of our holiday.
We might take up to a week each way and stop along the route to enjoy seeing a bit of the countries that we are driving through.
The easiest way, if cost is not an issue, is to take the toll roads through France. Easy empty motorways that eat up the kilometres.
The cheapest way is through Belgium, into toll free Germany and then on to Luxembourg to fill up with the lowest priced fuel in Europe.
To actually cross the border you can choose between spectacular mountain passes or easier but expensive tunnels.