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Driving to the Italian Lakes: Road Trip in Europe

Driving to the Italian Lakes: Road Trip in Europe

Driving to Italy can seem like a big undertaking but we prefer to see it as an unforgettable adventure. While you can of course travel the fastest route and simply add those miles to your car’s clock, we prefer to enjoy the journey – clocking up memories and experiences during our European road trips. To get the most out of your villa holiday in the Italian Lakes, we do usually recommend hiring a car (although we do have some villa rentals where a car isn’t necessary). But this option of driving to the Italian lakes allows for all the freedom of having a car on holiday with the added convenience of it being your own. Not having to adhere to those ever strict airport luggage allowances is an added bonus, while also allowing you to bring a few of your must-have home comforts to make your holiday in the Italian lakes absolutely perfect.

driving to Italian lakes

Crossing the Channel

With several routes available to cross the Channel, this is the part where we do tend to recommend that you take the most direct route. Crossing by ferry is an option, and depending on your home location can be more convenient. However, our recommendation for driving to the Italian lakes is to cross the Channel using the Eurotunnel. It is fast, efficient and flexible – giving you the best start to your journey to Italy.

Driving to Italian lakes

The Route: driving to the Italian lakes

Once in France, there are broadly two options to begin the first leg of your road trip in Europe. The first is the most direct. Take the A26 from Calais in the direction of Reims and then push east towards Switzerland via the A4 to Strasbourg, crossing the border using the A35 to take you on into Switzerland. Making the most of the efficient Swiss motorways, from first entering Switzerland you can be on the shores of Lake Como or Lake Maggiore in just a little over 4 hours – enjoying your holiday in the Italian Lakes but with the added freedom and security of having your own car too. 

Pros:  

Cons: 

  • Tolls in France and a vignette in Switzerland can make this route quite pricey. 
  • Quite a lot of monotonous motorway driving – especially in France.
Where to stop when driving to Italian lakes

Our second recommended route for driving to the Italian lakes is less direct but offers some practical and scenic advantages. From Calais take the A16 to Dunkirk. Head down the A25 and A27 across the border into Belgium, where we recommend traveling directly towards Luxembourg. The next part of your road trip in Europe takes you to the German border on the A13. Once across the border, you’ll pick up the number 8 autobahn which takes you all the way to the Austrian border at Fussen. This leg of your European road trip is filled with breathtaking Austrian scenery, as you skirt past its famous ski resorts – zipping between picturesque valleys while admiring alpine vistas. Finally, this route takes you to the Brenner Pass and into the stunningly beautiful Italian Dolomites, where you can follow the  A22 south towards the Italian lakes of Molveno, Garda and Idro. 

Pros: 

  • Lots of variety in scenery and road types.
  • Far fewer tolls and vignette charges than other routes.
  • A real adventure to passing through many countries and experiencing different cultures – especially fun if you’re traveling with children to Italy.
  • This route benefits from significantly cheaper fuel stops in Luxembourg.

Cons:

  • It is not the most time efficient way to drive to the Italian lakes!
Driving to the Italian lakes

Where to stop when driving to the Italian lakes?

As fans of slow travel, it will be of no surprise to you to learn that we love to enjoy a stop or two on while we drive to the Italian lakes. While there is of course some value in a  quick motorway hotel stopover, this is not the best way to make the most of your road trip. Depending on where you have begun your trip, and how many miles you are comfortable driving each day, there are many places that could be convenient to break your journey. At Bookings For You, we prefer to enjoy our stops rather than simply sleeping at them. This is why we have chosen places to experience with year-round appeal, which we hope you will enjoy as much as we have.

Driving to the Italian lakes

Please do remember though that a self drive holiday is all about freedom. We would recommend taking one route when driving to the Italian lakes and to maximize the adventure, to return by another. Our record is 8 different countries on the round trip – can you beat us?! 

France

In France, we would highly recommend a city stop in Strasbourg. This surprisingly undiscovered French border city has so much to offer as a year-round destination. Its vibrant centre built around the river Ill hosts a number of excellent bars and restaurants, where you can soak up the relaxed fusion of Alsace cultures. Many of the central hotels and apartments have parking facilities which make it an ideal city break on your road trip in Europe. A quieter option in the same region is Colmar. Known as the Venice of France, its maze of canals filled with creperies and bars promise a truly unique French experience. Again with many hotels providing convenient parking options, it makes for an excellent stop on your European road trip. 

where to stop when driving to the Italian lakes

Germany

Our top stop in Germany is actually only just across the German border. Fussen almost straddles the Austrian border and does so with exquisite architecture and breathtaking scenery. This picturesque Bavarian town is home to the magnificent Neuschwanstein Castle. Clinging to the cliff-side, this 19th century architectural feat is widely known as ‘The Disney Castle’ and is believed to be the inspiration for the iconic Disneyland castles to which it bears a striking resemblance. This is another year-round European destination with tours and activities for all the family which can help make your road trip more than just a journey.  

where to stop when driving to the Italian lakes

Switzerland

Switzerland is all about the great outdoors and it is impossible not to embrace it while road-tripping through this alpine paradise. That said, our chosen stop in Switzerland is in fact a city and a perfectly formed one at that. Lucerne will give you a tiny taste of a lakeside holiday before you get the main event across the border in Italy. With magnificent architecture and the world’s oldest covered pedestrian bridge to note, Lucerne makes for an interesting and varied stop while driving to the Italian lakes.

where to stop when driving to the Italian lakes

With an abundance of villas in the Italian lakes to choose from, we hope this guide has helped you to plan your road trip to get to your lakeside paradise. At Bookings for You we are always striving to make our travel more sustainable with responsible travel being at the heart of what we do. By opting to travel by car to Italy, you are making a significantly greener choice than flying. If you make this a family holiday with four of you in one fuel-efficient car, it can even be a more carbon friendly option than the train. With many more drivers now opting for electric vehicles, these environmental benefits are ever increasing and we’re proud to be able to help you plan holidays with the future of our planet in mind too. 

Driving to the Italian lakes

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