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Route to Sicily


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Happy New Year all!! We intend to travel to Sicily early to mid March 2010. Advice about routes would be very welcome, especially at that time of year. Also any info about ferries from either Villa San Giovanni or Reggio di Calabria to Messina. Our proposed route from Calais is Belgium, Luxembourg, Saarbrucken, Basel, Lucerne, Milan, Bologna, Rome, Naples, Sicily. Any advice, hints or tips would be most gratefully received. Driving a coachbuilt overcab bed 3.5t front wheel drive Euramobil Profila.
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It is a good motorway from Rome all the way down to Villa San Giovanni. There are no tolls and the views are fantastic, there are huge viaducts and lots of tunnels. There is a good place to stay at Falerna Marina just off the motorway provided you dont mind wild camping. There is a large carpark next to the beach and opposite a good pizzeria.


Ferries from San Giovanni run regularly and take 35 minutes. There are several companies to choose from. They are all much the same and cost us 61 euros return in April for a 6.7 metre van. The ticket gave us 2 months in Sicily. The motorways in Sicily are very cheap so dont be afraid to use them. It is worth having an ACSI card as most sites give you discount.


If you need any more information feel free to ask.

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Heading that way myself at the end of January as we have not done Sicily yet used the above route as far as Milan so no problem there and weather should not be a problem as the roads are good but have not decided which way to go after that a couple of sites would come in handy heading down to Sicily.


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Well, early spring, so cool/cold, and probably damp, until South of the Alps. 

Your greatest risk will be in, and immediately North of, the Alps where late snow is not unknown (I know this!! :-)).  Main roads/motorways will be efficiently cleared in all countries, and chains etc should not need to be fitted.  However, check for any local requirements to carry chains.  Certain countries (for example, France, I'm fairly sure) have blanket requirements to carry chains between particular dates on all Alpine roads, and there are also some requirements to carry chains for individual roads between specified dates.  Few countries can cope with snow while it is falling - it isn't just the UK! :-)  If snow is around it will probably be fairly brief, so maybe best just to hole up somewhere nice, catch a forecast, and then move on after it has finished, and the roads have been cleared.

The idea of staying West of the Apennines is sound, they are large mountains and will be snow capped, and cold, well into spring.  Better not to have to cross them, therefore.

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"The idea of staying West of the Apennines is sound, they are large mountains . Better not to have to cross them, therefore".


You can say that again Brian, crossed them this year with the caravan, between seven and ten miles in second gear then got stopped halfway up for flipping road works, that was difficult but the views are absolutely out of this world spectacular.

Well worth the climbs. There are plenty of picknick area's on the way up and some on the way down too if you can manage to get stopped :-> 8) :D

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We went down to Sicily this year in April. The motorway from Naples is free but the road surface is generally crap! If you're Italian there is no speed limit! The expansion joints will jar your teeth never mind your van. There is about 100 miles or so on contraflow, some short stretches, some very long. The speed limit is 60KM on these bits but be expecting to be passed if you do. The lanes are separated only by 8 inch plastic cones and the many crushed cones are a visible reminder of the Italian lack of interest in speed limits or rules!


It is also a long drag down and not one I would recommend be done in a single day. But be aware that until late May early June the Italian sites are mostly closed. The sostas, ("aires"), are slightly different from France in that they can be expensive, some over 15 Euros a night. So you will need to check well before just turning up. An ACSI book is your best bet and find a site, at least you'll have facilities for your cash.


The ferry to Messina is chaos! There are "ticket fixers" operating at the ticket booth. They buy your ticket at the same cost as a normal car and you pay them a commission. Don't worry about getting caught! The ticket booth guy is in on it. We stopped 10 yards from his window and he watched us do the transaction in broad daylight. They are so corrupt they don't even look at the ticket when you board. You can stay in your van on the boat for the crossing. We boarded straight away but a German van who refused to play the game was held up at the back of the queue and didn't make that crossing, and there were spaces on board.


When you get off the boat and get to the dock gates there are traffic lights. There was only one person who stopped when it was on red.... Muggins here! Everyone else passed me with strange stares. It was the same everywhere, the Sicilians treat them as "give way" signs, so be prepared even when your light is on green.


The motorway, (crap road surfaces and virtually no white lines) is a race tracks and stuff will pass you wherever it can. Don't take any notice of maps showing it going right round the island. It doesn't! It just stops and drops down onto a single carriageway in a few places, so hold on to your teeth!


We found a really good stopover, "Parking Lagani" (www.parkinglagani.com) for details. It is safe and secure and well equipped. Most of the sites will need checking before you pay for a pitch, and inspect the facilities too! A good one is "Camping Scarabeo". There were a couple of good write-ups on it in Januarys' MMM mag.


We found the best free camping place ever while we were on Sicily at N38.12221 E12.72441. It is a hard standing car park right on the beach. There are no facilities but it is just splendid to spend a couple of nights there. A bread van does call in the morning and there is a cheap service point in the next village.


Expect to pay at least another Euro on your fuel costs because you have to tip the filler guy, and the windscreen washer guy. Both compulsory!


We found some of the towns very run down and some quite scary. "Gela" was one. A dutch guy thought I was very brave because I slowed down below 50KMPH and stopped at the red lights in the town. I was following him at the time and he just sailed right through!


We couldn't stand the thoughts of the drive back up Italy so we got the ferry from Palermo to Livorno. It cost 220 Euros and you live in your van on the car deck. It is semi open so we had a "sea view" cabin! Well worth the price of a "mediteranean cruise". A German vanner we spoke to on the ship said he woouldn't drive through Italy unless he was in a tank! (I thought that was funny considering!), but he went to Sicily every winter, catching the ferry from Genoa to Palermo and back again each time.


The weather was mixed with fierce storms and hot sunshine and everything in between. We were there for 3 weeks in total and I don't think we would return, but having said that we have met people who love it, so you takes your chance in life.


Make sure you get cash money for the sites, in fact they prefer it everywhere to cards. We were there when the Rome earthquake hit and it knocked out all the ATM machnes on the island for 3 days. Eventually we got some from a German/Swiss bank because none of the Italian ones were working even then.


The people are a bit fierce looking at first but are generally very helpful and polite when you speak to them. The food is fantastic and the custard filled doughnuts are worth the drive alone! The chocolate made on the island is the best anywhere and you will want to load up with it before you leave. Shopping for stuff is generally good with a good sprinkling of the patron saints of motorhoming, ALDI and LIDL. Pizzas and local bread are plentyful. Beer and wine cheap, but the meat is generally expensive though. Seafood is everywhere, but again can be dear so check the prices before you order.


Mount Etna was shut because of the weather. Blizzards and arctic temps. had closed the roads on the way up it. The "Roman/Greek" remains might be your thing but by the time we had done Rome, Pompei etc on the way down they were just "more old houses what's had Romans in them" Think old tiles, worn plaster work, pictures of naked woman, soldiers, animals and other stuff. They've been long stripped of anything of value and I would recommend buying a DVD of them and watching that in your van whilst drinking the wine and eating chocolate and doughnuts!


I can't think of anymore stuff off hand. It was the best of places and the worst, but it did give us some of our best memories. Though this wan't always it's intention! I can only suggest go and see it for yourselves and let me know what you thought please.

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