This winter I am planning to head further south than ever before with my main destinations being the Peloponnese in Greece and the Italian island of Sicily. But on the way I hope to visit Prague, via southern Germany.
In order to get to Greece, I am planning to take a ferry from Italy, probably Ancona on the east coast, returning from Patras in the Peloponnese to the Italian port of Bari / Brindisi and then crossing the foot of Italy to reach Sicily by way of the straights of Messina.
I’m expecting things to be a bit more expensive this year following the crash of the pound against the euro after the EU referendum. However, as usual, I will try and find plenty of free places to stop along the way so that I can spend my money on the local food and wine, as well as a bit of sightseeing.
With luck, I should be able to find plenty of winter sun.
The plan for this winter is to head back to Italy in order to visit Venice, something I had originally hoped to do on my first European Tour. Two years ago, I only got as far as Tuscany, put off by the manic Italian driving, the exorbitant price of fuel and the threat of getting stuck the wrong side of the Alps, should the snow arrive.
This year I’m leaving a few weeks earlier and heading down towards Switzerland and Lake Geneva with the intention of driving through the Simplon Pass into Italy, then on to the Italian Lakes before arriving in Venice for a few days. Fuel prices are much lower this year and this will help me save some pennies, though I suspect staying in Venice for a few days will easily run into a few hundred euros.
After Venice I want to head south down the east coast of Italy for a bit, stopping at the tiny principality of San Marino and the coastal resorts of Rimini and Ravenna, before turning west back to Tuscany. From Livorno, it’s an overnight ferry trip to Sardinia where I hope to relax for a few weeks before driving along the Med coast down to Spain to see my Mum for Christmas.
Hopefully my Italian tour will be bellissimo, only time will tell.
Having reduced the scope of my 2013/2014 tour, I decided that I needed to go back and fill in the gaps on my second tour. So I crossed the Bay of Biscay to Santander to complete the northern coast of Spain. Then I headed south through Portugal and east along the southern coast of Spain to reach my mother’s for Christmas once again.
In the New Year, I meandered back through France seeking out hidden gems in the Dordogne and Loire Valley on the way and picking up some Camembert and Calvados in Normandy before I crossed the English channel to home. Luckily, the weather was kind again and I was able to spend a lot more time inland, in the mountains.
My initial plan was to depart for Europe in October using the Poole to Cherbourg ferry. I would then travel through western France, following the coast to the Spanish Border. Then across the north of Spain to Portugal, down through Portugal and again into Spain along the coast to Torrevieja to spend Christmas with my mother. January would see me continuing along the Mediterranean coast through Spain, southern France and then Italy.
How far I would actually get greatly depended on how long my money lasted.
However, I soon realised that this was all a bit much and that I would rather meander slowly through France, stopping at farms and vineyards along the way, sampling the best produce that the country had to offer. Northern Spain would also give me an opportunity to discover the local Atlantic seafood and Rioja wines. I would then head south to Torrevieja (to visit my mother) via Madrid. Finally I would follow the Mediterranean coast to Italy visiting the Cinque Terre and Venice.
In the end, due to the high cost of fuel in Italy, I abandoned the idea of driving all the way to Venice and explored Tuscany instead.
It didn’t take me long to realise that the best way to enjoy my travels was to plan only a few days in advance. The weather can influence my choice of route greatly and I am apt to take a detour in search of good local produce and especially good wine. The best days are when I have travelled less than 100km and spent plenty of time out in the fresh air visiting small villages and towns or exploring the wilder coastland areas.
So, how do I plan? Well, I first look at the road atlas and assess possible overnight stops (using “Camperstops”, “All the Aires” and internet websites). I also use a few guidebooks but mostly I pick up information from the Tourist Offices as I go along. Big tourist sites can be expensive but it is always free to wander around medieval villages, browse the local markets and explore the Natural Parks. I try to get a nice balance of activities each week.
Finally, I also plan a few rest and relaxation days. Sometimes this is for practical reasons (namely laundry), but I also like to write and gaze out the window at whatever view happens to be there.