Over the years I have driven up and down between the UK and Italy many times - I've even cycled from London to Rome once. We're often asked for tips on the best routes and for good places to stay so here is some advice:
Why drive to Italy instead of flying?
The open road, driving through several different countries, seeing the Swiss Alps - there are plenty of good reasons for turning the traveling into part of your holiday. The route can go through France, Belgium, Germany, Luxembourg, Switzerland - each with its own special character.
Children enjoy the adventure, particularly if you build in plenty of stopping points and interesting pauses - we once found a fantastic Dinosaur museum in the middle of Switzerland entirely by chance, and new restaurants are always fun!
2. Saving money by driving?
Airlines are notorious for hiking prices up for the school holidays, as well as for Saturday flights. Driving down can actually end up being cheaper than flying.
If there are 4 of you in an average family car you will spend around £ 175 in fuel and tolls. The Eurotunnel crossing is around £ 90 one way. Then you will have your hotel and meal costs on top of this - a hotel in Lucerne will cost around £ 250 for a family room for 4.
Imagining you're leaving on Friday the 12th of July, the one way trip would cost £ 265 + £ 250 = £ 515
Flying from London to Pisa with EasyJet on the 13th of July would cost around £ 500 one way. But once you add luggage, book seats so you can sit together and then hire a car for a week, the total is £ 812 - so a clear saving. (figures calculated on 19-06-19)
Via Michelin - to calculate route costs (and find restaurants!)
Emovis Tag - to pay French Motorway tolls on the go.
3. It's a green choice
Flying is not a green way to travel and many families are trying to keep their carbon footprint low. Driving is not as green as traveling by train but is still more efficient than flying - here are some rough thumbnail calculations.
|Type of Travel||Emissions in Kgs of CO2|
|Flying (per person)||266|
|Driving (4 passengers)||45|
|By Train (per person)||45|
- For more information see ecopassenger.com
Which route is best from UK to Italy?
There are several choices open to you. I'm going to assume you're starting from Calais as that's where most people end up crossing, wherever you started from in the UK - and I'm going to use Casole d'Elsa, the best village in Tuscany (where I grew up!) as my final destination:
The Straight line
The straightest line runs from Calais past Reims, Strasbourg, Lucerne, through the Gotthard Tunnel, past Milan, down to Bologna and then across the Apennines to Florence
The Mont Blanc variation
Useful if the Gotthard tunnel has queues - and if you'd like to stay on the fast, clear French motorways. Toll costs go up and the Mont Blanc tunnel is expensive too.
The Mont Cenis mountain route
A high mountain pass on small roads - this used to be my favourite way to go when time was not pressing. It's very similar to the Mont Blanc route save that you go a little further south and drive over the Mont Cenis pass.
The Belgian option
Head east! This routes curves east through Belgium and than down on the German motorways, which can be exhilarating or terrifying depending on your take. German motorways are busier than the French ones, but you do go past Aachen, so could pop in to see Charlemagne's throne room.