Toll-Free roads to Lake Garda and Lake Konstanz for cash-strapped campers, and pound-stretched tourists with trailers in tow!
Careful caravaners, and others on a budget, will be delighted to find there are many good roads from Calais to the sun. Too often we follow the “Autoroute” from Calais, and anyone towing a caravan or boat will pay nearly double for tolls on the way!
If time is not crucial, there are several good alternatives, many of these are un-crowded dual carriageways, bypassing towns, and without the blight of queues at tollbooths, often found at busy times on autoroutes!
Travelling with a caravan in tow, quickly opens your eyes to the high cost of towing anything on the French motorway system. Changing our route made very little difference to the distance we travelled, and there was also time to stop and “smell the roses” along the way.
When planning your route, be aware that many European roads may have more than one identification number! Motorways in Belgium, Luxenbourg and Germany are not toll roads, unlike most of those found in France and Italy.
Starting from Calais, the toll-free E40 leads you on towards Dunkirk, where you can either, continue towards Brussells, or, as we did, turn off onto the A25/E42 to Lille. About an hour or so later, you will be taking the E42/A16/A15 to Namur (also signposted Brussells)
From Namur, turn onto the E411/A4, towards Luxembourg - a favourite stop for motorists, filling up with cheaper fuel than you are likely find elsewhere on the continent. We arrived here two hours later, and paid 1,15 euros for a litre of Diesel, a saving of around £20 on a full tank back home!
Travelling on, turn off the E411 to follow the E25/A3 towards Nancy. Half an hour later turn onto the A13/E29, For a decent overnight stop, follow signs to Remich and take the N10, which takes you to “Camping Le Port” on the banks of the Moselle River. We pitched our caravan here - .a good spot for an overnight stay, with a pretty little port, and a riverside path, where you can stretch your legs after a day on the road. Onsite facilities include: a brand new toilet block, with showers and washbasins, plus electric hook-ups for caravans. We paid a measly 14 euros for a pitch and two people in peak season for a night in August 2011.
This part of the journey takes about 6 hours, covering 306 miles when towing – obviously single cars will make it faster, as speed limits allow.
Camping – Port
Tel: 00 352 23 66 44 60
Back on the road the following day, take the A8/E29 signposted Sarbruken, turning Right at Junction 15 and following the A10 to Landau where the A10/A65 directs you to Karlsrhe, then on to Stutgardt and Ulm.
Seven hours later, with stops, and a wrong turn delaying us near Landau, we arrived at our second overnight stop at Kempten in Germany, near the lake at Camping Oschlesee. Friendly staff found us a shady pitch – shelter from the sweltering afternoon sunshine! Another unplanned, and un-booked site, with good, clean facilities and electric hook-up. 25 euros charged for the night. This site has some static caravans, a small children’s playground, bar, snacks, and takes orders for fresh bread etc. for the morning. Quiet at night.
By now we had covered a total of 598 miles from Calais.
Tel 00 49 8376 9 30 40
The next part of this journey follows the A7 Motorway en route to Fussen at the border with Austria. You can buy a “vignette” to drive on the Motorway system in Austria or take the main roads, which are as good:
SS179 Reutte, SP Innsbruk
SS171 SP Innsbruk and on to the
SS182 Brenner Pass
Following this route you will need to pay a toll on crossing the “Brenner Pass” (8.00 Euros in 2011) – the alternative toll-free route is a detour over the picturesque “Reschen Pass” detailed on the return journey.
Be aware that the Italian Autostradas (Motorways) are toll roads, and shown by GREEN rather than the usual blue signs of our motorways!
From hereon, follow the SS12 signposted Bolzano
Our next overnight stop was after about five and a half hours, including a stop on the road. We had plenty of time, and enjoyed having some of the afternoon free, to explore a new area. Here we discovered a delightful campsite in the grounds of “Hotel Markushof” in the Italian town of Ora. It cost us 29 euros for the night, but arriving just before 3pm, we were able to pitch our caravan for the night, plug into the electric hook-up, and enjoy a welcome swim, before relaxing by the hotel pool, shaded from the hot sun, by vines of kiwi fruit, dangling from the pergola overhead!
The campsite boasts spotless toilet facilities, with clean and spacious shower rooms. The hotel is within easy reach of local shops, banks, and has a hotel bar with restaurant, and children’s play area. Quiet at night.
Tel 00 39 0471 810025
The route continues along the SS12 towards Trente, and despite taking the scenic route, following the E45, we could have continued down the SS12 to Lake Garda. Whichever route you take, at peak times, the lakeside road is often very busy. From Ora we took about two and a half hours to reach the camping site, meeting market day traffic near Riva on the Lakeside.
Camping near Bardolino, discover Camping Cisano, which stretches along the lakeside, and its sister site, Camping San Vito, accessible through an adjoining tunnel under the road. We chose San Vito as it is the quieter of the two sites, but a fair walk down to the lake on the very hot days, when we were there in August 2011. Very helpful staff took us for a ride round the site to choose our place. Marked pitches with electric hook-ups are available, although larger outfits may have difficulty negotiating some pitches, when the site is full.
There are quite a lot of cabins, and also static caravans, on the San Vito site - some private, and others owned by travel campanies.
WiFi is available at both receptions at a cost of 4 euros for 1 hour. New toilet facilities are provided in modern blocks. Camping per night for pitch and two people was 33 euros (peak), 27 euros after 27 August 2011.
Camping Cisano – San Vito
Via Peschiera, 48
37011 Cisano di Bardolino – Verona
Tel 00 39 045 6229098
For a little luxury, Hotel Vela Doro - a traditional Italian lakeside hotel, owned by the same family, is close to the Campsite. With 55 well-appointed rooms, it is situated in the middle of the tourist centre of Cisano, between Bardolino and Lazise - an easy walk or cycle ride along the lakeside promenade. Boats call in at the jetty for rides across the lake. A spacious roof terrace looks out across the water, and the hotel gardens give some shade to guests in the hot weather, where they can also take a dip in the hotel pool.
We have spent many happy holidays here in the past and always found the staff most pleasant and helpful,
Hotel Vela D'Oro
via Peschiera 2
37010 Cisano di Bardolino
Tel 00 39 45 72.100.67
For a fantastic, traditional meal, I can thoroughly recommend Ristorante Costa d'Oro, up in the hillside above Cisano di Bardolino. We joined friends here, after traipsing up the hill, on foot from the camp. It was all worthwhile once we began to indulge in the most memorable, anniversary feast ever! Our long wooden table, covered in a crisp white cloth, and decorated with large bowls of fresh flowers, looked magnificent, We were seated under the olive trees, in the fading light of the evening sun, where a beautifully scripted menu greeted us at the table, - the attentive staff had certainly "pulled out all the stops" to make this occasion a truly wonderful event. The food was fantastic, and nothing was too much trouble for our hosts; Daniele and his father Umberto, who ran the restaurant.
Ristorante Costa d'Oro via Costadoro 7 37011 Bardolino, Italy Tel: 00 39 45 721 08 06
An evening stroll along to the lakeside town of Lazise, offers plenty of choice of restaurants and cafes on the waterfront, or in the old town itself. We tried "La Vela Bianco" (Ristorante & Pizzeria), on the promenade by the harbour. A perfect spot for people-watching, relaxing with a drink, and watching the boats pass by,. The golden glow of the evening sun, makes a romantic picture, as it spreads across the shimmering lake, and descends on the distant horizon. In the restaurant, pizzas start from around 6 euros, and if you still want more, try some of the enormous ice-cream desserts on the menu, and you won't be disappointed!
La Vela Bianco Via lungolago marconi 6
37017 - Lazise Verona Italy tel: Tel 00 39 45 6470633
There is also a 2-star Municiple Campsite near the lake in Lazise, situated directly on the promenade and only a short distance from the medieval town centre. The site has 113 pitches of 75 square meters each. Tariff for this year (2011) peak time: 32 euros for a couple and a pitch, per night.
Camping Municipale - Via Roma
Lungolago Mazzanti Cavazzocca
tel: 00 39 45 7580020
fax: 00 39 45 7580549
Nearby amusement parks include: “Gardaland” and “Caneva-world”, Gardens, Nature Parks and “Safari-Zoo”.
The Roman amphitheatre in Verona holds regular concerts, and the Hotel will arrange for the coach to pick you up outside. Coach trips to Venice are also booked in the same way.
Lidls in Bardolino and Lazise sold local Bardolino rose wine (serve chilled), excellent value at 1.75 euros a bottle. The lakeside towns have regular market days throughout the week.
The whole journey out from Calais to Lake Garda was about 830 miles, which included turning off the road for overnight stops etc.
Only the ferry from Dover to Calais was pre-booked, and sites were chosen en-route to suit our own travel situation on the day. This was during peak time, in the school holidays during August. By stopping early (mid afternoon) we had no problems finding camping sites to suit our needs. The Caravan Club’s “Caravan Europe” guides are well worth taking with you to find sites on the way. Pre-booking is often available if you prefer.
After Lake Garda, the choice is yours: travel back by the same route or, do as we did, at first retracing our tracks along the SS12 towards Bolzano, with a coffee break in Ora, where we also drew out some cash. Beware that not all european countries are as Credit Card friendly as the French, and most campsites asked us for Cash!
Continuing on the SS12 to Bolzano, take the SS38 to Merano and follow this route until Spondigna, where it branches onto the SS40 towards the Reschen Pass (no tolls) and into Austria. The scenery on the route is quite spectacular, with no steep hills to climb, although surrounded by mountains. The route number changes to180 and then to 15 as you head for Landek.
After six or seven hours on the road with stops, we decided to turn in for our overnight stop at “Camping Prutz”, and with no one at reception, we chose a spot to pitch and registered at the desk later. Run by the Fedler family, this site is great for an overnight rest, with a little village to wander around close by. The site has well-appointed toilet facilities, and a boot room for skiers, in the main building, for those camping in the winter. Electric hook-ups for caravans, and outdoor play equipment for children. Cost 24 euros for the pitch and 2 people per night in August 2011.
Aktiv Camping Prutz Tirol
Familie Mag. Markus Fedler
Pontlatzstraße 22 · A-6522
Tel. 00 43 5472/2648
Moving on the following day, continue along Route15 avoiding the motorway (for which you need to buy a “vignette') to Landeck - stay on this route, turning left and on to the Arlberg Tunnel – there is a fee of 8.50 euros to be paid to drive through this tunnel, which can be paid by Credit Card. Continue on route number 16/E60 towards Bludenz, and on to Bregenz and Lake Konstanz (Bodensee)
Our choice was a small, family run campsite up the right hand side of the lake, at "Campingplatz Nell", Nussdorf, near Uberlingen. Pitches are in an old orchard (apples and pears dropping from the trees in late August!) A pebble beach stretches along the lakeside, beyond the grass-lawned area, where a ferryboat stops on the jetty. The site has clean toilet and washing facilities. Showers are charged at 50 cents, and electricity metered. An idyllic spot having both, a promenade, and separate cycle track, along the lakeside to neighbouring towns.
Close to a superstore, and Internet access in a small café cum information centre, just across the main road. Quiet at night.Two people, pitch, with metered electricity, cost 27.70 euros per night in August/September 2011. The owners’ son also gave us a bag of freshly picked apples before we left!
88662 Überlingen - Nussdorf - Germany
Tel: 00 49 7551 4254
A 3km walk or cycle ride from Nussdorf takes you to the ancient city of Uberlingen, where local produce is sold on Market Days (Wednesday and Saturday). Strolling along the mile-long promenade, visitors can enjoy the scenery, or be tempted into one of the many al fresco cafes or restaurants, to relax and watch the world go by. In the harbour where the ferryboats dock, make sure to see the unusual, and amusing statue in a fountain by Peter Lenk: It depicts the local author, Peter Walser, on horseback, wearing ice-skates, towering over upturned mermaids, and old people! Walser’s most popular novel was “Runaway Horse”.
Cycling in the opposite direction from Campingplatz Nell, the 11km ride to Meersburg, can be broken, by stopping at the lakeside town of Unteruhldingen, home to the “Pfahlbauten”, an open-air museum with displays of reconstructed Neolithic and Bronze-age pile dwellings. Ferryboats come in to dock here, and many yachts are moored along the shores. We watched a Zeppelin float past overhead, while here - probably from the Zeppelin Museum at nearby Friedrichshafen.
On to Meersburg, where its charming medieval city, and ancient castle, are built on a steep hillside vineyard, stretching down to the lake. Its famous medieval archways, lead you into the main street. Bikes can be parked on purpose-built stands outside the walls. Pleasure boats come into its harbour, and cafes and restaurants draw you in along the promenade.
We chose the small traditional “Restaurant-Gastehaus, Am Hafen”, down one of the side roads to the lake, to stop for lunch. We had an enjoyable, and inexpensive meal, together with a glass or two of the local wine, in a relaxing and interesting enviroment. The Restaurant is in two houses facing, one another, on opposite sides of the narrow road. Tables, with shade, were set outside in the summer sunshine. The restaurant serves fresh fish from the lake, as well as other meat and vegetable dishes. Credit cards were not accepted here, so it is always best to carry some euros if eating out in small establishments. The guest-house has single, triple and double rooms, with shower and toilet, starting from 34 euros and run by the Lehmann Family
Am Hafen Spitalgasse 3 + 4
D - 88709 Meersburg Germany
Telephone 00 49 7532 / 7069
Leaving the campsite, picking up the A98 at the top of the lake, takes you to the E41 and back towards Stuttgart to join the A8 – the original route taken towards Lake Garda. By retracing your steps back towards Luxembourg, you may want to take time refuelling there, before moving on back towards Calais.
We spent a final night at “Les Roches Camping” in Rochfort, Belgium , before driving on to Calais in the morning. The site has a pool and spacious marked pitches, electric and clean washing facilities. The .village had a fair going on in the main street, that weekend, but was otherwise a peaceful place to stop over! We paid 24 euros to stay overnight here early in Sptember 2011.
Les Roches Camping
Rue du Hableau,
26 5580 Rochefort
Tel:00 32 84 21.19.00
A round trip,of around 1700 miles, which included travel without the caravan, only in our planned destinations of Lake Garda and Lake Konstanz, – Toll free roads, the only extra costs were the Reschen Pass (8 euros) and the Arlberg Tunnel (8.50),