We took our first European camping road trip with our twins in 2017 when they had just turned three years old. We live 20 minutes from Portsmouth so the start of the journey to leave the UK is pretty straightforward; after we’d got the car packed of course which is a whole different challenge and probably requires its own blog post!
This trip was to take us through the French alps and into northern Italy before returning via Switzerland.
We knew this beautiful French town already from ski trips with friends who have a place here but it is just as beautiful to visit in the summer. Camping facilities in France are excellent and the campsite we stayed at here (Camping les Domes de Miage) was exceptional; beautiful grass pitches, stunning surroundings, clean and super organised. Hiking with a pair of three-year-olds in tow is limited but they enjoyed the ride on the Tramway du Mont-Blanc and we managed a small walk down the mountain. From St Gervais we took the impressive and expensive route through the Mont Blanc Tunnel to reach Italy.
Portofino and Cinque Terre, Italy
As soon as you pop out the other side of the tunnel into Italy the contrast is striking. We camped near Rapallo and although super friendly, the camping options were limited, crowded, hot and dusty. We enjoyed taking the bus to visit picture perfect Portofino and attempted train hopping between the stunning villages of the Cinque Terre. At this point of the trip, it was our 10th wedding anniversary and I had found a lovely chap on Airbnb who rented out his beautiful yacht. We spent a memorable day seeing the Cinque Terre from the water (a much more relaxing way to do it) and a fun overnight stay on the boat in the gorgeous harbour town of Fezzano.
Isola d'Elba, Italy
Via a pizza pit stop in Pisa for lunch, our next destination was the Island of Elba. Having realised by now that Italian coastal campsites are scorching in summer, we had rented a beautiful place on an olive grove on a quiet part of the island. It was heaven; a week of exploring the island’s beautiful yet small beaches by day, escaping the crowds on our paddle boards, and retreating back in the evenings to the olive grove and the hypnotic sound of tennis being played on the retired owner’s clay court; it felt like we were in an Italian version of the movie A Good Year.
After a week of island life, we headed back to the mainland and into Tuscany; mamma mia it is as beautiful as you would imagine! Driving through cypress tree lined roads and vineyards we arrived at our campsite which had its own little wine shop stocked with Chianti and was also within an easy drive of Siena which made for a beautiful evening ice cream stroll.
By now my kitesurf loving husband was longing for some wind so we headed north (via lunch on Lake Como) into Switzerland to see yet another dramatic change in landscape. Lake Silverplana not only has one of the best kitesurfing lakes in Europe, it also has an incredible campsite right on the lake. It’s calm in the mornings and perfect for paddle boarding on the glacial waters then the wind reliably picks up every afternoon. Switzerland is a stunning but expensive destination, and an afternoon stroll around nearby glitzy St Moritz was fascinating.
By now we were getting a little tired of camping; it can be hard work, especially with children! So with our homeward ferry approaching we headed back into France, stopping for the night in the pretty medieval town of Colmar before a night in a hotel and a day of lighthearted fun at Disneyland Paris. If your England-bound ferry from Le Havre is in the evening, the nearby pretty harbour town of Honfluer makes for a wonderful last lunch of moules-frites.