Please sign in to post.

Driving from Calais, France to Italy

We are about to embark on a Grand Adventure to Europe with our dog for a year (yes we are applying for Italian Visa's in two weeks). July 20, we are taking the QM2 to England with our lab, then crossing the channel and picking up a leased car in Calais. Final destination is Verbania, Italy on Lago Maggiore. We have reservations at a B&B about 45 minutes out of Calais the day we pick the car up.

So question is how would you plan a 2-3 night road trip between Calais and Lago Maggiore with a dog. What should we see along the way, where should we stay? We've to Provence and Paris but nothing between Calais and Italy. We Love wine and good food. Thinking Reims to tour Veuve Clicquot, but other than that, open to ideas. Switzerland?
Anyone have a good app for B&B's in France? (and of course we need dog friendly)

Thanks in advance for suggestions!

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
18377 posts

You may have thought of this already, but how are you (and puppy) getting from Southampton to Calais?

Which way is your 45 minutes out of Calais B&B?

If you go through France the autoroutes are nice and smooth and expensive.

I'm cheap so I usually drive through Belgium and refuel in Luxembourg. Then if I were going to Maggiore I'd enter Switzerland at Basel - remembering the Swiss Vignette for CHF40, good for a calendar year plus the previous December and following January - and down to Italy.

The tunnels between France and Italy cost a fortune - more for one trip than a Swiss Vignette for 14 months - and the French autoroutes are really expensive too. But then you see I am cheap.

If you had plenty of time (you have a year but it sounds like you are rushing) there are a million things to see on that journey and it can be done through France avoiding a lot of the tolls but still having a hoot.

For greatest speed you could go A26 Calais - Reims - A4 Strasbourg - A36 Basel (or cross the Rhine at Strasbourg and A5 south). Remember that while the French Autoroutes are 130 kph most of the way, if there is rain the speed limit drops to 110 kph.

So, over to you for more detail please.

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
18377 posts

B&Bs in France - AirBnB (taking sufficient precautions), Booking dot com, Logis de France.

Posted by Philip
Hobe Sound, FL
1431 posts

Nigel, you are not cheap! You are frugal and smart. Why waste money on the unnecessaries when you can spend it on yourself? How many excellent meals would the tolls buy? Cheers!

Posted by Laurel
Lincoln City, OR
6771 posts

This is not what you are asking about but just to make certain, can your dog disembark in the UK? I thought there were very strict quarantine rules.

I hope you have a wonderful experience!

Posted by Jessica
NM
458 posts

I don't have advice about the drive but I would love a report about the trip, or monthly installments, starting with a prologue: how did you choose this location for 12 months and what are your plans?... ;p

Posted by Richard
Los Angeles
1544 posts

I'm interested in the part about "applying for visa in two weeks". I'd save energy on logistics until that part is settled. Based on my sparse knowledge of the requirements for a visa...the OP won't be concerned about road tolls.

Posted by Karen OP
Monterey County, CA
902 posts

Nigel,
We've hired a company called Pets2Go that will drive my husband I, our dog and luggage via the Eurotunnel with door to door pickup and drop off.

B&B is southeast, not too far off A26. Picked this one because they have grounds surrounding the Chateau where we can wear Barley out sprinting after a ball.

Can you provide the routes/cities to drive through Belgium and Luxembourg to Switzerland? We are thinking maximum of 6 hours driving per day. Not rushing but I believe we need to register at the Police station within 8 days of arriving in the Schengen per visa requirement. So thinking about 3 days -2 nights to drive.

Laurel,
No quarantine needed. The QM2 follows specific UK requirements, and we have to provide all the right paperwork when boarding the boat in NY. Once we are in Southampton, we'll go to a vet for an EU pet passport.

Jessica, When we booked our cruise 15 months ago and decided to spend a year in Europe with our dog, we made a list of what we wanted in a place to live. Ocean or Lake, lots of safe walking, dog friendly, not a complete American tourist town (makes it more expensive), must have a train station as we won't have a car, not too far from a major airport and major train station. Wanted a town with about 5-15K population- big enough during off season to not be boarded up. Good and inexpensive wine.

We currently love living in Monterey County, CA and take Barley to the beach to run, swim, or we take long walks along the bay, and hiking. So we looked to duplicate something similar in Italy.

I started searching dog friendly beaches in Italy and identified 4-5 towns along the Adriatic and Mediterranean as possibilities. Also looked at the lakes region and focused on Lago Maggiore, as not as expensive or American touristy as Como (RS only mentions Stresa as a day trip from Milan). Did a lot of google street view research.
So we planned a three week trip to Italy on April 1 to find "our town" and a place to rent. Plan was to start in Verbania, then Italian Riviera, Tuscany coast, and end up on the Adriatic Coast. Our trip started and ended with Verbania. Miles of pedestrian pathway along the waterfront. Ferry terminals that can be taken (with dogs) up and down and across the lake from Switzerland on the north to Acona on the south. Very dog friendly (poop bag dispensers all over). Train station is a short bus ride away (dogs allowed on buses and trains). View of the Italian Alps. In the week we were there, we came across a few Brits, Germans, and Swiss, but not one American. We found an apartment to rent in the Verbania Pallanza city centre, very bright, modern, fully furnished, huge balcony and view of the mountains, and two blocks from the lake shore. Direct bus from Milan Malpensa from April - October. 1 1/2 hour train to Milan Central. Also temperatures in northern Italy on the lake are not nearly has hot as further south. And December, January and February are actually the three driest months, cool but still above freezing.

Check out google street view (it's better in person).

Posted by Karen OP
Monterey County, CA
902 posts

Working on a Blog to document and share our adventures (through Barley's eyes). Once I make my Blog live, I'll let people know and you can PM me for the link. PM me now if you are interested in following.

here's link to Google maps
Verbania

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
18377 posts

All good - thanks for the detailed answers.

It is rare to find somebody going to Calais so informed.

It sounds like you are well informed and have done good planning.

I, like the poster above, am cringing a bit at just 10 weeks to get an Italian visa. I hope it goes very smoothly for you.

A16 Calais - or nearby your B&B - to A25 at Grande-Synthe just before Dunkerque (careful, very sharp corner, hidden cameras all along the A16, speed limits up and down) to Lille (avoid rush hour), Calais to Grande-Synthe also known as E40, from there for a long way also known as E42. From Lille A27 to the border, then in Belgium the road continues as E42/A8 and onto E42/A16 north of Tournai and then the E42/A7 all the way through Mons to E42/A15 over Charleroi to Namur where you turn south onto the E411/A4 which changes to E25/A4 between Bastogne and the Luxembourg border. At Arlon on the border it becomes the A6.

Now from Luxembourg (cheapest fuel in central and western Europe, state set prices the same plus or minus a couple of tenths of a cent per litre, even at motorway services or mom and pop filling stations or anywhere else, and all brands) you can stop or visit Luxembourg, Trier (next door in Germany) or Metz (just south in France). Or continue various routes to Schengen (where the visa is named for) picking up the A8 as you cross into Germany to Saarlouis and A620 to Saarbrücken then signs down to free bit of the French A4 to Strasbourg. Or from Trier, onto the A1 as it winds through the forests to Saarbrücken and to the A4. Better to follow GPS in this area and following signs than trying to follow road numbers in the Saarlouis and Saarbrücken area.

Then the E25/A4 into Strasbourg. Then either E25/A35 to St Louis just at Basle/Basel. Or follow the E52 over the Rhine at Strasbourg via Kehl in Germany to the (in)famous A5 which runs (yes, runs) all the way south to Basel. You could visit Baden Baden or stop into the Black Forest (Gengenbach is close, a great stop and close to Strasbourg).

There are many ways to skin a cat going through Switzerland, including Luzern, or the Berner Oberland, including putting your car on a train under the Alps from Kandersteg - or a long car tunnel called the Gotthard. Your choice, when you pick a route we can chip in further.

Switzerland driving - slow DOWN in tunnels, don't exceed the usually 80 kph limit, both for safety and saving your pocket fine money; and that Vignette mentioned earlier.

One final thing for the moment - you say that you are renting a car for this road trip but then you say that you won't have a car when settled??? Just curious - if you are dropping this car in Italy after you and pooch move, are you aware of the huge drop charges for renting in one country and returning in another? Or have we got the wrong end of the stick? Also, do you know that for the French and Italian parts of the drive all drivers require an IDP?

Posted by Karen OP
Monterey County, CA
902 posts

Richard and Nigel,
The SF Consulate states that most Visa applications are processed in 20 days. However since the Elective Residency Visa is the most scrutinized, they have 60 days to process. The visa appointments on May 2 were scheduled in November, and just confirmed them on line today. I've burned through $300+ in ink cartridges printing copies of everything we need for the appt. We are crossing our fingers that we just get our passports back by July 19. Unfortunately, we can't apply more than 90 days in advance of arrival date in Italy. And yes it would have been great to delay booking our travel until we had the visa, but kennels fill up fast on the QM2, and when we booked in Feb of 2017, the soonest voyage that had two available kennels for our large Chocolate Lab was the July 20, 2018 voyage.

Plan B is to play the 90 days in Schengen/90 days out in the unlikely even we are not approved for our Visa.

Our adventure has been in the planning stages for years so now we are down to the logistic details.

Nigel, Thanks for the details on the route. I'll start plugging into google maps and am sure I will have more questions.
We are actually leasing a Citroen car for three weeks. Even with a drop off in Milan, it's cheaper than renting a car for a week with an Italian drop fee, and full insurance is included on a lease.

Posted by Chris F
Basel, Switzerland
5610 posts

Plan B is to play the 90 days in Schengen/90 days out

That is not quite the correct rule. It is "90 days in any 180". You can exit and re-enter the Schengen Area as many times as you like, so long as you never at any time have more than 90 days in the last 180.
Avoiding the Schengen Area limit for a whole year would be difficult. The only countries not in the Schengen Area are the UK, Ireland, Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia etc., and Belarus, Ukraine and Russia. See this map: https://1.bp.blogspot.com/--jIBKY6VdsY/VtisrS9x6tI/AAAAAAAAA4I/_leAxgJTLkY/s1600/schengen-countries-map-2016-03.png
And since departure and arrival days count as full days, and also count as full days in the countries you are travelling from or to, you would have to spend longer outside the Schengen Area than inside.

We found an apartment to rent in the Verbania Pallanza city centre

What will happen to this apartment if you have to be staying elsewhere for over 50% of the time?

Posted by Karen OP
Monterey County, CA
902 posts

I just read to post on drive by posts, so here’s our update.

Thanks Nigel for the detailed route!

We just received our Italian Elective Residency Visas yesterday! So we will be living in Verbania Italy for at least a year as of August.

Posted by Laurel
Lincoln City, OR
6771 posts

Congrats Karen! Having gone thru that process — and all the printer ink — myself, you must be relieved! Now the application for the permesso when you arrive in Verbania.

Posted by Karen OP
Monterey County, CA
902 posts

Laurel, do you still live in Italy?
Rick in Rome’s website has a great guide on completing the permesso application.

Posted by Nigel
Northamptonshire, England
18377 posts

Do you mean Ron in Rome?

Just be careful with Ron's website - he left Rome a few years ago (unless he's moved back which would be news) so some of his info may be a little dated. Unless there has been a change he's doing his own high-end travel agenting and doesn't have a lot of time to keeping up the pages.

Laurel left Rome a little while ago after several years there and keeps in touch.

Fun Fact Number 27 - when Laurel was living in Rome she had two lovely old cats (or should I say they had her), which I had the all too rare privilege of cat-sitting. You have your pooch, she had the cats, animal lovers all.

Posted by bradleysmith1212
80 posts

I just read through Nigel's route. Excellent directions, Nigel!

I note that you will be near some excellent sights along the way. You might consider to deviate from the route here and there and have a 3-day grand tour of great sights and towns with just about 5-6 hours of driving each day:

Day 1 - Calais-Bruges-Ghent-Brussels-Luxembourg (5 hours)
Day 2 - Luxembourg-Trier-Strasbourg-Colmar-Basel (5.5 hours)
Day 3 - Basel-Bern/or Lucerne-Interlaken-Verbania (6 hours)

You add about 4-5 hours when compared to the fastest route, but you get to see the best of Belgium, Luxembourg, and Switzerland. With plenty of daylight and 3 full days to drive, you can still spend enough time to take in each sight and see some of Europe's highlights. With good planning, you could likely do a couple of city walks each day (and break up the driving) and grab lunch or dinner before or after in an excellent setting. Enough to whet the appetite and prioritize future travel plans.

FWIW, if I had an extra day or two, I would add a stay in Strasbourg or Colmar and in Interlaken/Bernese Oberland area. That would give me enough time to enjoy some of the highlights a bit more. Something like this:

Day 1 - Calais-Bruges-Ghent-Brussels-Luxembourg (5 hours)
Day 2 - Luxembourg-Trier-Strasbourg (3.5-4 hours)
Day 3 - Strasbourg-Colmar-Lucerne-Interlaken (3.5-4 hours)
[Day 4 - Interlaken/Bernese Oberland (rail only-into the Alps)]
Day 4 or 5 - Interlaken-Zermatt-Verbania (4.5 hours)

Or, because I'd be within day-trip/short-trip striking distance of Zermatt and Interlaken from Verbania for the next year, perhaps spend more time in Strasbourg/Colmar and the Black Forest or Lucerne. Or perhaps add a stop on the Rhine or Heidelberg ...or, skip Alsace, the Black Forest, and Switzerland entirely for now and focus on Burgundy (further from Verbania than Switzerland).