One week in North Italy with a camper van

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One week in North Italy with a camper van

Exploring North Italy with a camper van is a dream. The region is ideal to go on a roadtrip and experience the perfect mix of stunning mountain views, picturesque lakes and romantic cities.

In this post I’ll introduce you to some of my absolute favorite places in this area. The route is perfect for a one week trip with a camper van and a nice mix of being active and enjoyment in North Italy. It involves visiting the largest high alpine pasture in Europe, one of the most beautiful lakes in Italy as well as the incomparable city of Venice. While being designed as a Vanlife adventure this tour is also suitable for traveling by car.

Comer See - Arrival & Accommodation

Lake Como is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful lakes in the entire Alpine region. Located in Lombardy in the north of Italy, it is fantastically nestled in the foothills of the Alps and offers numerous opportunities to discover the region. Hence, it is a must visit when driving through North Italy by camper van!

During my research I found the small, charming campsite Camping & Bar La Fornace on the headland in the middle of Lake Como, which is the perfect base for the planned excursions. The advantage of this place is the direct location at the lake with its own lake access and the unique view of the surroundings! 

Tip: Since there are no shopping facilities in the immediate vicinity, it is best to buy a few small items for breakfast on the way to the site. In the evening I can only recommend you to use the restaurant on site. Order a delicious pizza and enjoy the view.

A little downside of the campground: The sanitary facilities are basic and not very modern – plus it can get a bit noisy due to the restaurant and the attached bar. However, during our stay it was quiet and we enjoyed the time here a lot. Jumping into the lake and having a swim in front of this panorama right after waking up is just priceless! 

Since the small campground has only a few pitches, be sure to call ahead to reserve. Preferably in the first row with a direct lake view.

Day 1 - Varenna & Villa Monastero

The romantic little town of Varenna on the eastern side of Lake Como is considered one of the most beautiful places in this area and is a must-see when visiting Lake Como. The colorful house facades surrounded by green cypresses in contrast to the blue lake are a true postcard motif. I recommend you to just stroll through the winding streets, find a spot by the water and enjoy the wonderful view. Tip: With a delicious ice cream from Riva directly at the boat pier, this tastes twice as good.

Villa Monastero is a place to dream. It is located only a few hundred meters from Varenna and can therefore be wonderfully combined with Varenna. I think this place perfectly showcases the magic of Lake Como. The botanical garden belonging to the villa stretches long and narrow directly along the water and offers countless postcard motifs. The description “picturesque” probably hits the nail on the head. Already the view in the entrance hall, with its columns, round arches and flowers, and the lake revealing itself behind it, looks like a painting. The surroundings will transport you to another time and make you feel like you’re in a movie scene.

Arrival tip: For cars there is a parking garage directly at the entrance to Varenna. If you arrive by camper, there are relatively few parking options. Therefore, I recommend that you arrive early in the morning and secure one of the few spaces directly above Villa Monastero. Depending on your starting point, a 15-minute ferry ride from Bellagio is a great alternative. If you choose the campsite described above, you can take the local bus from there to Bellagio in 15 minutes and catch the ferry to Varenna. This way you can discover Lake Como and especially the Villa Monastero from a different perspective.

Excursion Tip: If you want to experience Lake Como from the water, you can either rent a boat yourself or hop on a guided tour. Sit back, relax and let a local guide take you to the most beautiful places around the lake. I included two boat tour options in this blog post with Get your Guide. Get your Guide is one of my favorite tools to book experiences, tours and tickets for my upcoming travels or while I’m already on-site. They are super easy to use and offer a great variety of high-quality experiences around the world. Check out all their tours for Lake Como here.

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Day 2 - Bellagio

Stylish hotels, chic restaurants, villas overlooking the water and the special location on the headland in the middle of the lake – this is Bellagio. A walk through the winding streets with their small boutiques and shops is the most beautiful way to explore the romantic little town.

A stop at the Punta Spartivento should not be missed. This viewpoint offers a view of the lake in all directions, the mountains in the background as well as Menaggio on the left and Varenna on the right. You can relax and enjoy the view on one of the benches or grab a blanket and lay down in the small park. A snack or dinner in one of the restaurants right on the water will round off the day perfectly.

Arrival: Directly by car and park on the outskirts of town. Depending on where the trip starts, you can also arrive by public bus (for example, from the campsite described above). Ferry connections from Varenna and Menaggio are also options to get to Bellagio.

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Day 3 - Bozen & Oberbozen

The beautiful city of Bolzano in South Tyrol is perfect for a one-day stopover and ideally situated for the onward journey to the Alpe di Siusi. During the day, it’s worth taking a stroll through the city with a stop at Waltherplatz, a visit to the fruit market and a break in one of the many cafés in the city.

In the afternoon I recommend to jump on the cable car to Oberbozen for spectacular views of Bolzano and the surrounding vineyards. The valley station Rittner is only about ten minutes walk from the city center. You’ll reach Oberbozen after another 15 minutes with the cable car, whereby the ride itself is a nice experience. Once you have reached the top, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of the Dolomites.

In the evening there are numerous opportunities to taste the delicacies of the South Tyrol region. At the Wirtshaus Vögele in the city center, they serve delicious tagliatelle with porcini mushrooms and a wide selection of regional wines.

Accommodation tip: If you are traveling by camper van, I can absolutely recommend Camping Moosbauer. The small and extremely charming place is beautifully located, super clean and also has a nice pool – mountain view included. In just a few minutes walk, the public bus leads directly to Bolzano.

Day 4-5 - Seiser Alm (Alpe di Siusi)

The next day we head up into the mountains early in the morning towards the Alpe di Siusi. With its endless velvety green hills, dreamy huts and breathtaking views of the Dolomite peaks, the Alpe di Siusi is a very popular excursion and hiking area. As the largest high alpine pasture in Europe, it offers numerous routes for every taste and fitness level. The mountain huts tempt you with apple strudel, Kaiserschmarrn and other delicious dishes from the region.

On day one, I recommend you to start with the Puflatsch loop – an approximately 8 km long half-day hike with great views of the alpine pastures and a visit to the Tschötsch Alm Hut. The second hike is a bit more extensive, varied and suitable as a day hike. The tour involves visiting the Sanon Hut (Malga Sanon), which offers you a spectacular view of the Schlern massif.

In my blog post about hiking the Alpe di Siusi I introduce the two hiking routes in detail as well as a beautiful campsite very close to the alp.

Seiser Alm Ausblick Schlernmassiv
Kühe auf der Seiser Alm

Day 6-7 - Venice

The last stop will take you to the  enchanting city of Venice. When visiting North Italy for one week with a camper van you cannot miss this place. The romantic lagoon city is only a 3-hour drive from Bolzano and is one of the most impressive cities in the world. You can park your camper outside the city and easily take the train over the bridge to the car-free city.

Walk along the canals over the many bridges or discover the city from the water on a gondola ride. In the San Marco district, don’t miss St. Mark’s Square, the Duomo and the St. Mark’s Tower, from which you can enjoy a great view over the city. The famous Bridge of Sighs and the beautiful Doge’s Palace are right next door. For an authentic impression of Venice, you can explore the districts Cannaregio and Dorsoduro away from the tourist crowds. The latter is particularly suitable for dinner, for example at Campo Santa Margherita. Here you will find many bars, small cafes, bistros and affordable restaurants, which are well-liked by Venetians.

For a detailed 2-day Venice itinerary you can check out this guide that covers all highlights in the city, arrival options plus more tips for your visit!

Tips for you Arrival and Departure

For this one-week camper van trip, two additional days are planned for the arrival and departure for this route in North Italy. Depending on where you start your trip with the camper, it can be useful to plan a stop with an overnight stay before reaching Italy. This will not only make the trip much more relaxed, but you can also take the opportunity to discover another place. 

For example, our tour started in Dusseldorf and we decided to make a stop in the beautiful city of Freiburg. This way, we were able to spend another half day in the city, which for us was the perfect start for the camper trip. Start your day strolling through beautiful alleys of the city and enjoy a delicious coffee at the Münsterplatz. Afterwards, a side trip to one of the viewpoints on the nearby Schlossberg is recommended. The Kanonenplatz is easy and quick to reach and offers a fantastic view over the city. 

By the way: Lonely Planet ranked Freiburg on third place among the top international cities in its new “Best in Travel 2022“.

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