E is for … Elba, Italy, summer 2013

The verdict

A brilliant way to spend a barefoot week camping right by the sea, on a busy, bustling and friendly Italian campsite. 

We loved: Our pitch with a view, the campsite beach and the beautiful interior of Elba

Hints and tips: We stayed at Camping Le Calinchiole. Although our seaview pitch was brilliant for its seaside location and easy beach access, this Italian site was NOISY late into the night, so you might prefer one of the quieter, larger pitches away from the sea.  We used directferries.co.uk to book our voyages. For the overnight ferry travel we booked a cabin for four and took a sleeping bag and rollmat for our fourth body to squeeze in between the beds.

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Our first summer in Fran the van we spent a glorious 8 weeks camper-vanning through France and Italy (you can see our route on the perfectly accurate map above).

It was all blooming marvellous, although about half way through the trip I did message a friend to say this:

I love everything about camper-vanning around Europe  …
except for the driving around in the van …
and also, the sleeping in the van


The main problem was that it was quite an ambitious first trip. The kids were quite young — 10, 7 and 4 — the van, which we bought unseen online (eek) had no aircon and it was HOT HOT HOT for 3 small ish people so we had to limit our actual travel times to 2 or 3 hours in the morning, evening or night-time.

However, this baptism of fire has gone down as a firm family fave, and one of the absolute highlights was our trip to Capoliveri, in Southern Elba, reached via Marseilles and Bastia by ferry.

What we loved: our pitch with a view

I think this is the only place we’ve camped where we’ve been able to BBQ with a sea view. It was quite a tiny pitch (and there were some shenanigans getting set up, involving a campsite slow-mo crash and Italian insurance paperwork in triplicate) but it was magical going to sleep to the sound of the waves.

What we loved: The beach
A short step down a ramp was a small, lively beach for hermit-crabs, the occasional floating beach bar and organised fun.

What we loved: The pine forests and hills of the interior
Elba is all rocky hills, pine trees and endless sea views, punctuated by yellow-stoned villages. It’s really beautiful, although we didn’t do it justice as, apart from Garry’s early morning bike rides and a trip or two into Capoliveri, we mostly stayed at the camp site pootling between the pitch, the pool and the beach.

What we loved: The ferry travel

When we realised how difficult it would be to cover lots of miles in a hot camper-van with small, cross people we quite quickly reached the conclusion that the ferry should become our friend. So, we spent some time online (very patchy campsite wifi meant this was slow going) searching for alternative ways to travel. Luckily, there are plenty of ferries in the Med, and especially, it seems, between France and Italy, which is why our trip ended up involving three extra ferry trips: Marseilles overnight to Bastia (Corsica), Bastia to Portoferraio (Elba) and then onward from Portoferraio to Piombino on the Italian mainland. This was a WAY better way to cover the miles than driving!


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