Motorhoming in Italy: Overnight Parking
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We love motorhoming in Italy and wider Europe. It’s much easier than back home in the UK and there is so much to see and do.
The great thing about motorhoming in Italy is that they have a comprehensive system of free or cheap overnight motorhome stopovers called Area Sosta Camper’s.
Very much like the Aires of France or Stellplatz in Germany this system of overnight stopovers gives motorhomes and campervans an excellent network of facilities and stopovers that are in brilliant locations and very budget friendly.
Now, my Italian is not great, and I’ve seen Sostas labelled as all of the below:
- Sosta Camper
- Area Sosta Camper
- Aree di Sosta
- Aree di Sosta Camper
They all refer to the same thing – overnight motorhome parking in Italy.
I’m guessing the subtle differences depend on context, tense or some other regional differences. But the main thing is understanding that they are all one and the same thing.
Here’s all we know about Italian Sosta’s.
What is an Italian Area Sosta Camper?
Broadly speaking an Area Sosta Camper is a carpark or gravel area where motorhomes and campervans are allowed to park overnight.
Sometimes free and usually cheap they are a brilliant way to tour Italy on a budget, or stay in fantastic spots where a campsite isn’t feasible.
Many, but not all, boast motorhome facilities such as elsan points, grey waste, fresh water and bins/recycling. Some even have toilet blocks.
How do you use a Sosta?
Park up. Get a beer. That’s about all there is to it!
Well, not quite…
Usually there will be signage, a parking meter or a local business attached where you can find out if it costs anything, and if so how much.
This will usually also let you know if there are any motorhome facilities at the sosta and how much, if anything, they cost.
Usually you will need to pay in parking machine and it can be fiddly trying to figure out how to pay for overnighting – ask a local or fellow traveler and they’ll normally help you out.
In fact, most of the time when we visit a sosta camper, someone spots me scratching my head at the payment machine and after spotting our British plates they potter over and with a large smile they’ll expulge a stream of rapidly spoken Italian, jab at the payment machine a few times, and we’re sorted.
We’ve always found the Italians to be extremely friendly, helpful and seem to delight in helping bemused Brits like us struggling with their archaic and antiquated payment machines.
As usual with these types of parkups camping behaviour is usually prohibited. That means no chairs, bbqs, awnings etc.
However, if it’s hot and not too busy you’ll usually find that it’s pretty common to find people lounging about doing this sort of thing. Feel free to join in until it gets busier (just like me napping in the sun below!)
How to find a Sosta Camper?
There are a number of ways to find sostas in the area you’re interested in:
- Ask at the local tourist information
- Look on search for sites and filter for overnight parking (with and without facilities)
- Search for ‘Sosta Camper’, ‘Area Sosta Camper’ or similar on Google Maps while zoomed in on an area of interest
Unfortunately, we have been completely unable to find an up to date guidebook (like the All The Aires one for France) covering Italy for that ‘hard copy safety net’. If you know of one then please do let us know!
The great advantage of aree di sostas is that they tend to be in better spots than campsites. Closer to fantastic towns and villages, even some cities, or right out in nature allowing you to really get some breathing space to relax and explore rural Italy.
Once you’re on the road keep an eye out for the blue and white signs which look like a motorhome over a grey waste dump as these signify locations of sostas.
The signs don’t look exactly like the below but are very similar (we’ve never taken a photo of a sosta sign)
What motorhome facilities do Sostas have?
As we’ve mentioned previously it varies from nothing to a full suite of facilities for your motorhome.
It can be difficult to figure out in advance if a Sosta will have facilities. But your best bet is to look at the reviews on Google Maps (Google usually does a pretty good job of translating reviews), or the listing (and reviews in case a facility is out of action) on search for sites.
Not as many Sostas have facilities as Aires in France do so you do have to be a little more mindful. If you stay somewhere with facilities or pass by facilities whilst on the road do stop and make use of them even if you don’t necessarily need to.
How much do Area Sosta Campers cost?
Being completely honest, Area de Sosta Campers do tend to cost more often than French Aires, and do cost a little bit more. But they are still considerably cheaper than campsites, particularly in tourist hotspots.
Typically we’ve found most Sostas charge between five and fifteen euros per night, sometimes including services and EHU, sometimes that is charged on top.
Arriving at an Aree Sosta - Can I Book a Sosta?
Nope. Very much like French Aires, the Sostas in Italy are done on a first come, first served basis (99.9% of the time).
This means that sometimes you have to be a bit smart about when your planning on arriving.
In a popular area, during peak season we’ve found that the best time to arrive is between 11:00 and 14:00 once the previous nights campers have left and before the new arrivals turn up.
Important note: During the summer most of Italy observe a midday (or 11:00 to 15:00 sometimes!) siesta. Some sostas, particularly those which are manned, won’t allow people to arrive during siesta hours. And even if it is allowed then you might disturb napping residents who might take issue with it.
If you do arrive during a siesta period then arrive quietly, parkup in the first available spot and worry about maneuvering properly and levelling once the siesta period is over.
Are Area Sosta Campers Safe?
Generally speaking, yes. Normally you’ll have fellow motorhomers to keep you company and keep an eye on things.
Some sostas have manned gates, barrier entry systems and some even lockup overnight.
That said, there is a very slightly inherent risk of stopping over and leaving a van somewhere that isn’t as secure as a campsite so do use your judgement. Check out our top Motorhome Security Tips here to make sure you’ve covered all bases.
This isn’t meant to put you off. Italy is a lovely country, filled with a predominantly lovely people and is normally very safe.
Our Favourite Aree Di Sosta
Without a shadow of a doubt, it’s the sosta above Lago Di Orta.
The sosta is a simple affair, eight spaces under a canopy of trees on a level gravel area, you can stay completely free for up to 48 hours.
There are no motorhome facilities available but there are toilets above the – although they do ask for a donation for your stay in the box at the toilets.
Above the sosta is a collection of 27 chapels built thoughout the small woodland which is very interesting to wander about.
Down the hill (which is quite steep) is the wonderful Lago Di Orta and small town of Orta San Guilio. We can’t overstate how much we enjoyed the lake and town on our most recent trip to the Italian Lakes when we went hunting for hidden gems in the region. You can read all about that here.
Can I just wild camp in Italy?
Now you may be wondering if you can just wild camp in Italy instead.
Motorhome wild camping in Italy is generally speaking tolerated if not totally legal. Stay away from tourist hotspots and urban areas, park respectfully, quietly and leave no trace and you should be ok most of the time.
Most of the information in our motorhome wild camping guide applies to motorhoming in Italy as well.
We have heard of, but not experienced ourselves, a few more issues the further south you get in the country but can’t speak as to their validity.
Regardless, even if you do decide to wild camp, area sosta campers provide essential motorhome facilities at less than campsite prices so are still well worth knowing about.
What other options for overnight stops do I have in Italy?
As well as Sosta De Campers and wild camping you also have a massive network of campsites. From massive, commercial sites with pools and bars to small, rural sites and everything in between.
For off season campsite bargains make sure you check out the ACSI camping scheme to get huge discounts off campsites – sometimes making them cheaper than Sostas during the down season.
Motorhome touring in Italy is a lot of fun, and it really is a fascinating country with great culture so we really recommend if you get the chance to get over to Italy in your Motorhome to go for it.
So, that leads us on quite nicely to how you’re actually going to get your motorhome to Italy.
What’s the best way to drive to Italy in a Motorhome?
Our favourite route is to take the Eurotunnel from Folkstone, then head across northern France, perhaps stopping off at the Champagne Region if time permits.
Then cross the Rhine into Germany, spend some time in the fascinating and gorgeous Black Forest region.
Finally pass over the Alps on the stunning Swiss roads and descend down into the Italian Lake District.
Motorhoming in Italy: Driving Tips
We will write a dedicated article covering the art that is driving in Italy but in general:
- Observe the usual Motorhome Driving Tips.
- Expect chaos, drive defensively and keep your wits about you and you should be fine.
- Check the satnav is taking you on a sensible route – some of the smaller or mountainous roads can get lethal quickly, especially in a larger vehicle.
- Italian motorways, or autostrades, are mostly tolled and they aren’t particularly cheap at roughly seven kilometers per euro. More info here. The ViaMichelin route planner can give you a pretty good estimate for the cost of tolls along your planned route.
- The further south you go, the more chaotic the roads become.
- Enjoy the chaos! It’s fun once you get into it ditch any initial nerves.
- If it all gets too much. Stop early for the night and have some wine. I mean, you are in the home of outstanding wines.
Sostas in other Countries
If this is the first time you’ve heard of Sosta style parking then you’re in for a real treat as this style of motorhome overnight stopover can be found all over Europe in various guises and going by various names.
We love Italy.
Food. People. Weather. Scenery. Wine. Music. Blend all that into a sometimes chaotic, sometimes incredibly peaceful, culture and you’ve got all the makings of an unforgettable road trip.
Let us know if you’re planning your first Italian foray in the comments below!
Or perhaps you’re a seasoned traveler of Italia and have stories for miles, drop anything you fancy below as we love hearing Motorhoming stories: the good, the bad and the downright bizarre.
So, get planning, make use of Area Sosta Campers, and explore this brilliant country.
Go Explore! In Italy!