Taking The Auto-Trail Tracker EB To Italy On Tour

The mountain we spent a week on with the Auto-Trail's newest model
The mountain we spent a week on with the Auto-Trail's newest model

Thursday, 06, Dec 2018 04:24

By William Coleman

Having toured around the European Continent once already this year I jumped at the chance to do it again. This time the journey was a lot smaller and focused mainly on northern Italy to seek out what the region has to offer. The CaravanTimes team took an Auto-Trail Tracker EB round Parma to eat like the Italians.

This trip was a tale of two journeys, both of which I took part in. Part one was driving the right hand drive Tracker EB and driving the left hand drive support car, the Fiat Tipo.

First of all I do have to say that is takes a lot of getting used to driving a left hand car on the other side of the road than it does a right hand drive vehicle. Although the Fiat Tipo was a great car in pretty much every way I just found it very hard to adjust to using my right hand to change gears.

Driving around Italy in a motorhome, on paper, sounds like a bit of a nightmare, especially the northern parts, but I do have to say that the Tracker EB handled the roads perfectly. During the drive we saw pretty much every road surface possible from newly laid tarmac to small little country tracks made mostly of grass and stones.

Italy In November?

Why did we decide to choose Italy in the winter, and why Parma? To put it quite simply we wanted to drive through the part of Italy that is most famous for its food. This region of Italy introduced the world to Prosciutto Di Parma and Parmigiano Reggiano, two of Italy's most famous exports.

A lot of people who visit Italy usually travel by plane, but not us as we wanted to turn it into an adventure. We made sure that we made the best use of new Auto-Trail's newest model as we pretty much lived off grid for a week. One of the main advantages of driving is being able to see just how beautiful this part of the world is.

As much as me and the team were in search of the food side of things we also wanted some of that much sort after winter sun. If you know anything about northern Italy as this time of year you'll know that you are going to need a hat and scarf. Luckily for us we were treated to a lot of bright warm sunshine, while the sun was up and shining. As soon as that sun started to lower the temperature plummeted rapidly. I have never encountered such a temperature drop before.

Off Grid Living

As we opted to stay off grid and use the on board facilities to keep us warm, washed and fed we really did put the Tracker EB to the test. Having a Truma system in the Tracker meant that the inside temperature got up to our desired temp within a few minutes and maintained a steady heat all evening.

Without a shadow of a doubt the best thing about living off grid was the views we got from where we chose to pitch up. Luckily I am able to speak a base level of Italian and got a pitch outside of a restaurant that was hidden high in the mountains of Parma.

Being able to pick your pitch and have a nice glass of local wine under the stars at the top of a mountain really has to be on everyone's holiday to do list. Very rarely do get this kind of view with your own bathroom, bedroom and kitchen 10 feet behind you.

Seeing The Land And Finding The Hidden Gems

Driving through Italy really does provided a very varied driving experience. The motorway rules out there do not include using your indicators, keeping a safe distance, obeying speed limits and the use of flashing it the complete opposite to the roads of the UK. If you are flashed by another driver it means do not move or come forward whereas here in the UK a flash usually means the other driver is giving way.

Make sure you have your wallet to hand as every motorway is littered with toll booths, which you can avoid if you have the right sat nav but be prepared for a much longer drive if you do. Over the week we managed to rack up quite a large toll bill.

Once you are off the highway and in the rural countryside the driving style of the locals calms down quite a lot and is it becomes a pleasure to drive again. When driving around the outskirts of Parma there are tons of small family run cafes, which are also eateries, wine bars and panini shops. It is here where you find the real Italy and find local foods that you simply do not get back in the UK.

A local bar we found had pretty much every Italian stereotype you could think of, it felt more like a film set than a local bar. What made this place so special was the amount of different things it had to offer. Coffee, cake, beer, wine, cheese, meats, pasta, tomatoes, passata and baked goods in a market style set up, all while being a full time restaurant and bar that is open for 17 hours a day.

Once we had our meal we decided to stock up with all the Italian treats they had to offer, we ate like kings for a week. Thanks to the massive fridge on board the motorhome we could stock up on a lot of fresh food and not have to worry about it lasting. You have to search high and low to find processes packet food in Parma. The fresh is readily available and very cheap too.

If you like your food then Italy is the place to go. The Italians take their food very seriously, so much so you have to go out of your way to find bad food. You know you're in food country when the service station has food quality to rival any swanky city sandwich bar. From coffee all the way to cheese the Italians have the best and it is actually very different to your high street deli or restaurant in England.

On the last evening we decided to spend an evening it a restaurant to see how the locals eat. Before heading out for dinner we stopped off at a small bar where we found someone whose English was spot on, which was great as I had a burning about what we kept seeing the mountains.

Why are there so many guys driving around in high vis jackets and work clothes yet there were zero road works going on? To our surprise there were not road surface workers, they were Wild Boar hunters. The hills and mountains are taming with boar which is a staple part of local cuisine.

After finding this out everything started to fall into place. While walking around the mountain paths, unbeknownst to us, we were actually walking through boar hunting trails. Now I know why we kept seeing to many shotgun shells on the floor. Just before leaving the bar the owner told us to "be careful of the wild life of an evening". Let's just say the half mile walk to restaurant was a fast paced one.

All in all I would say that using a camper van or a motorhome is the best way to see Italy, or any other country for that matter. CaravanTimes simply cannot recommend touring around Europe enough, now that we have done it a fair few times and realise just how easy it is to do. For some details of what you will need when you are heading abroad read our top tips for touring abroad. For the full review of the Auto-Trail Tracker EB stay tuned.

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