Home at last from Italy -SAFE

Mar 14, 2005
:D Hi Folks

A big thanks to Lutz and all who advised me after our breakdown in Italy earlier this month.

We got home safely to not-so-sunny St Helens on Wednesday evening.

We broke down on the A1 about 40 miles north of Rome on 9 August as we headed back from our stay at camping Roma Flash and several train trips into Rome.

The car was taken to a garage and after leaving us sitting outside on the pavement most of the day the garage had not reached any conclusion. Red Pennant had the caravan towed by breakdown truck to a campsite near Orvietto it was a hairy ride over very steep and bendy mountain road and as it grew dark without lights as the caravan electric lead would not reach the socket on the lorry. We stayed there for 2 days while the garage looked further at the car. An electrical fault was sort-of diagnosed but as all Vauxhall (Opel) dealers in Italy shut for the whole of August we were unable to get an accurate diagnosis or parts. Red Pennant advised we have the car repatriated by car transporter and we continue with a hire towcar.

Red Pennant sent a 2.0 litre TDI VW Passat estate from Stuttgart (12 hours) away as that was the nearest location that they could get a car with a towbar. I was concerned that the car was a little light weight for towing our Bailey Senator plus our belongings which included a Zodiac inflatable, outboard motor, awning etc. In addition I had lost the great benefit of my straightliner stabiliser which needs a bracket on the car so was towing stabiliser less. Our own car is a 3.2 V6 Vauxhall Monterey 4x4!! Anyway we had to continue as we were meeting our 19 year old son who was flying into Bergamo airport on Monday 13 August to join us. The VW also had a noseweight limit of 85 Kg compared with 100+ on the Monterey and was, of course, left hand drive. The Passat rear suspension was VERY LOW when we had loaded up.

After a careful loading of the car and 'van the helpful owner towed us out his steeply sloping site with a tractor and we drove north to Camping Riva San Pietro at Marone on Lake Iseo. We drove on the Saturday and Sunday to avoid the majority of HGVs and stuck to 80 kph We stopped off at a services overnight enroute. It was a demanding drive as the car twitched whenever a large vehicle overtook us and I had very sore wrists by the end of the 350 mile drive.

We had 12 very pleasant days at San Pietro with a pitch right on the shore of Lake Iseo. Lake and mountain views to die for. The campsite owner Giovani and his wife were lovely and did all that they could to be helpful. We had the boat out on the Lake and generally had a very relaxing time there.

Red Pennant explained that Europcar, hirers of the VW Passat would not send their larger and more luxurious cars into Italy and so we had to stick with the Passat until we left Italy. As I was not too confident on taking this outfit on the gradients and tunnels of the Switzerland/St Gotthard Tunnel route we had used going down we opted for the lesser gradients but greater mileage of the Brenner Motorway. The front wheel drive Passat struggled to get our outfit up the steep exit from the campsite and we had to get some helpful men pushing, worriying smell of burning clutch!!! Howerver once we got out of the campsite the Passat coped reasonably well with the journey up to Lech Camping, north of Munich, although it did take 13 hours at our reduced speed and it was dark by the time got there despite leaving San Pietro at 8.00am

After a night at Lech Camping Red Pennant had arranged for Europcar to meet us with a VW Toureg. This was a wonderful improvement although the car's late arrival meant that we only just managed to unpack and repack all of our belongings from one car to the other before the campsite barrier was closed for lunch at 12 noon. We had a few teething troubles getting used to the Toureg - no handbook!!! but once I had mastered the all-singing, all dancing technological wizardry it was a great improvement on the Passat. Much more stable and powerful with noseweight limit of 140Kg.

We then drove northwards through Germany, Belgium and Luxembourg stopping overnight at an aire on the German/{pipe delimiter}Luxembourg border. On Sunday 20 we reached Chateau Gandspette near St Omer where we had arranged to stay for a few days whilst we took Max the collie to the vet and bought a few bottles, etc to take home.

A bit of an argument with Red Pennant who wanted to provice a Renault Scenic as a tow car but finally arranged for Ton Hire to bring over a Right-hand drive Landrover Discovery for the final leg of the journey home in the UK. After relaxing on Monday on site we collected this car and left the Toureg at Calais on the Tuesday. Cary and I had a pleasant afternoon touring the French coast from Calais to Cap Gris Nez. On the Wednesday morning we exited Chateau GS as quietly as possible at 4.00 and drove up to catch the 6.00 Norfolkline Ferry from Dunkerque. We had originally planned to stop off overnight at Wyatt's Covert CC site norh of London to visit Cary's Dad in Ruislip but Red Pennant required us to give the car back on 30 August. We called in to see Father in Law briefly - it too from 7.00am to 11.00 to get there from Dover around the M25!!!! and then we carried on home. After a stop at Stafford to have tea with friends we got home at c8.00pm. We then had to work hard unpacking and cleaning caravan before driving it yesterday back to its storage site and getting car back here to be collected last night.

We now have to wait for our car to be brought back to a local Vauxhall dealer to be fixed.

All in all a good holiday but stressful at times and a lot of money spent on mobile phone calls to Red Pennant sorting things out (their free phone doesn't work in Italy). The new Tom Tom 710 Sat Nav which we had bought just prior to this trip partly due to recommendations on this site was a great boon especially with the route changes.

Thanks to all on this site who advised us during the difficult stages.

I'll post some campsite reviews later - when I've finished helping to tidy the house!!!
Jul 6, 2007
Good to see you got home safely.At least you are one of the sensible people that actually bother to take out insurance.Have met lots of people by the side of the road across France/Spain/Italy with a dead car who haven't.I can't even begin to imagine what it would cost to bring back car if you had to pay for it yourself,apart from the logistics of it all,and being able to speak the language.
Mar 14, 2005
Hi Peter

I quite agree. I have never travelled without insurance in all the 14 years of tenting and 'vanning abroad. We haven't always used it but this is the second year in a row when we have!!

We would recommend Caravan Club Red Pennant. They seem to be the only insurer to provide tow cars as replacements. Certainly by the end Red Pennant were concerned that we did not go over the


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