This road trip started from southern France, Cote d’Azur (also known as Riviera, here is a Riviera guidebook), continued to northwest Italy via the lower Alps, passed through Mont Blanc along a long tunnel that ended in Chamonix France, continued to central France, and from there to the Pyrenees Mountain Range.
Saint Tropez, France
Probably most people have a vision of Saint Tropez that is dominated by millionaires and their luxury yachts and sports cars, or long beaches with eternal sunshine. Well, that’s more or less true, but in reality Saint Tropez is a small village on the Cote d’Azur that gets an overload of tourists especially during the summer. It is a lovely village, although fishing boats have been replaced by massive yachts, and fishermen by artists, cafes, ice cream kiosks and tourist shops at the port.
Sainte Maxime, France
Sainte Maxime has retained its original charm on the opposite side of the bay to Saint Tropez. Sainte Maxime is an old French town with a lively old center, port, and central beach. Outside the center, hotels, shopping malls, and other services provide tourists everything they need.
For motorhome and campervan travelers, finding free parking where to stay overnight around Cote d’Azur is difficult – it has been restricted on purpose. It is a good idea to do your research beforehand and find a few options for caravan parks or camp sites where you can stay. For instance, in Sainte Maxime a caravan park just above the town center allows full day and night parking for a few euros.
Pinerolo is an old, relatively quiet town in northwest Italy, not far from Torino. The town is located on a plain, but the Alps Mountains are clearly visible in the west. The most interesting place to explore is the old town center. A free caravan park near the football fields and sports facilities welcomes campervans and motorhomes. It is about 20 minute walk from there to the town center.
The fourth largest city of Italy, Torino (also known as Turin in some languages) was the new capital of the united nation about 160 years ago, but only for a few years. The center of the city still looks like it still could be the capital, such grandiose some buildings and piazzas are. The old city center and the banks of the Po river are beautiful places to walk or cycle, and admire the timeless Italian style.
More about Torino, its sights and history at this page.
Courmayeur is the winter sports center on the Italian side of Mont Blanc. Aosta Valley, a magnificent scenic drive, ends there at the foot of the high Alps that are covered with snow and glaciers. A long tunnel makes it possible to drive to Chamonix, France without having to zigzag for a day along mountain roads.
Chamonix is a pretty and pleasant town at the foot of Mont Blanc. The highest mountain in West Europe is exactly the reason why the first hotels for tourists were opened already in 1770. The town has developed into a year-round resort that welcomes a large number of international visitors (and French, of course) to enjoy the nature, landscapes and activities in the region. Chamonix may have had a reputation as a playground of the elite, but if it is, signs of this reputation are difficult to find.
You can read more about Chamonix and Mont Blanc here.
Saint-Geniez-d-‘Olt is one of the most charming small old towns I have visited in France. It is in central France, at the southern corner of Parc Naturel de l’Aubrac. Le Lot river flows through the town that is surrounded by green undulating hills. This is pretty and rather quiet region of France that gets its share of tourists in the summer. I discovered three camp sites in the town, each one located by the river, and a number of small hotels.
Rodez is the nearest large town, southwest from Saint-Geniez-d’Olt, and well worth a visit. A spectacular sight towards southeast is the famous Millau bridge (road A75) that crosses the wide canyon of river Tarn.
Gavarnie is a tiny mountain village that has become renowned because a magnificent natural sight known as the Cirque of Gavarnie is located near the village. Read our story about the Cirque of Gavarnie that explains how to find it and what to expect at the destination.
Fabreges is a tiny tourist village on the Pyrenees Mountains that has been recently established on the shore of an artificial lake of the same name. A ski lift takes skiers up the mountain in winter and hikers and mountainbikers in summer. Because of its pretty location on the mountains, Fabreges is a popular stopover for road travelers. Large motorhomes are not allowed into the village, but they can park and stay on the roadside and still enjoy the lake and mountain views. Campervans and small motorhomes can find a place to stay just above the village.