15 questions with… Veronica and Stefano
How many of us have thought about a complete lifestyle change, hankering after a bit more time, adventure and going back to basics? That’s exactly what Veronica and Stefano did. We were lucky enough to catch up with them 170 days into their trip to ask ’15 questions’ and help us all recapture some much needed wanderlust!
Tell us a bit about yourselves and how you got the idea to drive your campervan around Italy?
Veronica: Our names are Veronica and Stefano. Stefano is 29 years old and I recently turned 28 years old, which we celebrated here in our campervan. We’re both from Cuneo in Piedmont, we have no children or dogs and we’ve been together for 3 and a half years now. Our campervan came into our lives almost 2 years ago. We’ve had a campervan for a few years but decided to upgrade (bathroom and extra creature comforts) when we came up with the idea to travel indefinitely
Where do you live when you are not camping?
Veronica: We’re usually based in Cuneo, where we live in a small house.
Why did you decide to tour Italy in your van?
Stefano: It was more or less a year ago that we decided to take some time out. We both had full-time jobs, which meant we could only talk and spend time together during the evenings after work – sometimes only for two hours – and we didn’t feel like that enabled us to have the relationship that we both wanted. We felt a bit trapped by our lifestyle at the time and felt we didn’t have time to relax or to bring our dreams and passions to life.
At this point we said, let’s take a year out to travel around Europe. And what’s the best way to do such a trip? In a campervan, of course! We started to put our dreams into action, and planned to leave in March 2020 and tour Europe for a year. Unfortunately, the global pandemic arrived, which we never could have predicted. (Veronica: Only that could stop us). But we said to ourselves, lets leave our jobs on standby for the time being, and what can we do instead? Discover and rediscover our own beautiful country, Italy. And do it as cheaply as possible. So we left our house on June 8th and embarked on this incredible journey that has already given us so much on a human level, in terms of meeting new people and discovering wonderful places.
You mentioned putting your jobs on standby. What do you usually do?
Stefano: I’m a massage therapist as well as a personal trainer, so I work in gyms and in a small studio of my own. During our sessions, I told my clients about my dream to travel and my passion for travel photography and blogging, and they replied: “If you don’t go, we won’t come to you anymore, so you won’t have the job here anymore!”. I guess we’d established a very special relationship; my clients were willing to wait for me to come back, and it’s because of them that I’m now enjoying this trip. I don’t know if I will come back in a month or a year, but I know that they will wait for me.
Veronica: I was a computer consultant for Microsoft, so I had a permanent job and I had to leave it. I asked for a leave of absence, but it was too difficult considering circumstances. Instead, they promised that they would hire me back when I returned from the trip and so I left, not knowing if we would return in a month or in two years.
Stefano: Our parents and our friends all thought and told us we were crazy when we first talked about this project…But working every day for 8 hours, stuck in the same old routine, just wasn’t for us.
Since you never go to campsites, you must save a lot of money, right?
Veronica: In Italy the law dictates that you can’t camp outside of a campsite, but you are allowed to park. Whenever we stop, we’re careful to respect this rule so we don’t take out tables and chairs in the evening or make any noise with music and parties.
Stefano: It’s important to use your common sense whenever you make a stop.
How do you manage important things like laundry, water hook-up, waste disposal?
Veronica: We’re lucky as there’re plenty of free parking areas in Italy with water hook-up/disposal. Apps like Fight for Night or even just Google are helpful in this sense! In terms of laundry, we found a rather innovative way. Thanks to an Australian company which we are collaborating with called Scrubba, we have a portable washing machine which is essentially a waterproof bag for doing laundry that takes up very little space. Every time it’s sunny we do our laundry – there’s never a lot with only two of us.
What do you like most about camping and driving around in your van?
Stefano: One thing that takes precedent over everything elseon our trip is the search for the perfect spot, one that will allow us wake up to an incredible sunrise or to watch the sunset on a cliff, or against a mountain. This is the main thing we always look for. Of course it’s not always easy to get to the best spots, and sometimes we aim to be on a certain cliff but end up taking the wrong roads and never make it – but I guess that’s part of the adventure too!
Veronica: Above all it is important to be in the middle of nature, as immersed as possible…it’s nice to wake up and be able to say WOW, we’re in a crazy place, we have a magnificent starry sky above us…It’s not always easy, but we try.
Can you tell us about the route you’ve taken so far?
Veronica: We left Cuneo on June 8th and went directly to Trentino where we stayed for 28. After that we went down along the east coast, visiting part of Veneto and then down to Emilia Romagna, Marche, Abruzzo, Puglia…We were also in Apulia, although it was very busy there since it was the middle of summer. Then we headed up a bit to Basilicata as we really wanted to visit Matera, and then we came to Calabria. Unfortunately we only stayed in Calabria for four days because we had to catch a ferry from San Giovanni to Sicily. We stayed for almost a month in Sicily and then travelled clockwise. We arrived in Messina and from there went to Syracuse, to Ragusa, to Trapani and to Palermo, where we then took the ferryboat and arrived in Sardinia around mid-September. We continued clockwise, travelling from Cagliari to the South coast, and are planning to now take on the West, North and East coast.
Where do you want to go next once Covid rules are relaxed and you are allowed to leave Sardinia?
Veronica: The idea was to take the ferry in mid-November/early December and go back inland to Lazio and then go up to Piedmont. We’re aiming to have Christmas with our families, but with this lockdown we decided that it was best to stay a bit longer here. Afterall, Sardinia being a yellow zone means we are still free to move around the region. We’re taking it day by day.
Stefano: It’s great that we accidentally found ourselves in Sardinia during this lockdown. Many people think that we did it on purpose, with it being in a yellow zone! Ultimately, the idea is to make it to Europe.
Have you already planned the trip to Europe?
Veronica: We’ve been planning the trip around the rest of Europe for about 6 months since it’s almost 40000 kilometres! We’ve already put points of interest on the map and are trying to time it with the best seasons. For instance, we want to go to the North Cape in Norway during the summer or in any case early summer because our campervan won’t be able to face a winter there. Our departure in March was strategic in this sense as it meant we could make the trip clockwise from Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and then go up to the North Cape around June or July.
Which destination have you liked the most – despite the fact that all of Italy is beautiful!
Stefano: As you say, Italy is truly beautiful and we’ve always slightly underrated it! I think our previous vacations were only a month at most, so we would go to the other side of the world and see places like Morocco, Philippines, Indonesia, China, etc. But we always said to ourselves that we must explore our own country properly too. The region that impressed us the most was Trentino, nestled in the Dolomites, because at every turn it was WOW – the mountains with their colours, the sunrises, the crazy evenings and the trekking and hiking. We walked and did the climbing routes; it was a paradise. We were lucky to experience it immediately after quarantine when there were fewer people around, so we were able to park in places that are usually inaccessible.
Another region that has impressed us a lot is Sardinia, where we are now, because it is a very wild area. Many people have an idea of Sardinia as a wonderful sea, a white beach and that’s it. Sardinia is so much more! There are mountains, endless meadows where you can stay with the van. If you come from the hinterland, you find a world of wild horses, cows grazing, goats, and very kind people who host you and take you to taste wines and cheeses. It’s opened up a new world for us and we’re enjoying it very much. Beyond that, Puglia has amazing views and a beautiful sea. Whilst Calabria has a very beautiful turquoise blue sea, the general territory is not well cared for and it’s a real environmental problem. We’ve tried to raise awareness about this through social media!
Any close shaves during this trip?
Veronica: Sometimes we couldn’t get to the place we wanted to because the road was too narrow or there was a barrier, so we’d find ourselves not knowing where to go in the middle of the night! Another close shave moment was in Abruzzo. We’d stopped to help a driver whose car had broken down; Stefano cut his finger and we had to go to the hospital to get stitches and stay a week in a deserted place. But everything was okay in the end and we carried on.
Stefano: it’s part of the fun, it happened, a lot of things can happen, but you’ve just got to keep positive!
Have you noticed a difference between camping before Covid and camping after Covid?
Veronica: The situation has changed in that there is now much less tourism, which on one hand is great for us because we like to be quite isolated in nature. On the other hand, we found many campsites, restaurants, and bars closed.
What are your tasks in the van and how do you share them?
Stefano: We’re both pretty useful. I like to wake up early in the morning because as a photographer I always try to catch the best light, and I typically prepare breakfast, which I quite enjoy doing. Veronica keeps the van clean and tidy and in one piece. In terms of cooking, I reckon I do a little more than her.
Veronica: Since 90% of the time Stefano is the driver, I’m the co-driver who directs us, so I make the itinerary and find places for us to stay.
Any items you find particularly useful that you’d like to share with our readers?
Veronica: Something that’s saved our lives more than once is a headlamp. Sometimes we have to get out of the van and check that the road is safe, so the headlamp allows us to have our hands free. Another essential piece of equipment is a toolbox – always handy because you never know what you’ll accidentally breakdown or something gets destroyed! Lastly, a tank to fill with water as you never know what natural fountain you might come across.
Have you made any great friends during this trip who you’ll continue to be in contact with?
Veronica: In almost every region we met fantastic travellers, as well as locals. Since we were often very deep in nature, we spent a lot of time with the herdsmen – some of whom completely took us under their wing, creating very strong friendships. Almost all the people we’ve met we are still in touch with, and we intend to organize future trips together.
Do you have any ‘must do’ advice for our readers before starting such a long journey?
Veronica: One thing I would recommend to anyone planning a long camping trip by a van or a camper is that it’s ok to plan the route, but be flexible. Whilst it’s good to have a general guideline about where to go, anything can happen along the way. You might meet people who you want to hike or trek or spend more time with and you’ll end up completely turning your whole itinerary upside down in order to do so!
Do you still plan to get home in time for Christmas and spend it with your family?
Veronica: Ehhh…big question, since we still haven’t seen the western part of Italy yet, such as Campania and Lazio. The idea is to do it a bit faster now, so from here in Sardinia to Olbia, to the Civita Vecchia, then quickly to the Lazio and Tuscany area and then go home. If not for Christmas, then for New Year’ s Eve or for the beginning of the year. But a stop at home to organize all the videos and photos that we have from this trip is absolutely necessary.
Speaking of the photos, I noticed some great shots on your socials, so I understand that Stefano is the photographer and you, Veronica, are his model?
Stefano: Together we can do beautiful things.
Do you intend to make your own page where you will share your journeys and experiences?
Veronica: When we started, we created a website that has yet to be completed due to traveling and doing so many other things right now. It’s one of those things that we’ll have to finish once back home. We’re on Instagram as well as YouTube. Our most popular story was on YouTube, so we mainly tell our adventures there. On Instagram we take photos of the spot, whereas on YouTube we tell you how we reached that spot, what we did there, and other behind the scenes stuff.
Stefano: Although drone footage is great at showing how beautiful some of the places we visit are, telling a place’s story in a single photo is not easy. Therefore, we decided to open a YouTube channel to give viewers a proper 360 degree shot of our adventure.
A final message for our readers…
Follow your dreams and passions!
On social media, full-time vanlifers Veronica and Stefano are best known as the popular ‘KeepEnchanted’ account. You can keep up to date with their adventure by following them on their socials, as listed below:
We would love to publish more of your stories for the CampInn community, if you would like to share your own experiences of camping please contact the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.