Road Trip

Why travel insurance is important – lessons from our Italy road trip

Our road trip to Italy was amazing! Not because we didn’t run into any problems, but because we were well covered by our travel insurance.

Why travel insurance is important

When travelling by car to Italy there are a number of things that are pretty essential:

  • A good camera – Italy is sooo beautiful, especially Tuscany
  • A well planned itinerary – try Route Perfect, it’s fantastic
  • A good appetite – the food is out of this world
  • Italian driving techniques to survive the traffic
  • An Italian car with a good horn, and last but not least…
  • A good travel insurance

We found out the last one when we broke down in our Audi A6 in Tuscany, climbing a rambling hill up to visit Montalcino, one of the beautiful wine villages there. Of course the car broke down just on a rather dangerous corner, meaning we had to evacuate everything quickly, move the girls off the main road and place our triangle 30 yards down the hill to stop any further accidents. Not that this helped much though. One friendly Italian stopped his car right in front of our warning triangle and then set off promptly running it over and destroying it. Luckily we were helped by a very friendly local wine grower Roberto, who called a local garage to get the car towed away. (If he hadn’t I think we would still be there!)

Contacting our travel insurance:

We spent a very hot (40°C) afternoon waiting for a diagnosis on the car – finally the result came back: broken fuel injector pump. Ha, we thought – easy to fix. No, of course not. It is an Audi. It seems that whole front of the car needed to come off to get it opened up. And then there was the risk of nothing working anymore when you put a new one in because these parts are all electronically coded by Audi so you have to use original parts that cost a fortune. So OK, no problem.  Let the insurance find an Audi dealer who can fix it and we shall relax in the lovely village of Buonconvento and sample the vino until all is sorted by the insurance (it sounds much more relaxing writing it now than how we actually felt then!).

However this is Italy, where Audi dealers are few and far between, and were they interested? No, they had their own customers to help, and it was holiday time so not all the garages were fully staffed. Countless phone calls back and forth to our insurance, we were getting nowhere! It didn’t help that working hours were so different between the Netherlands and Italy (where they don’t work between 13.00 and 15.00 as they are having lunch – yes, the Romans did have the right idea). It was clearly going to take more than two days to get the car sorted so we had the right to a hire car for the rest of the holiday (phew…) and the insurance would repatriate our Audi, to let our local garage try and fix it.

But now to find a replacement car

However the next problem was finding a hire car in Tuscany. Be aware – they do not have them there in the summer. There was nothing within a 150 mile radius that our car insurance could find. Even in Florence where they have an airport! Car insurances have their partner dealers where they hire cars from – they don’t just accept any car and prices. Also we needed one that would fit our camping gear of course – it needed a reasonably sized boot. So we had to agree to pick up a hire car in Rome some time in the future after deciding that the offered solution of us travelling back to Germany to pick up a car was not really feasible!

It sounds like the process was easy but it wasn’t! We are grateful for our insurance’s help but it took 3 days of our holidays to get the car assessed and to find a solution for a hire car. It resulted in a lot of replanning for us. So when we had exhausted the restaurants in Buonconvento and stayed an unplanned 3 nights there we travelled by train to Rome, and eventually nine days after breaking down we got our hands on a replacement car! Yes, that is right, we didn’t have a car through 9 days during our road trip!

Nonetheless, the outcome would have been even worse had we not had a good car insurance in place.

Some of the costs covered by our travel insurance below:

  • Tow car + assessment in Buonconvento = €200
  • 3 nights hotel in Buonconvento = €570
  • 1 extra night hotel in Rome (+ dinner)  = €250
  • Taxis to pick up and return hire car & hotel to campsite = €80
  • 2 x 3 day Roma cards = €56
  • Extra vignette for Switzerland (for hire car) = €38
  • Train tickets from Buonconvento to Rome = €93
  • Repatriation of our car = €500
  • Hire car for the rest of our holidays and return that car in another country = €500

Total: €2287,00

*PS1; these costs are estimated; some invoices were sent directly from the service provider to our insurance and we didn’t get to see the bill.

*PS2; our yearly family travel insurance paid for some of the costs while our car travel insurance paid for others.

Our travel + car (emergency assistance for Europe) insurance costs us about €380 per year. It covers the whole family during our travels. If it wasn’t for our insurance we would have had a big unplanned bill to pay. All was sorted in the end through our insurances and financially we had no major downside expect for the car repair.

We ended up enjoying our stay in Buonconvento and we didn’t let the change of plans spoil our time; we only lost 4 days of planned adventures which we replaced by walking in sunflower fields and sampling the great food and wine in Buonconvento and Rome. In fact there was one advantage on all of that; we did not have to drive in Rome, where we would not have been able to park anyway, and avoided paying parking fees. So in the end it worked out fine!

For the Audi it didn’t – after repatriation we traded her in for a Renault (for our upcoming French adventures)!

 

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