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How to avoid tunnels between France and Italy

fear of tunnels

You know you should not avoid your fears but confront them. Now having said that, let me tell all you fellow tunnel-fearing-claustrophobics how to get from the South of France to Croatia passing by Italy without tunnels 😉 There are about 90 or more tunnels on the stretch of highway between Nice and Genova, shorter and longer ones, so getting from France to Italy without tunnels can be quite tricky. The worse is over after Genova but still: Italy obviously loves tunnels, they’ve got loads of them.

There are a few things you will need to avoid tunnels in your life


You will need lots of money and time to afford a (anykind of) phobia. Getting from A to B without tunnels is time consuming and often means more stops, which means more meals and more hotels/campings/whatever, which means spending more money. As you will need more time too, you will need longer holidays to get from there to there so it would be nice if you would be like a millionair or something.

Viable excuses

What are you going to say this time to your very patient partner driving the car and wanting to get to point B somewhere in his lifetime preferably. How ever patient he/she is, there will come a point when they will get fed up of driving a stretch of road in four hours instead of one. Here are some excuses:

  • No queues, darling (not one other car on the whole road stretch, that’s for sure)
  • Great scenery (you would not have that view in a tunnel, honey)
  • Undiscovered villages (what an authentic and off the beaten path village, discovered thanks to my wanting to avoid those boring tunnels, little pumpkin)
  • No expensive toll roads (but don’t mention the extra fuel)

Good maps

You do not want to end up in some 6 km’s long tunnel in Croatia because the road is new and the map is old (ok, speaking from my own experience there) so get new maps. Every trip (told you it’s expensive to be claustrophobic). Regular maps are often not completely up to date, roads change constantly, which is the strength of all those internet maps.

Internet connection

Check the driving directions on an online route planner to plot out your traject. I mostly use Viamichelin. The Anwb is also real good with tunnels but they only mention the tunnels that have undergone a tunnel test. If you find a tunnel on your way, check how long it is and plan an alternate road if needed. This site has a list of tunnels in France. This site is always quite well updated and lists tunnels everywhere in the world, it’s a good site to check some tunnels you’re not sure about.

Self confidence

Ok, so you’re afraid of tunnels, so what? Don’t feel embarrassed,  ashamed or guilty towards your travel companion(s) or whatever. You might be afraid of tunnels, some other person will be afraid of spiders or dogs or tomatoes or whatever. Eventhough your fear is irrational, if it’s there it’s there: Live and let live.

You know what some very famous guy once said: “The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”  Or was it: “the brave man is not he who does not feel afraid but he who finds a creative way to avoid that fear” (some psy somewhere is gonna get mad over that one, that’s for sure)


Always stay the closest to the sea (or eventually a river) as you can. Forget that freezing little trip to Austria. No really, believe me, that will keep you out of trouble, it will! Mountains mean tunnels meaning chose a sun-sea holiday over a snowy-ski holiday (and anyway the food is better on the Italian coast then in Austria).

And drink water while in the car, water helps against the stress, it also helps to smoke less if you’re a smoker and smoking will get your stress level up.

Know your languages

You will need to know the word for tunnel in all the possible languages. Asking a local if there are any tunnels on a road is not a question they often hear. If you then gesticulate making some kind of tent gesture above your head while you look like you just ate a lemon, it might end you up in the looney house so get your facts right!

claustrophobic in tunnels
Italian tunnel (c) Paolo Margari

Also do check, check and double check: Your map tells you this. Check on the internetplanner. Check. Doublecheck other internetplanner. Check. Ask some local somebody (gas stations are useful for that!). Check.

You know I’m not giving you tips to get over your phobia, as avoid and checking and double checking and triple checking will only get you more stressed on the spot, diminish your traveling pleasure and make your fears grow, slowly but surely. Ok?

Last point: always be aware of the color of the roadsigns indicating highways or national roads. These are different in different countries. Like for ex. in France the highway signs are blue, but in Italy the highway signs are green and the other roads are blue so that can get you confused or worse: it can lead you towards the wrong claustro-road.

Tips if you do end up in a tunnel

If you do end up in a tunnel by accident, focus on the small sign at the entrance saying how long it will be. Under the 1 km you should be ok: count kangaroos (1 kangaroo, 2 kangaroos, 3 kangaroos). More than 1 km is no fun: to keep from hyperventilating whistle or breath deeply (inhale through your noise until the count of three, hold your breath till the count of three, exhale while counting to three again) , look in your mirror to see the entrance of the tunnel until you see the exit in front of you, and if you are not driving look around (left, right, don’t stare straight ahead)

fear of tunnels
Tunnel in Italy (c) Andrea Marutti

So back to the whole point of this post. You want to avoid tunnels but not stay at home for the rest of your life. While I write this, I realise a good option would also be to just emigrate to for example Australia where they nearly don’t have any tunnels because Europe is probably not the best continent to have a tunnelfear but ok, well, you want to drive from France to Italy without tunnels so how do you do that?

Tunnels between France and Italy

France, unlike Italy, has big stretches of highway with no tunnels so you can get around France quite easily. Like if you want to go from Paris to Nice, you will only have some annoying tunnel to avoid in Lyon.

I must confess this next road is not compeletely tunnelfree but the few ones you can’t avoid are really very small/short, like under the 500 meters. Now coming from the North/West on the A8 highway things will get tricky around Nice. Before that you’re fine. First of all get the **** out of the highway before passing Nice.

So you are on the A8 coming from the North, get out from the highway at nr. 50 “Nice – Promenade des anglais”. Just continue driving straight along the Promenade des Anglais until you arrive to the port. Then follow the sign to Villefranche. Just keep following the coastal road towards Italy. You will have a small tunnel on this coastal road though, which cannot be avoided between Villefranche and Monaco. It’s short, about 500m but it’s not straight so you don’t see the exit right away.

Monaco is tricky

Monaco is a tricky part to get from France to Italy without tunnels, as they’ve built tunnels everywhere. It’s very annoying. What you actually have to do, it sounds easier then it is, is just drive straight from the moment you drive into Monaco until you drive out of it so the road will go left and right and so on, which is fine but you should not leave that road so just drive straight.

When you arrive from Villefranche you will see the entrance of a tunnel on your left, you need to turn left to get in it. Same thing a bit furtherdown but then on the right. So just ignore any left and rights until you get out of that little tunnely country.  Are you in Menton? You can breath now.

tunnel near monaco
Tunnel in Monaco (c)

Not for too long though cause you’ll have one tunnel between the Italian border and Ventimiglia. Now you are in Italy you will have to stay on this road, which is called SP1 or SS1 or Via Aurelia depending on where you are but it’s just the same road, following mostly the coastline. So you made it from France to Italy without tunnels (nearly), let’s get to Croatia now – still avoiding them.

Tunnels until Genova

You can avoid the Ventimiglia tunnel (it’s around 500m), you’ll see the tunnel towards Ventimiglia straight in front of you but there will be a small road on the right saying “alta Ventimiglia”, that will take you around the tunnel in just a few minutes. This tunnel is called Galleria Poggio. So remember: tunnel in Italian is Galleria!

Keep on driving on the SP1 towards Bordighera. You will have a small tunnel of about 200 meters right after Bussana around Arma di Taggia. Now enjoy the scenery until Imperia.

Because Imperia is a bigger town it might get a bit complicated to find your way there and stay on the SP1 and not ending up on the A10 which is the highway with all those tunnels. Just follow the blue signs towards Genova and you should be fine. No tunnels until Andora. You will have a tiny one right after Andora on the Capo Mele and kind of a half a tunnel before Laigueglia. You know it’s not really a tunnel cause it’s open on one side. Stop in Laigueglia, it’s such a nice little town!!

france to italy without tunnels
“Open” tunnel (c) Funchye, Flickr

Ok driving on, driving on (you know you would have been in Genova for hours now if you would have followed the Autostrada dei Fiori but this is much nicer, it really is a beautiful stretch but because you drive through every little town on the way it takes really long). So you are still on the Via Aurelia/SP1/SS1, your next tunnels are a ini mini tiny one between Alassio and Albenga and again a very tiny one right before Finale Ligure. Between Finale Ligure and Noli you will have three but they are all three under the 300 meters and you see the exit as soon as you drive into them, no prob.

Ok attention please: After Spotorno, before Savona, the blue signs towards Genova will say you should turn to the left. Same thing if you are driving with a GPS they will send you left here. Left is a very long (and new so not to be seen on most maps) tunnel, which you can very easily avoid by just driving straight on your road and ignore all signs and GPS voices sending you left. You will then end up in Savona at the same point you would end up if you had taken the tunnel.

france to italy without tunnels
Via Aurelia (c) alessandro calzolaro

Again two small ones after Savona. One between Savona and Albisola Marina (200m), one between Albisola Marina and Celle Ligure (300m). Both straight so you see the exit.

The last ones before Genova will be three little tunnels one after the other within 10 minutes after Arenzano.

Between Genova and Piacenza

Ok so you made it to Genova! Tunnelwise the worst is behind you after Genova, if you would want to continue on the highway. You will have tunnels but less then the first stretch from France. I will write about the tunnels going South from Genova one of these days.

Meanwhile here is an alternative road to Croatia from Genova if you have some extra time to spare and want to avoid all tunnels. When you arrive towards Genova on the SP1/SS1/Via Aurelia from France you will have two highways on your left going North. The first one is the A26, the second is the A7, which goes from Genova to Milano. There are tunnels on both so the only way to avoid tunnels here is to take the SP35 which is parallel to the A7. This is not a beautiful road though.

france to italy without tunnels
Beautiful scenery along Via Aurelia (c) lorenzo_t, Flickr

As much as you could enjoy the scenery from France getting here over the Via Aurelia, the enjoy part is over now. It looks like all industry and that kind of ugly stuff here. Just go straight and stay on the SP35 until Serravalle Scrivia. There you can rejoin the A7 autostrada, then to the right on the A21 after Tortona towards Piacenza. No tunnels anymore. After Piacenza you turn right on the A1 towards Parma and Bologna.

The drive to Ancona

Then the A14 towards Ancona. You will have some small tunnels between Rimini and Ancona, nothing major. After Riccione one of 280m, then 2 before Pesaro (180 and 130 m), then between Pesaro and Fano an awkward one. It’s very short, only 285m but it’s awkward and you don’t see the exit right away as it’s not straight.

Then on to Ancona, there are some tunnels after Ancona so get off the highway towards the ferry port of Ancona. You will end up on the national road nr. 16, two small tunnels here (200m and 171m both where you see the exit) and then get off towards the ferry port before the third tunnel.

Port of Ancona (c) K_Dafalias

Just follow the signs towards the ferry, they are very clear. Get on one of the ferries (we take the Jadrolinija ferry), sleep and wake up in Split, Croatia.

Will tell you all about getting to Croatia by land without tunnels another time, that’s also a beautiful trip as well! Have a great holiday and hang in there. You’ll be ok 🙂

10 reacties op “How to avoid tunnels between France and Italy”

  1. Let me share my experience. My wife has claustrophobia (tunnels, planes, elevators etc.). My home country is Poland. We have been going on vacation to France, Austria, Germany, UK, Netherlands, Spain, Italy every year for the last 15 years and never ever drove through a channel! So, it is possible but not easy. Italy was by far the most difficult country. We’ve been using car navigation system with “avoid channel” option for the last 2 years and as you can imagine it changed our driving experience dramatically. The system was very reliable. The trouble is it came with the cars that I no longer have (built-in – Audi & Skoda Superb). I am currently looking for a navi system with “avoid tunnel” option that I could buy without necessarily buying a new car. Does anyone know of any such system?

  2. Thanks so much for this, I am terribly claustrophobic and get so anxious every time we go abroad about getting stuck in tunnels, this has been really reassuring that other people feel the same way I do. I’m currently looking for a sat nav with the ‘avoid tunnels’ option too!

  3. Thank you so much for this. I spend my life organising routes around tunnels – known to my long suffering family as TAS – Tunnel avoidance schemes. I have lots all around the world – even in Australia – they are busy buliding tunnels – Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and Paris is just full of tunnels. Sat nav is hopeless and you’re so right about maps – very quickly out-of-date, or they just don’t show tunnels. Some TAS are closed in the winter so you have no choice. Perhaps we should all pool are ideas- so we have lots of different places to visit tunnel free!

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