By Aimee Braniff Cree


MEET THE COUPLE who abandoned their settled lives to tour Europe in their £6K converted Fiat van.

Chiara sits on the bed at the back of the van.

Traindriver Daniele Mei (40) and his partner Saleswoman Chiara Ralli (39) from Rome Italy have left behind their mundane lives for a new lifestyle on the road.

The couple, who have been together for four years, decided to convert a Fiat Ducato into their home so that they can live on the road and pursue their passion for outdoor sports.

Before their pursuit of freedom the couple owned a 50-square-metre two-bedroom apartment over two floors, it included a bedroom, living room with kitchenette, bathroom and cellar of 20-square-metres.

It took the couple four months to convert the van while working at night. They have now been living their dream for eight months and have covered over 6,000 miles in that time.

They have travelled across Italy in this time, but have big plans this summer to move to Europe and visit Portugal or Greece.

The couple spent about £6,000 converting their van into their dream home and say the cost of living in a van is much lower than an average home, especially now.

“We have been a couple for four years now, we decided to build a camper-van to be able to live our passions,” said Daniele and Chiara.

“We do a lot of outdoor sports and the van can allow us to be exactly where the sport we want to do is done.

“We did not always plan to live in a van, it absolutely just happened, one day we said sure it would be cool to have one and we built it ourselves.

“We live in a Fiat Ducato 5.40 meters, there are six square meters of habitable space.

“It took us four months of working in the van full time to have it as what you see today. During the day we worked on the van and in the evening we went to work.”

Daniele and Chiara do not have a completely smooth life on the road, like with any home there is wear and tear and the occasional repair to be done.

“We have travelled 10,000 km in eight months. We are in a house on wheels  that we built with our own hands,” they said.

Inside the converted van is very homely.

“There are always some small adjustments and some problems right at the beginning, storage is hard to work out. We have definitely lost a few glasses to a bump in the road and figuring out how to plumb in a shower was a first for us both but now everything works wonderfully.

“I think the best part of our van is the upstairs, we created an eight square metre walk-on roof rack on the roof of the van where we can see incredible sunsets.

“The shower we have is a home-style shower with 150 litres of instant hot water. Almost better than at our old house.

“For electricity we have a 200ah lithium system which guarantees us to always have electricity for almost any eventuality.

“We have a fridge, a telephone computer, hot air and fresh water, just because we live in a van doesn’t mean we have to go without.

“Another pro is how cost effective it is, our lifestyle costs much less than a normal house. The expenses are reduced to the bone.

The Fiat Ducato.

“Reducing waste leads to significant economic savings.”

Of course there are critics of their alternative lifestyle and it is not without its bumps in the road.

“The negativity we receive comes from people who can not conceive of a life in a camper and prefer to have all the comforts of a home,” said the couple.

“In reality, we lack nothing in the van, we have a 50″ projector, a hot shower, a kitchen, a bathroom, heating, really everything they have in a house just more compact.

“We have had one problem with the shower, we were in the mountains at -15 degrees and while the internal heating worked great and we had a balmy 21 degrees internally, the water pipes froze externally so no shower.”

The lifestyle has also had them receive a lot of support and even had a few requests from others to build them a van. This is just the beginning of the couples life on the road and they plan to broaden their horizons to Europe this summer.

“When we show people our van most of them ask us if we can build one for them too, that is very flattering, I guess it means we did a good job,” said Daniele and Chiara.

“Life on the road isn’t for everyone but we love it, travelling gives you so much freedom and so many new experiences.

“So far we have travelled pretty much across Italy from North to South but this summer a massive adventure is beginning.

“We are going to move to Europe. We will go to Portugal or Greece but we are still deciding. Having our house on wheels means we can decide it even at the last minute.”