The Pains and Pleasures of driving in Italy

February 16, 2016

Guido la macchina in Italia,  I am driving a car in Italy.  For the first time, la prima volta, I chose to drive in Italy.  My cousin Sonseere and I are avid travelers and have been to Italy many times.  Yet neither of us had been brave enough to try to drive with those crazy Italian drivers. Granted, in the US I drive like that old song, “The little old lady from Pasedena.” But I am only Italian-American.  Can I hang with those true Italian drivers?

Family in Canada

Unbeknownst to me, that was the least of any issues with driving in Italy. First of all, we arrive at Fiumicino, the Rome Airport jet lagged. It took us 20 minutes just to find the Hertz desk. We had pre-booked everything, including insurance and pre-paid for it all. We were good, right?

Well, maybe not completely good. We discovered that we had to rent CHAINS for travel in the mountains in Italy, just in case it snowed. OK, fine, what does that cost? 35 Euros plus tax (Total of 51 Euros.) Ok we can pay that.

Alberta was the woman helping us. She encouraged us to buy the full coverage for collision. We declined because we had purchased it in the states.

Next we walked another eternity to pick up the cute, red Fiat 500 4 door with automatic transmission. We got in the car and had zero idea how to drive it. There is no PARK. Everything was neutral. And remember the parking brake. We forgot the parking brake. We were wondering why the engine was so noisy. Well, the parking brake was on.

After disengaging the parking brake, we drove to Santa Marinella. Sonseere drove that night and all went well. It was fun to have a car in Italy. We could go places that are difficult to reach by train and bus. We could move around the towns on our own. And we became best friends with MS. GPS WOMAN. Note to travelers wanting to use GPS on their phones in Italy. Most carriers will charge you for that. I use T-Mobile and all text and data were FREE. So all the GPS was free. We would have been lost without MS. GPS WOMAN.

Our driving route went like this:

Rome Fiumicino to Santa Marinella, Lazio, to Tarquinia to Capalbio in Tuscany and back to Santa Marinella

Santa Marinella to Cava De Tirreni and Vietri Sul Mare near Salerno on the Amalfi Coast in Campania

Cava to Melfi in Basilicata to Barletta, Puglia and up the coast through the Gargano and to Vasto, Abruzzo

Vasto to Avezzano and Paterno in the mountains of Abruzzo (did NOT need the chains we paid for!)

Avezzano to Rome and eventually back to Fiumicino.

Family in Canada

Here are the pleasures of the drive:

  • I can guido la macchina in Italia with the best of them!
  • Getting lost on the way to Cava and discovering all the beautiful coastline villages in Lazio. I had already visited Sperlonga which I love. Now I want to explore Formia and Gaeta as places to live!
  • Being on our own schedule and taking whichever detour we chose.
  • The highways were fun to drive and gas was less expensive than we thought.
  • Parking on the beach in Barletta and just wandering around. It was those surprises that were such a blessing while using the car for transportation.
  • GPS was extremely helpful in most cases.

There were some pains on this drive:

  • I felt submissive to MS. GPS WOMAN. And sometimes she played tricks on us. My least favorite trick was her route from Benevento to Melfi. MS. GPS WOMAN thought we should traverse a mountain to arrive at Melfi instead of going a few kilometers out of our way on a highway. That was our first Over the top of the mountain drive and, although the views were spectacular, we were just a bit TERRIFIED as we travelled along tiny, narrow roads with no guardrails.
  • MS. GPS WOMAN could not always keep up with us in the small towns. We would have no problem arriving in the little hill town, but getting to a particular address was, well, it was not easy. She would instruct us to turn after we had passed a street.
  • We missed many streets in the little towns. There are so many one way streets. These towns were built in medieval times after all.
  • One time when we took a wrong turn we had to turn around. We could not back out. We had to scrape against the wall as we got out of that dead end street. At that point we were VERY thankful that we had full coverage on the car.
  • About that full coverage: we actually did NOT have it. We discovered that upon returning the car. (Luckily we returned it a day early or we would have missed our flights. We did a bit of arguing Italian-style before surrendering to the 500+ Euro charge.)
Family in Canada

The Pleasures outweighed the Pains. I will do it again. If we can drive in Southern Italy I think the northern part will be a piece of cake.

If you choose to drive in Italy, remember you are in Italy. It is beautiful and unpredictable. Don’t expect your GPS to work all the time. And keep your sense of adventure and sense of humor. Who knows what you will discover, maybe your true, Italian Soul!

Ciao for now!

Ciao for now!

Follow the Ciao For Now Blog!

Thank you for following! 
Ciao for Now!

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form

Follow the Ciao For Now Blog!
Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form