Sunday, August 17, 2008

Italian Driver's are Crazy

It's true. We've now joined the club of those who have survived the Italian Highways and Byways. It's not that bad but sort of.

So you can imagine the small bit of relief we felt at these road signs shortly after returning across the Italian/Swiss border after 7 days in Italy (relief from driving, sadness due to the cuisine options we were leaving behind). Driving is just, well, a bit more orderly and predictable on the Swiss side. Here is a cute little car I just had to snap. Unlike the SmartCar, this one has 4 seats - but isn't much bigger.
On the 'Autostrada' (freeway) going to Montepulchiano. That little car ahead of us is filled with 5 adults - all the luggage is on top. This is norm. No big giant cars. Ours is as big as I would drive in Europe - a mid-sized SUV-ish thing. Considering that the white lines on the roads appear to be guides vs a standard, anything bigger would be driven at your own risk.
An example of roadsigns - similar to Portugal. It is extremely helpful to have a driver and navigator. When coming on a group of signs like this, you really need 2 pairs of eyes watching, and seeing which way the arrow is pointing (see how they're all going in opposite directions!) - most importantly - you really need to know where you're going. For instance, depending on where you're located, Gaiole may be in the direction of Siena or Florence.

Then you find yourself on a narrow road thinking "2 cars can't pass each other on this one" when you see a "narrow road" sign and think "How can this road get any narrow?"

Because it does this:

This is an example of a normal road going through the Chianti region of Italy.

Additional points to high-light our driving experiences in Italy:
  • As I mentioned, the white dividing lines on roads appear to be guidelines. More often than not, you will find yourself sharing YOUR lane with the vehicle coming around the corner at you. "Stay on your side of the road" loses its effectiveness after the 40th or so exclamation. This includes the Autostrada at 130km/hr.
  • There are many numbers on roadsigns. It takes a while to determine what your actual legal limit may be - or when it returns to the normal posted limit.
  • There are auto-speed boxes everywhere. We are waiting with breathless anticipation for a slew of tickets in the mail.
  • Considering all the individuals who flew by me at 130km/hr in the 90 km zone, I may be holding my breath for the tickets - I was only going 110.
  • A strong stomach and hands are needed for the Autostrada between Florence and Bologna - fast, curvy and lots of tunnels. And sharing your lane.
  • The Chianti region (where we spent most of our time) is a consistent pattern of winding roads - not all of which are paved. It is hilly, curvy, wild with beautiful patterns of vineyards and orchards. And you must share your lane.
  • I didn't hit a single biker. For the brave of heart, biking would be beautiful - most bikers don't like to share their lane. Leaving you to pass them on the far left! Wondering who is coming around the corner because you know they are NOT in their own lane.
  • As I drove the Italian portion of our way home, I understood why Bart was so tired after 7 hrs of driving on our way down. They estimated 8 million Italians were on the road (holiday season) the day we drove down - we probably saw 7 million of them on the road.

We had a great time. Glad we never had need for the Polizia numbers posted on ALL the roads.

If you have a chance to vacation in Italy outside of seeing the major cities (Roma, Florence, etc..), renting a car and really seeing the country is the way to do it. The countryside is beautiful. And much of it feels a lot like California. But with Italians. Which is close enough in language to Spanish. Feels a lot like California!

Can't decide what to do with the next post - food or location?


Anonymous said...

I found it amusing to see the cute little Fiat on your blog since you spent the first year of life buzzing around Germany in that very model..just a different color. Gee no car seat or child's amazing you survived. Mom E

Anonymous said...

This Italian cretino tried to run me over (this will take you to a page with the license plate and car description, please help to spread the word):
BA089DL, BA 089 DL, BA 089DL