Venice Hotels Articles

July 31, 2010

Memoirs: Traveling

Driving in Italy A Tourist’s Worst Nightmare or a Cultural Awakening?

My mother had always wanted to visit the hill towns of Tuscany in Italy. So there was no doubt that we were going to have to drive.

She and my best friend Ruth and I started in Paris. We rented our car the day we were leaving. Everyone said that you’d be crazy to drive in Paris, so we didn’t. We did have to drive from the rental car agency out of Paris, however. We circled bravely around the roundabout at the Place de la Concorde (once known as Place de la Revolution and yes, this is where they guillotined everyone- nowadays they only execute tourists daring to drive there). We were trying desperately to make the needed Left onto the Boulevard by the Seine. We chose badly at the last moment and ended up having to go one way all the way back to where we began at the Madeleine Church, a lengthy, though scenic journey.

Patience prevailed and we did get out of town. Paris is where I first learned about lanes disappearing and reappearing. Suddenly three lanes turn to only two, requiring a quick and flawless merge. Flawless meaning the $35,000 midnight blue rental Citroen does not get damaged. Quick meaning no one screamed French obscenities and honked mercilessly at me. Life would have been easier with a smaller, less expensive car. Europe is made for those little half pint cars. But, did I mention we were 3 women traveling for a month in Europe? The first thing I did when we got the car was measure the trunk. It was large. It was an Avis Class E Car. Still we barely fit everything in. And this was before we began to shop in earnest.

The Italians have the disappearing lane trick everywhere. How else would they know who were the tourists, if they did not see us floundering in wonderment, weaving desperately? Are we in the right or left? We were in the middle, but now there’s no middle! What does one do when there’s suddenly no middle? Not even any lines to tell you; just suddenly there is no room.

Paris did not prepare me for what we would see in Italy. Italian driving made Parisian driving seem sane. I think that nothing on earth could have prepared anyone for Italian driving.

In Italy, all signs everywhere lead to the Autostrade. The Autostrade is the toll freeway. If you are trying to get somewhere (say from Venice to Florence) you will get shunted onto the Autostrade. If you decide that you are tired of paying tolls every 10 or 20 kilometers and decide to get off, you will

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