Driving in Italy

Old Apr 4th, 2007, 10:04 PM
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Driving in Italy

We are renting a car in Florence (at the airport, I guess) and driving, via Lucca, to Riomaggiore. How scary is that drive? My DH insists on a car. Also we will be driving to Lake Maggiore (Baveno) and then to Lake Como (Bellagio). Any info on that would be appreciated! (like, perhaps, a ferry from somewhere??)
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 01:41 AM
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Not scary to drive in Italy. It is a very highly developed country and roads are generally good. Especially the Autostrada (like freeways/interstates)and the other larger highways (for instance the super-stradas). Even the smaller roads are normally very good to drive.

Signage on the major roads is also generally good. Sometimes in villages and on small roads it is a little less, but you probably won't get lost very quick!

Italians can drive a little fast (especially on the Autostrada- on some three-lane-parts you are allowed to drive 150 km per hour!). And a little reckless (but they mostly endanger themselves and not others with that!) on the smaller roads, but in general are pretty courteous drivers. They won't push you off the road or something.

IMHO the bad-stories you sometimes hear about driving in Italy are generally exaggerated.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 04:33 AM
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Not scary at all in fact you'll probably very much enjoy the driving experience itself and the flexibility you'll have. Some recommendations: Arrange for your rental before you leave you'll save a lot of money (AutoEurope is a good choice). 2. Get a detailed road map (like Touring Club Italiano) of the regions you'll be traveling in. 3. You don't say when you're going to be there. Parking will be a problem in Bellagio during prime time if your hotel doesn't provide it. 4. Stay right on the highways unless you're passing.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 04:44 AM
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>Stay right on the highways unless you're passing.<

Good tip! Especially for Americans who are used to the keep-your-lane-principle!

In Europe the left lanes of the freeways are primaliry used for passing! You myust return back to the right lane as quick as possible.

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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 05:14 AM
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I agree with the posters above, driving in Italy is very easy. The roads are well marked and the highways are in excellent condition. Do make sure you get a good map and know the name of the towns you are seeking in Italian. It's Milan in the US but Milano in Italy, which isn't hard, but Florence is Frienze so not quiet as easy. You will love the driving experience in Italy and no worries. Enjoy.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 05:32 AM
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I've driven in Italy a few times now and I haven't had any problems. Definitely move to the right lane AS FAST AS POSSIBLE after passing in the left lane. One time, just as I was getting back into the right lane, a car was right up there behind me. It seemed he came out of nowhere!

Monica
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 05:43 AM
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Hi A,

I think that the major problem with having a car will be finding a place to park.

It's 1:30 hr from Florence to Lucca, and 1:30 hr from Lucca to Riomaggiore by train.

I suggest that you get your car in La Spezia before heading to the Lakes.

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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 06:26 AM
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I agree with TommieG's observations, and find Italy and Germany easy places to drive save for a few cities, Florence being one. Learn the International Road Signs. In towns and cities keep a "third eye" on watch for mopeds and scooters, particularly passing on your right. The Autostradas tend to be expensive and not paricularly interesting. I only use them when I need to make time.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 06:54 AM
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Thanks, All! That makes me feel better. We are leaving next week actually, and we are assured that the hotels we have picked have parking.
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 08:24 AM
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The worst part of the drive will probably be getting out of Florence. Talk about heavy traffic!
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Old Apr 5th, 2007, 08:37 AM
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The drive from Florence (Firenze) to Riomaggiore--one of the 5 Cinque Terre Villages--shouldn't be bad at all.

Last summer we were coming from France driving to the C.T and were staying in Vernazza. That is a harder drive as after you exit the autostrada the road is very narrow. When we left the C.T. we were heading to Tuscany and that drive wasn't as bad. There are some hairpins but nothing like coming from the north. Are you staying in Riomaggiore? You will love the Cinque Terre!

Buon Viaggio!
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 07:09 AM
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Yes, we are staying in Riomaggiore at the Locanda del Sole, which a friend tells me is wonderfully situated. Then we are heading for Santa Margherita Ligure to explore Portofino and Camoghlia. Hope it doesn't rain!
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 07:33 AM
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I agree with Ira.

Lucca is a walled city with almost no parking at all inside the walls. Driving to Lucca from Firenze is boring. Like being on a freeway. Taking a car anywhere near the Cinque Terre is a pain. You don't say what time of year you are going, but the roads leading to CT from the autostrada can experience hours-long traffic jams in nice weather, especially weekends. Ditto Portofino.

Camogli and Santa Margherita Ligure are reachable by train from Riomaggiore. You can reach Portofino by bus or ferry (or even walk) from Santa Margherita Ligure. You can take a ferry from Camogli to Portofino.

Unless you are adept at driving steep narrow roads and squeezing into unusual parking places on an angle, you're not likely to enjoy driving in Liguria. It's a good idea to rent a car to go to the lakes (particularly Lago Maggiore) but pick up the car in La Spezia or Genova after leaving Riomaggiore.

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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 07:33 AM
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I agree that the drive from Florence to Riogmaggiore is relatively easy and also very scenic. I also agree with Ira that it makes more sense to wait until you are leaving Riomaggiore and rent a car in La Spezia, unless you are only spending one night in Riomaggiore. There is no need for a car there and the train transportation from Florence to Riogmaggiore is excellent, cheap, and scenic.

With regard to driving, two things that surprised me about the autostradas is that on some, there is very little shoulder and many of them have only two lanes, one very fast one for passing and for very fast drivers and one much slower one for pokey trucks and people who don't like to drive fast. It takes a little practice to pass the slow trucks and then return to the slow lane when a very fast car is bearing down on you. Driving on the secondary roads in Tuscany, Umbria, and Sicily is much simpler.

With regard to driving in Cinque Terre, I found the road from La Spezia to Riomaggiore, then Manarola, and on to the little villages above Manarola of Groppo and Volastra fine. Beyond that point, heading toward Vernazza, I was most uncomfortable - the road was very narrow and steep with hairpin turns and no guardrails. Fortunately, we didn't encounter any other cars but we did turn back.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 07:38 AM
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Sorry. I just noticed you said you are leaving next week.

Being there in April will help ease the possibilities of traffic jams.

If you drive to Lucca, there is a large public parking place (about 10e per day) right near the train station, and from there you can easily enter the small walled city.

You may find that ferries are not running in rainy or stormy weather. If you get rain, scale back your plans to do a lot of hill driving or even hiking in Liguria because the roads and walkways are slick. A good rainy day alternative is a train trip to Genova.

If you have time, and especially if the ferries are running, consider adding Portovenere to your itinerary.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 08:24 AM
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The signage in Italy is less than par. Get very good detailed maps.

Route numbers are nice but they are nearly worthless. Learn the names of all the villages along your route.

Bring a compass. You'll never see a sign like "Route 66 west."

Know the traffic signs in Italy. The EU has a common design for these. Do a google search. There are internet sites with more illustrations than you will ever need.

Be careful of parking signs. If there is a sign under these it will be written in Italian and may give conditions or restrictions.

If there are no parking meters look around for a parking ticket dispenser. Buy a ticket and put it on your dashboard.

Hotels with parking usually have less than enough spaces for all guests. Many people travel by public transport and do not need parking. Hotels with off-street parking usually charge extra for it.

Make sure that you tailgate at max speed or they will know that you are an American.


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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 09:27 AM
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I meant to say there often aren't breakdown lanes on the autostradas - there are shoulders but sometimes they are very narrow.
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Old Apr 6th, 2007, 10:13 AM
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Also driving up the Bellagio peninsula is supposed to be a bit harrowing. You could park you car in Como and take the hydrofoil to Bellagio. Or park in Varenna and take the ferry. And your sightseeing from Bellagio will be on the boats, whether with the car or without.

Too bad your DH insists on the car since many of the places you're going, i.e. Lucca, the Cinque Terre, Bellagio, are better seen by public transportation.
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