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Here is the sum total of my experience in driving in Italy.

Here is the sum total of my experience in driving in Italy.

Nov 30th, 2001, 08:13 PM
  #1  
Dean
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Here is the sum total of my experience in driving in Italy.

Its fun! You will have a freedom in the country sides you will never have any other way (unless you hire a guide and driver). In the cities its worthless and a pain in the sit-upon! And finally, after having driven in Italy you will know your heart is in good condition or you will have died from a heart attack.

Don't drive in Naples!

Stop often and eat gelato.

Stop for all castles and ruins.

Follow all signs for Etruscan tombs no matter what you were planning on doing.


Renting

Don’t drive in Naples!

I have rented both from my travel agent and with InItaly.com. Both have used Auto Europe as well as others. Much better rates if you prepay here. You will get a voucher and then all you get is a bill after returning the car for the final fill up and maybe an airport fee. Auto Europe is just about everywhere so if you go somewhere served well by train or to a big city, you can arrange to pick up a car at the end and head off to the countryside.

You have to take all the collision and comprehensive coverage’s, which is best anyway. On one trip, driving in a lot of city centers, I tore off part of the bumper cover, scratched the side of the car and pulled off a mud flap. No I'm not that bad of a driver but this was before I learned to park outside the center and walk in! All they said when I turned in the car was "Grazie e Arrivaderci!" With all the coverage’s all you have to do is have the key at the end.

With a pre paid voucher for Auto Europe you get a free upgrade if available but you have to ask in Italy at the counter. We got an Audi A4 wagon for the price of an Alfa 146 wagon. What a deal! But again, you have to ask for the upgrade when you pick up the car.
 
Nov 30th, 2001, 08:14 PM
  #2  
Dean
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The Autostrade

Don’t drive in Naples!

You always need a ticket when you get on the Autostrada unless you hit a pay booth where they take money first. But if you hit a booth with no one there look for a way to take a ticket. I did not once and now I have a dossier in Italy with 3 inches thick of paperwork because I did not take a ticket coming out of Milano going from the Tangenziale to the A4.

Autostrada are signed with major cities at the entrance. If you are in Bologna and want to go to Firenze, you need to go “Roma”. Off ramps are signed with the names of several principal towns. Try reading 6 or 7 town names at 100 mph in the dark looking for Castellina in Chianti. Of course you can always get off at the next off ramp and get back on to the ramp you passed because you couldn’t. Remember, if you’re lost, you are having an adventure! Many towns will show up on several successive signs. Sometimes a town is signed on the off ramp and then its very far away on a twisty dirt road. If you had gone one more off ramp it would have been just a few Km. On a newly paved road. Remember, you are fully insured!

Never make a u turn or take the opposite direction on an autostrada. You will face a huge fine when you try to exit. This happened to some friends of mine and they had to pay a $400 fine!

On the autostrada you can pay using the Va Card lanes only if you have a card with a 4 digit pin. You don't need to enter the pin to go through the lane, but my regular credit cards did not work. The Va Card lanes are fastest, especially if there is traffic.

Autogrille (one of the most common and IMHO the best food places on the autostrade) has quite good espresso and cappuccino, great prosciutto sandwiches, and fresh orange juice. You can get fresh pasta and entrees at some locations, but as good as Autogrille is its still a gas station. The food will be nothing remotely like the road side swill offered in the US. I know I am in Italy when I have had my first (of many) Autogrille caffe and panino al prosciutto. You can buy prosciutto, cheese, wine, acqua mierale, etc. As at most bar in Italy, you look at what you want first, pay and take the receipt to the bar for your order. They typically offer clean and busy bathrooms. Be a sport and give the attendant L500 or L1000 and think of the horribly smelly bathrooms you would get in the US.
 
Nov 30th, 2001, 08:16 PM
  #3  
Dean
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Local customs

Don’t drive in Naples!

Gas is tricky in Italy. On the autostrada you will find gas often and very well signed. Every gas station has a bar or a ristorante. In cities, gas stations tend to be on the outside of the center. Off the Autostrada they may close for lunch and from 7pm to 7am, especially outside of the main cities. Self Serve is now sprouting up. You need bank notes (L50,000 are best, have spares in case the reader won't take your first bill, and it won't). There is usually only one machine to take the payment and you need to enter the pump number. Pago and pagare (I pay, to pay) mean pay so look for that. I have never got a credit card to work at a self serve. If you don't use all the amount you prepay, return to the pay station and get a receipt which you can return with to get your change.

Most stations are full serve. "Pieno" is fill it up and "Senza piombo" is unleaded.

The Carbanieri are out in force on all Italian holidays so obey the speed limit. On non Holidays this is good advice to get you killed. I think that not speeding in Italy is a mortal sin.

Fiat Punto's and 500's and the tri wheeled truck-thingies are deathtraps. Never drive in one and they will drive you nuts trying to pass them in the hills.

Following the signs on the minor roads in Italy is an adventure. You will be looking for signs marked Certaldo and then all of a sudden Certaldo is not on the next three signs. You are now lost. Or not. Stop at the nearest bar, order a caffe and ask. You will be told sempre diretto (or straight ahead). Always. Remember, if you are lost you are having an adventure.
 
Nov 30th, 2001, 08:17 PM
  #4  
Dean
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More advice


Don't drive in Naples!

Drive fast and don't look in the rear view mirror. You don't want to know!

Pull over and let all German cars pass immediately. In fact, pull over and let all cars pass immediately. If you get passed by a Fiat Punto, a Panda or one of those three wheel truck-thingies you have probably crashed or driven into a ditch.

If you get lost, you are having an adventure.

Don't drive in Naples!

The Costeria Amalfi (Amalfi Drive) is a piece of cake if you don't mind turning you wheel continuously. The buses will amaze you as much as the view.

If you make a U-turn on an unpaved road in the middle of nowhere in Toscana and drive into a ditch, someone will show up and pull you out. And then they will politely point out the turnabout 50 Mt. In front of where you had your adventure. Be sure to get their picture or no one will believe you. Of course, this is just a hypothetical example of the friendliness of Italian drivers!

If your car fits, its a parking space. In the hill towns, there is always a paid parking lot close to the center and usually lots of free parking. Unless it says Passo Carriable (or something close) which means no parking. Also learn the sign for no parking. I will not describe it. Have them show it to you at the car rental place.

In many towns and cities, parking is paid via a Parcheggio machine. You go to the machine and pay for your time and the machine prints a receipt. You put the receipt on the dash and go. Look to see when payment is necessary and when parking is free.

Stop often and eat gelato.

Last, don’t drive in Naples.

Actually, if you’re from Boston, forget all I said about Naples, Neapolitans drive like wimps.
 
Nov 30th, 2001, 08:27 PM
  #5  
Boomerbabe
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These are great Dean!
You've brought humor and insight to a subject that strikes terror into my heart:
Driving in Italy!

Thank you!
 
Nov 30th, 2001, 10:20 PM
  #6  
cheryl d.
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Dean, that was a hoot! Plus, every word is true. Thanks.
 
Dec 1st, 2001, 06:31 AM
  #7  
BOB THE NAVIGATOR
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Beautiful Dean--I could not have said it better. For good tips on driving and signage in Italy go to this site:
www.slowtrav.com I have driven in Italy about a dozen times and only had one problem. The cops in Perugia are still looking for me after I sped away from a toll gate after having failed to get a ticket near Naples when I got onto the Autostrada. How do you feel about driving in Naples ?
 
Dec 1st, 2001, 08:31 AM
  #8  
Dean
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Bob the N

It's a hoot compared to Boston!

Even cab rides in Naples are a real treat. Better than the Matterhorn at Disneyland and only $9.00 from the station to the Museo

As to run ins with the police, not only do I have the no ticket escapade on the strada, there was the speeding on the holiday by Ravenna where I got off scott free because I was a dumbamerican who didn't understand the solicitation for a bribe they were making.

 
Dec 1st, 2001, 10:34 AM
  #9  
donna
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I'm not sure which lane it was, but I was able to use a 'regular' credit card in the toll lanes of the Autostade.
 
Dec 1st, 2001, 10:50 AM
  #10  
nancy
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it was FUN driving in Italy!
Although did get a bit lost in Rome
I esp. loved the parking.
(and I am not joking!)
But, I grew up learning to drive in N.Y.C
 
Dec 1st, 2001, 01:02 PM
  #11  
BillJ
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Dean, you are right on - that was great. I hope those of you wondering about driving in Italy read this. I always felt very comfortable driving in Italy, except the cities. But even in Rome or Florence, it has to be looked at as an "adventure." Like the first time you drive in San Francisco, or I imagine New York. So go for it. The freedom to stop any time you want is very rewarding.
 
Dec 2nd, 2001, 12:42 PM
  #12  
XXX
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What a hoot!
 
Dec 2nd, 2001, 06:57 PM
  #13  
az
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Dean-right on target! as someone else has said, driving Italy is like having a heart attack and enjoying it!
did you see the "rules" i posted earlier this year for driving the Amalfi Coast? you would probably understand them better and appreciate them more than most readers. if you haven't seen them, let me know and i'll top them for you.
thanx for your wit and insight.
 
Dec 2nd, 2001, 07:28 PM
  #14  
dean
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did not see you amalfi coast driving tips. Love to see them
 
Dec 3rd, 2001, 08:35 AM
  #15  
Sandy
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Dean: Now why don't you tell us how you REALLY feel about driving in Naples? Sandy.
 
Dec 3rd, 2001, 08:47 AM
  #16  
b
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Driving in new towns always is fun.
 
Dec 3rd, 2001, 08:56 AM
  #17  
Sallie
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Hi Dean. Thanks for the wonderful report. Do you (or anyone else) have any tips for a female driving alone? Your comments on the fast/crazy drivers make me a little gunshy. Help! Sallie
 
Dec 3rd, 2001, 10:07 AM
  #18  
sam
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Sallie -

Lock the doors; leave the maps under a jacket, unless your stopped and reading them; turn your large stoned rings into the palm, of your hand, keep one hand on the horn and drive like you're Mario Andretti.
 
Dec 3rd, 2001, 03:24 PM
  #19  
az
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Sallie--see Christina's responses to "Rules for Driving the Amalfi Coast" for an Italian female's approach to driving Italy. Her response #3 pretty well sums it up. You will have an unforgettable experience!
 
Dec 5th, 2001, 03:38 PM
  #20  
bob
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A few comments - In the last year we have taken 2 trips to Italy, the first year we drove from Rome to Florence. The second year we drove from Rome to the Amalfi Coast, then on to Naples, took the ferry to Sicily, and then spent 14 days driving in Sicily.

Let me first say that I have the experience of driving on Long Island and often in New York City. At no time did I find the driving in Italy to be more than I could take - even my experience in Naples.

Reading the comments on this forum really had me worried about the Amalfi Coast and Naples - I almost backed out. I am glad I didn't. The flexibility of having my own vehicle certainly outweighed the aggravation of driving.

I don't want to minimize the aggravation - if you are not comfortable in congestion or complicated situations, take a cab. But if you drive in U.S. metropolitan areas, you can probably cope with Italy - even Naples.

Bob
 

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