Car Travel

Though roads are generally good in the south, and major cities are linked by fast autostrade, or four-lane highways, driving here is a major test of navigation skills. While you can bypass many cities by using the ring roads around them, getting into the center of many cities can be complicated, with mazes of one-way streets, pedestrianized zones, and limited parking facilities. The more upmarket hotels have garage facilities or valet parking at guests’ disposal. Phone your hotel for advice and instructions when you are entering city outskirts. The toll-free A3 Napoli–Reggio Calabria autostrada links Naples to the south, with major exits at Sicignano (for the interior of Basilicata and Matera), Cosenza (the Sila Massif and Crotone), and Pizzo (for Tropea). Parts of the A3 in northern Calabria cross uplands more than 3,000 feet high, and snow chains may be required during winter months. In the summer and during holiday weekends this is the main north–south route for Italy's sun seekers, so factor in plenty of time for delays and avoid peak travel times. Take the SS18 for coastal destinations—or for a better view—on the Tyrrhenian side, and likewise the SS106 (which is uncongested and fast) for the Ionian. Given speed detectors and driver-tracking technology, it’s best to stick to speed limits and be careful not to enter ZTL (zona a traffico limitato) restricted traffic areas (cameras are set up in towns such as Matera and Altamura): you'll be spared an unwelcome ticket when you get home.

If you're squeamish about getting lost, don't plan on night driving in the countryside—roads can be confusing without the aid of landmarks or large towns, and GPS is far from infallible. Bari, Brindisi, and Reggio Calabria are notorious for car thefts and break-ins. In these cities, don't leave valuables in the car, and find a guarded parking space if possible.

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