Image credit: Slow Travel

Image credit: Slow Travel

In the advance of the Olio Capitale fair in Trieste in March, two of us spent the week touring Italy, with hundreds of kilometers added to the car.

From Rome to Campobasso, to Monticchiello (near Montepulciano in Tuscany), to Bologna, to Venice to Trieste, our diesel fill ups totaled euro 150 for an Alfa Romeo that counted as a mid-size vehicle (comparable to the Audi A3).

We rented from Avis and spent 50 Euro extra to have snow chains in the car, a legal requirement if were were to be pulled over. We also obtained International Drivers Licenses. This modern-day Thelma and Louise pair rented a manual transmission car, to save money of course. Like riding a bike, our ability to clutch and shift returned. We had given up manual transmission vehicles many years ago, when an extra hand was needed to tend to small children!

Knowledge of road signs, a decent map, and GPS are recommended, as you will see below.

We brought a Garmin GPS (updated for Italy) and it was worth every penny. On the first day we drove from Rome to a very small town, Cercemaggiore, in the area of Campobasso. There were turns instructed by the GPS that we failed to believe, but were undoubtedly true. In the region of Molise we found many “roads less traveled”. Once we learned to completely trust the GPS, and regained our sense of humor, we enjoyed each and every turn and vista.

We should have refreshed our memories on road signage, because some signs are far different from what we know on roads in North America. Knowledge of road signs, together with GPS is recommended. Please believe us on this one. (See the road signs tutorial on the Slow Travel Web Page).

There was only one place where the GPS caused more trouble than good. In the small mountain town of Mirabello Sannitico, we were on a steep narrow cobblestone road, lined closely by houses, when the road suddenly became one way, in the opposite direction!  Unfortunately, this little detail was not recognized by the GPS, which recommended a hairpin turn down a flight of stairs. And, maybe we should have taken another look at the roadsigns?

A young man noticed our plight (with the attitude that he had seen such foolishness before), and settled into the driver’s seat to back the car up the narrow winding path. We were most grateful to him for rescuing us! He was very kind to the two foolish American women.

Bonus! There’s another very significant way that a GPS beats a map. On our drives through small towns and on the autostrada, our GPS announced an alert in advance before each radar “traffic tutor”.

But don’t forget the map. With a map you can plan ahead. In some medium sized towns and larger cities, you will want to be aware of the ZTL, zones of limited traffic. When making hotel reservations, we asked about these to ensure directions not crossing the the ZTL. Fines for driving in a ZTL without a proper permit can be quite costly! You may wish to Google ZTL and Bologna (or whatever town) to find out if you need to be concerned about a ZTL on your travels. Here’s another good guide to ZTL.

While I love the ease of train travel, the car allowed us freedom to explore places that can’t be reached by train. Plan ahead. Be Fearless. Have Fun.

For more information on Speed Cameras in Italy, read this post.

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