After arriving at the airport in Rome, we picked up our rental car. We’ve heard stories of wild drivers in Italy, and Barb’s driven here before, so we had some idea of what we were getting into. We were as prepared as we could be: Mike was navigator, armed with a GPS for Europe and a plan; Barb was driver, armed with years of experience in both standard transmissions and city driving; I was the provider of food, beverages, and Chapstick from the backseat where I was under strict orders to keep cool.
Much to my surprise, all went well for the first two hours of what we expected would be a three-hour drive to the flat we’d rented on the Amalfi Coast. I expected the Autostrada to be worse, and it probably can be–much worse. As we neared our destination, we turned to the GPS to take us to Vietri sul Mare. Our landlord was waiting for us (he had plans to go out), so we chose “shortest route,” which may have been our downfall. “Fastest route” may have been better. Or perhaps not.
The GPS took us into a bustling city with narrow, winding, cobblestone roads, with cars parked on both sides, no traffic lights (not that they’d be obeyed), and Italians out for a fun Saturday night, driving and walking. Cars generally move fast, and if someone needs to turn, stop, or back out onto a busy street, well, they just do it. Every car for itself. And this doesn’t seem to scare, annoy, or concern anyone. In comparison, Miami and NYC drivers are downright courteous.
This picture doesn’t do the insanity justice, I assure you. I’ll try to get some better pics.
Mike had a sense of where we wanted to go, but the GPS was useless in getting us there: Italian roads flummoxed the GPS. We went round and round and round and round.
We were to call Luca, our landlord, when we got to the town, and we tried calling him while we were good and lost, but, alas, our works-only-in-Europe phone wouldn’t work.
Somehow, about two hours late (some of that was due to our late flight), we got to Vietri sul Mare, but not exactly where we wanted to be in the town, and we still couldn’t figure out what was wrong with the phone. It was time to ask for help. That’s my job. Barb came along for support, assistance, and protection, as needed.
We were at a sort of beachy place, and there was a restaurant/gelateria open and somewhat active. I went there, phrasebook, Italian/English dictionary, and Luca’s number in hand. I’d like to say I whipped up some snappy Italian language to ask for help, but the guy behind the counter spoke English fairly well, so my part in swooping in to save the day fell flat. A guy sitting in the place using the Internet called Luca for us, and he was there in moments. We got croissants for breakfast while we waited.
As we departed the shop with Luca, Mike was coming to tell us he got the phone to work.
Luca drove us in our rental car to the flat to unload and to the place where we can park for free. He whizzed around the narrow streets (he backed up once, too, for good measure), pointing out things and giving directions I had no hope of remembering (Barb and Mike got enough of them). And then he parallel parked our car inches from a stone wall in a tiny space. He and Barb had to climb across the seats to get out the right side of the car because there was no opening doors on the left side.
We’ve been here a few days now. Every day we marvel and shudder at Italian roads and drivers. You’ll see and hear more on this subject.