Monday, March 15, 2010

Driving in Italy: Use Caution

Some friends are headed to Italy this week for the first time. I have been advising them on their travel plans, and Frank came to me with a proposition last week. They are staying in a Tuscan villa for a few days with a rented car, and he thought he would just save some money by driving to Rome and returning the car near his hotel in the Centro Storico.

My response: "If you value your marriage and your life, you'll return your rental car in Tuscany and take the train!"

I've written about driving in Ireland where the cars are on the "wrong" side of the road. And I generally don't think that driving in foreign countries is a bad idea. But I will never, ever drive in Rome. And I certainly would never advise a first-time visitor to drive in Rome, either. The traffic is terrible. The motorinos (scooters) don't obey what traffic laws there are and are a major hazard. In fact, the worst traffic accident I've ever seen happened right in front of me in Rome: two motorinos and a large truck collided. It was not pretty. And then there are the inscrutable parking rules, restrictions on driving in the center city, and the proliferation of one-way streets and the like.

Will I drive in other parts of Italy? Yes. But I do avoid driving in the larger cities. Public transportation is so good -- and Italian cities are built for walking -- that there is no need. Besides, I'd rather spend that money on gelato and leather handbags than rental cars and parking!

For more information, check out Christopher Elliott's excellent article about driving in Italy below...

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