Monday, May 26, 2014

We are Back from our Italian Road Trip!

We are back from our two-week holiday in Europe!  We spent a few days in Holland and a total of ten days in Italia.  We traveled 1,000 miles (give or take) from Rome north to Monteriggioni in Tuscany, west to the Tuscan Coast of Punt Ala, back north to Carmignano, Firenze, then on to the region of Emilia-Romagna, and finally end up in Venezia.  This Fiat Cinque Cento was a beast on Rome's crazy streets, Tuscany's steep hills, Emilia Romagna's crazy heights, and the cruising highway drive to Venice.   

I would not have chosen to experience Italy any differently.  I feel that with such a concentrated amount of time in Italy's biggest cities combined with places in Tuscany and Emilia-Romagna that are completely off the beaten track, enormous amounts of time spent with locals, and twice, learning how to make fresh pasta in Italian kitchens as opposed to some cooking class, we have gotten a fair amount of the real, undiluted dolce vita.

Of course, we did not see it all nor experience it all, but that was never the expectation.  Left to our own devices with loads of books, a Nokia phone-cum-GPS, The Dutch's driving, my stammering Italian, and on one rare occasion, a day driving with a formidable 70-year old Italian all over Emilia-Romagna, we come home different people.  We experienced Italy the way we wanted to experience it - in its natural and authentic state without pretense that is put on for the tourists.

A vintage Fiat 500 still running on the freeway
If you are used to driving in America and don't mind the chaos of driving in Asia, you can definitely drive in Italy.  You drive on the same side of the road as in most parts of the world (on the left).  A GPS loaded with European maps plus actual paper road maps are about all you need.  Well, of course, after you pick where in Italy you want to go.

A typical scene on the road - a red Ferrari roaring to go (and eventually overtakes) and a cyclist
A word of caution, though, when driving in the hills of Toscana or mountains of Emilia-Romagna - there could be drastic elevation changes and the roads wind around mountains, so 35 miles could take you more than an hour.  

In the following days, I hope to recapture the allure, magic, laughter, sighs of my version of Italy.  It has been a long-standing dream of mine to go to Rome and I never imagined I would experience it and much more of Italy in such an intimate way.  I did not have the privilege of travel growing up but I was relentless in my desire to travel and see the world.  I already prepared myself to visit even for just three days, backpacking, staying in dingy hostels, surviving on cheap bread - just to witness the glory of it.  I have kept tear out maps from National Geographic tracing my finger on the boundaries of Rome, wishing that I would make it there one day.

And I did.  And it was a dream and more.  

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