Because I am writing this review, it should technically be titled "riding in the passenger seat in Italy," as this was my role. A lack of cars at the rental place in Venice had the employees scrambling to find us an equivalent to the tiny automatic we had reserved. We finally heard that new cars had arrived at the airport and were being processed; an employee ran off to pick one up. He really came through for us, showing up with a brand new Mercedes C200 (ours had 8km on it) and not charging us for the upgrade. My fate as passenger was sealed.
Now I know what you're thinking. Americans love their cars, and don't want to be bothered with public transportation. But for us, having a car allowed us to stay in smaller, more out-of-the-way spots, and still get around easily. One day, we drove from Varenna to a train station on the outskirts of Milan, took a train into and out of the city, then drove to the lakeside town of Como on our way home in the afternoon. Not possible if we were relying only on train schedules. Plus, I think the drive from Venice to Varenna was much more interesting than it would have been on a train. All the towns we saw, the music we listened to on the radio, and just being alone - those were hours well spent. The other HUGE plus of driving was that we got to stop at the Autogrilles. Delicious food, clean bathrooms. And so much selection for what's basically a convenience store at a rest stop!
Italy's autostrada are great. The signage is clear, the lanes are wide, and traffic really moves. We did get stuck behind one big accident, but we live in Northern Virginia - it wouldn't be driving if there was no traffic!
Another possible title for this review would be "Navigating in Italy." But then it would be a really short review, and it would just say - get a GPS unit. Really. We named ours Suzie, and I think my husband might love her more than he does me.
Suzie joined our family a few months before the trip, and we programmed her with all our driving routes, the location of our hotels, the attractions we wanted to drive to, and the parking lots. So convenient to have all that information ahead of time. She talked to us as we drove, and even told us which exit to take at round-abouts.
Driving through the streets of Rome on our way to drop off the car, we hit a confusing spot and veered right when Suzie wanted us to go left. Not a big deal, she corrected for it quickly, but it did stress us out for a couple of seconds. Later, at the drop off counter, we met a couple who had been driving in circles for two hours while trying to interpret paper maps of the city. This trip was an improvement for them; they told us that the previous time they had attempted a car drop off in Rome, they had ended up hiring a cab just so they could follow it. The wife said it was a miracle their marriage had survived.
I love Suzie.