I’ll confess at the outset that the topic for this month’s Italy Blogging Roundtable – driving in Italy – initially had me stumped. See, I’ve yet to get behind the wheel in Italy, for several reasons. I’m typically sticking to places that are easily reached by trains and buses and so having a car would be ridiculous. If I’m getting away from those easily-reached places I’m with people who have cars. And above all, I – frankly – don’t relish the idea of driving in Italy.
There are many things I love about the Italians, but the way some of them drive isn’t one of them.
I’ll also confess that one of the people who regularly ends up driving me around in Italy is the husband, who genuinely adores driving pretty much anywhere, as long as there’s an interesting (read: curvy) road ahead and no one around (read: me) to tell him to take it easy. When I thought about writing a post on dream drives in Italy, I knew exactly which one the husband would choose: the Stelvio Pass.
photo by Rob & Kylie (and Helen)
The guys from Top Gear picked it as their favorite road to drive, and those switchbacks feature regularly in the Giro d’Italia, but I think I can pretty confidently say you’ll never find me driving on the Stelvio Pass. And if the husband drives it, I’ll either let him do it alone or I’ll take valium before we set off.
No, the Stelvio Pass isn’t my idea of a dream drive in Italy – but there are some places in the country that I do dream about driving in… Someday. My dream drives are leisurely affairs, with plenty of stops for photos, food, and gawking at views. These are my three dream drives in Italy.
Sicily & Sardinia
Am I cheating by including two parts of Italy in one dream drive? Absolutely – but basically, the idea is that both of these islands are truly best explored with a car, so that puts them in the same category for me. (Hey, it’s my list.)
Here’s what I imagine driving in Sicily and Sardinia to be like. I’d set off from the heart of whatever city I was staying in, white knuckled by the time I reached the perimeter just from navigating through narrow streets and oncoming traffic, and then as soon as the city was in my rear-view mirror I’d relax. I’d look ahead of me and I’d see this:
photo by ciccioetneo
Maybe I’d have a map, maybe I’d have a GPS unit that was turned off (ready to guide me back to my bed when I was done), but either way I’d just turn down the roads that looked interesting. And in places like Sicily and Sardinia, “interesting” could be anything from a beautiful vista like this:
photo by M4rvin
Or, y’know, ruins of Greek temples:
photo by dottorpeni
Because that’s just how they roll in Sicily and Sardinia.
If I got really lucky, I’d find a road that made my “where should I go next?” decision for me by pointing right at where I should be spending my time (instead of spending it in a car).
photo by Niklas Hellerstedt
I might even relax enough on a leisurely drive like that so that the return trip into the city wouldn’t bring those white knuckles back – but I kind of doubt it.
I will fully admit that this entry is on my list entirely because of the George Clooney film, “The American,” which was set in several Abruzzo villages. In the movie, Clooney’s character spent a lot of time driving from one hilltop village to another, each one seeming to grow out of the top of the hills they were on. Whether you liked the story or not, it’s impossible to deny the beauty of the film or the region that served as its backdrop.
photo by Roby Ferrari
photo by kruder396
Now, I recognize that if I get in a car in Abruzzo and drive from village to village I will not, in fact, see George Clooney zipping down the road in the opposite direction. It’s not even Clooney that I’m chasing by wanting to drive through the Abruzzo region – it’s the villages.
photo by pizzodisevo
Italy is absolutely packed with hilltop villages – every region talks about theirs, since that’s what every tourist wants to see. I’ve seen photographs of some villages so beautiful I gasped, but I’ve never seen villages that looked as haunting as the ones in “The American.” Seeking out the haunting side of things isn’t everyone’s goal in Italy, but it’s a favorite recurring theme of mine, and I relish the idea of slowly making my way from village to village in Abruzzo and then winding through their narrow lanes when no one’s about.
photo by Friar’s Balsam
And hey, if Clooney happens to be strolling around, I wouldn’t mind that, either.
Valpolicella Wine Country
I live in a part of the United States known for its wine, and I don’t have to drive too far from my house to be surrounded by vineyards – so I know the appeal of a road trip through wine country. It makes sense, then, that the third entry on my list of Italian dream drives is through the region that makes my favorite Italian wine – Valpolicella.
photo by aaepstein
The Valpolicella region is just north of Verona in the Veneto region, and it’s quite possible to do a driving day trip from a base in Verona, but I quite fancy the idea of taking several days to move slowly through Valpolicella sampling the wines and the views.
photo from the valpolicella.it site
Going wine tasting in Italy isn’t as straightforward as it is in places like California, where wineries have regular open hours and often get walk-in visitors. Italian vineyards don’t typically have tasting rooms or even regular hours, so I’m not even 100% sure I could visit the wineries I’d want to… But even if I couldn’t go to the wineries, the restaurants and enoteche in the region would likely be quite happy to refill my glass with the local vino.
photo by Ilares
Okay, let’s be honest – I’d still rather not drive in Valpolicella. I’d like to have someone else driving me so I wouldn’t have to watch everyone else enjoying the wine.
Other Voices from the Italy Blogging Roundtable
Now that you’ve read about where I’d like to drive in Italy, check out what my Roundtable cohorts say about their experiences actually driving in Italy. Perhaps I need to ask them for some driving pointers…
Read the posts, leave comments, share them with your friends – and tune in next month for another Italy Blogging Roundtable topic.
- ArtTrav – It must be a sign: Driving in Italy
- At Home in Tuscany – To drive or not to drive? That is the question.
- Brigolante – Driving in Italy
- Italofile – Some Suggestions for Driving in Italy
Italy Blogging Roundtable Archives:
- Italy Roundtable: A Decade With Italy
- Italy Roundtable: The Power of an Invitation
- Italy Roundtable: Tracing Your Italian Roots
- Italy Roundtable: Italy’s Active Volcanoes
- Italy Roundtable: The Guide to Crafts in Italy (That You Really Need Before You Go Shopping)
- Italy Roundtable: 8 of My Favorite Italy Gifts
- A “Gift” from the Italy Blogging Roundtable: Join us!
- Italy Roundtable: Comfort Food is a Cultural Thing
- Italy Roundtable: Fall Food Festivals & the Almighty White Truffle
- Italy Roundtable: What I’ve Learned from Italy