Thursday, March 31, 2011

Tips for Driving in Italy

Here are a few tips for driving in Italy.

1. Drive with confidence, yes drive as if you know where you are going even though you probably don't.

2. The left lane is generally for passing only, in fact Italian law states you must drive in the far right lane if possible. However, the biggest danger I find on the Autostrada is that when it is crowded with trucks, the trucks have a nasty habit of changing lanes without a lot of warning and if you change from the far left lane to the center lane you need to keep a close watch on them. The other thing is that if every time a faster car comes up on you and you pull over you may get stuck behind slow moving cars or trucks and not able to move over to pass them. So sometimes you just have to make the typical driver going way over the speed limit wait a few minutes until you have passed all the slower moving cars and trucks to your right, then move over to let him pass. They may not like it but you have some rights as well. Also I sometimes find it safer to just drive faster than I might want to and stay in the far left lane as much as possible just to avoid the danger of the trucks and also to avoid a lot of lane changes which have their own risk.

The closer you get to cities like Milan the more likely you will find all the lanes full and in this case some drivers that can't wait will also pass on the right, just like they do on the US freeways, so keep your eyes open.

5. Horns, there are laws against using them in the city so be careful, I can't imagine ever getting a ticket for this but you never know.

6. Watch your front; Use your peripheral vision to watch the other cars but also don't be afraid to turn your head you never know what else might be coming your way. I had a scare the other day when a kid on a bike while I was stopped waiting for a car to pass at an intersection - just the one by our house. The kid was behind a building so I don't see him until he was in front of the car. I came way to close to hitting him.

Sometimes it's a good idea to pretend you don't see the other car that also wants the right of way. Italians don't want to have an accident any more than you do so if they think you don't see them they may back off.

8. One thing that seems to bother Italian drivers is if you don't use your turn signal before making a turn. I think it comes from their habit of driving too close, they need the warning that you are going to turn. Also use your turn signal when waiting for someone to pull out of a parking spot. It saves an argument later if someone else also wants the space.

Finally, don't be afraid to drive in Italy. Italians may seem to drive in a dangerous way but in fact most of them are very good drivers and they probably pay more attention to their driving than drivers in some other countries. We have done a lot of driving here both in the car and in our camper. In spite of the public transport system it is still the fastest and most flexible way to get around everywhere except in the middle of the big cities. Yes it is a good idea to avoid the centers of historical cities, but you don't always have to. Watch for signs and look at where the other cars are going. I am always surprised to see those giant tour buses in the middle of an area I thought was way off limits. So it may be that if they can do it so can you. I'm also amazed at where we have even taken our camper. Parallel parking a vehicle that is almost 8 meters long with the bikes on the back is great fun and provides a real sense of satisfaction when accomplished.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

What is it about Venice

The thing about Venice other than the obvious is that it's so full. No matter how many times you go there you can always find something you never saw before. Luisa has been going there all her life and yet this last weekend we walked down several streets that she has never been on. Actually they were the streets that many tourists see first, as they are the streets with the most expensive hotels and also the most expensive Italian designer stores. Wouldn't it be something to have so much money that you could buy 2,000€ purses without even thinking about it.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Venice Tourist Photos

Left the kids with the grandparents and took the camper to Punta
Sabioni where we can park for free. With our Venice cards it's 1.20€
each way to use the Vaporetto which takes about 30 minutes to arrive
at St. Marks.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

150 Years

Today Italy is celebrating 150 years since the unification of the
country. Before comeing here I had thought that Italy had been a
country almost forever. I mean there were the Romans. But in fact
after the Romans there were many invading nations and various rulers.
The country was divided into small city states and regions each with
it's own government of one sort or another, or the various areas were
ruled by foreign powers.

Today the feeling of unification is not universal, but it seemed that
today at least everyone was celebrating Italy. Our town had it's own
raising of the flag and a long winded speach by the mayor and there
are lots of flags hanging around.

Luisa made lunch with a pasts of the three colors of the flag, tomatoe
sauce, pesto and gargonzola. All were good.