Culture, Life in Italy, Traveling Italy

Road tripping in Italy

Me and my hubs just took a little road trip to the North for a week before our long 3 month separation, thanks to the IT Navy. It wasn’t our first road trip throughout Italy, we’ve made plenty but this time I have a blog to write about it. This post is about the differences in Italian road trips in comparison to American road trips (of course b/c I’m American, and I grew up taking road trips). I’m also writing about some of the details of our trip. Hope you find the bumpy road humorous- no pun intended.

So, we started out from my little town Casarano, which is 30 minutes south of Lecce. I soon noticed that when we left town Fabio, my hubs, didn’t fill up the tank all the way which I found inefficient. So I said “hey, why did you fill up the tank just half way?” he responded “so that we can stop soon…”

and now let’s begin the topic: lack of stamina in the macchina.

No stamina in la macchina

The first thing Fabio taught me on this particular road trip is that his dad taught him to always fill the tank up half way so that you can have a legit reason to stop. I thought to myself this is like glass half full type of thinking, all about relaxation even while driving. So I said “sounds reasonable, that way we can get a coffee too.” Fabio, “eh, of course Jessica that’s the plan!”

This story is the beginning of explaining how much Italians have a need to stop while driving. It’s incredible really. About every hour on every road trip I’ve been on with Italians we always need to stop. It’s like they have no stamina in a car, I don’t know what it is but they just can’t take long strides. I got use to it after a while, and started to enjoy the stops. After all, the stops are conveniently on the interstate, you don’t even need to exit. There are gas stations as well as Autogrills, which are huge gas stations with restaurants and shopping along the side of the interstate. Anyway, the stopping is usually quick as people always stand to gulp down their shot of coffee and pay up. It’s in and out, without the burgers (for all of you from CA).

Arriving at the Amalfi Coast (Costiera Amalfitana)

After stopping about 4 times in 5 hours to get to the Amalfi Coast we decided to stop at the beach. Before we got there we were driving around the curves and got stuck behind this little truck. The man was holding down his lemons hahaImage

Here’s a pic of the beach we stopped at. It was full of rocks and actually felt amazing!ImageImage

Here is a nice photo of the Amalfi coast

ImageAfter our quick plunge in the water we walked around this little town and had lunch. We both ordered hamburgers knowing that they probably wouldn’t have the bun included, but took a shot and this is what we got.Image

So the thing is when you order a hamburger in Italy they look at it like a second dish, and second dishes, aka secondi piatti, in Italy are always just meat (here they included the side too). So, when you order a hamburger in Italy it will not come with a bun, with the tomatoes and dressings, and most often not a side, but is usually just the slab of meat. In short, it gets complicated to go to a restaurant and ask for the list of other things that go with a hamburger, so when in Italy just stick with Italian food.

The next morning we went to Capri. Here are a few photos

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After spending a day in Capri we had a pizza in Naples and spent the night there. The next morning we headed to Florence. We just happened to see a strike along the interstate. There were plenty of cops ironically with not enough laws to do much of anything. Image

Gas station-benzinaria? 

Before getting to Florence we stopped a couple times to get gas. I asked my husband how to say gas station in Italy. My thought process was pastry shop=pasticceria, cafe shop=caffetteria, gas station=benzinaria! (because gas=benzina). Well, that’s not how it’s called unfortunately, they couldn’t make it that easy of course! I actually don’t remember what he said, let’s just say it’s the stazione di benzina, va be (whatever).

So, gas stations in Italy are no joke. In my opinion Italians are very advanced when it comes to gas service. Many gas stations in Italy are solar power generated to cover their costs. You park your car under the solar panel and get shade, genius!

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The downside to the gas stations is there are no toilet seats or toilet paper 9 times out of 10. Sometimes you have to pay the cleaning lady who sits right outside of the door to use the bathroom-because she keeps it clean so it’s cosher, or you have no choice because there is a bar that won’t open up unless you insert 1 euro. There is almost never soap in the soap dispenser and sometimes the hand dryers blow dry cold, strangely. You may also have to step on a lever to get the faucet pouring. The strategy I’ve been taught by Italian girl friends to survive all this is to always bring tissues in your purse and sanitizing liquid.

Here are a few pics of an Autogrill

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I love Autogrills. You can even get a full blown lunch with pasta and meat there! They have buffet style food sections and I’ve seen lasagna, risotto…it’s hilarious but at the same time I’m like why doesn’t America have this??

Florence (Firenze)

Florence is a beautiful place. Every city in Italy is just packed with stories on every corner you turn. Home to Dante, the Medici family, David of course…I loved Florence. I went there once before but just for a day. This time we were able to browse. Here is my love and I.  Image

After spending two days in Florence we had to head home. So when you start to get on the interstate you would naturally think to look for geographical direction like north, south…well that doesn’t apply in Italy. Instead of directions written out clearly they write the next few cities you’ll approach. For example, if you are leaving Florence and are headed towards Naples you would take the Siena/Rome highway. Obviously they do this in the States as well, but without indications like south or north plus the city name it gets complicated when you’re explaining directions to someone in a smaller city. If I told someone in my town to just jump on the interstate and go north (because I don’t know all the city names around), they probably wouldn’t know where to go. Granted most people wouldn’t, that’s why there should be a sign right? I still don’t understand their method, but I think it’s kind of playful and dreamy. The problem is when you don’t know the cities around you. If you’ve never heard of certain places then how will you know which city is north and which is south? 🙂 You know, Italians are all about not worrying about things, who cares if you drive a little south, just turn around and go north when you recognize something!

Along the drive

Along an Italian road trip you will find little differences. They don’t overly use billboards like we do, which is kind of nice but sucks if you like to play the ABC game. You really won’t see many billboards at all in comparison. Another difference is it’s probably more expensive to drive in Italy due to the interstate fees you have to pay. I’ve paid fees in America up north and down south near Miami, but never a whopping 60 euros in total. Apart from the fees you have to worry about the speed checkers. There are no cops along the way but if you see one they may look like this:Image

no real threat there especially when you’re driving a BMW hahaha. The speed checkers look like little blue boxes on the side of the road that are spread out. They basically calculate your average speed over a distance and give you a ticket if you are not within the range. Those aren’t a threat either honestly, however the idea that you can go whatever speed in Europe is not true in Italy.

Some other differences in driving are that you have to use your headlights during the daytime if you’re on the interstate. I don’t know if that rule goes for the highways as well. Above all, I think one of the most major differences between cultures is that Italians drive stick shifts while Americans do the opposite. The reason they drive sticks is that automatic cars are so much more expensive.

The food cooler

The last major difference in road trips for this post that I want to write about is the food. One time Fabio and I took a road trip from Pisa all the way down to Lecce and we brought along his aunt. She prepared food for the trip which by all means is normal, but let me mention that this trip was only going to take 10 hours (for Americans that not very drastic) When we got in the car I didn’t realize just how much food she had brought. She had an entire kitchen in that cooler, cups included (for some reason they don’t drink water directly from water bottles). Every 30 minutes “anyone want some fruit?…sandwich?….I brought some rice salad” a little bit later “are we stopping for coffee yet?” Wow, I’ve never seen anyone pack so much food for a trip when we already had breakfast at the house. We were probably going to have dinner when we got there because we eat late plus all the family would be waiting for us. So, why would someone feel the need to pack their life supply of nutrition for practically one meal? My answer was she’s just a southern Italian woman.

Without other women on our road trips I’m the one in charge of food survival, so I pack pringles and redbull. After all, with all the stops how could I pass up the opportunity of hot lasagna?

Anyways, the last stop we made on our way home was to an outlet mall. I had no idea that Italians had outlet malls along the interstate just like they do in the States. The shopping choices are more preferable in Italy I think. It’s not like they have Gucci and Versace, but I’ll take Italian clothing stores over American stores any day. Image

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9 thoughts on “Road tripping in Italy”

  1. Loved your post! I went to Italy 2 yrs ago & looking at your pics brought back alot of beautiful memories. I was also very impressed with the Autogrills, wish we had them in Canada. I can relate to the Italians loading up on food when travelling. My mom does the same, even though she’s been living in Canada for over 50yrs, till this day, when we go on a trip, she brings enough food to feed an army. (I think it’s in their DNA) !!!!

    Always looking forward to your next Blog.

  2. Hi Jess, your blog made me smile. And I also remember road trips and stops at the autogrill. Oh, and Florence is to die for! One of the places I definitely want to go back to.
    regards, Margie

  3. Enjoyed reading your blog on my train ride in to work, my wife and I moved to Milan in Nov. of last year. We are in the same boat as you with the language.

  4. Hi Jess, I spent the last hour reading your blog (even if I’m Italian!) ahah It’s so funny to read how normal things here are so strange for foreigns! For example I’m from southern Rome, and every time I have to come back home from the center I’ve to look for “Napoli” signes and it’s pretty much normal for me. 😀

    Hope you’re enjoying il bel paese! 🙂

    Have you ever been in Rome?

    Roberto

    PS gas station is BENZINAIO (which is also how we call the owner of the gas station) 😛

    1. Hi Roberto! I’m glad you got a kick out of my post. Ya, when Italians come to America they tell me the funniest things also. Yes, I’ve been to Rome several times and think its a fabulous city. Hopefully one day I’ll live there 🙂 have a good evening and please drink an espresso for me, I’m deprived!

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