View of Lerici from La Spezia. It's a very beautiful place. However, the drive to get there was not!
Seriously, what was I smoking when I decided to drive to Piemonte?
I stopped in La Spezia to meet my friend Megan for lunch. When I stepped out of the car, my hands were literally shaking.
One friend back in America had suggested I rent an automatic. She said driving on the Autostrada was super stressful and she has been driving stick/manual all her life.
As I struggled to get from Termini Station to the Autostrada, I was close to hyperventilating. If leaving the Center was such a nightmare, what the heck was going to happen to me on the Autostrada?
I kept stalling out. I got lost. It was a big mess. I finally made to the Autostrada and it was fine. In Italy people use the left lane correctly... to pass. I stayed on the right and nobody tailgated me.
Once I got off the Autostrada to get to Megan's, all hell broke loose. Roundabouts, hairpin turns, steep hills, I was in tears.
After a relaxing lunch and gelato (thanks Megan!), I told myself to get it together. I put on Amy Winehouse's FRANK and continued on my journey.
Got lost again. I was driving toward Milano. Once I turned around and got back on the Autostrada, I thought everything would be okay.
Nope. I was wrong. I finally arrived in Acqui Terme with its zillion roundabouts in the Historic Center and ended up in a parking lot. My friend's B&B was nowhere in sight.
I called. They were probably wondering how the heck I missed their road. Hello, I've been there before. I turned around and later saw my friend's husband on the road leading to the B&B.
I know people have had trouble getting up their driveway. It's very steep. I was told to put the car in 1st gear and don't stop. If I was too nervous to try, they would do it.
After driving for hours, I decided to go for it and made it up the bloody hill. When I pulled up, everyone started clapping. I basically rolled out of the car. I was so happy to get out of it.
After a long shower and a couple glasses of chilled wine, I was fine.
The next day I did tell my friends I didn't think I could deal with driving back.
However my return trip was a breeze, until I got to Rome. Sigh.
I missed the turn for Vatican City and ended up God knows where.
When I finally arrived in my neighborhood, I double parked and gave the man who "helps" people park a few euros. I ran to my place to dropped off my things.
I returned to my car and then zipped around the Center and even Piazza Venezia like butter. Dropping the car off was a lot easier than picking it up. Could be because I had just driven more hours in one weekend trip than in the previous two years.
A few days later I bumped into my driving instructor, Bruno. He asked me how it went. He said he was proud of me. That warmed my heart.
I'm glad I did it. I do feel more comfortable now with a stick.
I get the Autogrill hype. It's not the Italian 7/11. It's on a whole different level.
Next time I rent a car to go out of town, I might get the car from the airport or Villa Borghese to avoid the Center and EUR. Even for experienced drivers getting in and out of Rome is confusing.
The drive, except when I was freaking out, was beautiful. I loved seeing how the terrain changed from Lazio, to Tuscany, to Liguria, and then Piemonte.
The Fiat 500 is a great little car. Excellent mileage. I don't know what type of engine I had. Mine did not have a lot pick up. Merging onto the Autostrada from a gas station was a little stressful.
I would like to test the Mini Cooper at some point.