Hot! I Guido

What happens when the people you are hosting during your Italian adventure reach their limits of the country’s mass transit? When they’ve been stuffed into one too many subways during rush hour, stepped on and off one too many buses, and lugged suitcases on to one too many trains?

After an admirable week in Milan and Tuscany, the strain of traveling GFA-style and a very hot day in Florence got the better of my mother. She put her foot down and refused to walk one more step or get on one more bus. A quick run to the next piazza and I had a cab pull around to pick her up. A gelato at the train station lifted her spirit for the ride back to Lucca. But the damage was done. We had a rest day and the next morning we were searching for rental cars.

In my decade of overseas travel, I have been a passenger in many countries. But never the driver. Until this week. Monday morning, I settled into a SmartCar – sizing in at only 100 inches long – and made my way to the Italian Autostrada. The Mom couldn’t have been happier as she oohed and awed at the scenery.

I hadn’t driven any car in more than 2 months, so as I moved my Fred Flintstone feet as fast as I could to get the Smart up to speed, I was a little anxious. But it turns out, driving on the Autostrada isn’t as stressful as people think. It’s incredibly well marked. From signs well in advance of exits to big arrows painted on the road. You can’t go 15 minutes without passing a service station marked with a Fork and Spoon “X.” Italian’s slightly off symbol for “We Gots Good Eats Here.”

It was when I got off the road in Finale where the pressure began. There were cloverleaf loops to the toll both to hand over an excessive amount of euros. Then negotiating familiar roads from an unfamiliar perspective. I had been through the back roads into FinalBorgo before, but never paid much attention to things like one-way streets and stop signs. Cars honked behind me as my cue to go or not go.

Riding the streets of Finale has been fun on a bike. In a car it was like a video game – as I looped around the one way streets dodging pedestrians, bicycles, scooters and parked cars. I was never more relieved to finally make it up the hill to the apartment and pull the brake. My mother was glad she didn’t have to walk up the hill.

Later that week, we took a drive back to Monte Sordo for a picnic and some beautiful views. While a car gave us the freedom to drive the back roads into the farms and distant climbing trailheads, my stress level rose. I realized that I am no longer a driver. As much as I’ve loved my Xterra, I gladly give up the independence of big American car for a bus, a bike or my own two feet.

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the GFA