Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Driving In Italy

I'll probably post a couple of different times on different aspects of my recent cruise through the Greek Isles and Dalmatian Coast, but I wanted to first talk about what I think is the most outrageous part of the whole trip: driving from Venice to Lake Como. I initially did it because some people in my group wanted to go to Como. It looks stunning, but it's 3 hours away from Venice. I got a 9 passenger van (and it was a bit of a hunk of junk) and went driving. I actually didn't have too much trouble for most of the trip. Italian drivers are infamous for their aggressive, insane driving tactics. For the most part, that didn't play on this trip. Scooter and motorcycle drivers had death wishes, driving in and out of traffic as though they were as visible as the Goodyear blimp. I was shocked I didn't see a few get turned into goo by a Maserati. At any rate, the trip to Como was good, although we didn't end up doing the whole itinerary. It was taking too long to get around the lake, so we decided to deep-six that and go to Milan. I've flown from Malpensa airport and that's the extent of my Milan experience. I had been told that it was mainly an industrial town and there wasn't much to see, but after reading Vince Flynn's book Separation of Power, I decided we should give it a shot and there was more to the city than industry and fashion.
A note to those who are thinking about driving in Milan: DON'T DRIVE IN MILAN. If you have a car for some reason, park it by the nearest Metro stop you can find when you get into the city and use the Metro. Borrow a bike, ride the bus, parachute in, or walk if you have to, but under no circumstances should you ever consider driving in that city. You might think you're a good driver. You might even be a good driver. However, Milan is insane. It has streets that make no sense, weaving in and out of buildings - one-way roads that intersect with other one-way roads that send you right back out from where you were going; street signs that are on the sides of buildings, if the building was built in the right historical era; and traffic that makes New York City look downright tame. If I had known what I was in for, I never would have done it. At the same time, if you don't take my advice, I have 4 more words for you: get a good navigator. Think of your car as an F-14 - you're flying at the stick, but you've got to have someone good as your navigator telling you where to go, because you're blowing past streets at such a clip that if they can't stay a few steps ahead of you, you'll end up as the hood ornament on that city bus that is coming your way. My navigator was average (in fact, judging by our trip to Austria and Germany last year, I'd take my wife over him), which is okay in a lot of instances, but not in Milan. The good news is that we made it into the center of the city and back out. The bad news is that it took an average of 45 minutes to get from the Autostrade (their interstates) to the center of town and vice-versa. My wife will disagree with me on whether I got lost or not. I maintain that I didn't, because I got us where we needed to go, and because I was reliant on the navigator.

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