Panini Girl

My obsessions-Italy and Cooking

January 25, 2011


Traveling With A GPS In Italy

“Let’s get a GPS for driving around Italy”. Sounds like a great idea, doesn’t it? We’ll never be lost. We’ll just cut out all the confusion and always know exactly where we are. We’ll even be able to navigate in cities, without all the frustration from earlier trips. Have you ever driven in Milan during rush hour without a map? Attempted to read street names that were etched in stone centuries ago on the sides of buildings? Do you know what I’m talking about? If so, I’m certain that the thought of reliving those tense moments in the car is something you want to avoid at all costs. Enter the GPS.

You’ve used your GPS at home and it’s a snap! You get from point A to point B with no trouble at all. Looking for a store? Type it in and you’re on your way. You think to yourself that this will be the ticket to driving in Italy. And it is, for a while. For the major roads, it works like a charm. You’re lulled into this false sense of security thinking you’ll reach your destination effortlessly. Then, you take the exit into the city, No worries-it’s a small city.

First wrinkle-you don’t have the address of the hotel-it’s in your suitcase in the trunk. Stop, locate that piece of paper and you’re on your way. The streets start getting narrower and narrower and you notice that the GPS is struggling to locate your car. Now you realize you probably need a map of the city. Do you have one? Out comes the map and after about an hour of going around in circles (and some cursing of the GPS) you sense that you are really close to the hotel, but it’s one of those “you can’t get there from here” moments. The driver (thankfully not me) is at the end of his rope. You have a brainstorm! Get out of the car, walk ahead of the car and see if the street is passable and will lead to the hotel. This is how you are able to reach your destination-waving the car in. You realize that a GPS does not really work in a medieval city. It’s time for a drink!

Are you wondering why there’s a photo of sheep in the post? On this very day as we began our journey and we’re about to drive over a mountain on the way to this city the GPS took us off the main road, onto a smaller lane which then turned into a dirt path through this field. There was a shepherd with his flock. I smiled, waved and thought “we’re driving over a mountain on this road?” J. reassured me the GPS would get us back on the road. He was right, but little did he know what was in store for us later!


5 thoughts on “Traveling With A GPS In Italy

  1. My husband follows these wretched things blindly, leaving his common sense behind. They have their place, and are certainly very good at getting you into a big city, but Italy doesn’t update its maps and roads often enough and we have been taken to autostrada entrances that are no longer there and roads that are closed. You need a map as well – and a sharp eye.

  2. Janie, you are so right – a GPS is a great invention but you must be prepared to use it and should bring along a map as a back up.

    We traveled with my sister and her husband last October and they brought their GPS downloaded with European maps – we’ve never before, in all of our travels to Italy, been so lost and confused. I’m not a tekkie so folks tend to ignore me when I advocate the use of old fashioned methods like maps and road signs but, by the end of our first week, I’m pretty sure everyone was relieved that I had packed the Michelin map.

    Great post and wonderful advice, Janie.

  3. Ha! Ha! SO true!!! The same thing happened to us while using our GPS to get to a monastery we were staying in in the Cinque Terre!!! The GPS directed us to go on a very tiny road whose entrance had that red sign with a while line through it (which I always thought meant DO NOT ENTER!!!). But we did, thinking that maybe it was a driveway to the monastery or something, only to be directed up a dirt road climbing higher and higher on the cliffs! Needless to say, we decided that the GPS had gone crazy…and we precariously turned around and went back to the freeway to try an “alternate route”!!! It finally managed to get us on the right track, but I just thank my lucky stars we didn’t keep on the original path – who knows if I would be here today to retell this story!!!

  4. Janie – you’re so right. The GPS is pretty much worthless in Italy – especially southern Italy. A friend uses one blindly instead of reading the street signs and it takes him down one-way streets the wrong way, off the highway onto a strada bianca, and over hills that don’t need to be traversed. I think whoever programmed them had a *big* sense of humor!

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