Cliffs and Driving

“Frances: Do traffic lights mean anything around here?
Marcello: Sure. Green light – avanti, avanti. Yellow light –
decoration.
Frances: What about red light?
Marcello: Just a suggestion.” ~ Under the Tuscan Sun

Italy is such a beautifully gorgeous place. It’s full of history, and the mixture of new and old is mind blowing. I can honestly say that this trip and the experiences I have had have been life changing.

I am intoxicated with the beauty, the people, the culture, the food (omg, the food!) and yes, the driving. The driving has been particularly fun. I have always been confident in my driving abilities despite being directionally challenged, but I must admit I was a bit nervous at the idea of driving in Italy. I’ve been here a few times before when I was younger but I never had to drive. There was always someone else to do it. As I don’t know how to drive a manual transmission, I had to hunt down an automatic car which would hold three adults, a child and all the accompanying luggage.

And so I was able to rent a Nissan Micra. The rental company stated that it would hold two large luggages and three medium ones. I thought it would be plenty of room, since we would be carrying with us two large and two medium which meant room for back packs in the trunk. Little did I know the car would be as small as a Yaris, and the symbol which I understood to be for the medium luggage was actually for bags. We had to place a luggage in the back seat with my mom and daughter. This would make for an interesting trip, that’s for sure.

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The size of the car ended up being a blessing! Most of the 280 km trek from Rome to Amalfi was mostly uneventful – sure some of the drivers didn’t seem to know how to stay in one lane and would straddle two but I knew this already. The scenery was gorgeous, but being the person that was driving, I didn’t get to appreciate it as much as I would have liked to. But when we got onto Strada Statale Amalfitana – the road that takes you to the coastal towns of Amalfi, oh boy was I ever in for a surprise…

I saw a sign that warned of winding roads ahead but I didn’t expect the curves to be on average between thirty and fifty degrees! And I certainly wasn’t prepared for it to last for at least twenty km until we arrived in Amalfi.

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The drive was intense. I was white knuckled the entire time. I was driving on a very narrow road which barely had enough room for two cars – me and opposing traffic, let alone room for the cars which would park on each side. To my right I had the mountain and to my left I had a steep decline to the sea. I felt like I was driving on a cliff.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. Shortly into driving the winding roads, I turn a steep corner around the mountain, and I encounter this:

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Head on.

A big honkin’ bus was coming head on towards my little Micra. And it really was honking – for me to get out of the way! I slam on the brakes and think, now what do I do? Where the heck do i go? There is nowhere to go! I don’t know if sweating buckets because of fear, but I think I wet myself a bit then. And all the while I tried to remain calm because of my passengers with me, to keep them calm. Lord help me!

Luckily, a man walking along the road – and yes, I had to be careful for pedestrians too (crazy people) helped me reverse to let the bus through. I thought for sure I was going to end up reversing off the cliff.

After that experience, and driving nineteen km more to get to the hotel, I felt like an expert. No longer was I afraid to squeeze in close next to the other cars. Even to the point that a hair could get caught between us. Five days later, driving back to Rome was easy. The encounter with another bus was a piece of cake.

As the saying goes….when in Rome……

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