Road trip/holiday in Italy - My experience.

Tony1982

Registered User
Well we just returned home from our 3000 mile road trip to Italy. We started from our home in Germany and the first leg took us all the way to Pisa via Austria, this was a long old drive but made shorter by stopping in Austria for a few hours. After arriving in Pisa we spent the night there then had about 6 hours site seeing the next morning. The next leg took us to Rome where we spent 2 days seeing the sites, we then moved on to Pompeii and mount Vesuvius where we spent the entire day (long day's walking) before moving on South to our holiday destination in Simeri Criche in Calabria. We stayed there for 6 nights and then made the longest drive of the Trip back up north to Milan where we spent the night and most of the next morning before making the final leg back home via Switzerland where we spent about 4 hours.

Driving in Italy is a real experience!! It seems like most people must get there driving licences from a box of cereal and then it seems like anything goes when out and about on the road, like there are no rules! And then there's driving in and around Rome - it is unbelievable!!

So on the motorways it's not too bad and the road surface is super super smooth until you get down south where there are no tolls and the roads take a rather steep dive in quality, also in the south you seem to go through a tunnel every 2 minutes and the motorways become quite twisty and bendy, most cars slowing right down for the bends and you can still see them at the limits of their capability with the amount of body roll and twitchiness, no such issue in the S3 though, you can leave the cruise control to keep you going at a constant speed around the bends and feel no roll at all in good comfort.

On the motorways the drivers seem to have no lane discipline and tend to sit in the middle lane (more often than not they would actually be straddling the fast and middle lane like the lane markings were centre lines for their car), all the time when the outside lane is totally empty. when they over take they do so very close to you! Also no one seems to stick to a constant speed, i used cruise control and found that I would come up behind someone in the fast lane and they would take an age to notice me behind before reluctantly moving over, then as I would be passing their speed would increase to the point that I would then be sat next to them or they would be creeping ahead, then i would pull back in behind them and they would slow down again - quite frustrating when you have to then put your foot down to blast past and get far enough ahead to not be bothered by them, i say frustrating because I was trying to conserve fuel so just wanted to stick at a constant speed. Not a major bug bear as on the whole the motorways were pretty clear and we never once encountered any traffic jams on the motorway. It is rather expensive on the motorway too, I think in total we paid about 100 euros in tolls in Italy alone, as well as the vignet charges to drive in Austria (about 10 euro for a 10 day vignet) and Switzerland (45 euro which covers you for the rest of the year). Fuel prices are up and down too (you see some ridiculously cheap prices then 2 miles down the road and the price will be the end of the spectrum), on the whole only slightly higher than I'm used to, I once made the mistake of pulling up to an "attended only" pump where a guy fills up for you and you pay an extra 20 cent per litre for it - these are very common and you find them ushering you in to them, best to stick to the self service where sometimes you still get an attendant trying to do it for you! Oh and you can only get 95 ron petrol :( saying that I didn't drive in a way that I noticed any difference. In rome there are pumps every 100 meters on some of the streets, not petrol stations, just a pump on the side of the road with a guy sat next to it lol very bizarre!

Off the motorways a lot of the roads are not in a good state! Particularly in Rome where every few meters you are trying to dodge (and mostly failing) some pretty deep pot holes and large bumps - not the most comfortable place to drive an S3!

Rome:
In Rome there are very few lane markers and people just make up there own (very tight) lanes and you are often driving extremely close to other cars (i mean you could access all the controls of the driver to your right if you reached out your window), it can be quite nerve racking as all you can think about is someone colliding with you and your concentration levels go through the roof. You also have to have your wits about you when it comes to blind junctions with stop signs, the stop signs (and often lack of) are often hidden or not sited where you would be looking or expect them to be, it is also (sometimes) printed on the road surface (no road sign) but they are weathered and faded so you can barely see it only notice it at the last second. People are whizzing about in all sorts of directions and how no body collides sometimes is a miracle. The biggest pests are the moped/scooter drivers, they are in a word simply dangerous and have no regard for other road users (or pedestrians for that matter) the literally play a game of survival! When in traffic they will squeeze their bikes through the tightest spots narrowly missing your pride and joy and often bumping into cars. Then there's the (homeless looking) people lurking at the junctions and traffic lights waiting to pounce to clean your windscreen, they pop up out of nowhere and even when you make it clear you don't want a clean they still do anyway and demand some change - sure its nice to have a clean windscreen but when every single one of them crash there squeegee handles of the edge of the bonnet when they swipe up and down the windscreen and there large metal belt buckles are knocking in to your body work where they are leaning over and on your car it gets annoying, oh and if you ever encounter these guys make sure your auto wipers are turned off, the first guy who tried to clean my windscreen got a shock and a sore hand! Finding a parking spot is a nightmare, the best bet is to find a sheltered park house on the sat nav but then it costs, we paid 4 euros an hour to have our car parked in a nice little secure sheltered and guarded car park which also had cctv, and they wash your car if you want for an extra charge (we declined this service), the attendant also wanted to park the car for me (again I declined). So on the whole driving in Rome is like being in whacky races, no one indicates or looks and i found the way to survive was to just keep going lol, one thing I noticed was there were no nice expensive cars about and it soon became apparent why, nearly every car was banged up with dents or had wing mirrors held on with duct tape. Even after all that though, I thoroughly and absolutely enjoyed the driving there, you just have to forget about your nice car and just go with it, What an experience.

In the rest of Italy people are still terrible at driving and do there own thing but no where near the level of crazy as in Rome. All single lane 2 way roads become self made dual carriage ways where people overtake in oncoming traffic (both ways.... at the same time!) and people can be very impatient - twice when in Pisa and again in Calabria I was reversing out of a parking bay and another time parallel parking and people drove up the road when they could clearly see me from over a hundred meters away and either beeped their horn excessively or chanced it and squeezed passed me through the gap with me slamming on to avoid hitting them!

The car got quite a lot of attention - even after the hundreds upon hundreds of miles of dusty roads and motorways (the car was filthy pretty quickly), a few times we came out of the service stations on the motorways to find hoards of young lads crowding around the car and peering through the windows. Again in Pisa and Milan in the town centres. Then when you park up in the attended car parks you get the attendants asking you how many horses blah blah blah, very flattering that they like your car but gets repetitive!

So would I do it again - Yes, but probably not in Italy lol, the views are breathtaking and it is a very beautiful place with some of the best site seeing I have seen in Europe. The food was up and down in quality but on the whole ok. The massive let down was the service (or lack of) from the Italians whether it was at restaurants, shopping or within the hotels etc etc. Don't get me wrong we encountered some very pleasant people but they were not people providing service or working, on the whole I found people providing service very rude, blunt and impatient (to be fair they were just *********).

The car never missed a beat :) the air con was great and kept the cars interior a nice place to be in the 35+ degrees heat we had the entire trip. As the driver I remained comfy in the super sports seats the entire way - not once did I get back ache or anything like that which was a surprise. This car has been my first ever automatic and I can't see me ever going back to manual - it just made the driving incredibly relaxed and was a dream in the stop start whacky race in Rome. Our 2 kids were also comfortable in the back which normally in the cars of my past the kids didn't stay comfy for long. The sat nav was really rather good on the whole, was easy to follow and kept me up to date with oncoming road closures and traffic etc etc. The only issue was in the centre of Rome it repeatedly wanted me to drive into no entry roads or take me down the wrong way of a one way street, oh and i also turned the voice guidance off as it was getting annoying and repetitive. Economy wise I am extremely impressed with how the S3 has performed - in the 2942 miles we drove the average MPG was 36.8!!! Admittedly I didn't boot it anywhere and left the car in efficiency mode all the time, on the motorways my cruise control was set at 75mph for the majority of the way, I occasionally had to plant the accelerator to get past lorries before other cars blocked me in behind the lorries - was surprised how much less power it feels like in efficiency mode. Whenever I refuelled on the motorway my range counter went to 420 miles :) On the roads off the motorway i just went with the flow of traffic which more often than not was above the speed limit. The boot could do with being a bit bigger but we managed, and the kids could do with a drinks holder in the back - should of got the through load facilty! The only thing that annoyed me was the mmi kept resetting the music player on my iphone everytime we stopped for petrol - I manually put it on shuffle via the phone, then when the engine has been switched off it turns shuffle off so you have to go back into the arm rest and go into the music player on the phone to turn on shuffle again - then you end up skipping tracks that have already played. I checked the oil level between every leg and only needed to top up once (300ml) when we arrived home. Overall I'm well happy with the car's performance on our road trip :)

The car now looks like I'm going for the "Rat" look, it's going to be a long day when I clean it!
 

S32B

Registered User
You forgot to say that this is also available in hardback :p
 

SmileyS3

Registered User
Read it all...great write up! Sounds like you had a great, if not a little scary, time..ha.
 

Daveotto

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Great write-up and a brave man to risk an S3 in what is the madness of Italian driving.

I would never be that brave!!
 

Tony1982

Registered User
You forgot to say that this is also available in hardback :p

Haha, yeah I looked at it once I'd finished writing and realised it was a bit "epic" for a forum thread lol
 

Tony1982

Registered User
Great write-up and a brave man to risk an S3 in what is the madness of Italian driving.

I would never be that brave!!

Yeah I was nervous at first but you just have to forget what you're driving
 

Tony1982

Registered User
Any photos ?

Well we ended up with hundreds of pics, but got home and said to the Mrs that I was a bit gutted we never made use of the scenery to take any of the car :(
 

Tony1982

Registered User
Approaching the Colosseum which appeared out of no where



And me and my little family in front of the tower of Pisa

 

Tony1982

Registered User
mmm carbonara...could nail a plate of that right now !

Lol I ate a lot of carbonara when in Rome (excuse the pun), surprisingly there was a lack of spaghetti bolognese on the menu!
 

Tony1982

Registered User
Wow looks great !

We really did enjoy it and I'd recommend it to everyone that's brave enough and doesn't get too much road rage
 

Daveotto

Moderator
Staff member
Moderator
Yeah I was nervous at first but you just have to forget what you're driving

Know what you mean but in France over the last two weeks I have taken more care than ever on roundabouts as the French have worse lane discipline and indicating skills at roundabouts than Italians.

A few years ago near Bologna I was with a colleague who in a hire car hit and removed a parked car door as the occupant opened the door as we passed. He just drive on with the comment "it's Italy, no problem"
 

Tony1982

Registered User
Know what you mean but in France over the last two weeks I have taken more care than ever on roundabouts as the French have worse lane discipline and indicating skills at roundabouts than Italians.

A few years ago near Bologna I was with a colleague who in a hire car hit and removed a parked car door as the occupant opened the door as we passed. He just drive on with the comment "it's Italy, no problem"

I can definitely believe that!
 

glospete

Registered User
A great write-up and particularly interesting as my wife and I are doing a similar trip with friends (in 2 cars) but from UK for the whole of September. We are taking our TT and they have an M5. We are travelling to Genoa, Tuscany, missing Rome and Naples as we've been there before (no other reason surely!!) and then on to Puglia and back up the east side to Maranello (I wonder what for?), then for some serous driving in the Dolomites, down to Lake Como and back to UK. We've just spent 3 days with our friends just planning the trip! Your points about fuel etc are very helpful. Fortunately the wife of the other couple is Italian so language will be no problem. Really looking forward to this epic trip.
 

Tony1982

Registered User
A great write-up and particularly interesting as my wife and I are doing a similar trip with friends (in 2 cars) but from UK for the whole of September. We are taking our TT and they have an M5. We are travelling to Genoa, Tuscany, missing Rome and Naples as we've been there before (no other reason surely!!) and then on to Puglia and back up the east side to Maranello (I wonder what for?), then for some serous driving in the Dolomites, down to Lake Como and back to UK. We've just spent 3 days with our friends just planning the trip! Your points about fuel etc are very helpful. Fortunately the wife of the other couple is Italian so language will be no problem. Really looking forward to this epic trip.

Sounds epic!! Would of loved to of made our trip longer.
 

4K

Registered User
Haha this review made me laugh, and a very very accurate representation of what Italy is like on the whole. My grandmother is Italian and lives in Milan so I am over there regularly from the UK. The level of driving, is well, in fact what am I saying, it can't even be called driving, it is pathetic. Those kids you see at Legoland getting their Legoland licences have more experience than any clown in a car in Italy.

I've heard that the statistics of RTC's (Road Traffic Collisions) in Milan are about 1 every minute of the day, and I can believe it. People beep you at traffic lights if you don't go on red, they beep you if you go too slow, and to be honest they just generally beep you for driving normally frankly.

I've always said, and I am an experienced driver, that I could not and would not ever take my car or even hire a car in that country, and I will stick to that, so kudos to you for taking your beloved S3 and coming off unscathed. As you say, every car in Rome has a dent, scratch etc. It is the same in Milan, no one takes any pride or care over their cars and it is heartbreaking. I get upset whenever I see a scratch on my A3 (soon to be S3), so would go mad if someone hit my car and drove off as they do in Italy.

If you're thinking of going again, I'd advise public transport, because of the frecciarossa (High speed rail at 200+mph) which makes it very easy to travel between the major cities there, and avoids the stress, hassle and charges of the roads.

Oh, and you probably had a lot of people wanting to wash your windscreen because of the huge influx of immigrants coming from the boats into Lampedusa, into Sicily and up through the country. They have no jobs, money and nothing else to do.
 

Rikikite

Registered User
As Italian i can totally agree on your experience about Italian's drive stile, just a reminder to anyone willing to have a trip down here. The more you get to south, the more it gets dangerous to drive... Except for Milan is something unbelievable how people drives there !!
I live in bologna and now i'm in calabria and... wow! None gives a damn about anything, stops signs doesn't exist, bikers without helmets and speeding... And i won't speak about how we behave to ANY roundabouts.
Northern motorway are good but they are quite expensive. Approximately from salerno the motorway becomes free and at the same time a hell to drive.
Last tip, if you are in souther italy be careful to the "parcheggiatori abusivi"... To make sure you parked in a "safe" area, wait a minute before leave the car, if none shows up to ask money for the park you can leave, otherwise they'll surely scratch your car or break the windshield because you did't pay them... They are quite often related to mafia and even if you report them, the police won't do anything, so just avoid them for the safety of your car... Or just pay them, but remember that's considered illegal.
That's it, enjoy italy and some food :)
 

mfl

Registered User
Lol I ate a lot of carbonara when in Rome (excuse the pun), surprisingly there was a lack of spaghetti bolognese on the menu!

nice write-up enjoyed the story... certainty a RHD car in Italy would have fun !....... it's been a long day at work,... so I assume the comment about the bolognese was humour.....
 
I

Ignition1

Guest
I was recently in Florence for a 5 nights...and one of my first thoughts were "I'd never bring my car here".

Still after 5 days there I couldn't understand the driving style lol. When I thought I understood it - boom! A car undertakes on a roundabout then cuts across the car he undertook to get to the exit...and that was normal!

You're a brave man!
 

h5djr

Registered User
VCDS Map User
Gold Supporter
I think I'll stick to holidays in Germany.....
 
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