Twelve days and almost 2500km later, I have arrived back in Florence. I’m in the lounge at the top of the Hilton Metropole, feet up, looking out the window towards the Duomo where the last of the daylight is hitting it’s western side. As I watch, a little parakeet jumps out of the bushes and looks around nervously.
I have just completed a road trip from Barcelona to Florence, with sidetrips to Lake Como and Rome, in my old 1999 Peugot 106. I’ve driven for probably 40 hours in the course of this adventure. Quite a feat.
How do I feel? Relaxed. Tired. Accomplished. And…a bit lonely.
I’ve spent the last eight days with one of my good friends from high school. Her flight from Rome to home was early this morning. Almost immediately upon returning to the hotel, I could feel a hole where she had been. It is difficult to spend so much time with someone you know well and then return to your normal existence. It is the same feeling I have everytime a water polo tournament ends.
Yesterday, my friend and I took the A1 from Florence to Rome. While it spends a lot of time in the valley, it closes down to a two lane road and winds through the hills right before it drops down into Rome.
Throughout this road trip, I didn’t feel comfortable driving my car more than 100 km/hr. The speed limit on the Autostrade in Italy? 130 km/hr. It isn’t so bad when you are driving in the valleys, where the cars are spread out and there are often three lanes, but in that last leg to Rome? Not so fun.
There are always semis, but in that section they tend to pile up. They don’t go much faster than I am comfortable going, so it is easy to cruise behind them, or pass them when they are going a bit slower than I want to go. This easily allows everyone else to pass us on the left.
In the hills, though, I couldn’t easily pass the trucks. Not only was it difficult for my car to speed up around them going uphill, in the left lane there was an almost never-ending line of cars speeding past us. Getting in front of an Italian driver who wants to go much faster than you is never a good idea.
The turns are tight and the barricades tall. Semis in front and in back of you and cars wizzing by the left. Passing us were Audi after Audi, the Alfa-Romeo Giulietta (the only Alfa-Romeo we saw), and many other cars (VWs, Fiats, Range Rovers, Citroens), but none nearly as old as my car. It’s as if I shouldn’t have been allowed to drive there. Next time, however, I’ll be in an Audi or a Mercedes or even a Lambourghini, and I’ll get to experience the fun of driving in the midst of all that confinement.