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Top 5 Places to Visit Around Alicante by Hire Car

Alicante City is a treat for the senses it has so much going on that it would be impossible to see all of it. The city is a cosmopolitan, bustling place with every thing you would expect and more, giving you a great place to explore on holiday. However the surrounding area of Alicante is outstandingly beautiful with a few hidden gems thrown in as well, the best way to explore this area and have your own holiday adventure is to hire a car. To get you started here are a few ideas you may want to consider.

The Village of Guadalest in the province of Alicante is regarded as one of the best days out and most rewarding places you could visit. Surrounded on three sides by the Aitana, Serella and Xorta Mountains it’s a hidden oasis of outstanding natural beauty and heritage. The Village sits perched on the edge of a granite mountain with fantastic views down the river cut valley.

The drive to the village is part of the adventure, as the twisting road takes you around some tight hairpin bends over some narrow passes which give the best views of the surrounding mountains. Guadalest was built by the Moors and as soon as you reach the village it becomes obvious why they considered it such a valuable location. The castles and buildings look like they grasp the cliffs and the smallest breeze may cause them to fall. So steep are the cliffs and peaks on which they sit they are virtually unconquerable and they gave the Moors a fantastically hidden strategic strong hold.

Access to the old village is through a stone cut tunnel called the ‘Portal de San José the hole through the mountain was cut some 1,300 years ago and is still the only way in. once your eyes adjust you’ll feel as if you have been transported back through time to a long gone medieval era. Stone cut houses, churches and castle remains are all on offer to be explored and investigated.

If you can make sure you arrive early, you will avoid the crowds and catch the first castle tour at 10 am. It starts off with a walk through the dungeons, a great to keep the kids entertained, the tour explains the village’s history, takes in the look out points and winding paths and takes you to parts of the castle you might have otherwise missed.

A slightly more macabre museum is the Medieval Torture Exhibition, it’s not all gruesome methods of doing away with people it seems the Moors had ways of ridiculing their law breakers instead. For instance drunks who may have spoken badly about their king were made to stand in a barrel, where upon the locals filled it with all of their rubbish and bathroom waste!

For a refreshing stop on your way back escape the heat and take a dip at the bracing Les Fonts de l’Algar. (Algar Waterfalls), near to the village of Callosa d’en Sarria. The falls are a series of tumbling weirs and large water pools starting off quite shallow and slow running but they get deeper and faster as you work your way up the valley. Swimming is allowed all the way up but remember that the current in the narrower pools can be very strong, make sure you have a chuckle at the people struggling to swim against the flow before you jump in.

Helpfully a winding path has been added along the route making the entire series of crystal blue pools accessible to everyone, at the top there are even showers and restaurants or places to have a barbeque.

The Cuevas del Canelobre are a series of caves located only 24 kilometers from Alicante, The inner most cave boasts the highest vault ceiling of any cave in Spain. More like a cathedral than a cave it’s a beautiful place to observe some of the best examples of stalactites and stalagmites in Europe. The sheer scale and vastness of these natural caves simply can’t be imagined so jump in your hire car and experience this wonder for yourself.

The enormous rock formations are stunning and the caves have unique acoustic properties which can’t be re-produced. On certain dates concerts and music festivals are held within the caves. Because they maintain a very low temperature it’s the perfect place to see a beautifully eerie performance in complete comfort.

After all of this history and culture one of the best ways to keep the children entertained is to take them to the relatively new Terra Mitica theme park. Built in 2000 the park promises to take you back in time as you adventure through any one of their 5 areas. Divided into Ancient Egypt, Rome, Iberia, Greece and the Islands each has its own theme and rides based around these ancient cultures of the area. Think Alton towers with a cultural twist but definitely with out the bad weather.

The Pantheon in Rome – Intelligent Architecture

There are few buildings in the world today that have survived the ravages of time so well as the Pantheon in Rome. This is mainly due to superior engineering. The Pantheon has often been copied, sometimes equaled but never surpassed, it had more architectural innovations than most modern buildings. This makes the Pantheon really extraordinary since it was built around 125 AD under the aegis of the emperor Hadrian.

Superior engineering

The plan is simple enough: a circular enclosure aside a rectangular entrance. The entrance sports a classic Greek portico of granite columns topped by a triangular pediment. There are three ranks of the 39 ft Corinthian supports, eight in front and two sets of four further in leading to the main rotunda. A rectangular section joins the portico to the rotunda.

Even though this design seems very simple there are a lot of signs of superior engineering. A few examples may be;

* The giant concrete dome topping the cylinder forming the major component was so well designed and built that no similar type would stand up under its own weight.

* The dome is 142 feet in diameter, while the oculus at the peak is over 25 feet of that total. It stands as a result of its unusual composition, outstanding engineering and brilliant construction.

* The oculus in the center – the opening through the top. It decreases the overall weight and serves as a ring that distributes stress around its circumference. Imagine, by analogy, how difficult it is to crush a bicycle wheel. It also serves to admit light to the interior. And rain, too it must be said, though the floor is an early example of slanting the floor toward drains.

* The dome’s tapering steps provide yet more evidence of the mastery of craft displayed by the dome’s designer. It’s 20 feet thick at the base, 7.5 at the oculus and composed of heavier material at the bottom, lighter as it rises. That doesn’t seem so remarkable until one considers that many architects a thousand years later ignored this simple idea.

This is just a few examples of great architecture and engineering, there are many more.

The Pantheon was built without modern machines or tools

It is remarkable that The Pantheon even today, nearly two thousand years after it was constructed, is as stable as when it was first built. It is almost beyond understanding that the Romans could build this structure without the benefit of modern machines or tools. Nor did the Pantheon engineers have the advantage of modern transportation methods. All the materials were floated down the Tiber and moved to the site by man and animal on carts of the period.

Almost no restoration

Though its enormous bronze doors have been restored many times, no major structural work has ever had to be undertaken. This is all the more remarkable given the marshy land on which the structure is built.

By contrast, observe there have been several decades-long projects to preserve the Leaning Tower of Pisa, owing in part to the soft ground in parts of the site. The Parthenon in Greece, though a great building, was a virtual ruin 2,000 years after its birth.

The Pantheon in Rome was first converted to a church during the 8th century and continues to serve that purpose today. In fact, the building has been in continuous use since first being built.

The Pantheon in Rome has been copied several times, two notable examples are;

* The British Museum Reading Room

* The Thomas Jefferson Rotunda at the University of Virginia in USA

When visiting Rome be sure to spend some time with this extraordinary building. Presumably you will not be in Rome to often and you can simply not loose this oppertunity to see some great architecture.

Rome – All Year Round – and Much Cheaper With a New Pass

Not only within the city but also the seaside is wonderful. To travel without problems the Municipal Authorities of Rome and the Ministry of Cultural Heritage, in conjunction with ATAC, have launched the Roma Pass. This new plan expects to make it possible to use the Roma-Pass card for means of public transportation that leads from the capital to the sea and supplementary services at seaside establishments. Roma Pass is the capital’s first cultural tourist card offering discounts and services to encourage visits to the city museums: it will allow tourists and other visitors to enjoy the sights of Rome.

The pass costs € 20 only and entitles holders to: free admission to the first two museums and/or archaeological sites visited, full access to the public transportation system, reduced tickets and discounts for any other museum and site visited, as well as exhibitions, music events, theatrical and dance performances and all other tourist services.

Roma Pass comes with a kit that includes:

* Roma Pass Transport: your public transport ticket;

* Roma MAP: a map of the city illustrating the location of tourist information points, underground stations, museums/sites of interest (addresses, phone numbers, buses and underground stations, timetables);

* Roma Pass Guide: the complete list of museums/sites of interest that have joined the initiative;

* Roma News: the programme of events and tourist services that are eligible for discounts divided by area of interest: art, music, theatre, dance, entertainment and sightseeing tours.

For the best accommodation information in the city of Rome check www.dde-europe.com

Tomorrow – Small Vacation Rentals!

When we build an Internet business, we naturally wish to become a large-scale, global company. But, do you feel more comfortable in an overcrowded mall as one of hundreds of faceless customers– or as a valued guest in a cozy shop? Do you like your specific needs to be as important to a salesperson as his own?

The less business you have, the better are your chances of success. Sound unrealistic? Well, here are the facts:

The smaller your region, the better your customer service.

You probably remember surfing the net, looking at hundreds of vacation rental sites. Was destination important to you or, did it make no difference? Personally, I can’t imagine that someone would search for just some kind of property somewhere in the world.

I see a difference between Sydney and Rome and prefer sites dedicated to specific destinations. Why? That’s easy. It’s because I like the individual attention I get. If I have questions all of my questions (even about the color of the walls in the bathroom) will be answered with care and in detail. Plus, I can get information about which banks have the best exchange rates, where the best eats are and, well, about anything and everything a traveler wants to know about really.

The network does not replace live interaction.

Even the most informative web pages can not replace live interaction, when you get specific replies to your specific questions. You should read the web page to find the info you need. We all value our time and prefer to talk to a live person and get an immediate reply. Multi-user portals are simply unable to achieve that close interaction between a web site owner and web site visitors, whereas small web sites can.

As a web-site owner, you will gain negotiating skills. These will show you are trustworthy, and help you to succeed in the rental business.

Tenant details are invaluable.

If you have been in the business of leasing or renting real property for several years, you’ll have quite a database of tenant and owner contacts. Storing every detail about them can help you regain them as clients. Before the high season begins, send them a newsletter about a new option, discount or benefit for your website visitors and include a brief reference to their family. For instance, tell them how cute those twins, John and Jack, were, who ‘decorated’ your wallpaper with their creative paintings last year, or, ask about their little dog Sparky, who misused your flowerbeds and lawn.

Your tenants will appreciate your attentions and will make early reservations. You could hardly expect that at large vacation rental portals.

“Closer” money.

If you charge property owners for listing their properties on your small vacation rental website, it’s easier for you to collect payments from them. Local transactions are easier, faster and more secure than payments from all over the World at international vacation rental web portals.

Document your financial relationships.

Operators of large vacation rental websites have owners from different countries with different local laws, so it is hard to control all the agreements and negotiations between property owners and tenants, but a small vacation rental website dedicated to one specific country or region shows more professionalism and generates more trust if it offers rental agreements prepared on behalf of property owners and guests.

If you operate a website dedicated to one region, you can compose legal documents valid for your region and appropriate for your owners and guests. Such rental agreements should describe the most likely disputes that can arise between owner and guest: furniture and fixture damage, insurance, guest and owner responsibilities, abandonment, payment schedule, etc. People feel more comfortable when their financial arrangements are backed up by legal documentation.

The smaller your region, the more income opportunities you have.

Would you like having more happy clients, who naturally turn to positive testimonials and word-of-mouth advertising? The owners of small rental websites can cooperate with local service providers and get good commission from this cooperation. For instance, they can agree on discounts with souvenir shops and hand out discount coupons to their guests. Discount coupons issued specially for a specific villa or house work best. The same can be done with restaurants, car hire and yacht rental services, etc. This will no doubt contribute to generating interest and building trust on your vacation rental website.

VIP attitude is more important than VIP house.

Even if the house for rent is not the essence of luxury, you may win your client’s favor with your professional demeanor and attentive attitude. I have seen dozens of examples in which good attitude has compensated for the shortcomings of a property. Remember: you lease impressions, not properties.

Be Sincere.

Last but not least, the guiding principle for the owner of a vacation rental website is to really want to make people happy. Your main and sincere wish should be to make a guest’s stay as good as possible. Making a profit depends on this. You need to listen hard to what your guests are saying. Remember that when a guest rents house for his vacation, he wants a break from work and day-to-day worries. He does not want his vacation to be clouded by trivial inconveniences. Love your owners! Love your guests! Love properties!

Do’s and Don’ts when Traveling Alone! – Rome Excursions

Perhaps you’re one of the few who basically don’t like to be around people for too long, not to mention have them as your traveling companions. What else can you possibly do? For those who are taking Rome excursions entirely on their own, there are certain do’s and don’ts that you may want to follow:

1. Avoid driving as much as possible. Though Rome can be one of the most beautiful places you can ever been, it doesn’t mean they have the best traffic system. First of all, there are many erratic drivers. What’s more, you have to deal with a number of other elements including moped, trams, and pedestrians. Thus, during Rome excursions better leave your car in your hotel and simply walk. You can get a better feel of what it’s like to be walking along Roman path.

2. Know the taxi services. If you can’t basically handle Rome excursions by foot, or you simply don’t like taking the tour bus, at least rent a taxi. The driver knows the city too well, so he’s an expert in going around traffic jams. Take note, though, that you should only pick white and yellow taxis, for they’re the official ones. The meter also starts to run not on the moment of picking up but after you both placed down the receiver. There’s no need to give them any tip, unless you’re generous enough to do so.

3. Go for hotels with terminal transportation. Sometimes Rome excursions can start at some point, and your hotel may be located not quite near it. You can save a lot if you can reserve room accommodations in hotels with free terminal transportation.

4. Get rid of tourist traps. It’s not unlikely that the Romans are not only popular for their arts but also for their food as well. Ever tasted their pasta? Definitely, you’ll know what ambrosia is. However, there are also several pretentious cafes around. When you’re in Rome excursions, make sure you don’t bump into them. Usually, these are restaurants with huge American signs plastered all over their shops. Their cuisines are not original Italian, and their prices are high.

5. Plan your budget. No matter what tour you’re in, you’re still advised to create your own budget. Not all entrance fees are covered by tour prices. So before you can get any more surprised to learn that there’s no way of getting in than paying, then better bring a few bucks with you. If you’ve done any research, ensure that you’ve brought more than what’s stated in their website. Prices can rise so fast.

6. Be comfortable. Skip anything fashionable and go for something comfy. Remember, you’re going to do a lot of walking, and high heels can’t certainly give you your much-needed leg support. Rather, put on some rubber shoes or sandals and your well-loved jeans and shirts. It does pay, though, to make a research as to what clothes are fitting in a particular area. For example, majority of Rome excursions can include the Vatican. They’re very strict when it comes to dress code. It would usually mean no sexy dresses, shorts, and tank tops for the women, and no offensive shirts and tattered jeans for men.

In the end, the success of your Rome excursions will largely depend on your taste. If you’re a great lover of history, arts, and culture, then the best way to enjoy the Eternal City and get into its insights would be hiring a local Official Tour Guide which will lead you through its hidden magical treasures.
If not, then you can comfort yourself with numerous cafes and shopping districts found all over the area.

Holiday Freedom – Car Hire

When booking a holiday it’s easy to overlook the requirements needed to travel around once you arrive at your destination. Most package holidays now include a transfer by coach from the airport to the hotel, which means that it may not seem necessary to hire a car. However without access to a car tourists are restricted to public transport and places reachable on foot. Therefore hiring a car gives a greater freedom to visit more obscure places of interest.

Wherever you’re visiting there’s always something extra to see when you rent a car, here are some of the great sights from a variety of popular holiday hotspots.

Malaga, Spain – if you’re staying in the Costa Del Sol’s town of Malaga it’s worth making the short drive to the nearby castle known as Gibralfaro Castle. The name comes from the Moorish Jebel which translates as the hill and Faro meaning lighthouse. The road leading to the castle is long and winding, a difficult walk but easy to undertake in a car. Once you reach the top the caste offers some fantastic views over Malaga and the gardens are a great place to sit and relax.

Majorca, Spain – for those with access to a car there are many great places to visit on the island of Majorca including the Cathedral at Palma. From the outside the building looks fantastic as it sits by the seafront. The Cathedral is a traditional Gothic structure with sandstone walls, and is home to the famous Portal del Miradon, a 15th-century door by Guillem Sagrera featuring scenes from the Last Supper.

It is also worth visiting the Castell De Bellver a uniquely presented 14th Century Royal Fortress with an interesting museum and great views over Palma Bay.

Berlin, Germany – for visitors to the German capital there are plenty of fantastic places to visit, the Brandenburg Gate is arguably the city’s most famous landmark, standing as Berlin’s answer to the Eiffel Tower. Over 200-years-old, it’s managed to play a role in much of the city’s history, making it an essential place to visit for fans of local culture.

Rome, Italy – anyone staying within the region around Rome would be foolish to miss out on a visit to the Colosseum. The arena was built as a stadium to hold fifty thousand spectators who would watch anxiously as gladiators battled with animals. From the outside the Colosseum is a fantastic sight and inside there is even more to see as the original cells that were used to hold animals, criminals and gladiators are still in place and can be viewed by the public.

Lison, Portugal – Lisbon offers many popular tourist attractions including the Castle of St George. The castle was built during the 5th Century and offers fabulous views from its perch at the top of the city’s highest hill. Within the grounds of the castle there is a small restaurant that offers a good choice of food within a relaxing atmosphere.

These are just some of the places that you can visit with access to a car whilst you are on holiday. A simple search on the internet will give you some more ideas of tourist attractions. So next time you are away don’t just stick to the resort in which you are visiting – hire a car and visit the more obscure locations.

Ditch Drab December and Say ‘felice Anno Nuovo’ to Rome

Do you spend the so-called ‘holiday season’ cooking for masses of relatives, mediating arguments between them, tidying up after them, or just generally counting down the days until you can get out of the house? A good solution if you’re looking at a stressful, boring time is simply to leave the country – going away for New Year’s celebrations can immensely cheer up the bleak midwinter and help you start the year happy, relaxed and positive.

You can be sure of a warm welcome in Italy’s Eternal City, Rome, where the weather remains sunny and mild throughout the winter and there’s plenty to see and do for everybody. Rome in winter is perfect for couples (that’s where ‘romance’ comes from, after all) and families alike, and for anybody looking for a good party!

In terms of getting a feel for Roman life and culture, it’s actually better to visit in winter than summer. During August, Italy closes down as locals go on holiday, many restaurants, bars and clubs shut up shop, and tourists overrun the most popular destinations. It’s also uncomfortably hot, and there’s no football! In the winter you’re likely to meet more real Romans, there are fewer tourists and hence fewer tourist-traps, and you can enjoy the good life at a leisurely pace.

The New Year is celebrated in traditionally exuberant, Italian style here, with massive fireworks displays, street parties and outdoor concerts in the Piazza del Popolo and elsewhere. Local traditions include wearing red underwear on the 31st December to bring good luck in the coming year, and throwing something old or unwanted out of the window at midnight – so you might want to keep an eye out overhead! On New Year’s Day, if you’re awake in time, there’s a huge musical parade ending in St. Peter’s Square. Bands, performers and acrobats will be on hand to entertain children while their parents may wish to recuperate with a good coffee.

Of course there’s much more to see and do around Rome if you have a few days. Its breathtaking architecture, art and historical sites are second to none and when you’ve had your fill of culture it’s also brilliant for shopping, food and drink. Head to the Trastevere neighbourhood for charming caffès, authentic trattorie and bars, or browse the street markets in Campo de’ Fiori and Navona. At this time of year they’ll be filled with delicious traditional Christmas treats as well as the usual fresh, homegrown organic produce.

One thing you will need is a good place to sleep off any excess, and the city is well-appointed with several luxury hotels in central Rome as well as more modest establishments for those on a tighter budget. From there you can wander around and explore the diverse, historic districts all day, then come back to relax in sumptuous surroundings with a heated swimming pool or spa, perhaps a cocktail or two… la dolce vita indeed.

Hiring a Car in Northern Cyprus

To many people on holiday, hiring a car is the ideal way to get around. It is certainly true these days that here are many places in the world where this is no longer the case. Trying to drive (and more to the point, park) a hire car in the majority of large, European cities is no pleasure at all. Some cities, such as Paris, Rome and London, are a positive nightmare for drivers and trying to find somewhere to leave a car in these places takes up far too much time. However, in southern Europe and particularly the Mediterranean countries, public transport is patchy and renting a car offers the opportunity to enjoy the freedom to explore. Northern Cyprus definitely falls into the latter category and the experienced traveller here considers a hire car effectively an essential part of any holiday to north Cyprus. Northern Cyprus car hire is relatively straightforward and anyone with a standard European driving licence will have no problems. Best of all, as far as anyone from the UK is concerned, the rules of the road in north Cyprus are all but identical to the UK, traffic signs are more than a little familiar and thanks to the island’s British heritage, they drive on the left. As with any part of a holiday, a little forward planning will pay dividends. There is something of the standard Mediterranean mentality around the island, so although your car is almost certain to be properly prepared, it is vital to book in advance, especially during busy times of the year, and equally important to make sure your booking is properly confirmed. As yet, none of the major, international car hire companies have a presence in north Cyprus, so all the companies offering cars are smaller concerns, often family run or connected to a particular hotel or tour agent. From May through to October, local demand for cars is high and if you leave it until you arrive, you run the risk of not getting a car at all, never mind getting the type you had in mind. As far as traveller’s tips are concerned, firstly make sure you find a reasonably good map before you go on holiday. Maps of Northern Cyprus are few and far between and it is certainly not unusual for one not to be supplied with your car. Getting lost on holiday is fun and you will find the locals incredibly friendly, but directions may be difficult to follow and there are certain to be times when you want to actually get somewhere on time! Petrol is comparatively cheap and there are a reasonable number of garages in built-up areas. However, petrol stations in rural areas are infrequent. If you are planning a longer journey, or a day out touring, you should really fill up with petrol before you set out. In Northern Cyprus, self-service garages are effectively non-existent, so you will always find that someone comes out to serve you. Generally, their English is excellent and a small tip is an appreciated gesture. Roads in Northern Cyprus are fairly un-crowded, though the towns of Kyrenia and Nicosia can be quite busy during normal commuting times. Country roads are often all but deserted, but do watch out for wild donkeys and tractors. Driving manners are generally good, especially by Mediterranean standards, but you will come across some very slow driving, especially in the countryside. Just remember you are enjoying a holiday, so relax! Most roads are in surprisingly good condition and well-surfaced, even in isolated places. However, there are quite a lot of mountain tracks and unmade lanes around. Every type of hire car is more than capable of tackling virtually any road, but do please beware of sand and beaches. Every car hire company in north Cyprus will regale you with tales of having to retrieve cars from beaches – or worse, not being able to! Four-wheel-drive vehicles are no better in this respect and by far and away the best advice is to find somewhere solid to park and to walk down to the sea. And a final, vital tip. If you are travelling any time between April and October, air-conditioning is absolutely vital. Temperatures, especially in the inland plains of Cyprus, can reach extremely high in the peak months and a parked car acts like a mini oven in these conditions. For this reason, although they might be tempting, the good advice is to steer clear of convertible jeeps and the like. They might be pleasant when it’s warm, but parking one in the sun means you will come back to find seats that are too hot to sit on and controls that are too hot to handle! In Northern Cyprus in particular, public transport is very thin on the ground and taxis are relatively costly (though cheap by UK standards). With a little forethought and some careful planning, hiring a car in north Cyprus is a perfect way to travel and get to see the most of this beautiful country.

Cultural Italy – Miracle Players at the Roman Forum

Miracle Players at the Roman Forum is an English language theatre group who are performing in the Ancient Roman Forum. This group comes to Rome every summer and frequently play to huge crowds as they are very popular with the locals. Their down-to-earth and family friendly comedy style is usually a hit with everyone. The plays are usually only around 40 minutes long so even the younger members of the audience shouldn?t get too bored.

In 2007 the comedy play ?Caesar – More Than Just A Salad? and was a major success. This years production is called the ?The History of Rome – Part One?; how they manage to get over a thousand years of Roman history into a 40 minute play is pure genius by the plays writers. Any fan of Monty Python will be a fan of the Miracle Players’.

The play is being performed in the Roman Forum from June 20th to August 8th, and the shows are performed on Fridays at 7.30 pm. If you are around the Roman Forum area at this time, drop in and take a look as the shows are free and you do not need to make a reservation.

How to get there: The Roman Forum is located close to the Piazza Venezia in the city centre. There are several bus routes that stop on Piazza Venezia and these include the 64, 70, 170, 492, 175, 40, 63, 95, 85, 628, 87, 715, 716, 60, 44, 81, 117, 119, 62. Alternateively you can take the Metro B to Colosseum and then walk down Via dei Fori Imperiali to the forum.

This comedy production is just one of a large number of things you can do and see while in Rome, so for other ideas check out our other Car Hire Italy Blogs. If you are looking to drive out of the city then take a look at our Car Hire Italy options.

Driving experiences while vacationing in Italy – Part 2

We had to drive in Italy. Due to time constraints, driving enabled us to maximize our options and flexibility. Having recently experienced driving a stick-shift on the left side of the road along clogged, convoluted Welsh country lanes, my spouse and I thought nothing of renting a car in Italy. However, after exchanging three different, apparently salvaged, cars and our rental company at Rome’s international airport, we approached the Autostrada with a bit of trepidation.

Italian freeways were slick. Not only was the signposting on the Autostrada effective although somewhat intermittent but easy to interpret from a multilingual perspective. Miniature cars whooshed by us, their drivers pushing the limits of their cars’ engineering specs. We were not alone in our quest for sunshine which, no doubt, could be found just over the rise of the next hill demarcating the southern Tuscan border. Traffic police were conspicuously absent.

After piercing the southern tip of Tuscany, our lurching stomachs heralded the fact that we were in one of the world’s great gastronomic meccas. Our first foray into Tuscan-style’ eating involved a stop at an exit along the Autostrada leading to San Gimignano, where we ate crispy American-style’ nibbles at a restaurant housed inside a freeway overpass. Those greasy spoon/convenience shop/gas station/restrooms were life-savers, especially when traveling during siesta’ in rural areas.

Temporarily sated, we snaked along the highway leading to San Gimignano, via Poggibonsi. The highway was smooth and, again, well-signposted, so we did not encounter any confusion until we hit the town of Poggibonsi. Poggibonsi, although it is a nice, industrial town, seemed to want to trap us in its swirling vortex, as we found ourselves stuck there on more than one occasion. Like threading a needle, we doubled back and re-routed several times before we successfully passed through the eye of town and scored the road to San Gimignano. Our confusion stemmed from the combination of several roundabouts in close proximity, as well as inconspicuous signage on a couple critical turns. The roads themselves seemed to conspire against travel to one of the jewels in the Tuscan crown.

Throughout the rest of Tuscany, however, we encountered very little driving difficulty. Obviously, medieval village roads are claustrophobic for even the smallest vehicles, so we parked outside city walls and strolled in. Tuscany is also quite hilly, and we consistently under-allocated the time required to reach our destinations.

All told, driving in Italy afforded us the flexibility to visit many places, such as wine shops, chocolatiers, and Etruscan ruins, that we may not have otherwise been able to access. Other intrepid, road-savvy wanderers should not hesitate to hit the Autostrada!