It’s so sunny an warm right now in New Zealand that it’s hard to believe only a month ago Tiernan and I were driving through the mountains of Tuscany on our way to France!
We rented a little Fiat Punto in Venice and hit the highway for Florence. Now, Florence is notoriously hard to park in and I will tell that story some other time. It wasn’t as impossible as most google searches make it out to be so if you’re considering it watch this space!
What this blog is about is the long stretch from Florence to Nice and our general driving tips!
When driving to France you have a couple of options – the coast road through Cinca Terra, and the mountains. As it was winter we decided that the mountain road was worth a go (even in our little car). We weren’t disappointed. Eventually snow capped mountains appeared before and around us and, thanks to the mild winter, completely passable.
The only real con to choosing this road now was that it is excessively windy and quite time consuming. I’m not sure if I will do it again, but as far as driving experiences go it was a good one 🙂
I actually really love driving in Northern Italy. Unlike in New Zealand everyone seems to understand how to use the motorway – keep right, get out of the way of faster cars… it’s just so pleasant. We didn’t have any real hassles driving as most places of interest are well sign posted as well.
What would this blog be without some real advice, though? 🙂 thus I present my tips for those considering a driving holiday around Italy:
- Display your times! Wherever you park (on the street, or in a lot) take a look at the signs to see if you can deduce if it is pay and display (blue zones) or free (white zones) or if there is a time restriction. Unless you’ve paid and got a ticket for a blue spot ALWAYS write the time you arrived on a bit of paper and leave it on your dash. Most private cars, you will observe, have little dials that allow them to display the time they parked. Hire cars don’t general have one, but a hand written note is perfectly acceptable and ESSENTIAL if you don’t want to come back to a ticket.
- Keep right unless overtaking. People can’t and generally won’t undertake so make sure you keep right if you’re in a little putt putt of a car 😛 Same really goes for France.
- Lock up wherever you go, of course, and don’t leave anything interesting in plain sight.
- Parking garages are worth considering in your budget! It costs a bit more, but it is a bit safer and you’ll make up for it in peace of mind! I alluded to a story about Florence. It is worth budgeting €60 for a three day, two night stay there and you can keep your car in the garage for most of that time. We parked up on our first night at about 10pm and collected the car two days later at 8.30am to drive around Tuscany, then we parked up overnight again. This allowed us to park and stay in a hostel in town, was easier than finding free parking, and still cheaper than staying in a hotel. So it’s a completely realistic option for the budget traveler.
- Tiernan’s tip: Be ready for anything because people will do anything at all to get around you. Ultimately, drive your own drive.