If you think driving is scary in the U.S.

August 3, 2015

If you have traveled abroad and rented a car, you know the driving experience can be different – if not outright scary.

A friend recently returned from Italy, where it takes about five minutes to realize, especially in cities like Rome, that there are no real traffic laws – just traffic suggestions.

Passing on double lines, WITH oncoming traffic, appears to be as normal as 90-degree weather in July and August. Lines of traffic instinctively move to the right, widening the road even when roads are narrow (which is common). And while all this is happening, young men and women on scooters are zipping by, weaving through traffic on both the right and left. It makes one long for the more sane chaos of contending with New York and Boston drivers.

Americans are used to the wide open spaces, so to speak. Coming upon an extremely narrow road is usually relegated to a back alley. In Italian towns and villages the streets are narrow. Often what one would think is a one-lane road is a two-lane highway. It makes sense when one realizes the municipalities are older than the United States of America. Older than the colonies. Many appear to be right out of the Middle Ages. (And they are.)

The Appian Way (made famous in Caesar’s Gallic Wars), between Rome and Naples on the western seacoast, goes right through Gaeta, a sea port that looks remarkably as it did in the 1200s. A few more miles south is Scauri (a seacoast vacation spot for natives). A little southeast of there is a small hill top village called Tremensuoli. One literally squeezes between the buildings (an inch on each side of the car) to arrive at the village plaza, with a grand view of the coast, a small family restaurant and a 1300-year-old church. The villagers like Americans – especially American GIs. They still talk fondly of what American soldiers did for them during World War II. It’s no wonder then that the village decided to enshrine under plexiglass an American GI’s graffiti on a wall down a side alley. Marshall Webb of Campbellsville, KY, had carved in the wall: “M.A. Webb, C-ville, Ky, 30 March 1944.” Villagers included a photo of the GI, along with a poem he wrote, “One More River to Cross”, about the defense of Italy, including the Battle of Tremensuoli.





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