It’s a long way to Italy
Story: CAROLINE HOLMES, IAM
Italians invented the Fiat 500 and the Ferrari 250 GTO, not a bad metaphor for driving in their lovely land.
It’s the place for beautiful shoes, wonderful food, and extravagant body language. Sometimes this is expressed through the car so although their reputation as exuberant drivers is exaggerated, keep your wits about you until you get the hang of local customs. Particularly as you travel further south.
But first you’ve got to get there.
Loads of Brits drive to the Loire for their hols and don’t think twice about it. But it’s 1100 miles from London to Rome and it takes an exhausting 20 hours if you do it in one hit. That might be more miles than your car normally does in a month, or even two – and that’s without touring round when you get there, and coming home again. Let’s call it 3000 miles altogether. Minimum.
You’ll be fully laden, going jolly fast on the motorway, and if you go the pretty way up and over the Alps you’ll put lots of stress on everything, including the brakes on the way down again, and of course yourself. So make sure you’re prepared. Here’s a checklist.
- Add 3000 to the mileage and ask yourself if it needs a service before you go. And if it does, don’t leave it until the day before in case it needs any parts.
- Upgrade your satnav for all the countries you’re going to drive through.
- Check your tyres. Do they have enough tread for those 3000 miles? Any cuts or bulges? Check the pressure!
- Check all the lights, and fill up the washers.
- It’s always tempting to leave on Friday night – usually after an exhausting week clearing your desk. But this is a long trip. Be sensible and get a good night’s sleep before you go.
- Stop for breaks at least every two hours. Eat something, and if you’re tired, have a nap.
- Take plenty of water – dehydration equals dozy.
- Travelling with children? They’ll need entertaining of course, and though movies are great you need an awful lot of them to last 20 hours. Story CDs are a long lasting alternative – you’ll almost get there and back on one of the fat Harry Potters.
If you go via Switzerland
I’m sure you’ve read my words of wisdom on driving in France and Germany. You may want to add Switzerland to the list on the way to Italy. The beastly thing about the Swiss is that they make you buy an annual permit to use their motorways – a vignette – even if you’re just passing through. You can buy them at the border or it costs £29 online, and you have to buy two if you want to take a caravan or trailer! Don’t think you can dodge it because the Swiss are even bigger sticklers than the Germans when it comes to catching rule-breakers.
OK, you’ve made it to Italy
Watch the Chianti. As in most of Europe, the drink drive limit is lower than the UK – 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood. There is a zero tolerance limit for professional drivers and those with less than three years experience. If you’re going to drive, don’t drink.
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