Remember back when we got our little car, affectionately dubbed Guido because my family has a tradition of naming cars? How we learned all about car buying in Italy, way back when we first arrived and had little Italian language experience under our belts? How I was fearful to drive the newly-purchased macchina, especially anywhere within an hour of Rome because it was chaotic and stressful with cars coming from every-which-way, motorini buzzing around, and traffic lanes spontaneously appearing where no lines deemed them possible?
Sure I drove around Ascoli Piceno, learned to parallel park in ridiculously narrow streets while maneuvering into amazingly tight spaces, and took to the hills of the Piceno like nobody's business. But I still had a fear of Roma and let Bryan drive whenever we went anywhere near the capital city.
That was then. I've come a long way. I went to Rome to meet my sister who had arrived with severe jetlag and a desire to get south for some R&R in our little village. She wanted to do some jaunts around the region and a car is the only way, so she booked a rental. Trouble is, she doesn't drive a stick shift and had no desire to drive in any town bigger than ours. I signed up as a "second" driver, but was to be, in actuality, the primary guida for this trip.
I'd driven the outskirts of Rome once or twice before when visiting Giorgio and Francesca. While traffico there is crazy, it's not like the narrow lanes of the historic center where everything is magnified and signage is nonexistant. We picked up the car at Termini, Rome's bustling train station, smack in the centro of all traffic horror possible, where one-way streets start, stop, turn back on each other and create a grid of confusion that even locals have a hard time getting themselves out of. We buckled in and squealed the tires down the seven levels of insanely-tight turns in the parking garage, turned out onto the streets, gave one last cursory glance in the rear-view mirror and set off.
I gotta say - I rocked! I clutched like a pro, slid seemlessly between second and third as traffic allowed while bumping over cobbles and dodging the scooters that buzz around all sides of the cars like swarms of wasps (which is why they're so appropriately called vespas, wasps). I skirted slowpokes, passed delivery vans while avoiding oncoming whizzing drivers, and braked for pedestrians that suddenly appeared from nowhere. I got us to the GRA, the eternally-clogged ring road that circles the Eternal City and found my way to the A-1, dubbed the Autostrada del Sole (the highway of the sun) that transported us towards Naples and points south. During high-traffic Easter week when everyone was fleeing Rome for a long weekend away. And I didn't bat an eye or feel a hint of a heart palpitation while doing it!
The sister was mightily impressed. So was I. I'm not ready for Napoli where red lights mean absolutely nothing, but it's a lot different from when we first bought little Guido and I didn't want to drive the narrow streets at all. I've come a long way, baby!