After an eight hour plane flight, probably the last thing anybody felt like doing was sitting for three more hours of ground transportation, but that's just what we did in order to reach our first travel destination of Porto Venere, which we'll cover in the next post. Some observations and experiences from the road:
While Rome is the historic and cultural capital of Italy, and of course the actual capital, Milan (where we landed) is the economic center of industry for the country. We saw plenty of factories and warehouses as we left the city. In fact, except for the street signs, you could easily imagine you were just riding along on an American interstate in an older industrial city. Italians drive on the right just like us. It wasn't until we got out into the country that we saw the amazing scenery and architecture that we associate with Italy.
Gas is about $9 a gallon here, but that doesn't stop the roads from being congested, especially the very narrow city streets. The only difference seems to be a greater number of tiny cars. Smart Cars in particular were quite evident.
Much like freeways in the eastern US, rest areas on Italian highways have food shops. (Exits are trickier to get on and off of than on our interstates.) A common one is AutoGrill, where we stopped for a break on our trip. Plenty of quick food options plus a small traveler-friendly convenience store with magazines, CDs, snacks and toys. In the parking lot, we encountered another tour group, this one a soccer team of what appeared to be middle school boys. We had fun trying to bridge the language barrier, but it turned out one universal constant is Psy's "Gangnam Style" dance moves!
After three hours on the road, we reached Porto Venere. Pictures coming!