Maybe this should be called “Cities For Dummies”. I bet nobody else ever had this problem?
In the days before GPS we navigated by instinct, and maybe used a map. So what happens when you’re driving in Italy and enter a small town either by accident or possibly on purpose? During my early days exploring Italy I decided to check out a few towns in the Tuscany area. Most are quite small, picturesque, and easy to navigate. For some reason my wife and I decided to see what might be in Empoli…maybe a good lunch spot. So in we go headed for “centro” which is always the city center. Nice town but bigger than we thought. And lots of 1-way streets. Nothing appealed to use foodwise, so I said “let’s head out to the countryside and find a good locals place to eat”. Besides if we had to go all the way to Lucca, that’s the food paradise of this area.
Being lunch time, which is never a good time to drive in Italian cities, the streets were clogged. My excellent sense of direction can easily get us out of here. Yea, right. Around and around we go on mostly 1-way streets. Seems like we saw that building before. Using the sun as a guide I figured we needed to head North. Except the only way to go that direction kept taking us on another loop around town. As most men do, I never stop and ask for directions. Besides my Italian is pretty useless. So maybe South would be a good choice. Around and around some more.
As time goes by, maybe almost an hour, we are getting very hungry. If only we could get out of Empoli we might find food. However, always remember that restaurants in Italy are only open for very specific hours, unlike the USA where you can eat at any time. So it’s imperative we get out of here. A chance turn results in a road out-of-town. And by luck it’s headed North towards Lucca. Food on the horizon!
Country roads in Italy are great and fast. As I zoom along at super-legal speed I startle my wife with an almost emergency frantic stop. “What’s wrong” she blurts, collecting her stuff that’s now all over the front seating area. My response is “BMW’s, Mercedes, Alfa’s, locals, food!”
A quick u-turn and we pull into a roadside Trattoria with a jamb full parking lot. Gotta be great I figure. We enter with dozens of quizzical looks from a room full of Italian business people obviously enjoying traditional local lunch. My weak Italian gets us the last small table. No English spoken here. So in the Italian style we speak with our hands and point to everything that looks appealing to us. Who knows what it is, what it costs, and who cares. It’s lunch time, we’re hungry, and it’s Italy. Turned out to be one of the best meals we had on the trip. And the price was better than expected.
Now if we can just drive off in the right direction.