Please sign in to post.

Malpensa, Barolo, ValGardena, Cannero......how intimidating as a road trip?

Spent a lot of time last night reading about how intimidating driving can be. Throughout our sixties, we have done Tuscany and south of France and found it okay. We originally had an Insight trip planned for nine nights, cancelled because of Covid.. I could cut out Piedmont and just do Cannero and a base at Lake Garda to cut down on driving or avoid it altogether. I like my itinerary better than the coach tour, .Your thoughts?

Posted by
11230 posts

I'm not sure "intimidating" is the right word. The issue is that people just show up in Italy without any preparation, and think that driving there will not be any different from driving at home in the US. They then encounter all the many differences and have problems. And the problems can have a high price tag, if they start getting tickets.

As long as you're prepared for the things often discussed here (ZTL's, speed cameras, what the signs mean, the different rules of the road, the speed limits which may not be posted, the cost of gas and parking and tolls, etc., etc., etc.), you can do fine with a driving trip in Italy.

Posted by
114 posts

Harold is absolutely right. I will say that the confidence of drivers in Italy can be awe inspiring but I never felt intimidated.

Since you mentioned Barolo, I'll warn that the ZTL on the road leading into town caught me by surprise. If there was a warning sign I missed it as I negotiated the curve. Fortunately there is a large parking lot on the left at this location.

Posted by
137 posts

Our potential agriturismo, inn is outside of Barolo and a comment or two has been made of the last ten or so miles getting there...yet I am equating Piedmont with Tuscany road wise...no?
some of the posts like Italians passing even if the path is not really clear, or coming right up to you blinking lights, etc....true in the north?

Posted by
887 posts

We drove all of these areas and it was just like other areas of Italy that you mention. The only part that got really precarious was Monforte d’Alba- up in the hill town the roads were very steep and narrow. But driving through Piedmont was no problem, especially Barolo.

Posted by
3026 posts

I totally agree with Harold and Phrank. FYI, I’m an 80+ year old female. I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve driven in Italy, and I intend to do so on our next trip (if that ever happens ☹️). Yes, Italians seem to risk passing where I wouldn’t; and they will come up close and honk if they think you’re going too slow. Easy problem to deal with. I just pull over and let them pass. You can be very sure that no one is packing a gun with which to shoot you in a fit of road rage.

Posted by
145 posts

Driving in Italy is no more intimidating than driving at home. There are challenges due to signage, language and different driving conditions. Cars are great for independent exploring, but a pain if you are going into bigger cities.

I think your trip is fine with a car, assuming Italy opens up.

Posted by
635 posts

A navigator in the passenger seat really helps --- driving in Italy, my unflappable and Italian-speaking husband much prefers me to the Google Maps lady.

I think you'll find that Piemonte is one of the easiest regions to drive in, but if you wanted to, you could take a train from Malpensa to Milan to Torino, spend the night there and perhaps see the Egyptian museum and the car museum, then rent a car the next day.

Posted by
137 posts

All great ideas....not confident taking trains and dealing with stations as much. And I am glad to hear that I still have lots of years for fly/drives in Europe left :-) I might have to borrow your Italian husband though. We have done Tuscany and were fine with no Italian. Used to France and Germany etc where we both speak French or German. So this might be a bit of a challenge. Thinking September 2022 earliest but planning an itinerary that may include four so I need to get all my ducks in a row for discussion points and choices.

Posted by
60 posts

Paying a large ZTL fine 9 months after your trip to Italy is a rite of passage. Almost all of us have done it as part of the payment in the learning to drive in Italy school of life. I always drive in Italy, it's the best way to see a lot of the country on a trip, the freedom driving brings is worth the small hassles to me.

Posted by
114 posts

AnneMarie - we live in an area with no mass transportation anywhere near and so had never used a bus let alone trains. We were very pleasantly surprised as to how manageable both were, especially trains. Spend some time reading The Guy in Seat 61 (www.seat61.com) and add the appropriate apps on your phone. You'll be fine.

Posted by
345 posts

For me over the years I have become more of a public transport guy. It works in Europe much better than in the US. I can't count the many times I have driven through the Alps and not had a passenger view of the journey. When on the train or bus I can relax and take in the sites. We still rent cars on occasion but mainly for side trips from our main base where public transport is impractical. Just try getting to South Tirol from Menaggio via public transport!

Posted by
12118 posts

There is nothing intimidating about driving in the locations you mention. Definitely more practical since public transportation is scant and inconvenient in rural locations and small villages.
The only place where driving is a hassle is inside big cities, in which case I suggest you leave your car at the hotel parking lot and use other modes of transportation. But in those small villages and countryside locations, the car is way more efficient.

You just have to make sure to know about the European signage system.
https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Road_signs_in_Italy

And of course you must be aware that the historical centers of cities and towns (big and small) often have a Limited Traffic Zone (ZTL), where only residents with permit can drive (and emergency vehicles). Just park outside those zones (there are numerous parking lots for that purpose) and walk in.
Just watch for the round white and red sign below posted at the entrance of those areas. That sign means “no motor vehicles allowed” and is posted before any pedestrianized area or ZTL or anywhere motor vehicles cannot enter.

https://images.app.goo.gl/r6vmSaAmy2CUV3WR6

Posted by
1914 posts

not confident taking trains and dealing with stations as much.

If you can take an intercontinental flight you can take a direct bus from Malpensa Airport to Turin's Centre; if you liked backtracking you could easily take a train to Milan and another one to Turin, more or less stations work like airports.

we have done Tuscany

If you have done Tuscany, you can "do" Piedmont.

Posted by
24835 posts

not confident taking trains and dealing with stations as much

Is that because they are new and unusual to you? If it is the fear of not knowing and not wanting to make a mistake that is understandable. Many of us here could help with that - we have years of experience we can share, and I worked on trains - US and UK - for over 30 years. Language doesn't need to be an issue - if you can read road signs you can read signage in a station or on a train.

Please express your concerns and I will try to help...

Posted by
137 posts

If driving in northern Italy is doable, providing one understands the specific rules, it is our preference. We have always done fly drives..it gives us more flexibility. The idea of schlepping luggage to and around stations..we are not backpackers. If we do end up going as a couple and decide not to drive I will post questions to help me out. Thanks.

Posted by
24835 posts

fair enough. You used the words "not confident" and I just tried to help. Luggage not fun. yup.

Posted by
345 posts

In regards to getting around in South Tirol, that is why I mention that we drive there. In this part of Italy the ability to get from point A to point B in a timely and efficient fashion is restricted. But the vast majority of the country is served well by public transport. Just as an example of the weirdness, the east side of Como has train service, the west side does not. You can certainly take the bus but it is not very efficient with many stops and narrow roads. You can city-hop to your hearts content on the east side.

Posted by
24835 posts

why would you want to wander off the lake if you have gone to Lake Como? The boats between Varenna and other mid-lake towns and villages go to all the little places all up and down the lake; you can see beautiful landscapes and views as far as the eye can travel all the way from the Swiss Alps to the bottom of the lake. Exquisite, sitting back on the open boat while somebody else drives, with food and drinks available just downstairs. They even give you a tray to carry it back up. All the time with the wind gently flowing through your curls, enjoying the easy life. You can't do that in a car, and there isn't much to see from the road. I know, I've done both, on both sides.

Posted by
24835 posts

other confusion - Como isn't in the Süd Tirol.

Posted by
1724 posts

The areas you mention are all fairly easy driving as far as Italy goes.
Some of the small towns around the lakes can be a little dicey (many blind turns and steep parts) but hard to say exactly if you will encounter those or not.

Overall the trip is no worse than Tuscany or South of France if you have experience driving in both of those areas.
I have driven in Tuscany, South of France, as well as close to or in all of the areas you mention for this road trip.
While in Cannero area, make sure to visit Isola Bella ; small island you can catch a quick boat/ferry from Stresa to visit.

Posted by
137 posts

Will try to stay away from the scarier roads. We found driving in Tuscany easy relatively speaking and have done much of France.

Posted by
1724 posts

Going to be the same as Tuscany and southern France.
The country roads and highways are a breeze.
The small old historic towns can vary ; some quite tricky to navigate due to sharp curves, narrow lanes on the secondary roads, etc...

Fortunately you are avoiding the cities which is the source of much of the driving problems tourists encounter.

Posted by
345 posts

No confusion on my part, Nigel. We will take side trips from Como as we base there for a month or so. One side trip is to South Tirol. We have done Genoa and Turin as well. Taking 2 day side trips from our base is how we enjoy traveling.

Posted by
5905 posts

It sounds like to me that it’s possible that the agriturismo where you are thinking of staying outside Barolo has, itself, a tricky track the last few kilometers. If that’s the case, theyare doing well to advise people ahead of time so it’s not an unpleasant shock on the days you’re staying there — and especially the first day you’re trying to find the place.

Posted by
137 posts

La Rosa Giailla...do you know it? I only read about this in the reviews from a visitor.Lots of time to look for a new place if you recommend...I dont want to freak out every time we come and go.