We will be driving through Tuscany, starting in Florence, ending in Rome. Is a good map enough for navigation or is GPS essential?
I guess I'm spoiled by technology. I have not carried a map in a few years (and I probably have 20 maps of Italy!)... Currently, we're driving through Scotland and we are ONLY using our GPS. Hardest part for us here in Scotland is not getting where we're going... but remembering to stay on the other side of the road as we're headed there! The newer section of the M8 in Glasgow was NOT on our GPS and that was a little disconcerting - You'd think after 50 times repeating "recalculating" SHE'D get the message. Thank goodness for volume controls. In Tuscany we get lost often... we use the GPS to get found and back on track to our eventual destination... but usually only after a few hours of "being lost." I am probably "over-dependent" on our GPS as we've been through most of Europe with it on the windshield.
Where's the "Like" button on this site. James, you took the words out of my mouth. Ron, you make very valid points. I always have the GPS with me on trips past the immediate neighborhood. I like to be reminded what the road does beyond the next hedge. I usually have it muted and keep an weather eye on the shape of the road. I always use my GPS in Italy, especially on country roads and around Rome. Essential? No way.
I think a GPS is much more than a substitute for maps. At least a good GPS with real-time traffic info (such as TomTom Live series). The major advantage of a GPS is that it offers detailed maps of whole countries, down to small hamlets back streets. You can't possible carry such small scale maps without having a small library in your car. It saves you precious time not having to, having reached a small city, having to annoy people asking for directions to your B&B (which they might not know). So a GPS is a superb tool. Still, I think a decent road atlas or a tourist map of a region is helpful as a complement for the GPS. I'd not drive anywhere I don't know without a GPS these days.
Let me answer it this way. In 2006 while we were getting out lease car at the airport in Milan we were talking with the couple ahead of us and the lady was telling us how much they liked their Garmi Muvi for travel in Italy because they never got lost with it. I noted her comment but was not too impressed because as usual, we had good maps. By that time we had logged about 13,000 miles of driving in northen Europe on various trips and never had any serious navigation problems. By the end of the next day, I was mumbling that when it comes to geting lost in Italy, it is easier done than said. The problem is that once off the autostradas, the best we could tell, highway numbers are a national secret in Italy. Take a GPS with a European map card and also take good maps. The GPS will navigate you but you will also want the maps to get a better picture of where you are on the large scale of things. The screen on a GPS shows a pretty small amount of territory. The other advantage to a GPS is that when you get out of the car you can save the location of the car and put the GPS in your pocket secure in the knowledge that no matter how much you wander in a strange city somebody in your group knows how to get back to your car. Ms. Garmin may be a bit cranky at times but she always gets the job done.
I never travel by rental car without our GPS... but from experience I've learned to check to see if the "cigarette lighter outlet" is working! A couple of years ago we rented a car in Spain and did not realize that our GPS was NOT charging until we were 150 km down the road from the rental location! Neither of the two power options in the car worked and we were then in the GPS "on and off and on and off" mode throughout the entire trip... So now we CHECK for power before pulling off the rental car lot! Of course, now that we check it's never happened to us again... Because I used to live in Spain I THOUGHT I knew my way around ... and without maps and a partial GPS we had an interesting (and sometimes frustrating) trip. It repeatedly became obvious to my wife I had NO CLUE how to get to some of the hotels and sites. Somehow it seemed easier in the past... and that was before GPS units??
Thanks to everyone for your input. Seems the GPS camp is more persuasive.
Now, another question. I own a Garmin Nuvi 1300 LM. I can buy a map of Italy for $69 to either download by computer or order a chip to be received by mail. Any opinions on whether one option is better than the other?
I wonder how anybody ever got around with a darn gps. Huh! We must have used maps or something. The roads are well marked. The center of town is either on the river or on the high ground - - these are old cities, that's the way they were built. The dead give-away for the centrum is the highest steeple. There's usually a TI nearby with a free local map. I've just about quit lugging a gps around except for solo trips when I know there will be a lot of night driving. The sucker is just too much trouble.
The best thing about a GPS is my wife can nap in the car without me waking her abruptly and asking, "Is this the exit I want?" - then being upset because it took too long to get the map out and check. The other good thing is the transistion from highway to city driving is easier than with maps. The downside is, you still should keep a map handy to verify your route, and as a backup. I've traveled with both TomTom's and (last trip) a Garmin. The problems I've had may reflect more on my own operation errors (garbage in-garbage out), but expect at least a little back-up navigating with a map.
"The best thing about a GPS is my wife can nap in the car without me waking her abruptly and asking, "Is this the exit I want?" - then being upset because it took too long to get the map out and check." Yes, a good GPS is a lot cheaper than a divorce. :)
We've never used a GPS on dozens of trips to France, but I can see where it might have come in handy on occasion. I discovered halfway through our recent trip that our rental car had a built-in GPS, but I had no idea how to use it.
susan, A GPS is not "essential" but it often makes life a lot easier when driving in unfamiliar locations. I've found that it's not a good idea to trust them completely though, as they do make mistakes. The mapping database can occasionally have "errors". It's very important to enter the correct local name for the destination (there can sometimes be two names which sound close, but are not close geographically). I ALWAYS double-check the directions provided by the GPS, using road signs or local landmarks. I also ALWAYS travel with a Michelin Map for "backup". The Garmin Nüvi model that I use includes European maps, so I've never had to use "chips". If the cost is the same for both the chip and the download, either option should work. Happy travels!