This is a tip for novice travellers based on our recent European road trip. When you look at a road atlas to plan your route, and you see a coast road that looks like it will be much more scenic than the more inland highway, do some further research before you decide to take it. As we discovered in Europe, many such roads offer you barely a glimpse of the coast, certainly not enough to warrant taking a slower road. Sometimes because of trees (but not often), other times because of how built up an area is (more often), and sometimes because of tunnels (most often).
Lets talk about tunnels for a moment. They are hateful. You can literally drive for hours with only fleeting glances of daylight as you exit one tunnel and enter the next. No views. And they are really long and dark sometimes. And crazy busy. Especially in Italy. Drivers in Italy are aggressive and fast, and that’s hard to get used to when you come from a small rural community in Canada, but combine that with a tunnel, and it can be a little frightening.
On the other hand, I guess the alternative to these tunnels would be aggressive, fast Italian drivers on winding mountain roads. That’s a little hairy as well. And in less cosmopolitan areas where there are still little mountain roads, the scenery can be stunning, but if you have my head for heights, you rarely appreciate it as you grip the car door handles and look the other way, hoping your husband doesn’t drive off the edge while he is marveling over that same stunning scenery.
I sound like I’m whining. My point here, though, is about expectations. I expected, for example, to drive from Genova to Cinque Terre on a scenic coast road, and instead we whizzed there through a series of tunnels. And when we actually got off the tunnel route into the part with the scenic coast road, the road was very different than I expected it to be. For example, I expected that it would be wide enough for two vehicles. And I expected there to be the odd guard rail on sections where there was a 500 foot drop if you happened to swerve off the road to avoid an oncoming vehicle or something.
Basically, what it all boils down to is this. I did not know how to read a road map. For example, I did not realize that a wiggly road on a map meant you would probably be meandering up, over, around, and through mountains. Or that a coast road was not necessarily a coast road. And my expectations were off. Purely because of my own naivety. In fact, my expectations of roads were based mostly on Atlantic Canadian roads (straight) and British motorways (also straight). And having never spent any time in mountainous regions, I didn’t realize….well, I didn’t realize lots of things. And let me make it clear that these are my observations only – not necessarily those of the rest of my family. Or any other normal people.
You know, what I really could have used on this trip is one of those great big plastic relief maps with all the mountains in 3D. You know the ones you could practically climb into. Like Joey on Friends when he visits London. That would have made things a lot easier!