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Seeing Italy as the Italians Do

Posted by on May 4, 2014

One of the biggest Italian cliches (that’s totally actually true) is that everyone rides around on scooters EVERYWHERE.  There are about as many, if not more, scooters on the road as cars at any given time, especially if it’s sunny.  Scooters are a part of Italian life; they’re compact and perfect for navigating the slow-paced narrow streets of southern Italy.  Given this, me, Haley, Nick, and Doug decided to take our last Sunday of the semester and rent scooters to drive across the peninsula to the Amalfi Coast.

The group!  From left: Haley, Nick, me, and Doug.

The group! From left: Haley, Nick, me, and Doug.

I know for a fact that four months ago in January, I wouldn’t have gone through with it.  In fact, I probably wouldn’t have entertained the idea in any serious way.  But after four months abroad, I’m not the same person I used to be.  So is it dangerous?  Probably.  Is it difficult to navigate sharp turns on steep cliffs?  Definitely.  Is it one of the best decisions I’ve made yet?  Absolutely.


A few notes about driving in Italy:

  1. There’s probably rules, but no one seems to know them.
  2. Scooters can kind of do whatever they want, including driving in the wrong lane to weave in and out of traffic.  As long as you’re wearing a helmet, no one really cares about anything else.
  3. Speed limit signs are few and far between.
  4. A rolling stop will almost always suffice.
  5. There are no “passing” and “no passing” zones.  Everywhere can and will be used as a passing zone.
  6. The roads are curvy, winding, and your choices are to either slow down on the curves or rocket off a cliff into the water.

We headed out in the early afternoon and rented three scooters, one for Doug, one for Nick, and one for me and Haley.  I was a bit apprehensive at first, but once I got on I realized everything would be fine.  When my friend Morgan told me about her experience, and how driving the scooter could take some getting used to, I mentioned being nervous about changing gears, as that had always been my biggest problem on my brother’s dirtbike.  When she told me that the scooter was automatic, I looked at her, confused, and said “Then what’s the hard part?”

Driving the scooter.

Driving the scooter.

After acquiring our scooters for the day, we took off towards Positano with no plans other than to follow the signs and hope for the best.  We shouted and yelled and sang and honked our horns.  We were probably about the most annoying people in the world right about then, but we were so gleeful, we didn’t even care.


We made it to Positano, stopping along the way to take a few photos of the panoramic views.  It’s insane to me how accustomed to the beauty of Italy I’ve become.  It’s sad that I can now look at the aqua blue water and the white cliffs, the green mountains with the colorful houses built into them, and not be dumbfounded at how gorgeous it all is.

Positano is beautiful.

Positano is beautiful.

After a quick stop in Positano, we continued on through the town of Amalfi and up the the smaller town of Ravello.  Ravello is a bit less touristy than Positano and Amalfi, but equally as beautiful.  We were able to find an amazing view of the mountains and the sea and took a break before heading back towards Sorrento.

Looking over Ravello

Looking over Ravello

On the way back across the peninsula, the sun set against the Bay of Naples, and we watched it go, taking with it a near perfect day.  And as we twisted around the winding seaside roads, we marveled at the fact that the day hadn’t been about getting anywhere at all, but rather the act of getting there itself.   It sounds cliche.  It sounds cheesy.  But it’s  true.  The second I felt the cool air rush against my cheeks as I set off on the road, I was already exactly where I needed to be.


One Response to Seeing Italy as the Italians Do

  1. Nan McCarry

    MIndfulness meditation on a scooter. So glad you’re enjoying the week you have left there.

    When we moved back from Guatemala, I told Dad, “the way you drive didn’t stand out so much there.”

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