I went to Munich for the weekend, and after my last trip-from-hell train ride, I chose to fly. The downside of flying is that I have to get to the Rome airport, and while it can theoretically be done by train, in practice their schedule will seldom fit yours. This leaves driving.
I have a like-hate relationship with driving. I seldom love it. So the morning that I left for the airport, I felt that kind of dread you feel when you have to do something that you really wish you didn’t have to do….similar to when you have to go to the dentist and you know he’ll be drilling. I had the same feeling on my return flight thinking about my drive back to Orvieto. I was so relieved to finally pull into my parking lot.
A few days later I had to go to a town I’d never been to, and when I checked Google Maps for directions, the fastest way was via the Autostrada. I wasn’t in a hurry, so I took the alternate route. As soon as I started out, I felt a sense of calm, and that’s when the obvious finally hit me: it’s not the driving I hate, it’s the road; I HATE the Autostrada. I had time to dwell on this during my drive….when I wasn’t ohhhing and ahhhhing over the gorgeous countryside along this back road. I thought about all the highways in the US that I really hate and that make me wish I were visiting my dentist instead of driving: I-95, the Blue Route, the New Jersey Turnpike, NJ 295, PA 202, the Schuylkill Expressway, ALL roads around New York City. People in my area of the East Coast are no doubt right now shaking their heads in agreement. But people everywhere have the same kind of hellish roads. And what do they have in common with the Autostrada? They all have trucks going very, very fast.…lots and lots of barreling-down-the-road trucks. I know we need those trucks and depend on those trucks, but I just don’t want to drive with those trucks.
So there I was on an absolutely beautiful, truckless winding country road with incredible vistas around every corner. When you travel from Rome to Orvieto at night, you see the twinkling lights of hilltop towns scattered off in the distance to the right. This road was the one that connected those towns, and as I was meandering along, I would occasionally catch a glimpse below me of the Autostrada and it’s omnipresent trucks. You know how I hate to feel smug, however…….
I don’t usually put 2 days of driving back to back, but the next day I went to Monticchiello in the Val d’Orcia to have lunch with my friend Daria at her wonderful restaurant. Google Maps says the back way is 15 minutes longer than the Autostrada way. That extra 15 minutes gives me 90% LESS stress.
This ride, which I know well, is one of my favorites in the world. I tell everyone who will listen (almost nobody does, by the way) that for absolute beauty, they should see the Val d’Orcia in the Spring and the Chianti Classico area in the Fall. This is the Fall, but I have to say that the Val d’Orcia still managed to take my breath away. Unfortunately, the day wasn’t good for taking pictures. I tried, but my iPhone camera just couldn’t capture what the Autumn light did to the gently rounded hills.
THIS was the kind of driving that made me feel lucky to be behind the wheel instead of cursed because I’m sharing the road with gazillion-ton trucks whose main desire is, I’m pretty sure, to crush me.
It also reminded me once more of what I told you back when I started this blog: I’m a rolling green hills person. Italy has delightful people, wonderful food and wine, gorgeous towns and an embarrassing amount of art treasures. But put me on one of its back roads with incredible views around each bend, and it defines the words “Italian Dream” for me.
As I said, during these 2 days of Driving Heaven my iPhone camera could never adequately capture the beauty my real eye was seeing. But here are a few photos from the past: