Living the Tuscan dream

Jane has long had the dream of driving through Tuscany, with only the beautiful scenery for company. Is it safe for her to do so?

Q. Jane
I want to follow my dream and drive through Tuscany, but are the Italian drivers as crazy as I see on the television and in movies? Is it safe for a 50-something woman to be driving on her own?

A. Asking whether Italian drivers are crazy is like asking whether Sophia Loren is beautiful. The answer is yes, always. The real question is, can you hold your nerve surrounded by a swirl of honking, gesticulating madmen? Of course you can – providing you have the right personality and don’t get too nervous.

Take it slow, stay calm and be prepared for other drivers to ignore red lights and make sudden lane changes. Remember, Italians expect drivers to do crazy things, so there are fewer accidents than you might imagine. The country lanes of Tuscany should present relatively few challenges. It’s driving (and parking) in towns that’s the real trial.

When you hire your car, try to make sure you get the transmission that you’re used to driving – manual or automatic. A GPS is certainly advisable, but a good old-fashioned map should be carried for back up. Have a rough plan of where you want to go and don’t try to drive too far in any one day – you’ll only end up tired and won’t appreciate all the fabulous scenery and villages your passing through. Stop often for refreshments and ude the opportunity to chta to the locals. Even if language is an issue, a friendly smile and a few words of Italian will reap rewards.

On the serious side, ensure someone knows where you’re heading and check in ecah day with someone, either via email, text or a phone call. Don’t make it too obvious that you’re a woman travelling alone and perhaps consider not driving at night of you really don’t need to.

Your nerves may occasionally be wracked, Jane, but when you’re driving down a country lane lined by cypress trees with the smell of lavender in the air, you’ll definitely think it’s worth it.