Driving in Italy is scary at the best of times, but none was so harrowing for me than in northern Italy where the winding roads, often single lane, cling to the steep mountain cliffs and cars zip around the corners with unbridled reckless abandon. Hairpin curves, like the one seen below, were common sights, as were mirrors attached to sides of buildings so that one could see what was coming around the corner. Not that it would have made any difference with the speed at which some of the cars were traveling.
Perhaps the narrow roads are why there are so many mopeds and scooters in Italy. Or perhaps the cost of gas is the determining factor. Although scooters wouldn't be comfortable on a long haul, despite the element of adventure they might add, they are probably most practical for quick errands around town.
An additional stress factor to throwing myself into such a chaotic driving culture were my very weak (okay, non-existant) Italian skills. At one juncture I was pulled over by a police officer on a lonely country road in Tuscany. As the officer came over, I rolled down my window. He made some sort of demand, of which I am still clueless, although I imagine he was probably asking to see the car's registration papers or my license...I mean, how many things could he have been asking for? At which point I mustered up my best Italian and spurted out, "Parla inglese? No parlo italiano." To which he gruffly replied with an amusing embarrassment, "Mi scusi." And waved me on as he proceeded back to his car. It's probably police policy to not mess with the tourists ;).
Truth be known, cars aren't the only way to have adventures in Italy. The train is every bit as exciting. But those are stories best left for another time.