Lesson #1, The Autostrada

Dear Nicholas and Anthony,

We are driving all around Northern Italy and driving here has some different aspects than a driving trip in our country. Here is how it goes. There are many highways, called Autostradas, that string up and down the country, called A1, A4, A11, A12, A26 and so forth. They are two lanes in each direction, separated by a large median so no chance of traffic coming at you.

The right lane is for normal speed (which is still very fast, average 80-100 mph) and you keep the left lane open for the real speeders, like they fly by you, no kidding. We drive in the right lane and move to the left lane when we want to pass, but move right back to the right, We get places fast on the AS.

The Autostrada is all toll roads, you pay a fee when you exit, so they are in excellent condition with workers on there all the time. You get to the on-ramp and face a long row of automated toll booths and press the button, take a ticket from the machine and go.

When you get off the Autostrada, no matter where it is, there is a row of automated toll booths waiting for you to put your ticket in the slot, then put your credit card in the slot, a computer tells the amount in Italian and it flashes on a screen, and then quickly your credit card comes back out and a woman's recording says "Arrivederci" as you drive off. It takes about 10 seconds for the whole thing, (Note: If the driver is tired and cranky from getting lost and making wrong turns and doing same loop over and over, he becomes impatient when putting the credit card in the slot and it does not go in right and keeps getting stuck, adding to the crankiness. It is best to be patient.)

Since there are this long line of toll booths at each entrance and exit or an Autostrada and they are expensive to build, guess what, there are only very few entrances and exits on the AS.. If you miss where you want to get off, and believe me we have done that even though the signs are pretty clear, you go for miles and miles before you can get off at the next off ramp. So you get off at the next ramp, maybe 20 min later in no mans land, nowhere near where you want to be, put in your ticket, put in your credit card, pay the toll, hear "Arrividerci" and then quickly make a U turn after you exit the toll booth and go back thru the other side, take a new ticket and get back on to drive back to the off ramp you missed 20 minutes before.

Also, the Autostradas go through the mountains rather than on winding roads up the mountains so we spend a lot of time driving in long tunnels. Also, they can be very high up when they go over a valley or canyon, so we have nice views when not in a tunnel.

That's how the Autostradas work.

We miss you, we will be home Monday,

Gramma and Granpa

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