Navigating Italy by GPS

Navigating Italy by GPS

There are 7 comments on the Chicago Tribune story from Jul 25, 2008, titled Navigating Italy by GPS. In it, Chicago Tribune reports that:

Past vacations that involved driving in Italy had required a peace pact between my wife, Kathy, and me, because being on the road there is so intense due to high speed, tight squeezes and plain old Italian ...

Join the discussion below, or Read more at Chicago Tribune.

Eric Hochstein

San Jose, CA

#1 Jul 27, 2008
My wife and I took our family to Italy for Spring Break this year and also found that the Garmin was a lifesaver. It was also the cause of a very frightening situation.
We, too, bought a new Garmin in the US, but ours did not have European maps. Instead, I turned to the Internet to buy an SD chip loaded with the Garmin map for Italy (and Greece). It made our touring much easier than if we needed to rely on road signs and maps.
The only problem we had came from relying on the Garmin too much. We had planned a visit to Castello Banfi, a vineyard estate and winery in Montalcino in Tuscany on Easter Monday.
As we left, it was a beautiful sunny day and we drove towards Tuscany on the announced route which should have taken us less than 3 hours. While we had maps with us, we relied solely upon the GPS and we found ourselves climbing as we drove about an hour and a half north.
It began to rain as we drove into the town of Piancastagnaio and were directed along SP18 which has a series of innocuous Via names as it winds around. What we didn't realize was that we had driven thousands of feet up and were driving through a mountain pass as the rain turned to sleet. In just a few minutes, the sleet turned to light, and then heavier, snow. As the snow began piling up on the two-lane roadway, we realized that we were in the middle of a mountain blizzard and that there was already 2 inches of icy snow on the road which was becoming unpassable.
We realized that our BMW wagon was rapidly losing its traction and we pulled over, joining a few Italians who were putting chains on their tires. Unfortunately, our rental had no chains, and we, the American tourists, had no snow gear at all.
We never expected to be stranded in a blizzard on the top of a mountain without any winter gear - no gloves, parkas, or hats. We were just following the simple directions of our Garmin.
We were concerned. The kids cried that we were going to die on the mountain. Our efforts to push the car forward were futile, only resulting in the car rolling back further and to the side of the road.
Our limited conversations with the others who had pulled over resulted only in the obvious. It was snowing. We were on a mountain pass. The next town was miles away.
After about an hour, which seemed like a month, the sun appeared. After many tries, we were able to get the car perpendicular to the roadway. As we did, a plow appeared coming down the hill. We were able to let the plow pass, and then get the car started sideways, and then downhill, following the path of the plow.
We were "saved" from the mountain and slowly drove back on the road we had come up on. After no more than 2 kilometers, the road was dry and clear. There had been no snow at that level and no indication of the storm above.
We were able to drive back to Piancastagnaio with no trouble. We turned back towards Orvieto after arguing about whether we should try to head on to Montalcino (it was too late for lunch) and about why we ended up on the mountain, rather than on other roads that went around the mountain.(The obvious answer was that "Garmina" told us to do it.)

We stopped for lunch in Acquapendente, where, despite its being Easter Monday and most restaurants in town being closed, we were able to find a wonderful and memorable lunch. But we never got to Banfi.
For the rest of our journey, including a visit to Sorrento and a drive around the Amalfi coast, and back north into Rome, Garmina did us quite well and we know we never could have done what we did without her.
Now, the SD-chip with the Italy map has been used by a friend who had similar positive experiences. We would be happy to "rent" the chip, which fits in most Garmin GPS systems which have an SD-card slot, to others. Please feel free to email me if you're interested in "borrowing" it, rather than buying one for yourself.

Eric Hochstein
Barrington, IL
[email protected]
WVbob

Portsmouth, UK

#2 Jul 27, 2008
We went to Vegas this year, I have never used a gps before.Great bit of gear, we are now planning a road trip back in the States next year using a gps.
Beers and cheers from England
Austria Germany and Spain

Montvale, NJ

#3 Jul 28, 2008
My husband and I purchased the Garmin before we went on our trip to Austria, German and Spain last fall. We rented a car for our entire trip in Austria and Germany; and for part of our trip in Northern Spain. We LOVED it!! We got to see parts of these countries that we never would have seen had we been left to our own devices, in fact we'd probably be divorced by now if I had been navigating by map! We've also used the GPS for domestic trips and now never leave home without it. There is also a mode for walking, which we used a couple of times when we got turned around walking through the streets of Barcelona.
Jeff60523

Westmont, IL

#5 Jul 28, 2008
Want to really get your money's worth from your GPS? If you enjoy exploring, hiking and figuring out a few puzzling clues, try geocaching ("geo-CASH-ing"). It's a world-wide treasure hunt using latitude and longitude coordinates to find small caches hidden by other geocachers.

It's free, family-friendly, world-wide and so much fun I can't stand it!!

Go to www.geocaching.com for more details or do a YouTube search on "geocaching news" and you will see news coverage from all the world of this growing "sport". The treasures are nothing major, McDonald's toys, trading coins and small trinkets, but the process of deciding which ones you are going to find that day, plugging the coordinates into your GPS and then finding the cache is a great way to see parts of the cities you are in that are being hightlighted by locals.

I did a quick search of the towns mentioned in the article and there a multiple caches in each city.

Happy "Caching"!

Jeff 60523
The Watcher

Chicago, IL

#6 Jul 28, 2008
Minga !
Loro sono propio stronzi !
Chuck the GPS out the window!
The best way to discover Italy is to lose yourself in it.
That is - get lost!
Find yourself somewhere and negotiate primo food and 4 star lodgings.
Anyway, anything north of Rome (especially the Disney-fied, white bread Tuscany) is not the real Italy.
Might as well save airfare and go to Napa.
Head south young man!
Leonardo

Alsip, IL

#7 Jul 29, 2008
The Watcher wrote:
Minga !
Loro sono propio stronzi !
Chuck the GPS out the window!
The best way to discover Italy is to lose yourself in it.
That is - get lost!
Find yourself somewhere and negotiate primo food and 4 star lodgings.
Anyway, anything north of Rome (especially the Disney-fied, white bread Tuscany) is not the real Italy.
Might as well save airfare and go to Napa.
Head south young man!
Idiotico shekoo.
Editor

Alsip, IL

#8 Jul 29, 2008
Eric Hochstein wrote:
My wife and I took our family to Italy for Spring Break this year and also found that the Garmin was a lifesaver. It was also the cause of a very frightening situation....
The only problem we had came from relying on the Garmin too much.

"We almost died in a sudden snowstorm in a mountain road. The Garmin is not a weather forecaster."

We would be happy to "rent" the chip, which fits in most Garmin GPS systems which have an SD-card slot, to others. Please feel free to email me if you're interested in "borrowing" it, rather than buying one for yourself.
There.....that's all we really needed to know in these forums.

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