There is a travel quote which I love and it goes like this: “Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and enjoy the journey.” – Babs Hoffman. I love this quote because no trip ever goes smoothly, and it’s the journey that is important. The memories always trump those potholes you hit along the way.
When we took a road trip through Switzerland, Italy, and Austria there were a few potholes. But what do we remember was what fun we had cruising around Europe.
I’ll post a few tips at the end of this post but before I do, I thought I would share just one of our experiences on our trip.
One of our stops was Como, Italy. Before the trip, I researched places to stay that had parking. The first thing I learned was parking in European cities can be sparse. So, based on some reviews on TripAdvisor I booked a room at Locanda Milano 1873 in a little town called Brunate. According to the reviews, this is a small hotel perched high on a mountain top overlooking the city of Como. I didn’t pay attention to all the dire references to the ride up to the hotel. Red flags should have gone up when I read comments like: “steep, winding road”, “switchbacks”, “beep your horn as you enter a switchback to warn oncoming cars”. Nope, I paid no attention and booked our stay. How bad could it be?
We arrived in Como and immediately I started looking around for a hint of where we should be heading. All the reviews on Trip Advisor talked about the funicular, so that was my landmark. The minute I saw it on the side of a mountain I started to panic. The funicular runs up the side of the mountain at a 45-degree angle. It looked mighty steep. Did I mention I am not good with heights? I pointed out the funicular to my husband and said “OH. MY. GOD. That is where we are going.” We started up the one lane road with no guardrails and switchbacks. I began to panic. A lot. It was not pretty, I was hyperventilating, my husband was trying to calm me down and here comes a BUS. Yes folks, a frigging bus. We had nowhere to go, so we pulled into someone’s driveway to let the bus by. By now I am softly praying that we get to our destination so I can be put out of my misery.
After what seemed like hours, we finally got to Locanda Milano. Let me set the stage for you so you can visualize what happened next.
The hotel is on our right, yes there is parking, but you have to wedge your car into the driveway so you can park your car. While we are trying to pull in, there are two men sitting at a cafe table drinking wine and a little old Italian lady watching us. The two men had this look of amusement (ok they were laughing their asses off) on their faces as if this was not the first time this has happened. As my husband pulls in we hear a scraping sound against the car, and the old woman begins screaming something in Italian at us. The two men are laughing. I am screaming “It’s ok, it’s ok!” When indeed, it was not ok because my husband had just taken a small corner of the centuries-old building off with the side of our car. OH OH!
That’s when Masimo, our innkeeper, came out and offered to park the car for us. Thank goodness for Masimo. I jumped out of the car, ran into the bar and ordered a glass of wine. I was still shaking when I sat down with the two men at the cafe table who told me that this happens all the time. They love to watch the show. UGH!
We had a lovely stay at Locanda Milano 1873. They have a beautiful restaurant that serves amazing polenta. The hotel is close to the funicular which is convenient, and you don’t have to drive.
Even though Brunate is up on top of a mountain, there is quite a nightlife up there. I just hope they’re not driving!
Lessons learned about taking a European road trip:
- Get the insurance on your rental car, we did, and the damage was covered. Insurance: Don’t leave the car rental lot without it.
- When you read the reviews, read them. If they warn you about tight parking spaces or the treacherous roads, take that into account when booking.
- Don’t even think about renting a larger car. Keep it small. We had one of those SUV crossovers, and it was too big for most places. Stick with a smaller car. Imagine trying to back a larger car into an elevator (which is what we had to do in Austria) and book accordingly!
Have you ever taken a road trip through Europe? What are your tips?