Get In the Car, We Can Leave Today.

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When we proposed renting a car and driving down the coast of Italy, absolutely no one told us it was a good idea. Actually, most people entirely discouraged it: Italian roads are insane, parking would be impossible, I’m a terrible driver, we would get lost… but that just raised this question: is it really so bad being lost in paradise?

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After calling and visiting around seven different rental agencies, Brian finally found Europcar. Not only were they willing to rent a car to four 21-year-old Americans, they also had a fuel efficient, automatic model available exactly when we wanted it. Two days later, after Joe declaring there was a 99% chance we wouldn’t find a car, we were picking up our white VW Polo and driving for the first time since January. Brian took the first leg (and the next six) of the thirteen plus hour drive to our final destination of Sicily. The four of us might be crazy, but that hasn’t proved to be a bad thing yet.

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We decided to stop in Naples to indulge in some of the famous pizza at Da Michele. They’ve had the same recipe for over 130 years and only offer two options: margherita or marinara. Google confirms it’s been a contender for “Best Pizza in the World” for almost equally as long. Even with the delicious pizza, I have to say Naples is one scary little sketch of a city. I wanted to leave before we even got out of the car. The pizza was pretty bomb though and definitely worth the stop.

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Next up came our first overnight stop in Sorrento. This was my first experience with the Italian coast and even at night, it was breathtaking. We managed to find the nicest hostel I have ever stayed in and landed a huge room last minute. One of our best decisions was forgoing a plan completely. We walked down to the shore where I put my toes in the Mediterranean Sea for the first time! The water was so clear but still pretty cold. We found a dock and spent the night overlooking the lights of the city across from us. We took the scenic route home and ended up walking through a labyrinth of walls and pretty stonework. Brandon and Brian succeeded in hiding behind one turn and scaring the life out of Casey and me. They’re really nice guys.

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We woke up way too early (9:30am…) and began our drive to Positano, a small cliff town on the coast of Amalfi. The road was right along the twists and turns of the cliffs and the views were INCREDIBLE. It constantly felt like we were driving straight into the clouds. I don’t know what I was expecting, but this blew me away. We stopped for a walk through the town and along the water before getting a seafood lunch at a restaurant that was way too nice for us (gotta love the off season). We couldn’t help mentioning again and again how insanely fun this all was. Brandon’s quote of the trip ensued while we overlooked the town below us, “’Rent a car’, we said. ‘Crazy’, they said”. NAILED IT. I wanna go crazy for the rest of my life.

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Brian continued to be the solo driver on our way down and deserves major props for putting up with Brandon, Casey, and me as passengers. It was a rowdy ride and included more than few interesting moments we’ll just skip over. The radio stations were absolutely horrible so we succumbed to buying an actual CD from a rest stop called, “Festival Bar 2007”. It featured Mika, Gwen Stefani, and a whole bunch of European artists we’d never heard before- definitely worth the six-euro price tag.

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We took a very quick ferry over to Sicily Friday evening and ended up staying the night in Messina at “Paradis Hotel”. I think we were actually the only people staying in the hotel. It was an older place right along the water and could have easily passed for a replica of “Tower of Terror” in Disney World. Casey and I skipped the elevators. We were starving and super lucky to find a pizza place still open down the block. The Quattro Formaggi was fantastic… I think I’d give my vote to them over Da Michele!

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Saturday morning brought another early start and an on the go breakfast of Reese’s Pieces and juice boxes. We drove through the nine million tunnels that make up the highways between Messina and Palermo, arriving around 1pm. We stayed at another sweet hotel that let us pay for a triple room and squeeze in four people! We put on our bathing suits, bought vino from a street vendor, and took a taxi to Mondello Beach.

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The weather on Saturday, and the entire trip for that matter, was blissfully warm and clear. This beach is PERFECT. We spent the entire afternoon messing around on the sand and running around in sea that was much too cold. (Note the wine for justification.) Naturally, Casey managed to drag everyone down into the waves.

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Later on we decided to venture into town and were suddenly less enthused about being soaking wet. It was still an absolute riot of a walkthrough and Brandon haggled me some two-euro sunglasses that I will probably never wear again, but absolutely love. Brandon played Dad perfectly this weekend; he is full of useful information and Dad-isms that are always necessary on a road trip.

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We headed back completely knackered after dinner in restaurant along the marina. I had mussels and clams with risotto; this whole rejecting my vegetarianism is proving to be delicious. The hotel had a rooftop deck fourteen floors up that gave us a killer view. The weather was still warm and we spent an hour hanging out under perfect hues of blue. Some days end too soon.

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Sunday morning marked the start of my turn as driver! Hide yo’ kids, hide yo’ wife, hide yo’ husband, because they let me drive in Europe. I guess when you spend enough time driving with my sister Katie, the fastest driver I know- you get desensitized to things like speed suggestions. Everyone handled it pretty well except for Brandon. Sorry, Daddy B. We stopped at a rest stop and found another CD to switch out our 2007 jams that turned out to be awesome. Go listen to Pompeii by Bastille, now. We ended up making it home around 9pm Sunday night and I have to take credit for shaving off a bit of time with my clutch driving. Including the ferry and minimal stops along the way, the whole day consisted of about ten hours of driving between Brian and me.

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It’s crazy to think our time in Italy is dwindling down to final weekends and end of the semester trips. I can’t get over how lucky we are to have these kinds of moments, or how lucky we are to lead these kinds of lives. How many people have such a collection of perfect memories? This weekend proves one thing: if you’re hesitating, get in the car and leave today.

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