Driving in Italy can be stressful. People drive fast. City driving is not recommended. Restrictions on city centers driving make it a lost cause. But… I love driving along the highways and the Auto Stradas. I love stopping at the Autogrill places. This past month I drove with a friend of mine from Rome to Ortisei, high up in the mountains of the Dolomites. And in between two funny things happened. My friend was driving. He ran out of gas. And there we were on the bush stretch of Auto Strada and we had to call in for a tow to the Herat Autogrill gas station. We were 6 km away. But it took a while for the guy to show up and then we remained in the car while he hauled us onto his tow truck. Was quite an adventure watching the world go whizzing by us while we sat in the car on the tow truck as it poodles along enroute to the gas pump. A funny experience.
Anyhow on to my next point. These Autogrills are quite a phenomenon. They sell everything. From the regular auto stop necessities like coffee and a sandwich to the spectacular. It’s a full on delicatessen, a fabulous self-serve restaurant with amazing regional dishes and clothes and toys and anything you may have forgotten on the road. We saw 4 trucks of firefighters from Romania buying the place out as they were heading home. It’s a supermarket with fabulous food. And the prices are amazing. Each Autogrill has different specialties depending upon the region. Oh. And you can get gas there too! Thank goodness! 😅
In my travels I love stumbling on the unusual places that don’t necessarily fit into a regular itinerary. Recently while driving through the Dolomites area I got to see the beautiful towns of the Sufvtirol. The Sufvtirol was formerly part of the Austrian Hungarian empire. In a classic land grab after the First World War, Italy apportioned itself the Austrian border towns and created the region Sudtirol. It’s a wealthy beautiful area. The unusual Dolomites with their rust colored dramatic rock towers above beautiful valleys and the largest prairie in Europe. The alpe di susi. In the winter it’s a skier’s paradise. In the summer the lifts keep rolling and skiers are replaced by walkers and bikers. The Dolomites are wide open unlike other alpine ranges. Lots of sun and places to stay on the high mountains. The food is very different. A mix of the best of Austrian and Italian. Wines are very good. Especially the whites. The local delicacies like speck, a type of prosciutto, and the delicious cheeses plus a whole variety of pasta makes this one of my favorite culinary stops. Towns like Bolzano and Ortisei and the glitzy Cortina are a short distance from Venice or Verona.