A big journey in a little car

Europeans are a bit notorious for driving small cars. It is no wonder for this phenomenon because streets in Europe are quite small—many of which have not been expanded since the automobile was invented. Gas is more expensive so it also makes sense to avoid the gas-guzzlers that we in the United States often depend on to haul trailers and plow through three feet of snow or mud. I have observed that as you approach an American Air Force Base in Italy or Germany, the appearance of pickups, SUV’s, and minivans significantly increases—old habits die hard for us Americans and we cannot seem to let go of the luxury of space that many Europeans were never raised experiencing.

That’s why when we decided to go on a roadtrip from Naples to the Amalfi Coast in Southern Italy I thought Steve was joking when he pulled out of the rental office driving the tiny, two-person SMART car. Not only was he not joking, he wanted me to get in so we could start our four hour drive along the coast. After having a good laugh at how ridiculous he looked—he’s six foot one—in the tiny car, I hopped in the passenger side.

We quickly learned that for such a tiny car, it had a large amount of blind spots. A terrifying realization since the winding roads leading to the Amalfi Coast have hairpin turns and while we crawled along at a responsible speed of 55 kmh (equivalent to 35 mph) the Italians fly around the curves at almost double that speed. While digging my fingers into the passenger door and center consul, I tried to enjoy the views from the cliffs we were driving along.

The cliffs rose straight up out of the turquoise sea below like jagged hands reaching for the sun. There were no beaches, just sheer, solid rock faces that seemed welcoming rather than intimidating as the waves gently pushed against them and fisherman lazily anchored their boats in the shade of the bluffs.

We cruised along the winding path before entering the village of Positano, where we were glad for the miniature car we drove. The one-way street barely had room for us to drive as the townspeople doing their daily grocery shopping spilled into the road.

They frequently bumped against each other and offered a familiar smile, unbothered by the crowded, cobbled streets. While I appreciate my space as much as the next American, as I watched the Italians move separately in the crowd, I could not help but think perhaps small spaces are not always such a bad thing—however, I won’t be buying a two-person car any time soon.

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