Renting a car in Rome
was fairly painless. Just the normal jitters that I get any time I'm driving for the first time in a country. Can't remember what kind of car it was, but it was an automatic, of course, as I still have not learned to drive a manual (note to self: learn!). Traffic was pretty bad on Rome's ring road - the Grande Racordo Anulare ("the Beltway" (DC) or "Ring 3" (Oslo) is so much easier to say :)), but once we got off of it, it was a great ride: snow-capped mountains, small towns perched on the tops of hills and built right into mountainsides, and - best of all, traffic-free roads.
We found the hotel in L'Aquila without too much trouble, checked in, and then got directions from the receptionist for driving into the city, as it was a little too far to walk.
Damaged buildings in the center
I hadn't forgotten about the earthquake that hit L'Aquila in April, 2009, but I guess I didn't realized just how bad it was. Most of the roads were closed, but it was easy enough getting close to the center and parking. There was a small market that was still open, so we bought some local salami and cheese - the only type of cheese they had was Pecorino and about 15 different types! Never realized Pecorino was so popular in that area, but I wasn't disappointed as it is one of my favorite cheeses. From there, we walked to the center of town, and all but one street was closed even to pedestrian traffic. I didn't notice any totally collapsed buildings, but the damage was definitely extensive. Almost all of the buildings in the center were vacated and unsafe to occupy, so there really wasn't much to do.
Memorial to the victims of the 2009 earthquake
We took a few pictures, then walked to the Spanish-built castle, which was also closed because of earthquake damage, before heading back to the car.
Unfortunately, when I got directions to the city center, I didn't get directions back to the hotel. With so many roads closed, I had no idea how to get back. After a few dead-ends, we found a restaurant and decided to stop for dinner. The highlight of the evening was the fantastic pizza we were served, but then we were back on the road (and the server's directions on how to get back to our hotel were useless). After driving around for two hours (!!!!), and with the directions of a friendly local at the bar, we finally made it back to the hotel.
L'Aquila Hotels & Accommodations review
Nice hotel, but far from the center
This was a nice hotel, but breakfast ends way to early (9:30)! Fortunately, there's a cafe just around the corner where you can get a good cappuccino … read entire review