Hooray! Right now we are being told that there’s a 95% chance EB & kids will be sent to Italy soon. For a while there it was iffy and I didn’t want to encourage false hope — knowing that our dh’s company specializes in emotional roller coasters ;P . Our own trip is still up in the air, but I’m leaving that in God’s hands. But I do have LOTS of tips for using a GPS in Italy, including Rome.

First things first. This is the GPS we got:

Right after Christmas last year the price went down to $276, and then it steadily rose from there; we ended up getting it at $335. So if you’re looking to purchase something like this and you have time to wait, right after Christmas is an excellent time to do so.

What I love about this GPS:
– really easy to use, once you get the basics down. Our children, down to the 7-year-old, can use it, with only a bit of guidance.
– Europe is built in, so you don’t have to buy additional software, etc.
– The screen is 4.3″ — one of the larger ones available.

Now my personal tips, in no particular order… if I start sensing a theme maybe I’ll do sections, but for now I’ll give you a list!

– Sometimes the GPS will say turn left or right at a roundabout — it doesn’t “see” the roundabout. As long as you follow the general direction it’s telling you to go, you should be fine.
– OTOH, sometimes a street that branches out in different directions is called a roundabout, even when there is no actual roundabout. Again, as long as you follow the general direction, you should be fine.
– Sometimes the roundabout is SO negligible so you’ll really be going in a straight line with just the tiniest bit of a swerve, but GPS will still tell you “take the second exit at the roundabout”, instead of just “keep driving” or “go straight”. Again, just pay attention to general direction.
– We have our GPS set to 3D, but if it helps you there are two other views (destination up or North up, I believe) that you can switch to if you’re more comfortable with and want to mimic a regular map.
– Make sure, before starting out on a journey, that you’ve got your settings exactly as they need to be. I do a lot of pre-planning at home before we go, so I regularly switch between simulated and non-simulated. If I forget to switch to non-simulated before we go, that messes us up.
– I also did a lot of pre-planning our walking routes, so I set the navigation option to “Pedestrian” instead of “Automobile”. A couple of times I forgot to switch it back, and approaching Rome the GPS kept on telling us to go to secondary roads — very frustrating, and cost us at least 30 minutes additional time trying to figure out exactly where we’re going.
– The GPS’ battery only lasts so long, so when we take it walking we still have a paper map with us and use it more, and then switch to the GPS when in dire need or when trying to find food/places not on the map.

This was the map we used in 2003, and again this year,

but I left it accidentally at a bookstore so if we go back, we’re getting this:

Back to the GPS.

– If you drive through tree-lined streets, the GPS might get confused and will tell you to drive again from a previous spot you’ve already been. My suggestion is to look at all the directions prior to driving so that if while on a street the GPS goes insane on you you still have a pretty good idea which direction you should be going. When you’re “found” by the GPS again you’ll at least be nearer to the goal. Stopping in the middle of a route (when possible) sometimes helps; sometimes not.
– Same thing will happen when driving through tunnels, esp. long ones.

I’m sure you already know this, but yes, we consider a GPS an essential when driving in Europe, and ESPECIALLY Italy. If we had a GPS in ’03 when we went to Florence and Assisi we would have been spared a lot of headache and frustration and stress. Just the feature that recalculates directions is priceless — that alone has saved us a tremendous amount of time.

– One thing that we found useful in Rome: when you turn on the GPS it doesn’t automatically find you, and sometimes you’ll sit there, and sit there, and sit there — waiting for it to find you. It helps to just drive; the satellite will find you eventually. Of course, be prepared for any mishaps, but I think that’s an exciting part of the adventure. I’m one of those people who actually ENJOYS getting lost and trying to find my way out of a maze. DH hates being lost, but he is an awesome driver (the Manila training helps :D) . Together we make a good team. I tell him what to do and where to turn and he just follows. We saw many sights in Rome that we probably wouldn’t have if we had not gotten lost.

DS needs computer now. Will be back later, either to add to this or to make a Part II!