On the return trip, she led us down walled streets so narrow that the side mirrors cleared by only a couple inches on each side.
Bottom line: Garmeen and I are now a couple; the GPS goes with me from now on.
Not that there weren't small problems. Three times she simply lied to me:
Garmeen wanted me to turn smack into the front of a building once, saying it was a street. It wasn't.
She told me to take a street that no longer existed, though it obviously had been blocked off.
And she told me to go the wrong way on a one-way street. I can imagine that two of the three problems might not have been her fault, but the building looked a lot older than Garmeen or me.
One user complaint I had read on the Internet was that this particular model took several minutes to locate its guiding satellites in Italy. Mine took longer in Wisconsin than it did in Italy. What's more, when going through tunnel after tunnel in mountainous areas of Italy, it re-established satellite contact within seconds after emerging into the open.
Some travelers might argue that it's easier to see Italy from a train or bus. I disagree for a couple of reasons. Financially, it's never been a better deal for me to take a train or bus, unless traveling solo. And, spiritually, a car offers the freedom to truly explore once you become acclimated to driving in Italy. But if driving through Chicago's Loop at rush hour scares you, don't even consider driving in Italy -- seriously.
In smaller towns and even some larger ones, roads are meant for two-way traffic but sometimes are barely one car wide. And, initially, everyone will be driving faster -- a lot faster -- than you are. That jacks up the intensity.
But if you do drive, consider the GPS. One of the best features of Garmeen was listings for local shopping, transportation, accommodations and attractions. This came in very handy when passing through areas we didn't know at all. Once again, it was better than having a relative there.
But then, Garmeen didn't give us free wine and cheese. So we'll keep the relatives, too.
Picking a GPS
Consumer Reports was my prime resource for choosing the cheapest, best GPS system for my purposes. At the time, the Garmin Nuvi 260W (wide) was one of its most highly rated yet not too expensive. The only kink was that I wanted a device for use in Europe in addition to the United States. The 260 would have required a $150 expense for a map download with Europe; plus I wanted a smaller unit that would fit in my pocket for pedestrian use.
A little Internet research led me to the Nuvi 270, which is the same machine as the standard 260 (not wide and thus pocket-friendly) but already loaded with Europe. The only thing I'd be sacrificing was audio pronunciation of street names on turn-by-turn instructions. That would have come in handy but not enough to add the $150 download expense. As it was, I got the 270 online for $284; CR lists it for $400 and the 260, wide or standard, at $320 and $300, respectively.
Garmin dominates the top of the CR ratings, above TomTom and Magellan. But all in all, it's GPS in general that proved so valuable on the trip. My wife agrees that it changed our vacation in a great way. Whether navigating in Italy or any other unfamiliar, fast-paced traffic situation, it's a godsend.