Monday, December 28, 2009

An Ode to Autogrill

We are back in Virginia after spending several days cooking, feasting, gabbing, laughing, and enjoying the merriment of the holidays with family.  We had more food than we knew what to do with on Christmas, and shared Giorgio's polenta feast tradition on Santo Stefano.  We had a great time, but we're tuckered out! 

Interminable hours on the turnpikes and interstates sap it out of you, and we got back late after lengthy traffic jams, with headaches and sore bums.  We learned a few things about modern American highway travel.  First, we discovered that rest areas are very sporadically spaced and there is never one nearby when you really need it.  A "small" coffee is now a full 16 ounces of liquid diuretic, not a good idea when you consider Point 1. We also learned to pack our own lunches, because when we did finally find a rest area there would be only junk food and fast food available.  We were really pining for Autogrill, the famous roadside aree servizio along Italy's autostradas

How great is Autogrill?  Well, I wrote a little ode...

Autogrill, how do I miss thee?  Let me count the ways:

Caffe.  Your coffee bar serves real, actual, drinkable caffe and cappuccino made by a trained barista.  Maybe the caffe corretto isn't such a good idea for drivers, but it is comforting to know that a well-made cup of tasty caffeine is readily available.  And inexpensive.

Juice.  Your fresh, squeezed-to-order spremuta (orange juice) is delightfully refreshing.

Food.  You provide edible panini, fresh-baked pizza, fruit salads, and other options for non-fatty or deep-fried food.  Some Autogrills have cafeterias with a range of regional pasta dishes and roasted meats or fish, salad bars, and...(gasp!) vegetables, even!

Gas.  You have human people working on site, with gas station attendants who will check the oil, pump the gas, or clean the windshields.  Such service!

Shopping.  Your fun array of candies, regional food products, toys, CDs, and vacuum packed salamis and cheeses makes it fun to spend ten minutes out of the car perusing the shelves on the way to the loo.  Who can resist the terracotta bowl filled with orecchiette for 4 euro, or the spunky little Smart car model?  I personally appreciate that you always have Perugina Baci for chocolate-hazelnut emergencies.

Restrooms.  You have clean bathrooms, often with spring-action toilet seats, ensuring a dry and dribble-free seat.  'Nuff said.

Showers.  Some of your area servizio have sparkling showers available to use, which are so welcome after six hours in a stifling car in July when the air conditioning decides to go on the blink and the seats are saturated with sweat. 

Availablility.  You are conveniently placed at regular intervals along the autostrada, ensuring you are there when I need you.  None of this 90 or more miles between rest areas nonsense with you.  You could sing the Friends' theme song, "I'll Be There For You".

I miss your bright swishy "A", such a welcome sight when traveling the byways in need of servizio and refreshment.  I will never take you for granted again!

Related Links:

Pour On The Polenta!

Autogrill Homepage

Sarni - The "Other" Autogrills


Evey said...

Oh, si, davvero, e un po' di vino!

janie said...

I hear you!

Gil said...

Micky D's on the CT Tpke beats Autogrill! Just kidding as I miss them as well. Happy New Year to you guys!

Valerie said...

Janie - They're so fun, aren't they?

Gil - Ha! You're funny! Buon anno!

Valerie said...

Evey - Un po' di vino? Tu? Mentre guidi? Bryan ogni tanto beve una piccola birra con la pizza al'autogrill, ma dopo guido io.

Jane said...

Yep, I miss them everyone we are on the road here. It's so much like being home when we stop at one each time we return. They are all you say plus it's so convenient not needing to get off the strada. Of course, getting there right after three tourists buses have arrived is not fun.

Jane said...

Oops--meant miss them everytime--sure should proof before sending :-)