Of all the many charms and attractions travelers can find when visiting Italy, one hindrance has continuously proved a daunting impediment for Americans trying to traverse the cobblestone-clad country. From the intricate byways of Rome to rustic roads in the countryside, the land of la dolce vita is notorious for its characteristically confined avenues that, although quite quaint and scenic, make it a bit more difficult for foreigners driving in Italy.
Residents here in the United States are lucky when it comes to space on the road, at least in comparison to most European standards. Multi-lane freeways and roomy shoulders are simply the norm in North America and we enjoy one of the most extensive and well-maintained highway systems in the world, but drivers in other countries abroad have gotten used to something quite different. In Italy, specifically, constricted roadways are not hard to find but they do contribute to an appealing charm that attracts tourists from around the globe.
Winning a Tight Competition by a Narrow Margin
This charming allure has apparently been in high demand as a trio of Italian towns recently engaged in fervent dispute over a seemingly silly title. Although widely uncontested for many years, the town of Ripatransone, home of the incumbent defender, has faced challenges for its claim of having the narrowest alley in Italy. The two contenders, Citta della Pieve in Umbria and the historic city of Termoli, argue that they in fact sport streets even more slender than "the alley", as it is known, in Ripatransone, who's mayor grants novelty certificates of completion for those who overcome their claustrophobia and pass through "a place where bodies shrink and dreams come true".
The competition was first stirred by Oscar De Lena, a native of Termoli and president of a local archeological society, who claims that his hometown's Rejiecelle is the smallest street in Italy. In defense of his contention, De Lena is quoted as saying "I've known it since the day of my birth, so I started measuring it over and over again? It's just 16.14 inches wide but in some parts it shrinks down to 14.96 inches." Ripatransone's alley, in comparison, is measured at 16.93 inches. De Lena continued; "Wherever I go I measure each single street just to make sure we're the winners. So far, no one has beaten us."
Tourism officials in Ripatransone dismissed De Lena's claim, citing the official definition of an alley as a pathway that has a doorway or window along it, a pavement, and two roads that are connected on either end. The third contender, "Kisswomen Alley" in Citta della Pieve, meets the criteria and qualifies as a proper alleyway but only measures 17.72 inches at its narrowest point.
It seems that the contest is tied in a stalemate hung up on a technicality between Ripatransone and Termoli and neither adversary seems willing to back down anytime soon. For what it's worth, however, "the alley" in Ripatransone is still listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the tightest in the country.
National Quarrel, Global Adversaries
Despite who may officially claim the narrowest alley in Italy, competition still exists among other countries in Europe. A runner-up to the tiny passageways of Italy can be found in the city of Exeter, England, where a confining walkway straddles two main streets downtown. Parliament Street, also known affectionately as "Small Lane", measures in at 25 inches in width and has remained untouched despite several lobbies to raise money and widen the route.
But the world champion of cramped byways actually resides in the country of Germany among the alpine hills of Bavaria. The Spreuerhofstrasse in Reutlingen is a minute 12 inches wide and is known officially as the narrowest street in the world, topping the next smallest contenders in Italy by a considerable margin. As the walls lining the alleyway have slowly begun to lean inwards over time, many locals fear that the route may not be passable for long so you'll have to act quickly if you want a chance at squeezing through this miniscule marvel while it's still around!
Explore the Intricate Treasures of the World Around You
Chances are you won't be disappointed if you decide to tour the more famous attractions in the major cities and hubs of Europe but some of the greatest experiential bounties can be had when you venture into the cozier corners of civilization and uncover the undiscovered wonders that await you. Set out past the boundaries of conventional tourism and endeavor to travel beyond the limitations of public transportation in Italy with the freedom and versatility of a rental car! Navigating unfamiliar roads may seem daunting at first but with the help of Auto Europe driving your rental car abroad is easy; just check out our Italy road trip planners for some guidance on organizing your very own driving adventure. The rich rewards of travel are yours for the taking and Auto Europe is dedicated to getting you there at the guaranteed lowest price in the industry!
Browse our rates online or feel free to call us anytime, toll-free and 24/7 at 1-888-223-5555. Auto Europe is on call from anywhere in Europe, all day and all night, and we pride ourselves on providing the absolute best customer service; bar none. Let us put our more than 60 years of experience to work for you on your next holiday and travel with confidence knowing that you're backed by the best in the business!