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“On my first trip to Italy, I found myself in Rome in heavy traffic, riding out to the highway that leads to Florence. We were driving during the rush hour in winter, and so the sun was setting, and the unique pastel colors of the eternal city made the old buildings come alive in the warming light.”

From "The Re-Enchantment of Everyday Life" by Thomas Moore

How to interpret "riding out to" here?

A person is either driving a car or riding in a car. Does "riding" here imply that the writer himself was not driving the car? Because the following sentence tells us that they were driving during the rush hour, I guess the writer’s family was driving the car. But I am not sure.

Does "out" imply that they were going to a remote place or does it simply mean out of traffic?

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You may be overthinking this. The author seems just to want to avoid using the word "driving" repeatedly, so he uses the synonym "riding". But that is a stylistic choice rather than a grammatical requirement. It doesn't seem to imply anything very special.

It is also possible, looking only at the short extract, that the author is riding/driving a motorbike.

"Out" seems just to mean "out of the city centre", as the Florence highway (the E45) passes to the East of the city.

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