Monday, January 08, 2007

Foreign Driving Adventures

Driving in Italy is scary at the best of times, but none was so harrowing for me than in northern Italy where the winding roads, often single lane, cling to the steep mountain cliffs and cars zip around the corners with unbridled reckless abandon. Hairpin curves, like the one seen below, were common sights, as were mirrors attached to sides of buildings so that one could see what was coming around the corner. Not that it would have made any difference with the speed at which some of the cars were traveling.

Perhaps the narrow roads are why there are so many mopeds and scooters in Italy. Or perhaps the cost of gas is the determining factor. Although scooters wouldn't be comfortable on a long haul, despite the element of adventure they might add, they are probably most practical for quick errands around town.

An additional stress factor to throwing myself into such a chaotic driving culture were my very weak (okay, non-existant) Italian skills. At one juncture I was pulled over by a police officer on a lonely country road in Tuscany. As the officer came over, I rolled down my window. He made some sort of demand, of which I am still clueless, although I imagine he was probably asking to see the car's registration papers or my license...I mean, how many things could he have been asking for? At which point I mustered up my best Italian and spurted out, "Parla inglese? No parlo italiano." To which he gruffly replied with an amusing embarrassment, "Mi scusi." And waved me on as he proceeded back to his car. It's probably police policy to not mess with the tourists ;).

Truth be known, cars aren't the only way to have adventures in Italy. The train is every bit as exciting. But those are stories best left for another time.


Cheryl said...

I just love the photo of the scooters!
I can't believe you were brave enough to drive in Italy. I was terrified just being close to a road with Italian drivers on it! :D
Maybe they show more courtesy to other cars than they do to pedestrians.

Carla said...

I would never drive during the high tourist season or in larger cities in Italy. It was enough for my adrenals with what I did. Luckily the trains are a good alternative for making it to larger centres. It's just when you feel like getting off the beaten path a little.

The Fool said...

You're a brave soul. I've always been hesitant to drive a motor vehichle in a foreign country. I've always stuck to bicycle travel. Just nervous of "what if" & foreign jails...

The road and the scenery in your photos look pretty enticing though. That corner must certainly present a grand temptation for the regional Ferrari and Ducati enthusiasts! I wonder if the folks in that house designed that corner just to ensure a bit of amusement to the front yard.

Toby said...

Nice pics. What an adventure all of itself, driving in Italy. I've never been, but I remember when I was in Amsterdam an ElCamino with zero mufflers and very dark tinted windows barreling at top speed down the narrow streets. The car/truck thing was two and a half times the size of all the other cars and a whole lot louder. It was very intimidating and reminiscent of the car in the movie Christine.

Carla said...

Fool, I'm always game for a bit of adventure but do tend to play it very safe if driving in a foreign country. I can't say I do it often. I usually find myself other modes of transportation. Although in some places I've visited, a bicycle wouldn't necessarily be any less stressful. As for the house on the corner, I am sure the neighbours visit often, I am quite certain it provides ample local entertainment.

Toby, I too would be intimidated by such a situation. Glad I wasn't one of the drivers or even a pedestrian in close proximity.