People often comment that driving in Italy can be stressful. The stereotype is of a young man with music blaring, phone attached to his ear and his foot heavy on the accelerator. To be honest this stereotype isn’t that far wrong, the main difference being that driver’s gender doesn’t come into it. Driving on major roads and the motorways can be stressful, cars behind hug your bumper, headlights flash to urge you to move faster and horn sounding is all part and parcel of the overall driving experience. However on the rural roads, driving is a much more sedate affair: A week ago, I actually found myself conforming to the stereotype; I was travelling behind a man in a Fiat who pootled along the lane at a mere fifteen miles per hour.
A couple of days ago, I was driving to San Luca near Attessa, as there’s a builders’ merchant there who’s much keener on price than the nearest local one, and I actually enjoy a leisurely drive through the small villages that surround mine. The Colourfield were on the iPod playing, Yours Sincerely, as I travelled down almost deserted roads: a gentle tune for a gentle pace. We pass a patch of purple irises, their heads held aloft for the bees to find. As regular readers know, I rarely travel anywhere without a camera and I can’t resist the chance to stop and take a few photographs.
I climb back into the car, the iPod shuffles and, Kirsty MacColl sings Caroline. I pass under the bridge on the road to Piane d’archi and head towards the T junction, I pause to allow a priest cross the road: it’s twenty-one degrees and he’s wrapped up in a long black coat with a fur collar: heaven forbid he takes it off in such inclement weather, but that’s another Italian idiosyncrasy. I reach the T junction and turn left and suddenly I’m part of a long queue of cars. Traffic on the left hand side is moving freely, and in front taking advantage of any gaps cars on the right side pop around whatever the obstruction up ahead is. Soon it becomes clear what is going on with this normally quiet stretch of road, they’re painting in pedestrian crossings and have painted only the right-hand side, so all along the road heading towards Atessa has congestion – well I say congestion, it’s actually around twelve cars in total.
Of course it makes sense to paint one side first to minimise disruption. This said, I’ll make sure my plans for the next few days don’t include driving in the opposite direction.