Red Arrows

A couple of Sunday’s ago, after our rain washed road had been repaired, I was sitting outside enjoying the May sunshine and a glass of chilled prosecco. The stillness of the afternoon was broken by the sound of Abruzzese dialect being called out over the chug chug of a tractor. Being nosey, I rose from my chair and looked down the lane and saw a rather large young man astride the tractor and two skinny men walking behind it. One man was spraying red arrows on the road whilst the other fastened red and white plastic; the kind that ropes off road works, in the hedgerow. From where I was standing I wondered if it they were marking the road for further repairs.

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I watched as they continued up the lane and then they veered off up a dirt track, the two skinny men striding and working as the rotund one steered the orange tractor and barked instructions. When they disappeared from view I put down my prosecco and went to investigate. It soon turned out that these markings had nothing to do with road repairs, as some of the arrows disappear into fields with others emerging from dirt tracks. The man who was painting the arrows had sprayed the letters FISE onto a lamp post, so I’m assuming the marks indicate a forthcoming race of some kind.

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The following Sunday at 07.00, I’m woken by the sound of motorbikes. I dress and see young people coursing across fields on what I assume are trials bikes, they squeal around the bends in the road and then quickly vanish up the dirt track opposite our place, and the sound becomes muffled before this itself vanishes. “Oh well, that’s it,” I tell myself and saunter into the kitchen to make coffee and turn on the iPod, releasing a burst of Hurts, with Blood Tears and Gold, from their, Happiness album.

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After breakfast there’s more commotion in the lane, this time it’s men in lycra, on what I again assume, are bicycles designed for multiple terrain. They pedal furiously down the dirt track, onto the road, travelling in the opposite direction of the motorbikes, until they too can be heard and seen no more. “What’s next,” I ask myself, “Horses?” Which daft as it sounds could happen, after all this is Italy. The only thing I’m left thinking about is, will the three men and the tractor come to remove all the ribbons out of the hedgerows. I doubt it, this is Italy.

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Road Closed

The road up to our house runs in a crescent shape from the main road at Guarenna  down to the road to Selva Piana. The main section of road up to our hamlet of Guarenna Vecchia was pitted with potholes until last Christmas time when repairs were made to it. The section down to Merosci and Selva Piana is a single, serpentine track, that produces the occasional stand-off when two cars meet.

100_6344The recent storms have created havoc with our road, on Saturday so intense was the rain that it caused damage to the road, all of the recent repairs were washed down towards Guarenna, causing more damage as the debris tumbled downhill. Add to this the mud slide that occurred and we have on Sunday morning a road that’s impassable. Now it being a Sunday doesn’t really pose a problem, but Monday morning the school bus will be heading this way and should it manage to navigate through the debris and newly opened potholes; some the size of a Fiat 500, it’ll never get through the mudslide.

At lunchtime, I’m enjoying a glass of red with my focaccia and wedge of quartirolio (a delicious feta style chees from Lombaria) when I hear an engine revving furiously. I investigate the noise and looking down the lane I see a car sat in the middle of the mud, wheels spinning, sending mud up into the air behind it. I shake my head, wondering who would be daft enough to attempt to drive through the brown lake and go back to my cheese and wine.

Later a 4×4 rolls up and makes a track through the mud and then as it passes, it deposits the brown gunk stuck to its wheels just outside my house. Now this track is taken advantage of by the teenager down the lane, as he can now sail through the mud on his Vespa navigating his way through the tyre tracks. Throughout the day several more cars venture up the lane, but all abandon their endeavours and turn back.

Wednesday comes and we enjoy an afternoon with friends at Lido Le Morge, (it was even warm enough for a quick swim in the Adriatic) and when we return there are warning signs and a 10km sign in place at the bottom of the lane. It looks like work may begin to repair the damage, but this being Italy, that may be piano,piano – who can guess when. Oh me of little faith.

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Thursday morning arrives and with it the tractors to move the mud, and a road closed sign, who knows, maybe they’ll repair it once again. Only time will tell.

Friday morning update: Just had a trip down the lane and the potholes have been filled in, I wonder if the one’s back home in the UK have?

Painting Crossings

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.

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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.

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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.