Italy’s Inept Officer

After yesterday’s mammoth Italian Easter feast we thought we couldn’t eat another thing for at least 48 hours, but an invite to drop by at friends for lunch had us pootling upwards to the mountain town of Roccascalegna. As we waited for other friends to arrive we sipped glasses of fizz in the sunshine, and I wondered how considering the temperature difference between us valley dwellers and the mountain men the annual flowers seemed to be at least a week or two ahead of ours.

We ate a fabulous traditional roast washed down with some wine, although I was driving so was on the water, until Graham opened an expensive bottle of Grappa that Kate had brought along; it would have been churlish not to sample it.

Post lunch we sauntered into town and perched ourselves on a table beside the castle for a brief glimpse of the birds taking part in the falconry display. We were about to get tickets to enter the castle for the medieval show, but when we saw there was a queue of people waiting for others to leave before they could go in, we assumed the audience was at its maximum.

So we sat at a bar in town and watched as a large coach navigated the narrow streets: It never ceases to amaze me how they get these huge coaches up these snake-like roads and how the drivers are able to turn them around in less space than I need to do a three point turn in a standard car.

100_8994

Because of the celebrations, the volume of traffic is immense for this little mountain town; people have come from the surrounding villages and the roads up to the town have become a temporary car park, with Fiat’s double parked on hairpin bends and Ape’s abandoned at odd angles.

AS the celebrations are winding down the coach has arrived to drop off revellers and pick up another load to transport down the mountain. Cars full of occupants are heading home, fifty per cent of the visitors are heading out of the town in the direction of Gessopalena with the remaining travelling towards Altino.

To prevent a bottleneck near the coach a policeman decides to direct traffic, he’s stopping the flow one way to allow the cars travelling in the opposite direction to pass through. This seems a simple solution, but no, as he stops one car another sneaks through, then three sidle over and skirt around the policeman. Very soon chaos ensues, horns honk and he’s struggling to bring some order to the gridlocked street; we on the other hand sit sipping our drinks and watch in amusement.

100_8995

Suddenly there’s a distraction and someone over by the coach falls over: Yes I know you shouldn’t laugh when folks fall in the street, but I can’t help it.

The policeman rushes over and we see that the man who has fallen has nothing damaged but his pride, suddenly with no one to direct them, the drivers sort themselves out and the traffic flows smoothly until there’s only a handful of cars left on the street. The policeman returns from the fallen man and scratches his head, wondering where all the cars have gone. We however laugh loudly at his ineptness and order another drink.

Road Phantoms

There’s a strange phenomenon in Italy that I’ve started to notice more and more recently. Spectral traffic. Ghost cars.

You can be driving down a lane and look in the rear view mirror and from nowhere a car appears behind you, you check again and it’s still there pootling behind you. You can continue along the road where there are no junctions, no drives or side roads and you look up again and the car that was behind you has vanished.

This can happen on the straightest of roads, not just the weaving lanes. Today I drove past the WWF Serranella visitor centre and there was no traffic on the road other than me, I came around a bend and looked in my rear view mirror and suddenly there was a black Fiat panda behind me. The car wasn’t travelling very fast and the driver had no intention of overtaking me. WE continued up the straight road through Breccaio, past the houses onto the unpopulated portion of this undeviating road and when I looked up the panda was gone. There was nowhere it could have turned off, it hadn’t pulled over and the road behind me was empty.

I mentioned this to my passenger and his response was, “Yes, it’s weird that, happens to me all the time, where do the cars behind disappear to?”

Finally on a lighter note, I leave you today with a photograph of our current bottle of washing up liquid.

100_8613

It made me wonder what would happen if during a Duran Duran gig, Simon Le Bon forgot the lyrics to, Rio… could he sing, ‘Her name is Rio and she bum bum de bum bum…”

Trip to Town (a comparison)

I was driving into Lanciano, our nearest large town the other day and it occurred to me that when I lived in England it took me the same amount of time; 20 minutes to get to Hanley the main shopping centre for Stoke on Trent. The main difference between driving from Lightwood to Hanley and driving from G.V. to Lanciano is the smaller amount of other vehicles on the road, occasionally I’ll see three or four other cars whereas in England you could guarantee I’d have some sort of delay due to the sheer volume of traffic on the roads. Here’s what a part of my journey would have looked like:

capture-20140210-144636-crop

Photo: Google Map (screenshot)

Now, not only is my journey less congested but it’s infinitely more pleasing on the eye, I calculated the exact distance from my house to where the Google screenshot is from my previous address and took the same image over here in Italy:

100_8493-crop

I then went to Google again to take another screenshot of what my journey looked liked previously:

 capture-20140210-145838-crop

And once again I calculated the distance of the previous journey and took a photograph of the equivalent journey here in Italy:

100_8490-crop

Now I’m not saying the journey is better than before in the UK, yes it’s moderately quicker, but not faster, as there are more bends and the scenery does tend to make me drive at a more sedate pace, much to the annoyance of the young Italians who with a mobile phone clamped to the side of their head find themselves behind me. It is much more pleasing on the eye as I’ve said before, but in wet weather the Italian roads with their snake like bends can be treacherous, and it’s at this point the UK ones with better traction win out.

Pomegranates in Pyjamas

It’s early evening, 20.20, (8.20 in old money). I’ve just got back from taking Alf for a walk down the lane. As I was already geared up for an evening in front of the television, I was dressed in a T-shirt and a pair of Calvin Klein pyjama bottoms. So I’m settling down for the evening, when before I could take a sip of my wine Alf decided he needed to pee. As we get very little traffic in the evening and I can’t be bothered to get changed and slip on his collar and lead and head off down the lane. The air is cool and as we stroll past the walnut tree Alf crunches a shell open and devours the nut inside.

100_7356

We’re passing my neighbours hose when a man in a Punto drives past, he waves and I return his greeting. I’m eager for Alf to pee but he has other ideas, he just wants to walk. We get down to the war memorial at the bend in the lane, when a youth on a scooter whizzes past. We walk as far as the pomegranate bush and Alf decides to pee, as he splashes the ground I pick a couple of the fruits. We’re walking back when Rosa drives past, slowing to stare at the crazy Englishman wearing pyjamas as he walks his equally crazy dog. (She’s not keen on dogs and not Alf who gave her a fright a few weeks ago).

We stop at the walnut tree and as Alf crunches another nut free, I fill my pyjama pockets with walnuts. I’m at the top of my drive when a tractor trundles past and the driver calls out, a cheery ‘good evening’. Typical, most nights we’re lucky if we get a single car down the lane after 7pm, and tonight when I’m unsuitably attired we get a abundance of vehicles.

I sit down and sip my wine, comfortable in the knowledge that down in the town there’s more than likely talk of that crazy straniero out walking in his bed-clothes.

100_7408-crop