Notes on Driving in Italy

I am many stories behind, as a friend pointed out tonight, but, I have to jump ahead to today because it is worthy.

I rented my car a day later than planned because of the tooth thing, but then I had to leave it in the garage at $13.00 a day because…well, the tooth thing. I finally went and got it out, (nothing is ever easy) the day I left Bari. I had already accumulated enough stuff to require two trips to the garage from the hotel.

I tried to explain this in my pathetic Italian, because even in a tourist town Garage Attendant does not have “English as a Second Language” in the job description. That was so way less than useless.  Eventually, I just left the car in the doorway and went across the street to get my bags. When I popped back out of the hotel I saw him scanning the streets for me and I waved my, “I’m back” salute and headed over.  I was prepared with my credit card since this was going to be $40 and I had been burning through cash pretty quick. No carta. OK, good, I had this nice big 500 Euro bill I have been trying to pass for a day or so and had no takers.  Apparently, not him either. Bank? Around the corner.  I stowed my junk in the trunk and headed for the corner. I was searching for an ATM but could not see one anywhere. I returned and said, No bank. He was very clear that there was one; that implied “you idiot” was in there too.  I went back. I looked all over, I even looked up. OH, there it is, Banca Di Napoli.

A pleasant half hour later – after the friendly chat with a motorcyclist which involved both of the gentleman stationed at the front desk, and a patient wait for a teller, (after getting a number from the front desk) while she was beyond frustration with something on her computer, and the other teller, an older gentleman helping an older lady who was giving her every pleasantry, finally got done, it was my turn to ask for change. Which bills would I like, any large ones, small ones, coins perhaps. When the transaction was done and I had been advised on safe transport of my funds I finally headed back to the garage. My car was gone and so was the attendant but I wasn’t even worried. It is just like this in Italy sometimes.  Both showed up simultaneously.

I paid the bill, got in the car, wished I could have gotten the Garmin to find the satellite back at the hotel, but inside 2 feet of ancient rock connectivity is often stifled. I figured to just get off the block, head in any direction and pull over at the first opportunity, which happened faster than I imagined. I tuned in the Garmin, set it for Brindisi and took off.

City driving is a wonder in a foreign country, luckily I grew up in NYC, so it is hard to really surprise me, but the highways are another world.  Keep in mind we are in Kilometers here, not miles.  40 means 60, and 60 means 80, and 110 really means just in the slow lane, because, I swear to you, I was not keeping up and got the flash-a-roo. No honking on the highway, unlike in town where a 1 second hesitation is cause for a reminder toot, and with each additional second the tooting goes back another car. Stall your car and the entire line up will be honking their horns off.

It is olive harvest season right now, so while moving north from Puglia there were several farmers on little old tractors riding on the shoulder of the main highway. And by shoulder, I mean about 3 feet. I watched a semi hauling a container slow down and get out of the way of an old codger with a wagon load of olives. By “getting out of the way” I mean he moved into the next lane, about halfway, which by coincidence just happened to be my lane. I couldn’t see the olive guy, I just saw a very big truck moving in to share my lane. I was not really prepared for this action so braking was my only option since there is neither shoulder nor median, only a metal rail fence on the other side.  I became much more alert to items in the road up ahead after that.

While being attentive I saw another truck moving into someone else’s lane while heading right for me. He was making way for a much bigger tractor, pulling a much bigger wagon, who was making way for a little tractor pulling a little wagon.  Really, I was a bit disappointed there was not a donkey and a cart to complete the picture.

Eventually I made it on the Autostrada, which has no posted speed limit, BUT regularly reminds you that you are being watched electronically for speeding. Going with the flow of traffic, in the slow lane, put me at 130 KPH, so that is where I stayed. I got the rhythm of lane change pretty quickly and it makes for a pleasant journey – everybody behaving themselves.

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One Response to Notes on Driving in Italy

  1. Linda Anderson says:

    Bravo – brave one!!!

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