Driving Italian style
Three years ago we were spending a few languid weeks away from Suffolk, in Carmela’s home in Southern Italy. Situated 30 miles due north of Naples in the foot hills of the Matese Mountains, it’s a region that’s poor by our decadent standards, but far richer in the simpler things of life. I suppose the climate makes the obvious difference, with an extended ‘al fresco’ season stretching from April through to October, compared to our nine months of winter, followed by three months of bad weather. Although the locals are very house proud, nobody seems to bother with aspirational status hogging cars. Being a nation of crazy drivers sees to that. A few days ago whilst walking along a street full of parked cars in Naples, I realised that not one of the fifty or so we had just passed, was undamaged.
Just three weeks ago, Carmela and I were cruising at 95 in the mid-lane of the Rome-Naples auto strada, when a white Mercedes overtook us from the ‘slow lane’, swung across us and other vehicles, before heading off into the distance in the fast lane. All at around 150mph!
There’s an Italian apocryphal story that reaffirms that this style of driving is entirely safe: An Englishman accepts a lift from Luigi and is surprised by the Italian jumping the red lights in the busy town centre. A few hundred metres down the road the Italian again drives straight through red lights at speed. Our English passenger by this time has become a little uncomfortable. However, further down the road the Italian screeches to a halt. The astonished Englishman enquires why, with the lights set to green, he has stopped. “It is just in case my brother, Marcello, is driving the other way across town”.
by Roland Blunk, photo by Anon