Posted by: Richard | July 29, 2009

Thoughts on Italy…

Well, here we are sitting in the cloisters of an old monastery getting out of the 37 degree heat of Rome.  What an incredible trip we have had, and though we still struggle up or down stairs early in the morning because of stiff legs and ankles, I think we are getting back into shape and no longer in pain.

Over the past two weeks, we have been enjoying life in Italy, making brief forays off of the coast into Tuscany and now finishing up in Roma.  It is hot but pleasant on the coast, mostly due to the breeze and the ability to jump into lovely water whenever we get a bit hot.  In Tuscany and hear in Rome, it is barely tolerable.  41 degrees one day in Siena and 37 today make it hard to get out.

The most perplexing thing about Italy is the driving.  Last weekend had 23 mortalities on the highways, and in just over 1,200 kms of our driving on highways, we saw four major accidents!!!  Contrast this to Canada, where an accident is very rare.  The cause for the accidents is easy to discern, drivers here are crazy.  The speed limit on highways is 110 km/h.  This results in about 25% of drivers going 70-90km/h, 50% going 110km/h and 25% going 150km/h.  The faster drivers have a unique way of motivating slower drivers, they do not slow down when approaching a slower car, but almost hit the rear of the car in front and stick about 2 feet off of the bumper.  This is a scary experience that we had several times, and makes the slower cars go a bit nuts trying to clear the way for the faster cars.  We had several experiences where a slower car, in a bid to get out of the way of a faster car would quickly dart in front of us, missing our bumper by what seemed a couple of inches.

Add to the unique driving described above, what I can only assume is a heavy lunchtime drinking culture, and afternoon driving is a real test of nerve.  About 2pm driving becomes more erratic, with 1 in 20 cars refusing to go into a lane and driving down the centre of highways or else trying to get three abreast on a 2-lane highway.  Bear in mind this is all at 110 km/h and you get an impression of what is going on.

My favorite part of the crazy driving occurred on our way back to France.  Lynn read one of the signs and said ‘I think the sign says that there is a car on fire up ahead’.  I laughed and didn’t believe her or her translation abilities (Lynn wants me to write here that she is actually really good at Italian, which she is).  What country would have a sign that alerts drivers that another car up ahead is on fire.  Well, Italy does, and a few minutes later we passed a truck that, although not technically on fire, had been a few minutes earlier.  Fireman were hosing it done, smoke was wafting in the air and other Italian drivers were trying to speed by on the margins of the road, lest they be delayed.  This was a lesson, Lynn is actually pretty good at translating Italian and don’t underestimate the regularity of bizarre traffic accidents.

Well, besides the driving, we have been very impressed with the Italian Riviera, enjoying lovely swims, great food and a beautiful location.  I found some english books and have gobbled up a few classics and the last three weeks of the Economist.  We are looking home to getting out of the heat and back to the temperate Rocky Mountains.

With this, I must be off…..

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