138. Driving

People are often started to here that I have no fear of driving in Italy. They picture cars careening down the Autostrada at 100 miles per hour, with all the slowpokes forced off the road, dented, shaken, and vowing to never drive again.

Actually, driving on major Italian roads is no different than driving on our route 95, if you don’t mind not being able to read the signs. But what totally freaks me out is driving in the small towns, some built 1000 years ago, with streets designed to fit a donkey, not an Audi.

So this morning was my worst nightmare. As is often the case, I took the wheel so that Ben could wield the GPS, as we left L’Aquila for our next destination, Ancona. Sadly, Google Maps doesn’t seem wise to the fact that what looks to it like a street in a medieval town may well be only five feet wide. In L’Aquila, this is made worse by the ubiquitous construction projects of the decades-long effort to rebuild after the 2009 earthquake, which left much of the city still in obvious and visible disrepair. It seems that every street has sections roped off, piles of building materials, or tradespeople’s trucks blocking the way.

A very common sight

And so it was this morning, as the GPS put us on streets narrower and narrower and I felt myself getting nervouser and nervouser, until we turned a corner and saw, to my dismay, that the street was totally blocked by a truck. Now what?

I asked the men working on the job, “Parla Inglese?” — do you speak English? — to which they laughed uproariously, probably remembering their own schoolboy efforts. But they saw my distress — in Italy, being an old gal makes you worthy of assistance, not scorn — and they ran to find the truck driver so he could back down the street to make room for me to pass.

The truck. Did I mention it also started to rain?

Which of course required him, but first me, reversing down a lane barely wide enough to fit. I was game — what choice did I have? — but it was clear it was not going too well, either for me and potentially, for the car.

One of the workers came over and gestured for me to roll down the window. “Faccio io?” — I do it? — he asked, and thus we made our way, with me making the car go in reverse about 4 miles per hour, while he ran alongside, with his arm in my window, doing the steering.

What a spectacle we must have been! But there’s a lesson in here somewhere. Don’t attempt things that are clearly over your head? Or when you get in a tight jam, someone will likely emerge to help? In my case this morning, both were clearly true.

4 thoughts on “138. Driving

  1. Hopefully, you rewarded yourself for tackling this challenge. In my bus travels of Italy, I was amazed at the skill of our driver. I swear there wasn’t an inch between cliffs and approaching cars and the driver calming persevered. I was holding my breath, thinking collapsing my lungs would make the bus smaller. Enjoy your journey.


  2. That’s wonderful, Gigi! To me, it just reaffirms my faith (a stand-in for the absence of any religious faith) in the basic goodness of people. Whenever I’ve traveled, I feel like I have a guardian angel with me, and I’ve always been amazed and surprised at how good and kind people can be.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s