Okay, so I had nothing to be afraid of. Roma traffic is looney. Otherwise, Italy is fairly tame.
Still, when I asked our driver what the worst thing about living in Rome was, he said, ta da: traffic, and parking. Surprise, surprise. But his family likes to have a vehicle because walking is no fun. So each of his family members has many vehicles. His mama has four cars. His papa has three. He has two cars and a scooter.
Yes, I wanted to ask too…I understand you don’t want to walk everywhere like Kenyans, but why more than one vehicle per person? I’ll have to leave it to the imagination. But I think they know how to solve their traffic problem.
Apparently, Italian citizens on the western coast have just one vehicle. The drive reminded me of the hills of Creston, BC…trees frosting the tops of hills, and similar greenery, except for the occasional palm tree.
When we first touched down in this blessed country, the kids were aghast: It looks like Africa!! It looks like Africa! Where are the giraffes? People were giggling.
I had to agree. It looked like Africa. The ‘plane’ trees appear similar to the acacia trees. There are vast, untouched spaces much like the savannah where Giraffes and antelope roam… But there weren’t hundreds of people meandering alongside the packed traffic. There weren’t a dozen dark faces hanging from matatus. And eventually, when we drove into city center, there was definitely not the Ancient Colosseum and Palatine greeting us.
I’d been studying traffic signs…the stop and yield are similar but I could find few speed limits. Our driver said, Well, we drive whatever feels good. 150-160 on the Autostrada, maybe 130-140 to the airport, 50-60 inside town. HA, now I’m scared!
Jim asks the kids in the spacious back of our Mercedes minivan (that’s all they have in automatic): We’re on a road trip; what would you like to do?
If I could drive, that would be awesome, four year old Zach declares. I could drive faster than dad.
I’m sure he could! And would!
Dad responds, And Zach, we’ve had the same number of accidents!
Zach’s four. He put the minivan in reverse and backed in, and almost through, the side fence a few months ago.
At 1,70 Euros per litre, we weren’t idling at stoplights. We headed away from the Autostrada up the western coast, out to Civvitiveccia. A memorable surprise…it is right on the Mediterranean Sea.
We stopped at the Ideale Ristorante…always a bad sign that they’re self-named perfection. However, they were right. The dining terrace opened to a pristine view of the Mediterranean; we ordered a Rose with lunch (you know you’re in Italy when you’re expected to drink wine with lunch), gamberi (crayfish??), risotto, ravioli alla funghi, and insalata misto. The kids amused themselves with their newly purchased parasols and sang a ditty: Swiss Chalet, always so good, for so little (Whaa? Ya, that was my reaction too).
Not everyone liked lunch…
The meal complete, Jim left a tip with the conto but the waiter brought it outside to him. They don’t take tips? Italians expect no more than 10% we were told, but no tips? Ideale, indeed. Even the toilet seats were photo worthy–embedded with rhinestones. Okay, they can have their name, and advertising too.
We stepped down the side stairs, pulled off our shoes and flicked waves of the Mediterranean with our toes. And saved a geological sampling for my other collection…jars of sand and rock from all the waters of the world…so far, Pacific, Atlantic, Arctic, Bahamas, Mexican Riviera and Mediterranean. Cheap, not-necessarily-so-easy souvenirs.
The kids could be in school, or they could be here…
From Civvitiveccia, we could have taken a ferry to Tunisia, but we drove NorthEastern toward Siena.
We stopped at La Coop for the evening repast at our Tuscan farmhouse. Traquina’s grocery had so many pasta, cornetto, risotto, cheese and meat varieties that I cannot understand why the Italians are not competing with North America for obesity rates. Bella, bella…fresh pasta for 2, 00 Euros. Twelve croissants (cornetto) for 1, 50 Euros. ½ Litres of Sangiovese for 2, 50 Euros!
Wandering the aisles like the kids have first discovered Disneyland, Hannah came rushing at me: Mom, you know you’re not an Italian mom when your shoes don’t have heels. Indeed, we dress like paupers. Not that I’ve ever cared to dress haute couture, but these people make us look like we live in cardboard boxes. And this is small-town Italy!
We are indeed in Italy. A dream I didn’t imagine would come true this side of life, or definitely, this side of forty. I could pinch myself….