09 Dec Round and Round We Go
One thing about Italian drivers — they’re nuts. And if you abide by the rules, they think you’re nuts.
We quickly learned in our 10-hour trip from Rome to Sant’Andrea to move out of the left lane if anyone was behind us, because no matter how fast we were going, they wanted to go faster.
We were routinely high-beamed, honked at and nearly pushed off the road by teeny weeny cars whose drivers felt they had to go as fast as their cars would take them. For us, that meant 130 kilomoters per hour, or 80 mph. Our Fiat Panda simply refused to go any faster, even downhill.
Nino kindly volunteered to take us to the supermarket to get groceries for Aunt Nuzza and company. It was the least we could do considering how they had graciously opened their home to us.
Before we got on our way, Nino quietly went upstairs. I didn’t notice he was gone until, no more than five minutes later, he came out looking like Dapper Dan. For our trip to the store Nino had quick-changed from his gardening outfit into a pinstriped suit.
It was a a mind-boggling contrast from just minutes earlier that took some adjusting to.
With Nino all spiffied up, we proceeded.
A minute from Nino’s house toward the Davoli supermarket — the only one open between 1 p.m. and 4 p.m., when everything closes for an extended lunch — you come to a roundabout.
Here’s how it’s supposed to go: You go to the right and the guy coming from the other direction goes to his right, allowing for a continuously flow of traffic.
Nino’s the type of guy who has to turn his head every time he talks, which usually means he slows down at best or veers off course and slows down, supremely ticking off decidedly impatient Italian drivers.
As we approached the nicely manicured roundabout, Nino was doing his driving-while-talking routine and slowed down near the entrance. He proceeded around the right side, but the guy behind him, apparently peeved by Nino’s dawdling, zoomed around the left side and lunged to cut us off.
Nino would have none of it. He and downshifted from third to first gear and bursted into an assembly of curses that would have been difficult for anyone to follow. With the car’s engine screaming, we jettisoned around the roundabout.
Now, all I was thinking in this blink of a moment was, “Please God, I want to see my girls again.”
Surprisingly, we didn’t die. In fact, Nino won. We squeaked ahead of the wrong-way driver.
Even after his victory, Nino continued his litany of curses, calling the other guy crazy and who knows what else. (All I heard was, “Buh buh buh buh buh.”)
Uncle Bruno, being the smart guy he is, repeatedly agreed with Nino about the other guy and entirely overlooked the actions of Mario Andretti to his left.
The good news is that we survived. Nino helped us get the best bargains in the store and even treated us to Italian McDonald’s.
We got back to Nino’s each with our respective pieces in places.
After swigging down some of Nino’s homemade coffee liquor (gasoline) and chatting with some of Poppy’s old friends (help me here, Uncle Bruno), we agreed to come back the next day for lunch with Nino and his wife. Then we would be allowed to get the cheese. He told us he would take us to the guy who sold the cheese at the Soverato open market on Friday. We’d go just before we left for Rome.
I should have known that there would be a lot more to the story before that happened.