Keep your pas­sen­ger in the gut­ter

The Weekend Australian - Travel - - Travel & Indulgence - SU­SAN KUROSAWA

I HAVE never been fazed at the thought of driv­ing on the other side of the road in Europe, de­spite what my sons may tell you. I have pro­pelled Citroens along au­toroutes and Fi­ats up and down au­tostradas and too­tled about south­ern Spain, and all has been fine as long as I have re­mem­bered the well-worn mantra of con­ti­nen­tal driv­ing. That is: Keep your pas­sen­ger in the gut­ter.

If sans com­pan­ion to re­mind you of this rule, then pay at­ten­tion to that empty front seat or nav­i­ga­tor dog.

There is sim­ply noth­ing to it. It is park­ing where one comes un­stuck.

If ever you thought road rules in Mediter­ranean coun­tries were a bit, shall we say, ran­dom, then let me say it gets much trick­ier when you stop in a care­free city such as Rome.

Hope­fully you will be in a teeny two-door car with a nick­name such as Bam­bino be­cause at least you’ll be able to ma­noeu­vre side­ways into tight spots, al­though it does help to have a sun­roof for seam­less exit and en­try.

Side mir­rors must al­ways be flat­tened, too, while pro­gress­ing along nar­row al­leys and when park­ing or, quite frankly, you will be in for a smash­ing time.

Ev­ery­one in Italy seems to drive as if prac­tis­ing for For­mula One team se­lec­tion.

Bill Bryson ad­vises that the only way to safely walk across a busy street in Rome is to find a pass­ing nun and stick to her like a sweaty T-shirt as the traf­fic stops only for sis­ters. A guide in Naples once told me there are so few ze­bra cross­ings be­cause, ac­tu­ally, there are no pedes­tri­ans in Italy, only peo­ple try­ing to find where they have parked their cars.

When on the road in Italy, it’s hard to be­lieve this is the coun­try that gave the world the Cit­taslow (slow city) move­ment, which has its head­quar­ters in the splen­didly named town of Bra in the north and cel­e­brates en­vi­ron­men­tal ex­cel­lence, re­gional cui­sine and val­ues and re­new­able en­ergy, and gives a firm thumbs down to any­thing ap­proach­ing fast (com­mu­ni­ca­tion, food and trans­port).

But slow traf­fic? Re­ally? I have never en­coun­tered an Ital­ian driver stay­ing on, or be­low, the speed limit, not even aboard a Vespa (with­out hel­met — the in­ter­fer­ence with one’s hair!) or pro­pel­ling one of those lit­tle three-wheeler Ape trucks that buzz about like the ag­i­tated bees for which they are named.

I’ve been watch­ing Monty Don’s French Gar­dens, a splen­did telly three-parter, and this Bri­tish man of the soil has been driv­ing through the prov­inces in a Citroen 2CV, so toy­like you could imag­ine a wind-up key in its roof.

The show has re­minded me of the joys of the back roads of ru­ral Europe, breez­ing along in search of wine and cheese and olives, with one’s mind fixed on a con­tented gut rather than a well-formed gut­ter.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.