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The turnaround

28 August 2005

By Gianlucacs at it.wikipedia (Transferred from it.wikipedia) [Public domain], from Wikimedia CommonsI’m now on the long journey home, alas, but there is a little more to come.

The ferry back to Sicily was even better than the beautiful journey to Malta. The catamaran skimmed across the blue Med and was so calm I even felt hungry (which is unheard of for someone who is usually ill on a five-minute crossing!) and ate a sandwich.

After a 4am start I didn’t think I would drive very far but in the end made it to the ferry back to the Italian mainland (I was delighted to see that it was called the Fata Morgana – what a great omen.)

I even managed to drive as far as Cosenza in southern Italy before succumbing and then slept for about twelve hours. I found somewhere to stay pretty quickly but thanks to Italian drivers found it almost impossible to actually get to the place and park. I was so tired I wanted to scream and had completely and totally lost patience with the awful driving. Yes, I’m going to have a rant, so skip the next three paragraphs if you don’t want to read it!

They are unbelievable – and in fact don’t make their own roads faster but slower. It took me three days to drive from one end of Italy to the other – a distance that I covered in one long day in France. Wouldn’t advise anyone without a lot of driving experience to try Italy – I’ve been driving for thirty years and learned in Africa in the 70s, so drive very defensively. But a couple of times I really thought my last hour had come and was wondering what music my partner would choose for the funeral …!

The speed limit is completely ignored, by everyone, everywhere. On the motorways and on ordinary roads, you can be overtaken on either side at any moment and when the overtaker is doing about 140 mph (yes, really!) you barely see them coming. The little motorcycle things appear to be treated as pedestrians as far as rules are concerned and ignore boring things like traffic lights and pedestrian crossings entirely. People double and triple-park – in fact, they don’t so much park as abandon their vehicles. Or, quite often, they have just stopped for a chat.

The funniest thing I saw – but also the most terrifying – was on the A3 motorway just south of Naples. The whole motorway is under repair and down to one lane with contraflows everywhere – which is hairy enough when it is all tunnels and high overpasses with half missing. But one little motor cycle had two huge fat blokes astride, dwarfing the poor machine. On a contraflow they wove in and out of the traffic and at will drove over the double line into the path of the oncoming traffic – must have given several people near heart attacks. They certainly did me. Two policemen in a patrol sat and watched this with a complete lack of interest.

Oh, and while I’m in the mood for a rant, I’d also like to thank the men of Southern Italy for costing me hundreds of pounds in hotel bills. There were lots of campsites around but after some of the experiences I had I just didn’t have the courage to use them.

But I did get my hair cut, and that helped on the way back!