The hills around Casa Jones were not filled with the sound of music this morning but rather the irritating buzzing sound of the ubiquitous ( in Puglia) Piaggio three wheeler “van”.
These are made I am sure from an underpowered lawn mover engine being soldered onto the front of a 1930 motorbike to which you attach a small farm trailer.
You then put a bench where the motorbike seat was and cover the passenger area with rough corrugated metal to add yet more weight to ensure it can cause maximum traffic chaos. It is then essential that you add to the bench seat a very large pasta loving Italian mamma and then insert a driver of indeterminate age who last had an eyesight test when joining up in the second world war and never had an hearing test after that nasty shell exploded near his position in 1943. The machine itself must not have had a service since his grandfather handed it over to him . The engine will be running on fuel that his father stored during the oil crisis in 1973 and the driver’s shaky hand must ensure that the oil mix is hopelessly wrong ensuring clouds of smoke that would have pleased a destroyer captain after giving the order “make smoke” to protect a convoy. The Piaggio is now ready for the road in Puglia.
The three wheeler is the go to vehicle for wine producing. All wine produced around my area is for family consumption none of it is for commercial gain and so quantities are small. .Most people make 600 litres a year so to take the grapes to either their own or a neighbour’s wine cantina for crushing the three wheeler is a perfect workhorse. That is as long as you are nicely tucked into the three wheeler and not attempting to follow it and overtake it. Three wheels by nature are unstable and hard to drive. Add the above to the mix and the fact that most actually arrive at their destination is one of life’s continuing miracles down here.
Actually I covet owning one but Geraldine doesn’t share my enthusiasm. I would love to use it to go to the bar with her happily (?) sitting on the bench seat. But the real reason I want one is revenge. I want to get my own back for all the times I have been stuck behind one smoking its way up some minor incline at 5 kph crashing gears and wavering around the road so much that overtaking is impossible. I long to drive one every Wednesday to market and look back in the rear mirror to see the long line of traffic and the furious expressions on the faces as by mistake I allow the odd car to get past. I dream of driving the 30 kms to the beach as some do, down the ultra steep escarpment to the coast to lie on the beach and eagerly await the drive back up the 3 kilometer hill in first gear on a busy August day. Oh the joy. Oh the pure delight . Oh the revenge that would be so sweet.
But it won’t happen because the Italian government has a punitive transfer tax on all motor vehicles. A jaw dropping €800 every time you change ownership is swallowed up into some bottomless treasury black hole they laughingly call the budget. It is like my mobile phone bill which contains every month a €5 tax. This tax was introduced in 1972 to help fund the spread of the land telephone by having a tax on the telephone wire. Last time I looked my mobile wasn’t connected to a wire but somehow those grasping politicians have managed to add this ancient tax to it’s modern wireless advancement. It is also why we pay a TV license fee of about €120 a year though the TV down here is now all commercial. So we get endless ads but have to pay a license fee as if the tax payer was funding an ad less TV channel like the BBC. Mind you don’t get me started on them !
So my dream looks like it must remain a dream as I don’t think Italy has ever had a tax cutting government since WWII . Indeed it is probably high on Letta’s list of taxes to increase as he mulls, once again, how to prevent the 1% raise in VAT that every economist believes will toss Italy unhappily back into recession and to pay for the canceling of the hated IMU tax on first houses that Bunga Bunga forced him to repeal.
Instead I have to head out to the bar tonight and battle my way past a swarm of them heading home after crushing their grapes this afternoon.
But one day, I promise one day………………..