After 5 months away you return to Italy wearing a very large pair of rose coloured glasses and wander about for a week loving everything you see and marvelling at your amazing ability to choose such a great place to live.
I have been doing just that for the last five days walking about almost in a dream (actually with jet-lag and so virtually no sleep at night it is true) and these posts could have degenerated into an adjunct to the Italian Tourist Office is there is such a beast? Actually knowing Italy and our politicians there are probable twenty of them. Certainly Puglia seems to have an endless list of them.
However the brief honeymoon had to end and sure enough this morning some facets of life came back to me with a jolt.
It all started so well as well. A brief phone call the other day to Saga car insurance had convinced me that there was no way Saga would ever pay a claim made in Italy and would wriggle for years trying to get out of it. For the record they told me that should we leave the car outside the house in Italy for more than 3 days ( though the underwriters would prefer two) it would be considered abandonment of the vehicle and the insurance would be null and void. So this morning I spoke to the nice people at Italsure in London and they talked me through the rather confusing on-line application . That is all they do at the call centre as they do not take phone quotes but the form is designed for U.S expatriates going on short term postings with their car if such a beast actually exists.
Within 10 minutes I was the proud owner of fully comp. insurance for Italy and life was good. Now we were ready to head off to Brindisi Airport to drop the rental we had hired in Rome on Thursday. A plug if I may readers, the Skoda Rapid is a quite superb diesel car and Sicily by Car are doing free one way drop offs as well. Can life get any better I asked myself as I pulled out of the driveway with Geraldine in the newly batteried Renault behind. The sun was shining, the wild flowers were out and drinks with a couple of friends on the way home beckoned . Italy never looked better and unbelievably we had left in good time so the 2 p.m. drop off deadline would be a doddle.
So it was with an happy heart that I approach Villa Castelli to cut through the town on the way to the Autostrada . As I rounded the bend near the big church I suddenly came rocketing back down to earth. The road was closed and the police had set up a diversion sign in the middle of the road.
Now it is important to understand that in Italy the police close the road and then erect, what in fact is, the only diversion sign the town in question possesses. They then jump back into the police car and roar away, job done. You are on your own once you have made the fatal decision to turn in the direction that the diversion sign points rather than stopping , turning around and going off to find an entirely different route to get to where you want to go. Me with my warm fuzzy and jet lagged mind in fact turned to follow the sign. In my defence I have been away a long time but really I should have known better. Within a minute we were faced with a choice of left or right and not a sign in sight. Right seemed sensible but I was now in the old part of town with narrow roads with cars parked on one side and old men sitting out in the warm spring sunshine of the other. As an aside the women toss the men out in the morning and in any weather other than rain they sit on old kitchen chairs looking rather forlorn.
Right wasn’t a good move and a left was forced on me by the one way system taking me the wrong way. Soon we were in the heart of the old town bashing wing mirrors with parked cars and causing old boys to move their chairs which clearly from the shouts was a mortal sin.
And it wasn’t over. I had forgotten it was market day. The next street I fatefully chose lead straight into the centre of the market. Suddenly our two cars were crawling past market traders behind their stalls and pedestrians were running for their lives.
Quite how we came out unscathed I have no idea but as we drove quite by luck onto the main road where the nightmare had started just 20 minutes before, I was cursing every Roman god, the Italian police system, the Italian nation and any one else I could think of for good measure. People cowered away from my car windows as I bellowed as much in relief that somehow we were free.
Now we were late and still had to now retrace our steps and head over to Ceglie to start again.
The honeymoon was over we were back down to earth and you, dear readers, will from now on get a more realistic picture of life Here in Puglia !