Italian Motoring Adventure - Part 2

Although I have named this blog and Italian Motoring Adventure, I have a suspicion that it will soon turn into a ramble. It may have already.

When thinking about the things that happen in Italy, on and around roads, one's mind is sent into a spin not unlike that of the 50cc Piaggio motor when it is hauling its half ton payload (in addition to up to 3 well fed Italian labourers). Which makes you wonder how an engine the size of a small bottle of cough medicine can do such a thing.

Not being a mechanical engineer, I can't explain it, but that doesn't stop one's brain from trying.

The proliferation of 3 wheeled utes, did send me off on a tangent to find out more about the PIaggo Ape`. It seems, after reviewing that there is no shortage of people trying to create three wheeled cars, but not that many have success.

One thing that I have noticed, is that Italy has a lot of one way streets. I guess it make sense to have everyone in a narrow street going in the one direction, that way, front to tail collisions are probably less fatal than head ons. This road safety improvement may possibly be offset by any one of the 50 million tourists that visit Italy each year going down a one way street the wrong way and wiping out any number of drivers and pedestrians.

On the other hand, it is quite possible the Italians would not even notice someone coming down a one way street the wrong way, especially since they seem to do it themselves all the time.

Riding a bike on the narrow Italian roads with the aforementioned speeding drivers may seem foolhardy and dangerous as well, but there are far fewer occasions where drivers cause any problems at all compared to in Australia, where one has only to spend a short time on the roads every week, to experience the abuse and initimadatory behaviour displayed by a significant minority of drivers.

As long as you are decisive and positive in your actions, the Italian motorist will react in a relatively forgiving way. They don't seem to be ones to hold grudges; apparent displays of anger or temper seem to be very shortlived, although I have not had any experience with the mafioso - outcomes could possibly be different.

Not having driven with an Italian driver, I can't say for sure what they are saying from the comfort of their car, but one should not take a couple of honks with the horn or the occasional agreesive hand gesture, personally.

It can't be easy for them, when there are any number of decrepit foreign cycling wandering around the countryside on hired bikes, not knowing where they are going, trying to read maps and detailed directions, whilst at the same time attempting to keep an eye out for any arrows that may or may not be on any one of about 10 traffic sign poles that seem to be at every intersection.

If one happens to misread any of those same directions or miss an arrow, then, chances are very soon, one will be totally bamboozled. At the very same time, with the pressure from one's riding partner to tell them "where the bloodly hell are you going", a meltdown is likely to be not very far away, thus requiring our agressive yet attentive Italian driver to swerve at just the right moment and avoid a lot of potential work for the Australian consulate in Italy.

Mind you, none of this can be worse than being told where to go by modern technology in the form of a GPS device. We all have our idiosyncrasies when driving, but when you let a machine read a map for you, there is bound to be trouble.

Disclaimer: I hate GPS devices. I am sure they have their advantages, but I am yet to experience any of them.

Doug and Patsy were kind enough to offer us a lift to get from Sicily to Matera where our first bike tour was to start. It was quite a pleasant trip through some beautiful Italian countryside, but I came away admiring them for their patience with the machine they called (i think) GP.

Perhaps it is because I have not grown used to the ways of the GPS (nor do I want to), but to me, being a driver of a car with one of these annoying devices in them, could be worse than waterboarding or some other method of torture that politicians can convince a gullible public, are harmless interrogation methods.

If you, the reader, has had the misfortune of using one of these devices you probably know how they work, but being a GPS virgin (or pretty close to it), i was quite surpised (and secretly pleased) how useless they really are.

From the viewpoint of the casual observer, an experienced driver like Doug, with the assistance of the Lovely Patsy, seemed to get about 1 in 4 streets directions wrong when in the city.

If this was to happen or if you decided to take another turn for any reason, the machine would parrot "recalculating, recalculating", then proceed to tell you how to get yourself out of the mess, the machine obviously thought you were in.

Although at first the machine's fake Australian accent, trying to pronounce Italian street names was mildly amusing, after about 1000 streets, the novelty had well and truly worn off. The Italian language with its emphasis on an extended second last syllable has a definite rhythm.

The fake Australian inside the GPS pronounced every syllable in exactly the same way with the same emphsasis with a monotone delivery.

Patsy and Doug didn't seem to mind this at all, and even displayed some affection for this monstrous machine. Apart from questions about whether or not machines driven by artificial intelligence have a soul, I was in no doubt as to my course of actions if I were to be the driver of the vehicle.

Taking into account the possiblility of high powered motor cycles rushing by us at twice our speed, or some hapless old washed up cycling tourist accidently finding their way near an open window of the car, I would have taken the device, and, waiting until we were passing over one of the many 100 metre deep ravines that are so common on the west coast of Italy, hurled it from the car to the very bottom of the chosen ravine.

Recalculate that!

Small Cars 1

Smart cars (4x2) are pretty much square.

Small Cars 2

How can a small car become an icon? Its got ot keep going strong for 50 years and still seem relevant.

Small Cars 3

They got rid of the Dihatsu Terios in Australia because it was preceived as a joke. In Italy they are a compact 4 wheel drive.

Small Cars 4

Three Piaggio Ape` Calessino's in the one spot. Have i died and gone to heaven? No, there are not specially build conversions, they come direct from the factory with canvas doors and top adn fake woodwork on the sides.

Imagine the executive planning meeting where the PIaggio management got a suggestion from one of the development personell.

"The new model will have a canvas doors and seat 4 passengers and a driver, plus have room for two large bags. We'll put white walled tyres on them."

At this point the other execs look at each other.

The  Fiat Panda is now a real car. This is similar to wht we hired in Sicily.

Small Cars 6

Renault have gone the other way. The Twizy is a motor bike with 4 wheels and a cabin and steering wheel.

Small Cars 7

If your though the Dihatsu Terios was one tough 4WD, take a look at the Panda 4b.

Small Cars 8

No, that is not a giant Piaggio Ape` parked in the same car park as a BMW convertible. It's just that the convertible is a toy car - I mean a real toy car. Go around to James and Rachel's house and you will see the Merc version. The Ape is not that much bigger.


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