Road Terror

Numana Italy

My toes are cramping from curling them, my teeth are aching from clamping them and my stomach is in knots. I’ve given up with faux braking and am assuming the fetal position.

There is no need to seek out a theme park for a thrill ride. Any Italian road will do, whether on foot or in a car.

Boldly striped pedestrian crossings meant to give one the right of way appear to be optional for the motorist.

Once across the busy north/south road along the promenade in the seaside town it was tempting to let one’s guard down only to be taken out by a cyclist on the cycle path.

The promenade was no sanctuary for the unwary as cyclists sought their thrills weaving in and out of pedestrians or taking a high speed direct line to watch unsuspecting pedestrians leap left and right like a bowling ball down the middle of the pins for a strike.

We fared no better in my (new!) car. Himself braked for a cyclist who cut in front of him then he swerved as she proceeded in front of him completely oblivious while talking on her phone. When he swerved left to avoid her, a car came out from a side road on the left and having avoided that a whole family stepped out onto a pedestrian crossing in front of us.

Numana Italy

I assumed the autostrade – being wider with no pedestrians and limited access – would be less nerve-wracking.

We watched a car full of young lads tailgate a motorcycle to within a meter of him. The motorcycle was boxed in with nowhere to go. As we were all doing 80 mph, we willed the motorcyclist to hold his nerve and not fall off.

The style of driving here is to stay as close as possible to the motor in front whether traveling at 15 mph or 80 mph. A 15 mph rear-ender would be annoying. At 80 mph it would be deadly.

The tailgaters on the autostrade – predominately BMWs, Mercedes and Audis – given an open road are easily motoring at 120 mph.

I’m going to close my eyes now and pretend I’m not in the car.

*****

Okay. Awake now. We survived. Toll to be paid. Himself pulled up to an automated toll booth. Great. Cash only. Oh wonderful.

I inserted the ticket I’d taken at the start of the day (remember we are in a right-hand drive car in a country of left-hand drive cars so tackling tolls is my job – lucky me). The digital readout was €28.50. A ten and a twenty. That should be easy.

I tried to insert the ten. It wouldn’t go in. I turned it over. Nope. I turned it around. Nope. And over. Success!

The machine sucked in the bill, spat it out again and it blew away! I couldn’t open the door as himself had thoughtfully pulled up to the toll gubbins as close as he could so I could reach. He pulled forward at an angle so I could squeeze out of the door in my bare feet (no time to find flip-flops). In my panic I hit my head, knocking off my sunglasses (****!) then chased the bill down the road.

Back in the car:

“Back up!”

“I can’t!”

“You have to! I can’t reach!”

“There’s a car behind me!”

“The barrier’s still down!”

“I know!”

He did back up. Now what?

We certainly didn’t have €28.50 in coins. I tried the ten again. The machine sucked it up and I slapped my hand over the slot. It didn’t reappear. I tried the twenty and slapped the machine again with more than necessary vigor. It disappeared too and change tinkled out.

I think the toll machine is related to our SatNav – another long tale of woe to follow.

The same three cars were still at the toll booth in the next lane as our barrier went up and we drew away.

So it’s not just me.

Or is it?

Where’s my sofa? I want to go home.

Numana Italy

The photos in this post, taken in Numana, Italy, are completely irrelevant to the subject matter here and are purely to keep me in a calm frame of mind as I read and proofread the post.

65 thoughts on “Road Terror

  1. I have been on a tour bus from Austria to Italy and believe me, traveling a VERY Narrow mountain road, with neither side anywhere to go as one is part of the mountain the other would be DOWN off the road. However, once we got off the mountain the land was beautiful and in Merano was lovely.

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  2. Pah, Italy is a cakewalk – you should try driving in North Cyprus, that wlll really test your nerves! There is one rule only: there are no rules. People park anywhere – on double yellow lines, onto pavements with the back of the car sticking out into the road, people drive out in front of you from side roads and wave graciously as you scream to a halt, people overtake on blind bends, they speed and as for the Kyrenia-Nicosia road, laughingly called a main road, it in fact the Turkish-Cypriot training track for Formula One racing. The funny thing is that everyone is very good-natured about all this mayhem, there is no road rage, people wave thank you as they cut you up, and you seldom get horns tooted. But you literally take your life in your hands when you go driving around here. On a more serious note, the sad thing is the number of accidents and fatalities, one of the highest in the region.

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    1. Well I don’t like the sound of that, Mo. This is bad enough. Today the speeding antics were performed in the rain. I don’t know what the statistics are but I would have thought there are some terrible pile-ups. We made it through the Alps today. Just two more days until we have the pleasure of the overcrowded UK roads!

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  3. Oh wow . I assume the same fetal position when we’re (that is, my husband) is driving on foreign roads — Spain most recently — but it’s nothing compared to your experience on the Italian roads!

    Your images help to calm the adventure down. For you as you wrote it, for us as we read it. 🙂

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    1. Thanks, Cindi! Your experiences in Spain would give you a good feel for what we’ve been through. Glad you liked the photos. I’m always a bit iffy about posting irrelevant photos. I obviously hadn’t time, or would want, to photograph the toll booth!

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  4. Oh….what a nightmare! You really need your wits about you. I’m a nervous passenger at the best of times, and I thought our South African motorists were quite bad enough. I do remember trying to cross a road on foot, in Rome. I’d been told that one just steps off the pavement whilst looking the drivers straight in the eye, and they will let you across. I’m still alive to tell the tale, so I guess it worked. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t help laughing at your highly frustrating toll booth experience. The picture in my mind of you chasing the money in your bare feet, with sunglasses askew, really tickled my funny bone. 😆 btw That beach looks far too crowded for my liking. xx

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  5. Brings back memories of the year I spent in southern Europe — everyone apparently goes to the same Driving School For Lunatics. I’ve never been so terrified — never got used to it. Your recounting, however, is absolutely hilarious!

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    1. Spent a lot of time in (the former) Yugoslavia, southern France, northern Italy, Spain, and Portugal. Did a lot of photography, exploring little villages, meeting locals, eating fabulous food, and just wandering. It was fabulous! Wish I had a blog from then. It was in the olden days. 🙂

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  6. Aw, WWN, toll booths are the absolute best for checking out a girl’s cool power. The next step up is going for the automatic booth for people with magic passes, and getting your credit card spat out for no apparent reason. Hope your stomach knots untie soon, cupcake xxx

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    1. Hahaha! It’s you Joanna! I didn’t know who you were until I got to ‘cupcake!’ I’m seriously considering getting the Telepass next time. I’ve just had a look at the site and it says, and I quote, ‘The Italian toll system is complicated and for tourists it takes getting used to.’ Oh boy! you can say that again!!! Relaxing on bed now. Glass or three of wine soon.

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  7. OMG. I knew, I mean I just knew, you were going to have adventures again, however, I had no idea you would risk life and limb driving in Italy! Dear God. And oh, I can see you out there chasing down that bill…..I clenched my eyes and laughed out loud reading this, you are too much woman….much too much. Get thee back to civilization and go back to drinking wine by the sea!

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  8. OMG – I had flashbacks to our trip in Italy last year. I have never seen so terrified in a car in my entire life!!! EVER!! … and I’ve driven through snowstorms with zero visibility and the highway closed behind us.
    Italians seem to think of driving as a full contact sport. Motorists and pedestrians alike treat signs and traffic lights as suggestions … which are normally ignored. HOLY CRAP!!!

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    1. That’s reminded me, Joanne. My most terrifying road journey ever was a shuttle from Positano to Naples airport. I thought I was going to die. I really did. I was mentally saying my goodbyes. Maybe this trip wasn’t so bad.

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  9. I have driven quite a lot in Italy and I love it however I can certainly relate to your incident at the toll booth. BTW I drive a rh drive car here in Aus.

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    1. I love Italy – the people, the language, the food, the wine – but not the roads! And certainly not the toll booths. Every one has a mind of its own! I wasn’t sure if you meant Austria or Australia, so I had a look. G’day! Lovely photos. 🙂

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    1. Himself is shattered after today’s drive. All in the rain. And with the SatNav going do-lally. She seemed to think we were driving in fields and through rivers. I need a duvet so I can pull it over my head. O_o

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  10. Oh Carol, what an adventure! I guess Mario Andretti had to get his training somewhere. My favorite bumper sticker comes to mind: “Horn broke, watch for finger!” 🙂 Stay safe … I’d say walk a lot, but that might not be good advice! ~Terri

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  11. Oh my goodness you do have the adventures. I was chuckling at the toll booth description. Sorry. In my trips to Italy I have determined the safest way to travel is on a bicycle. I think you might share that philosophy. 🙂

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      1. Yes but if you were on the bike then you could be in control. We really found that in Italy all traffic of any shape or form gave the cyclists (us) great respect. Maybe I just looked out of control and everyone backed off. 🙂

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        1. People, cars, bicycles kept appearing out of nowhere! O_o Talk about needing eyes in the back of your head! I felt safest walking through the surf. Or in my bed. Or in a cafe with a glass of wine. 🙂

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