Thursday, 20 October 2011

Italy 2011, An Unexpected Bus Trip

On the third and final morning I woke up with a sore foot and an upset stomach so was less inclined than ever to partake of the meagre breakfast. Feeling sorry for myself I washed down some imodian capsules with a couple of cups of tea and the others picked about at the dry biscuits and pre-packed long life croissants and cakes.

We had a late afternoon flight so had all of the morning and the early afternoon for more sightseeing and the plan today was to use the local bus and take a trip to the shoreline of the lake that we had seen several times now from the windows of the train. From what we could make out from the badly faded timetable half stuck with peeling sellotape to the window at the terminus the buses seemed to run every hour and we had missed one by a matter of only seconds so there was a forty minute wait for the next one to come along. I purchasedthe tickets for Marino and we waited in the sunshine.

The bus arrived and the driver went off for a break and a cup of coffee and we took our seats as it started to fill up with passengers and at the appointed time the driver returned and we set off. It drove through Castel Gandolfo and then we expected it to drop down to the lake to the marina that we could see below us but instead of going down it started to climb and stopped at the town of Marino. With hindsight we should have got off there but we still expected the driver to drop us down to the lake but after a couple of stops the truth dawned on us that it was never going anywhere near a marina at all and we had wrongly supposed that Marino was a marina when in fact it was a town situated high above the lake.

The bus lurched about and threw us from side to side to such an extent that we had to cling on grimly to the handrails but this was to be expected I suppose because, after all, we were in Italy! Traffic regulations currently in force in Italy were approved by the Legislative Decree number 285 of 30th April 1992 and are contained in the Italian Highway Code called the Codice Della Strada. Anyone visiting a busy Italian city or town however may well dispute that there is such a thing as a highway code in Italy because despite the best intentions of the rule book the country has some different driving rules to the rest of Europe and the traffic was hectic on this Monday morning.

Traffic lights are a good example of these different rules because each junction resembles the starting grid of a formula one Grand Prix. At an Italian traffic intersection there is an intolerant commotion with cars all impatiently throbbing, engines growling, exhaust pipes fuming and clutch plates sizzling whilst behind the wheel the driver’s blood pressure reaches several degrees above boiling point.

A regard for the normal habits of road safety is curiously absent in Italy so although the traffic light colours are the same as elsewhere they mean completely different things. Red means slow down, amber means go and green means that no rules applyat all! At a junction an Italian driver simply points his car at the exit he is aiming for and shortly before the lights go green, he shuts his eyes, presses the accelerator to the floor then races forward and may God have mercy on anything or anyone in his way. Zebra crossings are a meaningless waste of white paint and if a pedestrian steps out onto one then they are immediately considered a target. Even worse – if caught on a crossing controlled by lights and they turn green for the traffic then he or she will have to take swift and evasive action because I believe it is considered permissible to run them down without any sort of penalty or punishment!

We didn’t know what to do now as the bus continued driving east and I began to worry that we had sufficient credit on the tickets as the bus kept going and going towards its ultimate destination, the town of Frascati where it discharged all of its passengers and the driver went off for another rest. It was due to return to Albano in forty minutes so we found a nearby bar for an unexpected drink in a town that we had not planned to visit.

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