Driving in Italy


Driving on Italian roads is just like participating in a grand Nintendo game but with only one life.  The object of the game “Guida” is to try to overtake the car in front, regardless of his speed or the road conditions, while preventing the car behind from gaining points by overtaking you. Points are deducted for the use of indicators or if you are caught driving within the speed limit; however points are gained if you manically flash your headlights while tailgating the car in front. Bonus points are awarded while tailgating if you know it is impossible for the car in front to pull over to let you past. Guida is played throughout Italy although at different levels depending on how far North or South of Florence you are. I mention Florence because the Fiorentini are prohibited from playing Guida mainly because there are an awful lot of autovelox and the local police fine drivers for speeding, which is not really very sporting or Italian.

Toll Booths on an Italian Autostrada

Italian toll booths, two lanes open up to 10 lanes for the toll booths and back to 2 lanes to join the autostrada. Always an excellent opportunity to practise your 0 to 60 acceleration and dodging / weaving skills.

Palermo and Catania play this game on their roads with a slight difference, points are awarded for the use of exaggerated hand signals and for vocal instructions to other gamers, bonus points if the local dialect is used. With regards to Naples the Neapolitans don’t play Guida at all, it is far too easy for them, they play a game that is a derivation of Rollaball and only experts should consider participating. On a recent trip to Germany I found out that Guida is not permitted in either Switzerland or Germany, their police take a dim view of this Italian pastime, and will fine anyone caught attempting to play the game. Perhaps one day it will be allowed because the Swiss and Germans take great delight in joining the game of Guida as soon as they cross into Italy.

On Thursday I was visited a couple of clients in Germany, and I stayed at a great hotel the food was fantastic and the room was clean and orderly, although to my disappointment they had taken the precaution of emptying the mini bar before I had arrived. Over a drink with the hotelier, I can’t remember her name but she was probably called Greta we discussing the differences between Germany and Italy, her comment was “Yes Germany is well organised but Italy has nice wine and pasta, and they seem to enjoy life more in Italy, we are sometimes too serious in Germany”. So it is not just the English that think the Germans have no sense of Humour.

Greta or maybe she was called Hilda asked me if I had tried the local spa, she informed me that if I wanted to go swimming I could rent a towel and purchase some trunks at the spa. After a 6 hour drive through Europe and a days work it sounded like a really good way of relaxing and easing the knots in my back. So I set off for a relaxing swim.

At the swimming pool there was an orderly queue of people waiting to pay for the entrance to the swimming pool. As I reached the head of the queue the receptionist said “bitte” .  Erh do you speak English? I asked. Of course.

Of course!! I forgot it is only the English that only speak one language. I was once told that someone who can converse in three languages is tri lingual, someone who can speak in two languages is bi lingual and someone who can only understand one language is English. Anyway I asked how much to use the swimming pool, 8 euros and 12 if I wanted to use the sauna after. I have never used a sauna but a deal is a deal and I decided to go for the full package.

I changed into my trunks and headed towards the swimming pool. As I entered the warm pool and swam briskly to the centre I was amazed to see that the only person swimming was me, all the other swimmers were standing around the edge of the pool, watching me. There is nothing like the rabbit in the car headlight moment to bring you to your senses and evaluate what faux pas you have just committed. As I swam around in circles I noticed that there was an orderly queue waiting to enter the pool, in my excitement to go swimming I had somehow missed it, but as I stood contemplated getting out of the pool and joining the queue I heard a buzzer and to my amazement everyone standing in the pool took a step to their right and one of the Germans that had patiently queued on the steps entered the water as one women left the pool.

To say I was bemused is a bit of an understatement, I turned a full circle in fact I turned around twice just to see if I could graciously leave the pool by another exit. Unfortunately there was only one  exit and there were 32 Germans watching me, I know because I had counted them. As the buzzer once again sounded the static swimmers once again took a step to their right, one more German entered the pool and another left. It was at this point that I nearly drowned; all I could think was the Germans are so organised and disciplined that they even swim by numbers. A woman left her position by the side of the pool and swam to the exit. I decided I had better take her place until I work out if I was allowed to swim or if I also had to move around the pool as regimented as a soldier.

As I backed into the vacant space that she had created, a blast of water hit my left buttock and very nearly knocked me of my feet. As I grabbed the side of the pool I noticed a silver disc stuck to the side with the number seven printed on it. As I stabilised myself and experimented with the water jet the buzzer sounded again, I was quiet reluctant to move away from station seven but the man to my right at station eight had moved and the huge woman to my left was looking at me as though I was a sandwich short of a picnic, even a man who was patiently waiting to enter the pool looked at me as he realised it was I who was holding up his swimming. So I took a step to the right. It was at this point that the giggles hit me and another water blast from the side of the pool buffered the small of my back. I don’t normally suffer from the giggles but it was all too much for me, here I was in a swimming pool being watched by a bunch of very serious Germans waiting for the next buzzer while thinking of the song The Time Warp  from The Rocky Horror Picture Show. ♫It’s just a jump to the left  and then a step to the right .♫  Too much, much too much. The more I tried not to giggle the worse it got. I managed to get to station 10 a water jet to the back of the knees, before I gave up and left the pool. I walked back to my locker and wrapping the towel around my waist I went in search of the sauna and jacuzzi. Which I may or may not blog about.

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