behind a wheel

Po, the car.
Po, the car.

Today is very bright and the sky blue. Our pictures coming walking to Vernazza would sport a specular sky today, but I am quite happy with our grey day and muted memories from yesterday. My muscle memory is quite vivid. At the van stop at the top of Corneglia, a Japanese woman asks about trains and buses, and where they can walk from the top of this town and I give her the information confidently. I am a native of 42 hours. We eat in the little cafe I looked for yesterday–pan i vin– excellent cappuccino, focaccia i mozzarella and pan chocolate. And a very friendly barman.

We are picking up a rental car in La Spezia and I am nervous. For all of my bravado about wanting to drive in italy, I am terrified. When I announced so very bravely that I wanted to drive in Italy and planned part of this trip around where I would have to drive to what I really may have meant was that I wanted to ‘ride’ around Italy with some braver or more experienced soul behind the wheel. I am pretty sure of myself on buses and trains and if I could have, I would have abandoned this crazy idea.

Pick up went fine. I am driving a very sweet little black and white smart car with the word ‘passion’ written on the side. Julia named it ‘Po.’ We always name our cars and my present car had a name before Julia came home so she was quick to claim naming this one. The car is sweet, easy to manage, quite zippy on the highway. After a few awkward tries, I slip into manual shifting without stressing. Then again, the shifting on this car is like slicing soft butter compared to the Ford and Mazda that I learned on.

So all this sounds good; however, getting started on the road was . . . Just awful. I was in the middle of La Spezia, a city, and my iMaps was not talking to me and the map did not make sense to me. It was not wrong but I couldn’t make sense of it. I wanted to get out of town and onto the autostrata. I figured that whatever I got onto would have numbers and I could figure out where I belonged. But I couldn’t do it! I found a tourist information booth and a nice young man who spoke enough to English to understand my dilemma but his directions got me no closer to a highway. Actually, the young man and I were not in sync. Either he or I could not understand the other or he doesn’t do driving directions or I was too frazzled . . . . Something didn’t work.

So I just drove a bit. I was pretty close to crying. No tears but there was a slight hysterical note to my thinking. I managed to get out of the center of town and into something like a suburb. Then I pulled over. The iMaps wasn’t moving or talking to me. The last time that happened, I turned off the iPad and started over again.

So I did that.

And iMaps started responding. Never was I so happy to hear that Australian computer voice! And by some luck or grace, I was not too far from the highway entrance and did not need to retrace my steps into the middle of town.

And then I was driving, finding my sea legs so to speak with a style of driving that I was not entirely used to. I did read about Italian driving rules and customs, and I asked Georgio a lot of questions as we drove around last Saturday. Some of what he said about his driving in the states helped a great deal. And the car was responsive. Honestly, I’d love to own one of these things.

My plan had been to stop for lunch in Luca which was more than a third of the way to Podere Isabelle in Monticchiello but getting out of LaSpezia had shaken me. I didn’t want to deviate from my computer navigator’s plan. We stopped at a highway rest stop for lunch and a bathroom break and hopped right back on the big road.

There was a point about two hours in when I let myself breath. I was driving! In Italy! And getting closer to my destination! I felt incredibly brave and somewhat successful. I started singing and did not stop until we got off the highway and onto tiny country road with hairpin turns and great vistas. And then I actually found the dirt road I was supposed to turn into. That due to good directions and not any great skill on my part. But I did find it and followed it. And finally, I was looking at the Podere Isabelle sign on the stone pillar. When I parked and Gigliola, who takes care of the house, came out to greet us, I was ready to hug her. The kisses on the cheeks were much appreciated. I felt myself rather a hero although I know how silly that sounds.

And now, exhausted, I am going to sleep. Podere Isabelle is a beautiful landing and the country side! Tuscany! Che bello.

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