Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007-2013. Please give credit where credit is due.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Basta freni

Nine degrees at 8am - am I right in thinking that average temperatures have risen quite a lot recently? Mixed blue skies and cloud with sunshine at present.

This week I'm taking an hour's driving instruction every day. The children are once more with their German grandparents and I'm on my honour to make use of every moment of child-free time to "forward this project" as they might say in big business.

My instructor and I are having a blast. Well, actually, he's having a blast. For the princely sum of €28 an hour he sits in the passenger seat wearing Gadaffi-effect mirrored sunglasses and blasts me. He doesn't stop blasting me for a moment. If I hear "Basta frenare ... basta freni ... basta... basta ... BASTA!" one more time, I'll die laughing. Basta frenare means 'get off the brake'. It's a cultural thing you know - in England I was taught to brake for junctions and roundabouts, here it's, well, different.

For 60 fun-filled minutes we pootle along at something more than the local speed limit of 50 klicks an hour, waving at policemen, tooting his friends and laughing about the pedestrians I've just narrowly missed in the tiny, winding, cobbled streets of Intra's vecchio borgo.

In the last few weeks on the road and in the classroom at the scuola guida, I've come to understand far more profoundly than ever before that driving habits are cultural. For example, English tourists driving hire cars with Italian plates instantly give their nationality away simply by indicating when leaving a roundabout. Other nationalities might, to give another example, slow down as they approach an amber light, but if Italian blood pulses hotly in your veins you will speed up to get through before the change to red.

Here, this desperation to beat the lights has been formalised into something called the onda verde, or green wave (a bit like a Mexican wave but with greater practical application). Signs appear on the side of the road giving the speed at which you have to be travelling to get through the tedious series of traffic lights ahead of you. Without stopping. Sometimes you have to be going scarily fast, and the existence of this advice (do 80klicks+ and the traffic lights will be with you) is faintly worrying.


It reminds me of very late nights on the Marylebone Road - a huge inner city dual carriageway in London - where silly young people who thought they were immortal would try to drive the whole length of the road in a battered Triumph Herald without hitting a single red or amber. If you wanted synchronised green all along, you had to be doing a thoroughly illegal and very stupid 90-100 miles an hour. I have to say though, that this was (omigod) 25 years ago, and there was nothing but us on the Marylebone Road at oh-God hundred hours - today the Marylebone Road is gridlocked 24/7.

Back to the subject. I'm told by my antacid-popping instructor that if you're going straight backwards, there's no need to stop for traffic coming up behind you. They'll stop if they can't get around you .... Oh, and you're a disgrace if you use the handbrake EVER, unless you're parked somewhere dark and quiet and don't want your tryst to be interrupted by a runaway car.

Here's a quick vocabulary roundup for would-be learner drivers in Italy:

Divieto di sosta = no parking (except when there's an R in the name of the month, the Pope's on the tv and/or Italy is without effective government)

Divieto di fermata = no stopping (except when there's an R in the name of the month, the Pope's on tv, Italy is without effective government and/or you've just seen a gorgeous girl you want to get to know better)

Limite massimo di velocita' = speed limit : 50 in towns, 90 on main roads, 110 on dual carriageways and 130 on motorways, double it for males aged between 18 and 26 in red cars with the sun roof open, especially if the gorgeous girl is now in the passenger seat

Dare la precedenza a destra = give way to the right and confuse the hell out of Louise who can't tell her destra from her sinistra even on a high-progesterone day

Senso vietato = no entry (one way street), unless the street happens to have your favourite bar in it, in which case entering it in reverse gear is fine as long as you resist the urge to check out of the back window while you're doing it

Fermarsi e dare precedenza = Stop and give way, unless you're doing 50km/h in third and have forgotten to brake/change down because you were busy checking your lipstick. In which case, lean on the clacson and go for broke (that's broke, not brake).

Happy driving!





The other parts of the story :

Learning to drive in Italy No. 1
Learning to drive : denouement
Learning to drive : epilogue

Home

Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007, 2008. All rights reserved. Please ask first.

8 comments:

Gypsy at Heart said...

Oh this post was fabulous. I can't believe no one has commented on it. I laughed so much. The limite massimo di velocitá was my favorite. You are a clever writer Louise. Thank you for the heartfelt wish on me having a baby. I appreciate it. All good prayers count. I'm convinced.

Louise said...

Thanks :-)) that just made my day! L

Benny Greenberg said...

That was great...

I grew up in Brooklyn NY and "blowing" the yellow light so as not to get caught at the red - was a way of life. I think it is more a young persons fancy as the older you get the smarter you get as to what may be waiting for you round the roundabout...

Ben

Louise said...

Ben - I think that 'getting smarter' you're talking about happens in all parts of our lives -- understanding what may be waiting for you round the roundabout is a hallmark of survival and not only on the road. Thanks for the visit - come back soon!

Bella@That damn expat said...

This reminds me of when we moved to the US and my dad was confused with all those "Ped Xing" signs.
It's a wonder he didn't run anyone over.

Carolyn said...

Great post! Living in the Balkans I can totally identify! :)

Joy said...

"...no parking (except when there's an R in the name of the month..."

LOL!!!

shellee said...

I have an Italian American friend and your post explains a lot. He definitely has that hot Italian blood pulsing through his veins that makes him shoot the amber light to miss the red. Thanks for a great post!

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Basta freni

Nine degrees at 8am - am I right in thinking that average temperatures have risen quite a lot recently? Mixed blue skies and cloud with sunshine at present.

This week I'm taking an hour's driving instruction every day. The children are once more with their German grandparents and I'm on my honour to make use of every moment of child-free time to "forward this project" as they might say in big business.

My instructor and I are having a blast. Well, actually, he's having a blast. For the princely sum of €28 an hour he sits in the passenger seat wearing Gadaffi-effect mirrored sunglasses and blasts me. He doesn't stop blasting me for a moment. If I hear "Basta frenare ... basta freni ... basta... basta ... BASTA!" one more time, I'll die laughing. Basta frenare means 'get off the brake'. It's a cultural thing you know - in England I was taught to brake for junctions and roundabouts, here it's, well, different.

For 60 fun-filled minutes we pootle along at something more than the local speed limit of 50 klicks an hour, waving at policemen, tooting his friends and laughing about the pedestrians I've just narrowly missed in the tiny, winding, cobbled streets of Intra's vecchio borgo.

In the last few weeks on the road and in the classroom at the scuola guida, I've come to understand far more profoundly than ever before that driving habits are cultural. For example, English tourists driving hire cars with Italian plates instantly give their nationality away simply by indicating when leaving a roundabout. Other nationalities might, to give another example, slow down as they approach an amber light, but if Italian blood pulses hotly in your veins you will speed up to get through before the change to red.

Here, this desperation to beat the lights has been formalised into something called the onda verde, or green wave (a bit like a Mexican wave but with greater practical application). Signs appear on the side of the road giving the speed at which you have to be travelling to get through the tedious series of traffic lights ahead of you. Without stopping. Sometimes you have to be going scarily fast, and the existence of this advice (do 80klicks+ and the traffic lights will be with you) is faintly worrying.


It reminds me of very late nights on the Marylebone Road - a huge inner city dual carriageway in London - where silly young people who thought they were immortal would try to drive the whole length of the road in a battered Triumph Herald without hitting a single red or amber. If you wanted synchronised green all along, you had to be doing a thoroughly illegal and very stupid 90-100 miles an hour. I have to say though, that this was (omigod) 25 years ago, and there was nothing but us on the Marylebone Road at oh-God hundred hours - today the Marylebone Road is gridlocked 24/7.

Back to the subject. I'm told by my antacid-popping instructor that if you're going straight backwards, there's no need to stop for traffic coming up behind you. They'll stop if they can't get around you .... Oh, and you're a disgrace if you use the handbrake EVER, unless you're parked somewhere dark and quiet and don't want your tryst to be interrupted by a runaway car.

Here's a quick vocabulary roundup for would-be learner drivers in Italy:

Divieto di sosta = no parking (except when there's an R in the name of the month, the Pope's on the tv and/or Italy is without effective government)

Divieto di fermata = no stopping (except when there's an R in the name of the month, the Pope's on tv, Italy is without effective government and/or you've just seen a gorgeous girl you want to get to know better)

Limite massimo di velocita' = speed limit : 50 in towns, 90 on main roads, 110 on dual carriageways and 130 on motorways, double it for males aged between 18 and 26 in red cars with the sun roof open, especially if the gorgeous girl is now in the passenger seat

Dare la precedenza a destra = give way to the right and confuse the hell out of Louise who can't tell her destra from her sinistra even on a high-progesterone day

Senso vietato = no entry (one way street), unless the street happens to have your favourite bar in it, in which case entering it in reverse gear is fine as long as you resist the urge to check out of the back window while you're doing it

Fermarsi e dare precedenza = Stop and give way, unless you're doing 50km/h in third and have forgotten to brake/change down because you were busy checking your lipstick. In which case, lean on the clacson and go for broke (that's broke, not brake).

Happy driving!





The other parts of the story :

Learning to drive in Italy No. 1
Learning to drive : denouement
Learning to drive : epilogue

Home

Copyright © Louise Bostock 2007, 2008. All rights reserved. Please ask first.

8 comments:

Gypsy at Heart said...

Oh this post was fabulous. I can't believe no one has commented on it. I laughed so much. The limite massimo di velocitá was my favorite. You are a clever writer Louise. Thank you for the heartfelt wish on me having a baby. I appreciate it. All good prayers count. I'm convinced.

Louise said...

Thanks :-)) that just made my day! L

Benny Greenberg said...

That was great...

I grew up in Brooklyn NY and "blowing" the yellow light so as not to get caught at the red - was a way of life. I think it is more a young persons fancy as the older you get the smarter you get as to what may be waiting for you round the roundabout...

Ben

Louise said...

Ben - I think that 'getting smarter' you're talking about happens in all parts of our lives -- understanding what may be waiting for you round the roundabout is a hallmark of survival and not only on the road. Thanks for the visit - come back soon!

Bella@That damn expat said...

This reminds me of when we moved to the US and my dad was confused with all those "Ped Xing" signs.
It's a wonder he didn't run anyone over.

Carolyn said...

Great post! Living in the Balkans I can totally identify! :)

Joy said...

"...no parking (except when there's an R in the name of the month..."

LOL!!!

shellee said...

I have an Italian American friend and your post explains a lot. He definitely has that hot Italian blood pulsing through his veins that makes him shoot the amber light to miss the red. Thanks for a great post!