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03 Aug An unforgettable experience in Montepulciano, Italy

David H. narrates his unforgettable experience in Montepulciano, Italy.

 There’s nothing quite like a Carabinieri (Italian Civil Guard) road-block to make one mentally scroll through images of his family to rule out possible Mafia connections. (I do sometimes hesitate when I scroll past Andrew…my brother…)

As our little convoy of Italian-made Fiats (one small, one tiny) came blistering down and around the hills north of Rome, their drivers having long ago given up their pretense of being safe and courteous drivers (such are the Italian roads), we came across such a road-block.

As we neared the base of the hill, and their human barrier, their machine guns and bullet-proof vests came into full view. My stomach dropped the short distance to the floor and my face went white, Kelby stifled a giggle. I don’t know what we had done wrong, but I was certain at this point that we had been found out; the serial traffic violators we had both become whilst trying desperately to stay in convoy through Italy’s roads, and more importantly, around Italy’s drivers.

Paul (my father-in-law) and I had so far conquered this country, but all good things must come to an end; we were about to face the music. We wound down our windows, and were greeted by a standard issue Carabinieri mustache. He didn’t need to utter a word, such was his power, no doubt bestowed upon him by his tight-fitting, Italian-made, (probably designer), uniform.

He waved us on!! Whatever we had done, we had gotten away with it!!

We were free, but couldn’t shake the feeling we had unwittingly been involved in, and narrowly escaped, a host of nefarious Mob activities. Such is the power of the Carabinieri road-block. Had we actually committed a crime, I am in no doubt Paul and I would have stopped at the crest of that hill and approached on our knees, begging for leniency from the mustache in charge.

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This was but one of the many unique experiences we were lucky enough to share on this trip. And it could never have happened had we not decided to rent cars. Many take trains or other public transport on their trips, flying past mystery filled towns they’ll never stop at, aboard their safe cocoon from one major city to the next.

They will not experience the hidden medieval outpost of Barga in Northern Tuscany or the staged set of Monteriggione (I honestly expected a cast of townspeople to perform an oompa loompa type walk through every hour). They will not encounter the numerous trattorias (family owned and run restaurants) serving the freshest of local cuisine, at local prices. And never will they languish on a fresh day in the natural 38 degree (approx 95 Fahrenheit) hot springs of San Casciano di Terme.

My advice: rent a car (the smaller the better) and get hopelessly lost, for that is when you truly find a country.

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Ode to the Fiat (Limerick) 

There once was a Fiat 500

That carried us through its country with pride

She mishandled the corners

Near left our families as mourners

But hell, what a bloody great ride!

 Italy’s Fact File:

  • Capital: Rome
  • Government:  Constitutional Republic
  • President: Sergio Mattarella
  • Population: 83 million (2013)
  • Religion: 88% of the population belong to the Roman Catholic Church
  • Currency:Euro
  • Official Language: Italian
  • Languages spoken: Albanian, Romanian, Romani, Magrehbi Arabic

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