I pride myself on being a good driver. And I’ve driven in Italy on a number of previous trips (Although, as my dear friends Sherry and Leo know, not without incident). So, for example, I am never surprised when, as I am exceeding the speed limit on the Audostrada, Italian drivers still zoom up to within a few feet of the rear of my car, impatiently waiting for me to move over so they can zoom still faster past me.
But, hey, road conditions are decidedly different in some Italian towns, especially ancient hill towns like Cortona, where two nights back Bonnie and I and our guest Jessica Mollo, having just enjoyed another fabulous Italian meal, were leaving the tree lined parking lot just outside the gates of the old city. It was dark. I mistook a foot and a half high embankment for the exit/driveway out of the parking lot, leaving my car at a 30 degree angle from its back end to its front end, the car itself resting on its rocker panels on the thousands of years old stones comprising the embankment surrounding the parking lot. A true disaster in the making. And it was now almost midnight!
Immediately, before I even crawled out of the car, half a dozen Italians came running over to us, conversing in an extremely animated fashion and furiously pulling out their cell phones and dialing numbers. I assumed, correctly as it turned out, calling for a tow truck. It took them 10-15 minutes to finally locate a tow truck that would come out at that time of night and that also had the necessary equipment to handle my situation. They spoke virtually no English and I as much Italian. But they were in high spirits. They wanted to know where we were from. They were clearly, while we waited for the tow truck (and there was not the slightest hint that any of them intended to leave until the tow truck arrived, freed our car and we were once again on our way…no matter how long it took) some of the men gave some consideration to the idea of trying to lift the front end of my car enough to solve the problem. I and the one woman with them insisted they try no such thing. The time kept ticking away. More Italians stopped to see if they could help. There was much laughter and joke telling. The Italian men kept putting their arms around me in an effort to get me not to worry. And it worked. Although I had no idea what all the laughter was about, I found myself laughing right along with the rest.
Finally, when it was almost 1:00 a.m., the tow truck arrived…to cheers from us all. It turned out to be much more complicated than one would have thought. But 20 minutes later my car was on solid ground, and the ancient embankment stone that had come louse in the process was pushed back into place. Hugs and kisses all around. Pictures of us all were taken, including with the two tow truck drivers. We paid the two truck drivers and, in one final display of Italian hospitality and kindness that we have by now come to expect, yet can still be surprised by, one of the tow truck drivers offered to drive us 7 km to our villa. But we assured him we knew the way home, if not the proper way out of the parking lot!
What lovely, lovely people are the Italians. I’m actually happy to have had this mishap as it resulted in an hour and a half spent with some of the finest and most generous people its been my good fortune to meet in this life.