Question two in our "Frequently Asked Questions" series is "do you drive in Italy?"
"Yes," I say.
"Ryan drives?" they ask...
"Yes, he drives too," I say.
"YOU drive?!" they exclaim.
I get where these people are coming from. Italians don't have the best driving reputations. Neither do people from Massachusetts, for that matter. It's basically the same thing, just with smaller roads.
I first learned how to drive a stick shift (which all the cars in Italy are) during our second year here. Reluctantly. We NEVER drive in Cortina because we live so close to downtown, so I didn't really see the point of learning to drive when Ryan was right there to drive me around.
"But you'll feel so FREE!" one of my girlfriends told me. Ryan wholeheartedly agreed. So one November morning (I waited until November when the population of Cortina is about 500 - to lessen the chances of hitting anyone) we went to the parking lot of the rink, stalled the car 12 times and then drove to Austria.
Ever since then, this has been our little routine (although last year during my parking lot practice run I only stalled the car two or three times, I would say). Now that we're all settled in this year, I decided it was time to get back behind the wheel. So, Ryan drove me off to the rink parking lot where he shut the car off and we switched sides.
When I started the car perfectly (and got it going with zero stalls this year) Ryan commented that this tradition was a little silly.
"Driving a stick shift is like riding a bike!" he declared. Yeah, except you don't have to go to a parking lot to practice riding a bike every time you get back on one.
"I think you've gone beyond the parking lot tradition," he said. Yeah, except that Italians LOVE tradition, and I don't feel that it's right to break this one.
So off we sped to Austria, on tiny winding roads where the speed limit is faster than most highways in America. We went to the grocery store to buy peanut butter and sweet potatoes and to the gas station where the gas is 20 cents cheaper per liter. The trip went well - the car was unscathed when we returned home, for example. Ryan claimed that I seemed anxious the whole drive, but really I was just on the lookout for large deer (there were three) and for any cars that might be passing at inappropriate times (there were five).
On the way home I switched spots with Ryan while we were stopped at a construction site because there was no way that I was going to back into our driveway which is a) on a huge slant and b) gravel - the two worst things for stick shift driving. And so, as long as Ryan can get the car in and out of the driveway for me, I'm back on the road again.