Driving, actually parking, in Italy

In honor of our newest quest, a car, I present a bit from Neither Here Nor There, Travels In Europe by Bill Bryson.

Neither Here Nor ThereI love the way the Italians park. You turn any street corner in Rome and it looks as if you’ve just missed a parking competition for blind people. Cars are pointed in every direction, half on the sidewalks and half off, facing in, facing sideways, blocking garages and side streets and phone booths, fitted into spaces so tight that the only possible way out would be through the sunroof. Romans park their cars the way I would park if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrocholoric acid on my lap.

I was strolling along Via Sistina one morning when a Fiat Croma shot past and screeched to a smoky halt a hundred feet up the road. Without pause the driver lurched into reverse and came barreling backward down the street in the direction of a parking space that was precisely the length of his Fiat, less two and a half feet. Without slowing even fractionally, he veered the car into the space and crashed resoundingly in to a parked Renault.

Nothing happened for a minute. There was just the hiss of escaping steam. Then the driver leaped from his car, gazed in profound disbelief at the devastation before him–crumpled metal, splintered taillights, the exhaust pipe of his own car limply grazing the pavement–and regarded it with as much mystification as if it had dropped on him from the sky. Then he did what I suppose almost any Italian would do. He kicked the Renault in the side as hard as he could, denting the door, punishing its absent owner for having the gall to park it there, then leaped back in his Fiat and drove off as madly as he had arrived, and peace returned once again to the Via Sistina, apart from the occasional clank of a piece of metal dropping off the stricken Renault. No one but me batted an eye.

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