Taken for a Ride

October 18, 2013 / Local Interest
I had just picked up my brother at his house, located along a long, dead-end, narrow country road. Obliged to drive to its end in order to turn around, I initiate a three point turn at the “round-about” only to feel a strange floating-like sensation. By the time I realize what is going on, the car is at a 45 degree angle, snout down, door handles level with the ground.

The door of the farmhouse at the end of the road blows open and Signora Farmer, wide as she is tall and full of vigor, is run-skip-and-a-jumping towards us waving her head-scarf with one hand and flapping about with the other, hollering “You FOUND it!! You FOUND it!!”

By this point Luca and I have crawled out the windows (unable to open the doors), and we learn that a team of archaeologists from the University of Rome had been knocking on her door a few weeks earlier looking for an aqueduct thought to be in the area, her field, etc. (About 70% of any Roman aqueduct is below ground or dug into the sides of cliffs, only about one third is in the form of the iconic arches, used to span valleys or depressions in the ground.)

The excitement, consisting mostly of her pinching our cheeks and hopping in the air to land a barrage of congratulatory kisses on our faces, lasts about 30 seconds, and we begin to wonder how the heck we’re going to get the Alfa, rear wheels straight up in the air, out of what is essentially a 2000 year old hole.

Our mental cogs start creaking and groaning… AHA! Farm = tractor! And sure enough, there her husband is in the distance driving the thing around one of this fields. “Scusi signora,” I suggest, and off she goes to fetch him, still all a-twitter about the find in her front yard.

Needless to say, Signor Farmer is taking things a bit more pragmatically, showing none of his better half’s excitement. Isolated long dead end road, two city kids, stuck car… “Yeah I can pull it out, that’ll be 200 euro,” a ridiculous sum for what would be a 15 second job.

No way, at 200 euro the tractor-aqueduct-stuck-car-extraction procedure was officially out on principle alone. Signor Farmer took the refusal stoically enough I thought, but then I noticed he had already positioned himself under his porch, had pulled a gnarled half-smoked Toscano out of his pocket and was lighting it with a smirk on his face (a smirk!) and you could just hear him thinking “Oh, this is going to be fun.”

The gall! It was time to get creative.

Two long hefty wooden beams from a pile of discarded construction material close by were immediately put to use under the snout of the car, Luca and I bouncing and hanging off their ends… Some leverage occurred in an “A for Effort” kind of way, but it just wasn’t going to cut it. More to keep Signor Farmer from gloating than from actually having any Step 2 of the (now non-)Plan, we decided to stuff lumber bits into the aqueduct/hole to give the front tires some purchase.

I realized that if we needed someone to drive, then only one person would not be enough to man the levers (and we certainly weren’t about to ask for his help!) And at that moment I’m not sure why, but my vision shifted slightly and all of a sudden I was looking at Signora Farmer the way Bugs Bunny and Elmer Fudd and Porky Pig look at each other after days hungry and adrift at sea in an emergency raft and see visions of lamb chops and baked turkeys and pork roasts… except in this case I’m seeing “variable asset cantilevered counter-weight”.

I figure she’s still giggling anyhow, and Signor Farmer didn’t say anything about us not using her, so I give Luca a look which he gets immediately. All gentlemanly-like, with one of us on each side offering her an arm, we accompany Signora Farmer over to the car. We then scoop her up (sounds easy, although negotiating her ongoing tickle-laughing-fits and wiggling made it anything but), and perch her on top of the trunk of the car. She’s now balanced precariously five feet up in the air, hands clappity-clapping, feet a-dangling over the side, and is now giggling AND shrieking, oohing and ahh-ing.

We test the levers and sure enough after three or four tries involving some “A bit to the right, a bit to the left” requests made to Signora, with her laughing hysterically each time she went up and then down again, the car eventually stays perfectly horizontal. I make a mad dash for the driver’s seat while Luca, suspended, holds one beam in each hand, the most impressive Still Rings iron cross routine I’ve ever seen this side of the Olympics.

Fortunately the engine starts right up, I reverse the car 4 feet, and we’re on solid ground again. Signor Farmer throws his cigar on the ground and stomps on it before storming off, and we get out to help Signora Farmer off her perch on the trunk. Still giggling and clapping her hands and showering us with kisses, she has us laughing uncontrollably too when she says “Ohhhh-hoooohoohoo… let’s do that again!!”


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

23 Responses to “Taken for a Ride”

  1. Taken for a Ride was a hoot!!!! I laughed out loud.

    I hope you someday do a piece on Caramanico Terme. It is such an interesting place.


  2. Linda D.

    Boo-rah for the city kids!! Great writing – I could see the whole story unfold. But what I really found interesting, after I wiped tears of laughter from my face, was that I was left wondering what this joyful farmer’s wife was doing with this particular farmer. That had to come from your wonderful characterizations. Great story! Thanks for posting. More, please!

  3. S. Anderson

    Lordy, lordy, I loved this story!! Only in Italia! I can just picture it all. Such creative thinking to solving a problem. Complimenti!!!

  4. Unfortunately there are always rotten apples like signor, I’ve more than met my share in Italy. The lovely signora has my best wishes!

  5. Bravi for both of your Inventiveness! Great description of the ‘task’ accomplished. This goes down as a fond and funny memory that your brotherly hearts share forever.

  6. contessa aiello

    That was a wonderful story! I was laughing at the Signora who seemed to be having a great time away from the Signore.

  7. Assunta - USA

    That was hilarious. Just picturing it made me laugh. Glad it turned out ok.

  8. Giancarlos: That is some story .. if totally true. We will send you a similar scenario encountered almost a half century ago in Greece on the way to find the Temple of Bassae. Suzanne and Ron


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