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On the road in Italy

Forget Terracina's picturesque back streets and alleys – the journey begins with full throttle on the Italian motorway.


The fastest route to Gyldendal's rental apartments in Terracina, a small town in southern Italy and geographically between Rome and Naples, is a car – not a rental car, for neither me nor my wife have the patch, and since the train leaves from Rome with unsafe, which I remember it, departure times, we were a little extravagant, although the price of a taxi in Italy cannot be measured by the taxi prices in Oslo, and I booked a taxi, via the one who provided the convenience of renting Gyldendal's rental apartments, which got some to transport us from Leonardo da Vinci's airport to Terracina.

There have been various drivers who have picked us up; always with a visible name poster in the departure hall, usually spelled correctly, and my last name is not a twisted surname last name; well ahead in the car parked in a very parking garage, which was a maxitaxi since we were many, and with children, and if we were lucky it would have child seats, even in the right size, not always, and this time it was wrong format.

PHOTO: Giorgio Galeotti / Flickr Creative Commons
PHOTO: Giorgio Galeotti / Flickr Creative Commons

After having winding us out of all side streets, queues and traffic lights gave the silent driver, an elderly, gray-haired southern Italian with caps, full gas out on the highway, and anyone who sucks over the road standard in Norway should take a trip to Italy; this silent South Italian driver was hard on the accelerator and, like so many Italians, had a great affinity for being completely against the bumper of the front car, usually at 150 kilometers per hour; I glanced out the window to look at the Italian countryside, because now at the end of May it was very lush, without haze and with clear colors; the long and bare trunks of the pines were greyish brown, with patches of yellow and a little green, the coarse bark lying layerally like our pine trees, and the needles were deep green and the crown was like a powerful parasol, or several umbrellas turning into one big.

Along the foot of the tree, we say a number of them, I saw pine cones, they were not like other cones, they were like medium-sized honey melons; dark color and very flustered, and right behind, in a turn, stood a row of cypresses, strange names, jam-thin, like ongoing green flames, always upward-pointing, low trunks, reminiscent of twenty; the driver swerved quickly in a small bow to the right; a dead dog lay on the road shoulder; it looked as if it was asleep, its tail lying neatly against the light brown fur.

After an exit toward the Lazio region, the driver leaned against the steering wheel and fireplace, some asked how fast he was driving, and my adult son leaned forward from the back seat to look at the speedometer: 140, he said; on my side there were bushes, fields without fields, more like an empty and abandoned meadow, all at once I heard the tower sailors, I saw them on the left, high in the sky; there were many of them, not half a handful like home, they were lightning fast, and the narrow deltas dipped down, even at full speed, they sang strange trills, which might not be singing, not lure singing, but something else, what about the joy , or of profits.

It is said that they sleep in the air, even mate in the air, they cannot land on something that is flat, they have almost no feet, more like small claws, and then they are unable to facilitate, hence the Latin name " Apus apus, which means "without bones" – then they were gone, since we ran into an avenue of pines, and then it reminded me, something from Dante, I think, "about snow on pines", without I had no idea what about Dante; my daughter said something and everyone turned around at the same time and glared; out on a ground there was a large house with broken glass, the rest in cement, completely empty of furniture, it had not been a residential complex, more like a factory, and had been completely abandoned; I turned around to look one more time as the car made an uphill climb – a lot of the roof was gone.

Then another building; completely unfinished, just the bare multi-storey cement framework, with openings into apartments; like the outer wall was missing, completely abandoned, before it was finished, as if the money was not enough or that the builders were waiting for more money?

The road became narrower, and on both sides there were fields; there were vines as far as the eye could see, with nets – surely immature berries, early in the year, and what kind of berries, could a wine expert have seen it on the vine, or topography, if not the leaves on the vine? I closed my eyes and tried to think of what it tasted like with a glass of Amarone, my favorite wine of the time, or what about Joyce's UlyssesAnd what the Cyclops, called the Citizen, says in Chapter 12: Give me the country's wine – it was beer he meant, Irish beer, and I drank more beer than wine.

The driver turned off on the go, it was so unusual that I woke up from my pondering; it was a queue, a long queue, not just cars, it was trucks and buses; it was almost as if, without being ashamed, I looked for a donkey cart, or a gang of cyclists, like a minor variant of Lazio around, if such a thing existed, it is not true; I didn't have a donkey cart in my mind, only ice cold beer, in the heat, because now it was hot, even though the driver was blowing cold air from the car's air-conditioning system.

We drove past tall towers; it could look like water towers, and under dry meadows, even early in the year, at the end of May – and probably mine had several empty buildings right on a ground; extensive and large and, as recently as completely empty, saw some ragged gas stations, a rolled-up station wagon on a roof; then I mean it was just the frames left, and some more; the roof, the windshield, and two front wheels with tires behind several low-rise bungalows; always in masonry and usually painted light orange, as if it should stand for the Italian heat, sloping ceilings, many trees, most often cypress and pine, and always fences around the property and green painted shutters in front of the windows.

More shrubs, dry reeds, as if spring has been warmer here than I thought at the beginning of the trip, since so much was so violently green and dry, not as dry as it can be in July and August, and with a terrible heat, often over 30 degrees, I'm not made for that much heat, then I'd rather have it cold and be able to dress; I remembered the interview with the Norwegian cyclist Tor Hushovd, and I could not help but agree with him – Hushovd had to share a room with a cyclist from the French team; There was France all around, and summer, but this French rider refused to have the window open at night: "It was horrible," said the ox from Grimstad.

As from none places appeared on the right hand a seemingly luguber bar. Plastic nets in the doorway are always a bad sign, some motorcycles on the outside – all very large and none of them American, as far as I could see in passing; all Italian, but we did not stop, though I was a thirsty, and Italians make good beer, and probably fine motorcycles too; Dugatti, and, no, I didn't remember the next one, which was also a very famous brand, I didn't even have it on my tongue.

Then the nuts appeared, behind sharp mountain peaks; we approached Terracina; up the mountainsides with rows of olive trees, steep slopes, who planted the trees and who picked the fruits, then by hand; seen from the road with a flimsy silver stamp, old as Metusalem. A brother-in-law of mine, raised very Bible faith, and who later lost faith, or left it on hold, believed that the high age of the Old Testament – all the ancient prophets became very old, such as Noah, Methuselah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Moses – came from the fact that those who wrote the annals, according to my brother-in-law, added a zero so that they became many hundreds of years, while they might not be more than 80-90 years?

I quivered left, or was on the right, and saw another shabby and very miserable gas station, fortunately not Statoil, but BP, and then it might have smelled of hot beer and bad chips, but I greet my hand, slightly against my forehead, which a respect for the British everywhere being, since my Blessed Mother was English and that my English grandfather survived the Somme.

One could say a lot of shit about the British, but they had a British museum, and Churchill was preferable to the moodless Hitler and the neurotic Stalin; God better, thank me for the church hill, as my mother did, and say, and my tongue aunt Ruth, and the whole English women's club at Kjevik, who found that the men took them by the nose after the war, and these were war brides when they walked in the store – and their Norwegian knowledge was erased since they had been trained by their boys – asked the disc jockey about cabbage, which they thought was hot cock, and fuck was dick.

When they accidentally discovered the buy piadade – and without knowing who Aristofanes was or knew about his plays Lysistrata - they went on strike, and I could not free myself to think of the Italian ladies and what they had endured, all the lugubrious we had heard about the villains of southern Italy, and it was strange that it continued, and the wives had to Sure, but they kept their teeth heavy, not only because they were terrified, but to hold a hand over the children.

On top of a mountain, at the very end, I discovered a tower or something reminiscent of a tower, and asked the bad Italian driver if it was a church, he just shook his head; later I learned that it was a sculpture of Jesus' mother Mary.

How old she was, I don't remember, so the driver hit the radio, like he was tired of our very Norwegian silence, we only become Italians when we drink, and without their other language, the gestures, then my son said something about Italian pop music ; the road was very straight and I began to recognize the settlement, and right up on a mountain I saw the famous ruin of the Jupiter Temple, one of Terracina's most renowned ancient emblems.

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