April 4, 2014
You often hear people complain that the road outside their house is like a race track. Well ours actually is.
The Sanremo Rally takes place every year, as a series of stages in which owners of sporty vehicles drive them up and down the local mountain roads. Perhaps not actually a race in that they are mostly driving singly, but enough of one that the road must be closed to normal traffic each day this is happening. You know it’s coming when all the parking spaces along the road are roped off with plastic tape bearing the legend “Dangerous – Pericoloso”. This presumably being to prevent out-of-control cars crashing into the family jalopy.
Although the road is half-kilometer drive from here it’s actually much closer, being directly below us on the 30-degree slope that constitutes this mountainside. So we get – literally – a bird’s-eye view of the passing traffic, as well as a bird’s-ear audio experience. And they are somewhat noisy. I’m no expert but they would all appear to have race-tuned engines with high-efficiency (aka “loud”) exhausts. In the mountains sound travels for miles, disappearing and reappearing as the cars go in and out of sight behind hills, and you can’t quite tell which direction it’s coming from as it echoes back and forth.
This is a corner near where our track joins the road:
The Italians don’t excel at providing information so I don’t know how often these events are run (but I believe it’s several times a year) or how long before we can use the road again. There are a couple of marshals at the junction so I guess I could ask, but it’s a drizzly kind of day so I have no particular desire to go out.
Now I know I’m completely out of touch with what other folks regard as “fun”, but this particular variety of motor sport seems to me to be more than usually geeky. I’m all for going for a drive in the country, and it’s rather nice being behind the wheel on these mostly deserted mountain roads, but I can do that in my old Fiat Punto. No need to spend thousands on building a racer, most of which seem to be classic cars of one kind or another.
Maybe it’s the element of danger. At one point this morning the roar of engines was replaced by the wail of a siren as an ambulance came down the road. I assume one of the drivers misjudged a corner and either went tree climbing or launched himself into space off one of the unprotected edges. I often wonder how they decide where to put Armco.
It must take quite some effort to organise these things. Closing roads (often the only one) over a large part of the region is not something to be sneezed at; the Italian love of regulations will ensure that hundreds of pages of forms will need to be filled in, signed the usual three times then duplicated three times more. And the guy who went tree climbing or flying will no doubt have caused a storm of paperwork.
Always ask first
Just outside our house is a large fir tree that’s getting larger every year. It blocks the light during the morning and as it’s right on the edge of the terrace the wall below is showing signs of outward pressure from the roots within. So it seemed entirely reasonable for me to take a chainsaw to it.
However, when I asked a neighbour to watch over me as I did the deed in case I needed an ambulance, there came a flood of dire warnings. According to locals you can’t as much as cut the grass without permission from the Corpo Forestale (Forestry Commission) and if I were rash enough to cut down the tree somebody in a helicopter whose job it is to notice these things would be along to slap a ten thousand euro fine on me.
Do they really take photos from the air, compare them minutely for signs of change then drag people through the courts? I can believe it for buildings, where unauthorised extensions are common, but for trees? Is the Italian state that bloated? It all seemed like a ready excuse to do nothing at all, but I felt that in this case it was probably best to ask permission first than to seek forgiveness later. We tooled down to the local Corpo Forestale office (open to the public 3 hours a week), where we got the usual friendly Italian reception and assurances that as the tree was less than 15 metres from the house and we were out in the country we could do as we liked with it. So once my minder is free, down it will come and be added to next winter’s firewood pile.