Simply because we had a hire car we felt obliged to use it even though my personal preference would have been to leave it in its safe little parking spot close to the Trulli house where we were staying and just waste the day away in the tourist town of Alberobello.
I wasn’t really sure where to go, I didn’t want to drive too far and yesterday the places that we had visited had been rather disappointing so without a real plan we headed out of the town and made for the naval city of Taranto on the other side of the heel of Italy’s boot but with an idea that we might stop off in Mottola and Massafra, two towns that both featured in the guide books.
First we drove to the nearby town of Noci which was reasonably straight forward and we rather enjoyed driving through the countryside and along narrow roads with verges decorated with pretty wild flowers and next to fields of grazing cows and the inevitable olive groves twisting away as though in a Chubby Checker dancing competition but this all changed for the worst when we arrived in Mottola and the minor road came to a sudden end and we were obliged to join a main road. I say main road only because it was marked in red on the map but the standard of maintenance was no better and now we had to share the tarmac and the potholes with hundreds of demented Italian drivers.
Perched on a hillside Mottola didn’t look anything special so we rather unfairly wrote it off as not worth stopping for and we carried on to Massafra where the driving deteriorated even further where I swear the drivers were all competing in some sort of scrap-heap challenge. Caught up in the flow of speeding traffic I was terrified by the narrow lanes, the closeness of the steel barriers at the side of the road and just how close people were prepared to drive to the rear end of our car.
At every junction I had an expectation of a collision – at a roundabout I showed some hesitation and a twenty tonne truck just cut straight across me, missing me by inches! I realised by now that stop signs are completely meaningless as, on approaching one, an Italian driver just ignores it and simply pushes the front of his car into the flow of traffic while he continues to chat away on his mobile phone.
My nerves were in shreds and it was in the middle of all this mayhem that Kim confessed that she was feeling rather stressed as well so we both agreed that probably the best idea was to abandon any ideas of visiting Massafra and the planned trip to Taranto (there was still fifty kilometres to go), turn around and go directly back to Alberobello. Luckily this meant that we could leave the main highway and get back onto the country roads which although tricky and at times dangerous were thankfully not completely murderous.
Incidentally if anyone has been to Mottola or Massafra can you let me know if I missed anything by not stopping off?
I was so pleased to get back to Alberobello and park the car in a safe place where it was now going to stay until tomorrow morning when happily we would be returning it to the Sixt car rental office in Ostuni. You have probably guessed this already but I didn’t enjoy driving in Italy and it will be a very long time before I do it again!
While we had been driving and concentrating on the roads and staying alive we hadn’t taken much notice of the weather but now we could see that it had become horribly grey and soon after arriving back it started to rain, gently at first but then turned into a real down pour that kept us confined to the room for a couple of hours. This was reminiscent of childhood holidays in Wales where it always rains and where as bored children we spent hours staring out of the door looking for weather improvement and watching raindrops racing down the windows of the holiday chalet.
Thankfully we had a nice room in Alberobello in Italy and not a damp holiday chalet in Wales.
Eventually the rain finally cleared away, the sky brightened, the sun came up and the streets quickly dried so released from confinement we had one last walk around the Trulli houses but to be honest there are only so many times that you can walk around the same streets and we had had enough of Alberobello by the end of the fourth day and we looked forward to moving on again tomorrow.
It was years ago, but driving in Italy was my introduction to driving on the ‘wrong’ side of the road. The lanes seemed narrower, the drivers crazier and the traffic much faster than what I’d seen elsewhere in the world.
I’ve since become a little more used to it, though I still avoid driving in Italy whenever possible.
It seemed to me that there was no right or wrong side of the road for Italian drivers!
Sorry, I’m not laughing at YOU, but can’t help myself because of this, “…thankfully not completely murderous…”
My hair stood on end just reading about the driving conditions. Ugh.
My nerves were diced and shredded!
I don’t doubt it. I broke out in a rash just reading your post.
Andrew, Great story and beautiful photos of the Trulli houses. I’ve always been fascinated by the area, but haven’t visited yet. It sounds like the driving is truly a nightmare (to say the least)! Do you recommend any other way to see the sights? ~Terri
It is a wonderful area to visit! I have exaggerated a bit of course but I really didn’t enjoy the driving. I would recommend the trains – they were cheap and efficient but I have to say that the service to Alberobello was rather intermittent and not the best.
Thanks Andrew. I’ll check that out. ~T