Tuesday, July 09, 2013

Another Italian driver rant...

I will never tire of complaining about Italian drivers.  Riding to work on the bike everyday is not going to help this problem.   However I feel the need to relate a story from this morning.  I was approaching the worst intersection of my short trip to work. I would gladly double the length of my ride uphill both ways to go around it but there is not another way.    I really hate this intersection partly because there is absolutely no way to avoid it and second because it’s a rough left turn as I’ll explain.  

So let me explain the intersection.  There is nothing on my right and I need to turn left and there’s actually 2 left turns as there are 2 small streets that insect at practically the same spot but at different angles.  The oncoming traffic is coming downhill around a sharp curve.  Of course Italian drivers love to descend this turn at a ridiculous velocity and never once entertain the idea that they can’t see around the bend.  Plus people like to park “temporarily” right in the curve so the on coming traffic has even more trouble making the turn.  So you have on coming traffic flying around a blind curve and 2 small streets where people are trying to pull out from different angles onto the busier street that I’m on.

So this morning I approach the intersection and I see that a car ahead is stopped trying to make a left turn (at this point I don’t know which street he’s turning down).  This is good because it assures me that there is space for me to wait my chance to turn left also.  Unfortunately for him he’s trying to go down the second small street (not the one I take).  I say unfortunately because some lady has stopped to talk to someone and is COMPLETELY blocking the 2nd street.  I mean this isn’t double parked, this is in the middle of the street at practically 90 degrees to the small street with no way for anyone to enter or exit.  The guy is honking and gesturing as I ride up to a stop behind him.  She SEEMS to be trying to end her conversation and move her car but I don’t care because after a short pause I see my break in the traffic and turn left.  As I do I see another car is trying to exit the street and it too is blocked by this lady.  I can’t help but laugh at her complete disrespect for everyone else on the road.  You can’t just stop where it’s convenient for you.  I really think that Italian drivers lack any kind of respect for others.  That’s the only explanation.  I don’t think they realize that every stupid thing they do makes the roads that much more dangerous.  This lady wasn’t hurting anyone by blocking the road but what if the guy waiting to turn was hit head on by oncoming traffic.  He wouldn’t have been there if she wasn’t blocking the road.  There were plenty of chances for him to turn down his street but he’s stranded there until she moves and I know when she does move she has a good chance of surprising someone coming around the curve making things worst.  The longer he sits at that intersection trying to turn left the more possibility there is for an accident.  Of course the on coming traffic would be at fault for the accident but she’s contributing to it by not letting him clear the intersection.  There are so many little things like this every day.  One my favorite regular issues is when people park in the bus stop so the bus has to stop in the middle of the road and block ALL the traffic.  I love that one!  I blow by everyone on my bike and after I pass the bus I have the whole street to myself.  Of course the down side of this is that it just makes drivers crazier to pass buses whenever they get the chance.  You CAN’T get stuck behind a bus.  You might not have time for a coffee!!!….  Oh Italy and my love/hate relationship….. Oh and there’s always time for a coffee….


Friday, June 21, 2013

The Heat is On!

Well the weather has changed a little here lately.  The cool spring has been replaced but real summer heat.  Maybe it feels that much hotter because it arrived all at once.  I was loving the cooler weather as it was perfect for biking but I noticed that when it was cooler there was always a lot of wind.  Now that it’s hot there the wind seems to have disappeared.  I could really use a cool breeze at night to help sleep.  Anyway this weather will bring with it the obligation to go to the sea.  In all my years here I still do not feel the need to go to the sea.  I like cooling off in the sea but most of the other parts I don’t like.  The crowds, the heat, the sand, the sun, it’s like you have to run a maze of other hazards to get to the nice cool sea.  Then the water is usually too cold (at least in June) to stay in very long so you get out until the heat pushes you to go in again. Enough whining, because the weather is supposed to cool off a little next week already.

Hey I’m coming up on my 10th anniversary of moving to Italy.  Who would have thought?  My original contract was to work in Italy for 3 years but things just keep working out to where I need to stay.  Every year it was just for 1 or 2 more years.  Even now my future here is in doubt as working conditions are not ideal.  There are several layers of problems that are trying to force me out.  If you ask me what I want and I’ll say it’s easy.  Stay here and continue to work as I have been.  Let’s see if that’s possible.  In the 10 years that I’ve been here I’ve learned a lot and changed quite a bit.  I only moved once the whole time and it only up 2 floors in the same building.  I’ve always described this adventure as a roller coaster ride of emotions.  I’ve had some of the best days of my life in Brindisi and also some of the worst.  Things I never thought would happen and things I never thought I was see.


Nello waiting for the gecko.

Friday, June 07, 2013


I don't know what's so great about this new coffee bar outside my apartment. It's always packed, well at least there are always people parked all over the corner almost blocking access to my street (via Appia) going to the right in the picture below.  They must be giving coffee away!!  I say that because there's another coffee bar across the street (look in the upper left of the photo) that doesn't have near the same popularity. Bohhh!  Just a little rant today. 

Friday, May 31, 2013


Ok so here I am again saying I'm going to restart the blog. This time I mean it. Once a week I WILL write something as there is so much going on. This weekend Brindisi is opening a new park (called Cillarese) and the work along the sea in town is almost complete. Right now there is a boat show in town that is free to get into for the first time in years. I always wanted to go but it was so expensive that I always rejected the idea. Ten euros to look at boats!!  No way. This year I hope to check it out. Last night I passed through but the show was closed. Here's a photo from the other side of the port looking towards the boat show. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Botswana and Animals!

Hey readers I just got back from 2 weeks of going all over Botswana looking for animals. I think I'll put up a few blog pieces about it because the stories are too long for Facebook. Of course names will be changed to protect the innocent. I had a great time and the trip was not easy but that was part of the fun. We had several nights of camping in subzero temperatures and when I was in boy scouts we didn't even do that. Despite being in Botswana during winter and the dry season we were lucky to see a good number of animals.

Friday, May 18, 2012

The New Bike

This is a Create Bikes fixie that struck me with its colors as I thought surely no Italian driver could say they didn’t see me on this thing. I bought the bike at Absolute Bikes in San Pietro Vernotico. I may mention this store a lot in the blog because I really like going there and I’m convinced that they need to open a store just like it in Brindisi. This bike’s not a true fixie because I have the bike set up to ride on the sprocket that free wheels. If I flipped the rear wheel around it would be a true fixie. I use this one for my daily commute to work and I have tried the fixie side but I’m not convinced that I like that setup yet. Having one gear is not a problem as the ride to work is pretty flat and only about 3 kms. The narrow handlebars allow me move easily between cars in traffic and bike just seems much more maneuverable than the mountain bike. Also I’m sitting up higher than the mountain bike so I can see what dangers await me up ahead. The brakes aren’t that great so I tend to ride slower which is also probably a good idea in my particular urban environment. It’s not a particularly light bike at 11 kgs but again “che me frega?” it’s all about getting in shape. I hope to slightly trick this baby out or at least do some upgrades that I’ll talk about/do later.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Old Mountain Bike

The workhorse is my old Specialized Hard Rock. I think I bought this bike in 1996 as it has an A1 cyclery sticker on it from the west side of Indianapolis. I’m pretty sure I was living on the west side in 1996. I know I had just moved to Indianapolis from Cincinnati to start my first real job after graduation. I know I was still driving that god awful 1988 Mercury Cougar that I bought from my parents. This poor bike has no suspension because that was only on those super expensive mountain bikes at the time (how times have changed!). It was just an entry level mountain bike that had what you needed and nothing more. This seems to still be true because I still use it almost exactly as it was with very few problems; most of the problems have been brought on by me and time. I think the center pull brakes and grip shifters were the s**t then so it was considered a little tricked out because it had those 2 things. I’m not sure what possessed me to pack it for the move to Italy. There wasn’t much chance that I was going to use it because I feared Italian drivers like you wouldn’t believe back then. Since I started riding it again lately on long rides I’m finding that it has weathered time but needs some real tender love care to be a reliable bike. I’m no bike mechanic so it should be interesting to see what happens when I try to fix it. I’m an Engineer so it’s in my blood to think that I can fix it. When things go wrong I’ll just take it to the store. Absolute Bikes has already replaced the right side grip shifter as it was completely shot when I start riding it again. I took the original kick stand off and threw it away long ago thinking it added too much weight. Now I’ve added a crappy Italian one that barely keeps the bike standing. The most recent addition is panniers and rear rack from Topeak that I bought back in the States. I think I’m going to really like this combination. I like to carry a lot of stuff and this bag will let me do that and leave my back free of the sweaty backpack come summer.

So that’s an introduction to my old bike. Next time my new bike.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Biking Blog

I’m thinking about revamping this blog about my life in Puglia. I stop blogging because it seemed like I was repeating myself and whining about the same old Italian problems that will be here forever. About September of last year I started getting interested in biking. I brought my old mountain bike over when I loved to Brindisi in 2003. It has largely been gathering dust because I was afraid to confront Italian drivers on their home turf. I’m not sure what pushed me but I became fixated on a Fixie. I bought the yellow, blue and red machine and started using it as regular transportation to work. Now I also use the old mountain bike for longer trips on the weekend. I’m starting to think more about a real trip with the bike, like from Brindisi to Rome on the Via Appia so that leads me to the revelation that I’m posting today.
I could turn this blog into something where I post about what I’m doing and where I’m going on the bike. It would serve as a record and hopefully push me to go out more and get in better shape. I could still whine about random Italian things like food, weather, politics etc. So what do you think? I wonder if anybody is even still reading this blog. Well it’s been hard to muster the will to write so let’s see what happens…..

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Italy can be so stupid sometimes...

I say this with all due respect. One of the many laws that government is trying to pass is getting a little of the good old political treatment. A simple law is now becoming a classical example of the Italian bureaucracy. Listen to this… The new law would limit cash transactions to 1,000 euro (the current limit is 2,000 euro). You can’t buy something in cash for more than 1,000 euro, which sounds reasonable because carrying around tons of cash is not a good idea. With this law it would be harder to launder money and it makes it harder to avoid paying taxes. Credit cards are great for their perfect electronic record of the transaction. Now the parliament wants to add a little exception. They want tourists to be exempt from this rule. I guess these super rich jet setters can’t be bothered to buy things with their credit card. If you’re buying that Rolex or Gucci you want to be able to throw down a big wad of cash because that’s more exciting? I’m looking at you Russians when I say this. So with this exemption it means the store will need to make a copy of the passport of the tourist buying the item for 1,000 or more and then within 3 days deposit the money in the bank with the copy of the passport. Of course all transactions will have some paperwork that goes with them and copies etc... Why can’t Italy make a simple law and stick to it? I mean this original law would help address another issue, which is that tourists should NOT be parading around with huge wads of cash. That’s like wearing a sign that says “ROB ME”. As a foreigner I don’t want some stupid crook to mistake me as one of these idiots going around with too much cash in his pocket. This is just one small example of Italy trying to cater to a very small crowd and screwing everything up. And this exemption can be so easily abused. For crying out loud all they need to do is get a copy of a passport of a foreigner. In hotels they take your passport and make a copy during your stay. Now the hotel clerks could start a side business selling passport copies to merchants who need it for locals who want to spend large wads of cash. The exemption makes a simple thing difficult and opens a whole new line of abuse. Stick to the original law it’s so easy. Cash transactions are limited to 1,000 euro!!!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012


Ok that hail photo sucks but this photo of artichokes at the market last weekend is pretty good.