The downside of Italian Cliff Driving
The trip down from the ski resort a couple of days later unfolded at a remarkably accelerated pace from that on the way up. The Italians didn't worry about the possibility of rear ending anyone on these roads, since in a typical example of Italian style team work, they all drove at exactly the same speed.
Every few kilometers there was a pullout carved into the wall side of the road where the carabinieri would pull people over for speeding. (Don't ask me how the logistics of this would work on a skinny two-lane cliffside road -- I have mercifully forgotten.)
Since they couldn't pull everyone over, they would randomly nab whoever was speeding by them when they finished issuing the ticket to the previous person. Luckily, on that particular afternoon, that was us. Though Elvio was visibly bummed, I on the other hand felt deeply grateful for a fifteen minute interval in which death was not a serious possibility.
The cop takes Elvio's license and walks back to his patrol Fiat. Elvio turns to me and asks if I have any cash (something he never, ever did, he always paid for everything). I check my pockets and turn up 5,000 lire (about $5.00, which would've been 15 or so in today's money). He adds it to some cash of his own and finally the cop comes back and hands Elvio a ticket through the window and tells him the name of the nearest obscure mountain village where he can pick up his license when he shows up with the absurd amount of money written on the ticket. Elvio asks the cop if it would be cheaper if he just paid it now. The cop executes a shoulder shrugging, eye rolling, hand gesture combo, accompanied by the Italian version of the word Duh, which I can't possibly reproduce in writing. Elvio hands him the cash and the cop walks back up to his car and retrieves the license.
In Italy the road cops take your license away when you commit an infraction and you only get it back when you show up with the money for the fine. This means that after issuing a ticket the cop watches as you drive off without your license, thereby committing another infraction. Such is the logic of the Italian mind you've heard so much about. (Things may be different today, but why would they be?)
Elvio revved up the washing machine and we resumed puttering down the hill at a much reduced speed, along with other drivers slowed down by the increasing frequency of the carabinieri along the road. Elvio said that besides saving a scandalous amount of money, we'd also spared ourselves a long road trip back to find the indicated village where we'd have to disturb some lone employee of a carefully hidden motorized vehicles office who would rummage around a while looking for the confiscated license and would eventually tell us to try again another day.
Next: are any of these people wearing seat belts?