We have spent the last two years living our Italian life all without a car. Our car ownership history was rather patchy even before moving to Rovereto, so really it wasn’t such an adjustment – we manage quite well without access to motorised wheels. Instead, bikes and our own two (/four) feet get us around town. We catch trains when we travel, and we’ve even taken cycle trips within our region. Hiking, that part time love, is achieved only when we are invited by friends. The isolated start off points and long days make this activity too difficult to achieve with public transport alone.
When I say we ‘manage’, I ignore the fact that we don’t really have a choice. Our New Zealand driver licences are ineligible for conversion to their Italian equivalent, and obtaining an Italian licence would require resitting the entire test, a very Italian and very expensive process that we aren’t willing to go through. This means our current no car, no drive (neither cars nor scooters) situation is going to change so long as we live here.
And all this is fine; as I said above, we manage. And then this past weekend we discovered the advantages that come with access to and legal usage of a car.
The obligatory photographs of pastoral idyll above, the sunflower fields will follow in a scroll.
We visited Tuscany with car owning friends, and the things that could be done outstripped everything we’ve ever achieved on holiday before. Like leaving after work on Friday and arriving in time for a music festival in the South of Tuscany that same evening. Plus navigating ourselves through dusty back streets and past endless fields of sunflowers on our Saturday exploring. Who knew car ownership allowed for such convenience.
Matt is ever on the look out for music and concerts. This past weekend this searching took us to Chiusi, population 8,842, one of the many small towns located on the top of a hill in Siena, Tuscany. The draw cards were threefold: Tuscany, a music festival, a free music festival. The main band for us was Unknown Mortal Orchestra, an American/New Zealand rock band.
Heading south was hot. Because summer, and no air conditioning, but mostly summer. We stayed in the one hotel in cute little Chiusi listed on Booking.com. Which isn’t a requirement for accommodation, it’s just a damn convenient way to find and compare. It was a little old fashioned, and vaguely grand for the price charged.Being a micro-weekend trip, we headed straight back down the hill to the rock festival. And if by rock festival you were expecting a rock festival, with hundreds of punky/rock dressed teenagers and general youth, then you would have been mistaken, and a little surprised. Because Lars Rock Fest was a little like every small town Italian festival we have been to, but with rock music. It was awesome, and we arrived almost knowing what to expect, having attended a few small community festivals here in Trentino. The music was much better, though, and they had a Sicilian street food cart. Our travelling companion ate a mystery meat panino, before curiosity got the better of him and he discovered he had ingested spleen and lung. We stuck with fried fish, fried arancini and fried french fries (eek).
The band we were there to see were awesome. The crowd (the youths had arrived in time for the music) loved them, and were cheering on the front man by first name (vai Reuben, andiamo Reuben!). When they discovered that they could jump the security-free barrier, they partied at the base of the stage.
Saturday we took advantage of our Tuscan location and the car (!) and took a micro tour of lakes and Montepulciano. Montepulciano is famous for its wine, and its popularity as a tourist destination was immediately obvious compared to sleepy little Chiusi. The lakes were beautiful but, unfortunately for the togs carried all day (in the boot of the car, such luxury), none were inviting enough to actually swim in. Instead, we lunched and napped lakeside, and fed bread to a water rat (not its actual name) who seemed to be a regular waterside at the restaurant.
We came back to Chiusi in the evening where we skipped festival food in favour of the restaurant next door, before heading back to our community rock festival. The restaurant was a little fancy in that rustic Tuscan way, feeding me pear and sheep cheese with honey, and smoked aubergine soup.
And that was it for our weekend. We returned to Rovereto on the Sunday, rolling home early in the afternoon. Our brief flirtation with a car now over, and Matt is now reconsidering our Sicilian intentions – thinking they may be more thoroughly achieved once we have reclaimed our legal driving status (also known as when we don’t live in Italy anymore..).