Welcome to Eureka Street

back to site


Back road encounter in the Italian countryside

  • 31 October 2012

We had driven up a narrow road in Calabria at night, on the instructions of the GPS,  which assured us that our destination was close. The sky was black, and there were no lights anywhere. We became convinced that the GPS was totally wrong. Time to turn around.

But as we did, the car became unbalanced and the front wheel spun above the side of the road, which had collapsed. Try as we might we could not move the car back onto the road. All we could hear were dogs barking in the night. It seemed we were stuck somewhere in the countryside of Calabria.

After a short while a car approached from one direction, and then a utility from the other.

After some explanation of our predicament, the utilty driver produced a rope and helped tow us back onto the road, with the help of the car driver — whose bemused family sat watching this strange rescue of the Australian tourists' bogged car in the dark countryside of Calabria.

They offered us clear directions and we resumed our journey, grateful for the generosity of these people who we will probably never see again.

Italy is one of those countries that is rich in many ways, including in the fields of art, history, cuisine and sport. A common thought about the south though, thanks to movies like The Godfather and books like Gomorrah, is that crime and corruption are rife. Like many things, the reality is far more complicated, and colourful.

What may not be seen by the traveller is the effect on the lives of many ordinary Italians.

Italian politics is complex with many parties vying for votes. The country has five levels of government: municipal, regional, provincial, national and European. Currently there is a serious financial crisis and the appointed (not elected) prime minister Monti's austerity measures have led to protests, especially in Rome.

Meanwhile, fomer prime minister Berlusconi was convicted of fraud and sentenced to four years in prison, reduced to one by the sentencing magistrates. Previously he had hinted he would not return to politics, but since his conviction, he has promised a return to save Italy from Monti and