When I was eighteen and I got my driving license I was so excited about driving that I could have taken the car also to go behind the corner. It was such a cool feeling to be behind the wheel… and what a steering wheel that was!
My father had a Talbot Sunbeam, parked all the time in our street in Molfetta as he was working on big ships for months. It was very old and uncool at that time but for me it was he most cool thing in the world. It had damages everywhere: holes in the floor through which you could see the street run underneath, cracks in the engine which were spilling oil and cooling water, broken handles to open doors and the boot, and a lot more surprises…
Anyway, most of the time it was the most stupid idea in the world to take the car just to reach my friend living a couple of blocks away. It can take you hours to find a parking in the center of Molfetta, especially on weekends when all the families go out and lots of visitors are fighting for a parking space. But it was just impossible to resist to the seductive look of the Sunbeam!
Usually I was meeting my friends around 11am in the morning and go back home at 1 or 2pm for lunch. It was normal to have a huge lunch that can last for a couple of hours and after that you’d have a well deserved and long lasting nap. During that time in Molfetta, called “sparron” and being the same thing like the Spanish ‘Siesta’, the city becomes all silent. That silence extends to the whole land and the next towns. Puglia switches off.
I could not switch off… I could not go in bed with the sunlight breaking through the “persiane” (shutters), it reminding me of the times when I was sick and I had to stay in bed. So instead, my afternoons were usually spent watching “A Team” or “MacGyver” or whatever was on TV that was not the usual italian weekend talk show (eg “Domenica in”).
But sometimes I had a spare 10’000 Lire so I filled the tank of my fathers Sunbeam and was taking a drive alone towards the inner lands of Puglia. Across the afternoon silence. My usual path was Molfetta – Ruvo – Altamura and back and brought me across the Murge, a beautiful hilly area. It was a couple of hours drive that I loved! As soon as you were passing Ruvo, the landscape was getting slightly hilly and I could enjoy the wind blowing through the window. I was usually slowing down to fully enjoy that time (and to spare the Sunbeam engine and to save some gas). Anyway there was no life on the streets in those early afternoon ‘sparron’ hours. Just a few drivers that were hating me when I was in their way (reminding me of myself today…).
I still have vivid memories of those slow drives with the open windows and the shaky warm road in front of me. Little moments, but life lasting memories that cannot be taken away.