Dry grass rustles as lizards scuttle away from the heavy-footed human padding along the road. Most of the time you don’t see them, but every so often they break cover and skitter up a wall or across the road. I pass a deserted sanatorium. Who knows when there were last patients in it. Iron girders have fallen down from the ceiling, blocking the entrance, and the glass in the front doors is sharded and shattered. The double arches of the sign, like a blue and white – and rather more healthy – McDonalds, are sun-bleached and battered. The steps leading up to the doors are covered in wild alyssum and the scent of honey in the air is deliciously overpowering. Nature has taken over the asylum.
I hear a car approaching from behind me, and turn automatically to look at it. Everyone stares in Italy, and I’m no exception . Curiosity satisfied, I turn back to face the way I’m going and continue walking. As the car passes me, the driver blares his horn. I’m not on his side of the road, so his only reason for doing so would be to scare the crap out of me. Which he did. Were I a cartoon character, I would be shaking my fist and shouting, ‘why, you …!’ after him. As I’m not, I settle for muttering English expletives and trying to return my heart rate to normal. Just as I’ve managed to do that, another car approaches, from ahead of me this time. He’s driving fast, and seems to have no intention of giving an inch, despite the fact that there’s nowhere for me to go save under his wheels. At the last moment, close enough that I can see the whites of his eyes, he swerves just far enough across the road to miss me. My coat-tails and hair fly around me, and I’m buffeted by the disturbed air of his passing. Shaken, I gasp for breath. Walking down this road wasn’t the cleverest of ideas, it seems, but there’s no turning back now.
The lizards reappear and the sun beats hot on my back. I gather my wits and carry on walking.
Image by Kate Bailward