It snowed last Friday in Milan. Big flakes were falling all day and the city looked very pretty. By Saturday, however, it was just pouring with rain and by Sunday it seemed to have mostly dried up, so a friend and I set off in his car for a walk by one of the lakes, hoping to see the snow still lying on the mountains. We didn't have a map, so we decided to rely on my friend's trusty TomTom.
The TomTom got us most of the way there, but as we left the main road and wended our way through small towns with narrow streets and one-way systems, she decided to abandon us. Eventually, we found the right road, a twisting, single-track road up a very steep hill. To make the experience a little bit hairier, there were racing cars coming down in the opposite direction. They weren't actually racing, as far as we could tell, but they were certainly driving more fearlessly even than the average Italian.
As we got further up, heavy rain began to fall. Then the rain turned to snow. The cars were still coming, the bends were getting tighter and the tyres were losing their grip. On the biggest bends there were groups of locals cheering on the racing cars, or any other driver stupid enough to go past. With nowhere to turn round, we had no choice but to go on, hoping that there would be a better road down the other side of the mountain. At one point, with the car stopped and hugging the cliff above us, we saw one of the racing cars skid and do a 90 degree turn so that its length spanned the whole width of the road. With the help of three people, the driver was just able to turn it round and carry on.
Eventually we arrived at the top of the hill, where there was a car park and a few people standing around. I got out of the car, hoping that they could tell us a better way down but they said the road ahead was closed. The only way down was the way we had come up, so off we went.
After our own little skid on the way down, I admitted to my friend that I was scared. Really scared.
“We'll be fine,” he said. “The car's built for it.”
We continued on our perilous way, with my friend inching the car around the hairpin bends and me muttering prayers of thanks every time we made it in one piece. Finally, we got to the bottom.
We stopped the car and checked the tyres, then drove on. It was only once we hit the motor way that my friend finally breathed a deep breath and said, “That was really, really scary.”
Never had the Italian Autostrada seemed such a safe and comforting place to be.