So turns out it snows in Italy. Who knew? Why wasn’t I told? Pretty sure that wasn’t in the job description when we moved out here.
Slip sliding around
The first day of snow was pretty cool. I mean, driving home with 1cm of snow, everything looked pretty awesome. But just as in the UK, everyone drives like a total retard on their inappropriate summer tyres: so a 10 minute journey took 30 minutes.
My wife was convinced our hire car had summer tyres on. I wasn’t sure. I mean, I hadn’t totally fallen off the road, so the grip can’t have been that bad. The following morning however, the normal 1cm-of-snow-that-brings-the-whole-of-the-UK-to-a-standstill was superseded by 30+ cm of snow. Ok, that’s a lot of snow.
The last time I remember that much snow in the UK was back in that mythical childhood everyone seems to have where it snowed shit loads every year, but that nobody older seems to remember.
Still, I struggled manfully into work. Well, once I’d spent 20 minutes extracting the car from the mountain of snow it was covered in. And waited another 15 minutes for the retard parked next to me to get out of my way. He’d managed to move 6 feet, but only succeeded in blocking me in and blocking the path of the snow plough that was trying to clear a path for us. Eventually he did the decent thing and went the other way to park in a snow drift.
By now the snow plough had cleared a path in front of me. All I had to do was move 2 feet and the front wheels would be on glorious, black tarmac. Two feet? In these conditions? With those tyres? No chance. In the end, after much wheel spinning and swearing I grabbed the wife. She drove, I pushed. Two feet achieved. I could now sail into work. Well, I say sail. More like tread gingerly as the car slides around like a mad thing. At the roundabout near work I manage to understeer into a big mound of snow and bounce gracefully off, back onto my intended direction. Sweet. Snow is awesome.
I talk to my boss about my adventures who persuades me that the hire car must have winter tyres on. Now I’m no expert in these things – having lived in the UK for 30 years where you only need winter tyres once a decade – but they look like summer tyres, they drive like summer tyres.
“When did you join? Mid-November? It’s the law from mid-November for all cars to have winter tyres fitted or to carry snow chains”. My boss helpfully suggests we go check my car to set my mind at rest that it does have winter tyres on.
Oh. Shit. They’re definitely summer tyres. They obviously picked up the car just before winter tyres were required. You’d better fit some chains.
Well, that’s just peachy, isn’t it? How did I manage not to go sailing off the road? Thankfully a kind hearted Italian in my office agrees to come help me fit the snow chains. And glad I was, too – having never had to battle snow chains before there was no chance of me doing it successfully without help from someone that knows what on earth they’re doing. Just trying to get the things untangled and turned the right way round was like trying to untangle that mess of electrical cable behind your TV. You know the one, that snake pit of cables that bites you every time you try and decipher its insane complexity. Now imagine the same but with gloves on. Gloves only serving to keep your freezing fingers wet at the same time.
The journey home? Wonderful. It’s amazing the difference it makes when you turn the steering wheel and something happens. Other than just a scrubbing noise as you understeer off into the nearest snow bank.
And then today happens… the sun comes out, the temperature rises, the ploughs get to work and the snow starts to clear. But only on the main roads, of course. The side roads are still the same ice-rink they were before. So I find myself driving an unfamiliar route to see my wife in hospital (which is another story to be told another time). After clattering down a decidedly unsnowy road for 5 ks I stop and take the chains off.
At this point, sat nav decides to get creative and direct me into the middle of nowhere. Turns out they still have snow in the middle of nowhere. Quite a lot of snow, in fact. While I’m busy being annoyed at being lost and miles from my wife who needs me, I forget for a brief moment that driving on snow with summer tyres can only end one way. And so it does… as a tiny little bend in the road appears I turn the steering wheel the front wheels turn, laugh, and then carry on ploughing a path for the ditch. And so it is I find myself in the middle of nowhere, in a country I don’t speak the language, with a wife in hospital and my car in a ditch. FML.
Luckily, not 100 yards up the road I’d passed a tractor pulling a minibus out of the ditch on the opposite side of the road. “Hahahahahah” I’d thought as I drove past.
Scusa mi, signore! Anche la mia macchina…
I say as I now have to beg for help. Luckily the guy also speaks some English, which helps, and saves me murdering the Italian language anymore. But nothing like as much as him and his buddy’s rapid extraction of my car from the ditch helps my mission can continue.
So, it turns out it snows in Italy. Who knew? Turns out it’s also rather difficult driving a car with summer tyres on snow. Again, why was I not informed? It turns out snow chains are fucking awesome. But snow chains when the snow is melting are a pain in the ass.
Must. Buy. Winter. Tyres.