with a tour book entry
"...interior roads... offer peaceful drives past rocky coves and bays." (quote slightly altered for literary purposes)
Let me begin by saying that I had no doubt that Bob would be a great navigator. He was, afterall, a licensed pilot. Let me also say though that it became clear at around the second roundabout that the days of excellent navigation by Dan, Lylaine, Constance and Ben were over. Apparently this licensed pilot relied ALOT on instruments. That said, we did make it to our destinations, but not without some pulling over to check maps and making more than a few backtracking maneuvers. But enough about that.........
After visiting the sea at Maremma, we headed for Santa Argentario, Porto Santo Stephano, Porto Ercole and Orbetello. According to the tour book, S.A. was an island until the mid 1800's (ballparking the date...bear with me) when it became silted in. Today, the peninsula is reached by a bridge/causeway. We began our peninsula extravaganza in Porto Santo Stephano.
WOW. The harbor is small, but active. The town hugs the surrounding cliffs. The homes are grand and the boats even grander. We drove down to the harbor and took the road along the waterfront all the way out of town. It was fun being along the coast and feeling the energy of the tourists (Italian and international) as well as the difference that money makes in an area. The yachts were not only large (I'm not very good at estimation of length, but I'd estimate the one yacht at "honkin' huge") but impeccably appointed. There seemed to be as many motorized craft as sailing craft.
On our way out the harborfront road, I'd noticed a sign for a panoramic road. It, of course, pointed straight up.......you only live once! I took the turn and found myself on a very steep, narrow road up through the town of Porto Santo Stephano (to whom I was praying) and finally on a "high road" that overlooked the harbor and shore. I was pleased that I'd found the couragio to ascend the road. The views were well worth the moments of sheer terror.
After driving on this road for a bit over half an hour, we discussed whether we should just continue on, seeing if it came out at Porto Ercole, or whether we should go back. Since it was getting late in the day and I still wanted to visit Porto Ercole and Orbetello (interior roads offering peaceful drives....dancing in my head), we decided to go back.
We had a bit of a problem finding Porto Ercole (I say we with generosity....c'mon, Bob, it's a TINY peninsula for heaven's sake) but we found it. We drove around the smaller harbor's waterfront road and enjoyed the contrast of its marshy landscape before going to Orbetello (and the pictoresque drives).
On the road to Orbetello (sounds like a movie title) I asked Bob to look at the guide book to see if he could get a sense of where we needed to go to take these "peaceful drives". He said that the guide book named a road that was especially scenic. He said the name of the street, but I couldn't understand what he was saying (he has many admirable qualities outside of navigation and foreign languages). He said,
"Strada P-a-n-o-r-a M-i-c-a."
Being a language nut, I tried to decifer the meaning of the street name....thinking that I didn't know what Panora was, but Mica might mean small...........and then we were in Orbetello. (I told you it was a tiny peninsula!). We drove around the town looking at all of the road signs, but couldn't find our strada. Finally, I drove into the centro of the town (something I don't usually do because it is so easy to go the wrong way on a one way street or to get stuck at the end of a tiny, narrow street and have to back out...usually down hill). After looking for in vain for a while, I decided we should ask someone for help. Because he is not accomplished in Italian, Bob had avoided a lot of conversation with locals, but decided to bust out his best language skills and ask a lovely older man for directions to our strada.
Bob, "Dove' Strada Panora Mica?"
Nice man, "Oh. Strada Panora Mica............ahhhhhhhhhhhhhh (you know what's coming)............no."
Bob, "No Strada Panora Mica?"
Nice Man, "Ah...........................no. A Porto Santo Stephano si e Porto Ercole, si. Orbetello............no.
Bob, "Si. We were in Porto Santo Stephano. It is beautiful."
Nice Man, "Lots of Italian that we didn't understand."
This exchange (along with my many helpful interjections) continued for a bit but directions to Strada Panora Mica were not part of it, so we thanked the nice man and left. Bob started saying something about not understanding we had already been there and then something about hyphens. I, still focused on finding this road with the damned peaceful views, wasn't really listening. Then.............like floodwater creeping up the stairs.............it began to dawn on me..........
Strada Panora Mica was Strada Panoramica! The road we'd been on in P.S.S..............Of course, the nice man realized as soon as Bob spoke the words that Panora Mica was panoramica. It turns out that Bob figured out his error at almost the same moment. I was the only latecomer to the joke. Once I realized what had happened, the hysteria came. I had to pull over. I would no more than collect myself than it would build and hit me again. This happened for days, whenever I thought about it. I'm sure this nice man from Orbetello thought, "They must give a driving license to anyone in the US!"
Strada Panora Mica.................oh my.