Friday, August 19

Italy Road Trip - Travel Warnings

Italians have consistently thought up *everything* from oh, I don't know, the discovery of the New World, to the fax, the telephone, right up to the Google search engine, but then lost it when some clever marketeer took it up a level, declared native Americans, Indians, and just went with it. Ask Galileo. Heck even the popes were in France for a time.
If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times...Italy is seriously marketing challenged. After all, these are the folks who gave us Malpensa (ill thought) Airport and Soffass toilet paper, the likes of which always puts a smile on my face. So lately, traveling a whole lot up and down the gorgeous Italian highways criss-crossing the boot like lovely laces (which, I might add, would put any roads to shame the world over), I can't help but be perplexed by the road signs on every digital board brought to you by the Road Guys responsible for our smooth rides.
This one reads Drive Safely. But sometimes they invite you to go online (whilst commandeering your vehicle at 90mph?) to check out road conditions - which would be seriously messesd up if you took them at their word, started searching the web, and ended up rear-ending the truck ahead of you. Inevitably, you are gifted with a Fasten Your Seatbelts sign when in fact, 5km up the road there's an accident and you just blew by the only exit that would have mercifully allowed you to avoid it. But I digress.
During my umpteen years of driving around the peninsula, nearly every time I see the ANAS logo up above, I get a mini panic attack. That logo (again, at 130 km/hr) looks to me like a car on fire every time I whiz by it. In fact, it tells me there's an entire line of cars on fire in a mass brush fire, just as I plunge headlong into the upcoming tunnel.
Coming face to face with this dot matrix logo is always a good way to get the adrenaline going on long drives. But, taking a closer look (when you're home and online...not calling it up on Siri while careening a curve) and the logo isn't so bad after all.
I'm guessing that it represents Mercury's helmet speeding down the highway, but not so fast -- that block above is basically our Mercurio stumbling to a complete stop in order to pay the extortionate tolls. Or, it symbolizes the long rest he'll take at the rest stop after miscalculating on gas and a glass of water at 1pm, feeding time for the entire country. My personal favorite is that it's Mercury looking for toilet paper. 
I play this guessing game in my head just like back in the days before devices were a common feature on car trips...You had to spot the first cow / farmhouse / diner there from the back seat. 
For everyone who will be sitting in traffic on their return from the August exodus, well, count this as a marketing freebie. So, thank you ANAS for the graphics. But I'm just wondering how I'll ever come to know when a car is up in flames just around the bend.

Tuesday, August 2

Summertime...the Season to Abandon your Best Friend

A Dog Falls in Vulcano Buono There's been so much 'bad news' out there these days that I have been putting off my annual Dog Days of Summer post time and again. But August is upon us. And the streets of Italy (and many a European country) are emptied. Before long we will hear the mourning of dogs - abandoned - in the night. Or worse. We'll see them chained to lamp posts dying of starvation or lying - stiff - at roadsides. 
But this sad story does have a (sort of) happy ending - and that's the undying love and fatigue and endless hours logged by the thousands of volunteers, veterinarians and good hearted souls who, summer after summer, take these poor creatures into their hospitals, their houses, their hearts. 
And while it feels to me that this utter contempt for pets' lives has improved over the years, I am quite certain that dogs are still abandoned to their fate with - well, reckless abandon. Here's what it looks like: 

This little guy was hit by a car and despite his crushed bones
and probably internal bleeding, he kept his head held high
for hours upon hours, waiting beyond hope - for rescue.
His heart finally gave out and he died on route to the vet.

It is estimated that upwards of 100.000 dogs meet their end at the wheel or bumper of a car. Abandoned on roadways, they zig-zag in and out of traffic, trying to find any familiar scent that would carry them back to the very people they loved and trusted. 
I know about this guy's story thanks to the Facebook Page of Gianna Senatore - She dedicates her life to saving these animals and finding them homes across Italy. Some don't make it through the operation, others are returned to her post-adoption. For every miserable story she posts, you can find many successes and smiling faces in the before & after shots of these traumatized pets.
While they are closing down these sorts of centers, while keeping others open that are nothing short of lagers for animals found starving in cages, the Associazione Zoofila di Nocera Inferiore is a beacon of hope.

So what can we mere mortals do?  

Repost her photos. Help find forever homes. Donate to these centers. Offer to bring dogs with you to their new homes when you travel. Volunteer your time. And, above all, stop your car if you should see a dog lying - still with some life in him - at the side of the road.