Day 13 - Sarteano to Massa (Tuscany)

The accident - 211 miles

Tuscany is just like it is in people's minds: rolling hills, cute farms etc. Having cursed the Italian highways (and all its heirs & descendants until the fifth generation) I stick to small roads all the way up to Pisa and the coast. There I take the Via Aurelia which is yet another long parking lot.

And this is where the drama occurs. I'm not feeling exceedingly good, and as I take a look on the side of the road at a few statues, I realize there is a stopped car in front of me while I'm going about 10 mph -- but I have about two feet to stop the beast. Obviously I ram into the stopped car , and I'm down on the road, causing a traffic jam probably of monumental proportions. The driver of the car refuses to move the car or the bike unless instructed by the police, so I have to pick up the BMW on my own (which I manage to do quite easily, I think a mixture of fear, anger and embarrassment provided the extra strength). I should point out that I didn't practice any intelligent motorcycle pickup techniques, so I'm basically lifting it with my arms, not my legs.

The police take about 20 minutes to arrive. Of course, my language skills in French, English, High German, Castillan and Classical Latin are of no use with folks who speak only Italian. There are enough words that are similar to French and Spanish that I get the gist of what they're doing. I recoil when they mention requiring 38 euros from me (having to go to the ATM for it, no less) -- a bribe? No, it's an "infrazione" ("infraction", for bumping into someone's vehicle). The police are totally correct, taking their little rulebooks and measuring tapes out. They even make a (rather unsuccessful) attempt at getting my side of the story (for I know the driver was all over them from the get go). The evidence, though, is quite incriminating. The bike has no damage, but the Fiat Panda has a big indentation in the back -- clearly the rider (me) wasn't paying enough attention.

The police, the other driver and his wife end up being very pleasant people. There was no anger, no shouting, no gesticulating (which Italians are famous for). We left each other in good terms, I apologized for seriously denting the Fiat Panda. It's sad, but they were the first nice people I spent time with in Italy . It left me with a much better opinion of the Italians (and especially of their police, which were intensely keen on playing by the rules). The second officer was a rider himself, he showed me a picture of his new Triumph police bike, and described his 7,000-mile trek to the Polar Circle on his BMW GS. The last thing he told me, after helping check my bike for damage (there was none), is "c'est la vie".