by Afshin Behnia / 15 Nov 2012
(An Alfa Summer Affair is a six-piece article series filled with tales of romance and intrigue. Follow the adventures of our Petrolicious protagonists as they navigate blind romance, love triangles, and Italian roads in a 1968 Alfa Romeo GTV. Click here to catch up on the complete series.)
I was having my doubts, second guessing myself. Maybe we were going too fast. Maybe it was time to re-evaluate our relationship. I mean, was I really capable of committing myself to Ludie–warts and all? Was this Alfa Romeo GTV right for me? Call me shallow, callous, unforgiving, or even mad. Accuse me of being afraid of attachment. I confess, Ludie’s hood defect was cramping my style. It was hurting my driving experience.
On top of that, there were deeper issues. Her wheel alignment problem was more pronounced—not just on freeways but also on those beautiful windy roads I so lusted after. I felt like I just wasn’t getting a direct response out of her anymore and I had to anticipate turns well before I hit them, constantly correcting my Ludie. Handling her was starting to mean trouble.
My initial excitement over her performance was also wearing thin. Sure, she was doing 130 km/h, but I knew I should easily be getting 180 km/h out of her. Why was she holding out on me?
Thankfully, we had reached our destination. We parked just outside Camogli’s walls—the city center, like all Italian villages, restricted cars.
“Rules are rules, Ludie,” I consoled her, happy to have an excuse for a break.
The village started to disturb me slightly. So did Ludie’s increasing defects. I just couldn’t get them out of my mind.
Is Ludie also carrying a secret? I wondered. Just how much baggage is she lugging around?
Another breakdown could be catastrophic. It could mean not getting Kika and me to our wedding, destroying our marriage before it's even able to begin.
I felt uneasy. Maybe it was the humidity, I didn’t know. I just wanted to get out of Camogli. Enough with the secrets! I wanted no more of them. We left in a hurry. Luckily, Portofino was just a few miles away. I hoped a scenic coastal drive might calm my nerves.
To my dismay, once again, Ludie wasn’t responding well to those curves and her hood popped up, gaping like a car sick child. There they were again, in plain view, her defects refusing to be ignored.
“Stop it, Vallanzasca,” she ordered. My head hurt. I felt closed in. Ludie’s issues and Kika’s constant references to Vallanzasca, her mobster fantasy...I couldn’t take it anymore!
“Ludie,” I muttered. “Her name is Ludie.” Kika looked at me in disbelief—or disgust. It was hard to tell.
The air was heavy, damp and overcast. We climbed the rugged landscape, away from the half-moon bay. The crystalline emerald waters below called out to me. I longed for a dip, something to help me simmer down. My temples throbbed, my head in a vice-grip. The humidity was suffocating. Sweat dripped off the tip of my nose.
And then...relief! Clouds burst and thousands of drops (tiny at first) cooled the back of my neck. By the time we were back at the marina, the rain had washed away the crowds, leaving only the locals clad in shorts yet wise enough to carry umbrellas. It had also washed away my worries. I wanted to drive Ludie again. I wanted to give her another chance.
After three nights in the region, tasting delicious local specialties and visiting glitzy neighboring villages, Kika and I were finally off to Florence, off to get married. During our stay, we conveniently forgot—or ignored—our baggage. The bags that didn’t fit in the closet we used as end-tables or nightstands, on top of which we showcased ice buckets filled with wildflowers, souvenirs, or hats—anything that could otherwise help us dismiss our bags.
Now it was again time to lug our bags down flights of stairs, across narrow streets, and back to Ludie.
“Hurry up!” Kika called, blocked ahead of me. “Vallanzasca is waiting!”
“You mean Ludie!” I corrected. My voice trailed off. I wasn’t sure she heard me.
We squeezed back into the Alfa, baggage included. I was determined to set Kika straight as we set off for Barga in Tuscany.
The motivation for our stop? The tiny, perched Tuscan village was home to Al Benefizio, an agriturismo referred to me by my dear friend Caterina. We were to pick up over a hundred jars of local organic honey, gifts for our wedding guests.
That’s right, more baggage.
I took the initiative to feed Kika critical facts as we set off for Barga.
“Kika...Did you know that Ludie loves high speed tours and rally racing as much as just cruising on a modern freeway?”
“Who’s Ludie?” she replied.
We drove through the mountainous landscape, shook tree canopies at high speed. I tried again, a gentler approach this time. Ludie’s hood popped open.
“Sweetheart...” I pulled over and gave Kika a kiss. “Could you please give Ludie a hand?”
Kika frowned. She got out and slammed the hood shut.
We arrived at the agriturismo in Barga. We walked through acres fragrant with wild cherry, mulberry, plums and fresh artichokes. We picked up the honey. Several Indian chickens belonging to the property followed us to the car, nipping at the dust.
“They’re looking for the thrill of wind in their feathers,” I joked. “They want to drive Ludie!”
I looked to Kika, hoping she shared my excitement, but she did not acknowledge my desperate attempts to override her irrational attachment to Vallanzasca.
We reached Florence in silence. Florence, a city built for pedestrians. If the sour mood wasn’t mad enough, the city’s labyrinthine streets and narrow passages only made it worse. GPS could only do so much. Missing one turn meant circling three quarters of the city and navigating its one-way streets.
Somehow, we ended up in the middle of Piazza Santa Croce, with scaffolding and stage ready for the historic Florentine calcio football match with our jars of honey rattling in the trunk. We were completely lost. We fumbled for the road and braved cobblestones. Kika innocently asked local cops for help as we violated several traffic regulations right under their noses. Finally, with a good dose of reverse and reaffirmed camaraderie, Kika and I arrived.
We parked, unloaded our baggage for the last time before our wedding, and were happy to say goodbye to the car for a week.
“Goodbye, Ludie,” Kika said. I felt even happier.