Macchina is another word Italians use when referring to their car. Sure, they say auto too, but most people seemed to use the word macchina (MAK-eena). Even in the Godfather, when Michael tells Fabrizio to get the car (just before Apollonia gets blown up), he uses the word macchina. Macchina also means machine. Sure. Makes sense. You have to examine the Italian psyche to figure out why they think of their vehicles as machines.
I think of how they drive. With abandon. Seemingly fearless, not afraid to die. They will pass you on a blind curve with a cliff on one side and nothing on the other. They will pass you on a straightaway but wait until there is a car in the opposite oncoming lane so they can pass in between both cars. Towns like Naples or Bari don't have stop lights where you think they'd be, and even when there is a red light, the driver commands his machine to ignore it--and the cross traffic.
Is it bravado? Is it too much wine? Perhaps it's just that they trust their car more... their macchina. Think of the expression "a well oiled machine". Consider the Italian race driver who trusts his car more than his wife. Consider the little, treroute (three-wheeler) which is seen hauling everything from grapes to cement to olives to hay to furniture or cases of wine. The slow-poked three wheeler will be seen on unpaved farm paths, the streets of Rome, and even the Autostrada. It might be taking a bride to her wedding, hauling trash or rigged out to sell gelati.
Then you have the tiny cars... the CinqueCento (Fiat 500), the Pandas, the Puntas, the Smart ForTwo and those one person cycle-cars. Americans buy cars because of the emotional feeling it gives them... cars gives us a persona. Not the Italian driver. He is more practical, seeing his vehicle as a machine--macchina--a tool to get things done. Sometimes la macchina does specific tasks, other times more like a multi-tool or a Swiss Army knife--the treroute again. Small means you can park anywhere--literally--anywhere. Small means you can drive down the white line like a scooter. Small means you'll never get stuck in a ultra-narrow street in a small village. Small means you can have a parking space in your home, even if it's a tiny little platform hanging over the edge of a cliff--or on your roof, or in a small cave (I saw all three types on the Amalfi Coast.) One was a concrete pad hanging over thin air with barely enough space to fit a teeny Fiat Panda with the sea below. Check out the photo on the left.
Paul Simon sings, "Cars are cars. All over the world." Not so, Paul. Not so. In Italy they are machines. Tools. Macchine. Even the Pope has his PopeMobile... a very specialized tool.
P.S. If you like what you've read, please LIKE us on Facebook and SHARE us with your friends who might also be interested. Grazie!