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.
Also consider the even smaller macchine--scooters. I've seen priests, old ladies, 300+ pound men, cool teens and 30 something, chic businesswomen (texting as they drive) driving these things as if they were dirt track racers. The same holds true for 50cc mopeds... their high pitched whine can be heard racing teens all over Italy. But again, it's a macchina--a tool just the right size for the job. Going from point A to point B... a practical, cheap people mover.
And when you actually get someone with a proper supercar, stay clear! They will pass you faster than you can even notice them pulling up in your rear view mirror. EEeeeeooowww...
And you have to check out how the police pose proudly next to their own macchine. They keep them as neat and tidy as their pretty uniforms. And then just sit there as the supercar flashes past. It's perhaps a sign of respect. I never saw a caribiniari pull over a speeder--a very common sight here in the U.S. (I never really saw police doing much of anything except standing and talking to each other... and looking pretty, but that's another story.)
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.
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