Many years ago on a balmy Saturday night in July, my friends Gianni, Luigi, Maria Teresa, Carla and I set out to find ourselves a little taste of the rock ‘n roll life.
The only one over 21 with a driver’s license and car was Gianni. His car was a FIAT 500–more motorized roller skate than car if you go by today’s standards. It was a 60’s-something model with no room for passengers and a ride like a lumber wagon.
But what did we care? The five of us were dressed to kill and on our way to a big city nightclub for an evening of adult entertainment. At the time, Italian law had no set minimum legal drinking age. If people were tall enough to reach the top of the bar and had money to buy drinks, they could order whatever they wanted. We definitely qualified.
Four of us were handicapped by our midnight curfew, and Gianni had promised to drive his grandma to the 5 a.m. mass the next day, so we set out quite early for the hills of Verona, about 30 miles from our hometown.
The boys sat up front as handsome as could be expected in the suits they had outgrown by at least a year or two. The three of us girls squeezed into the back seat with our puffy taffeta skirts, teased hair, double dose of make up, and huffy tempers. In the close quarters fumes from all our perfume were enough to make a bee sneeze.
The nightclub had a simple name, but one which I’ve long forgotten–something like Le Capannine. We reached our destination so early we were the first customers to arrive that night. We sat on low comfy chairs set around a table with a view of the town below. Even the band had yet to show up, and the camerieri dressed all in black looked at us like we were little more than pesky mosquitoes too annoying to serve.
We didn’t care. My older brother’s girlfriend had told me to order a Negroni. She said it was THE drink du jour. So I did, and the quartet followed my lead. The cocktails, reddish due to the sweet vermouth, Campari and gin, with slices of fresh orange and lots of ice, were served in tall glasses. Maria Teresa gulped hers straight down and choked on the orange slice. We each had only enough money for one drink, so she spent the rest of the evening sucking on the ice. Finally around 9:30 the band started to play. Tables began to fill up with much older, more sophisticated people, mostly couples. Bottles popped. People danced. We just sat and stared.
No one asked us to dance, so around 11 o’clock we left, piled back into the ridiculous FIAT 500, and headed home. It was very quiet in the car. Our disappointment was almost tangible. But, hey, it wasn’t a total loss. We went to a real nightclub in a big city. That entitled us to bragging rights for at least a week.
The pitiful Fiat died somewhere between Montecchio Maggiore and Valdagno. It was 11:30, and there wasn’t a soul around. In total darkness, surrounded by fields of wheat with no sound but the chirping of crickets, panic percolated our mood. Hope in the form of dim light flickered in the distance. We decided to push the car there. After about twenty minutes we gave up, left the Fiat on the side of the road and walked the rest of the way to what turned out to be a farmhouse.
I’ll skip the details on how hard it was to convince the farmer to even open the door much less let us borrow his bicycles. He only gave in after we agreed to leave the Fiat, its keys, and Gianni’s driver’s license to guaranty we would bring back the bikes.
There were three bikes. Maria Teresa took one, and the four of us went tandem on the other two with the boys up on their legs pedaling and the two of us girls perched on the hard bike seats holding on for dear life as we bounced all over the rocky back roads. Carla lost one of her new high-heeled sandals. Gianni was tired and fed up and refused to go back for it. That bike ride made the Fiat 500 seem like a limo.
We didn’t make it home until around 2:00 am. And, yes, you guessed it. Grounded. Except for Gianni of course.
I had a sore butt for days and my dress was pretty trashed. But we held our heads high, told everyone we had the time of our lives, were the life of the party, and that handsome men and beautiful women trampled over each other to dance with us.
“In order to preserve your self-respect, it is sometimes necessary to lie and cheat.” — Robert Byrne.