Travel: An Alfa Summer Affair Pt. 2: A Threesome, No Room for 4

An Alfa Summer Affair Pt. 2: A Threesome, No Room for 4

Afshin Behnia By Afshin Behnia
November 1, 2012
0 comments

(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.)

Three months had passed since my night with Ludovica Fiorini. Plagued by torturous desire and frustrated with the long distance affair, I knew I had to see her again. It was time for another trip to Milan.

I was hoping that being Italy in May would give us the chance to rekindle our relationship. But this time it would be more complicated.  There are only a few precious secrets you can take to the grave. Ludie wasn’t cut out to be one of them. I knew I couldn’t contain her, or her twin cam engine.

It was time for Kika, my soon-to-be wife, to meet Ludie—to meet that punchy, yellow-ochre 1968 Alfa Romeo GTV I so lusted after. It was time for Kika to know about my private obsession, to be introduced to my impulse buy.

I wanted to be forthright, open, and honest.  After all, Kika and I were going to tie the knot in just a few weeks in Florence. I wanted to take Ludie, down from Milan, but I worried how Kika would react when she saw the object of my desire so garishly displayed in front of her all metal and trim?

I would have to wait to find out. First I had to see Ludie, and I had to see her on my own. I needed an excuse, and it took about a week to develop one.  Planning a special spa day for Kika would work nicely.

Ludie was parked in an attended garage: the result of a hasty decision. Images of her parked alongside countless other cars of inferior makes and models haunted me. I didn’t want her treated like the masses by an attendant who couldn’t possibly understand or appreciate what she meant to me. I had to get her out of that place.

During the first half of the drive to her new home, I was in heaven.  Ludie’s engine fired and purred. I decided to forgo the teeth-gnashing first gear option and started out in second. Her imitation wood grain winked and glimmered. Ludie was a sport. She had plenty of torque. Smooth as silk at idle. And she responded quite well to firm requests made through her manual steering.

But heaven wasn’t meant for me. Or for my Ludie. Not yet. Soon, Ludie was on just three cylinders until another one crashed and burned. I was barely getting any power out of her engine. I hobbled her to the box and parked.

First, I was irate. I imagined that greasy parking attendant taking my Ludie out for a joyride.  His grimy thumbs all over her, his sweaty palms shifting her gears, his dirty feet jabbing her clutch or pumping her brakes—mistreating her or worse—driving her how she had always wanted to be driven!

Quickly I reassured myself that Ludie wasn’t like that. She was a good girl who gave me all she had as she faithfully drove me to Milan last January. Still, worried about our upcoming wedding trip, I called fellow Alfisti Domenico Pepe to locate a good mechanic. Domenico not only gave me his best recommendation, he was personally interested in and vested in coming out to ensure Ludie would be OK. His generosity was humbling and his enthusiasm contagious.

On arrival, Franco Nani’s shop looked like my worst nightmare. It was new. And had new cars in it. Stacks of new economy cars that typically spoil the streets of Milan: late model Volkswagen Golfs, Lancia Ypsilons, and Priuses made my stomach turn. If Ludie wasn’t still hobbling, I certainly would have bolted.

Luckily, Franco gave us a tour of his pet projects: an orange Alfa Romeo Montreal (first introduced as a concept car in 1967 and designed by the great Marcello Gandini at Bertone), a 1971 Corvette Stingray, a 1956 Lancia pick up, and a small stash of Cinquecentos to restore.  Franco Nani put my mind at ease. Even better, Franco understood my anxiety.

I politely explained to him that I needed the car for a road trip to our upcoming wedding in Florence. His hard working hands and splintered nails knew the importance of a holiday, and he made a solemn promise to have the car ready in time, but that meant Franco had only three days to discover the issues and to complete the fixes. Was it foolish of me to trust him? Italians aren’t exactly known for their promptness, especially not when it comes to work. Would he be able to forgo the espresso breaks and the traditional pisolino afternoon naps?

I had my doubts.

The next day, Franco called me with the prognosis. I rushed to the computer to translate technical words in Italian. Bobina? . . . Starter coil! Sterzo? . . . Steering! Avviamento? . . . Starter motor! The verdict? Two cylinders dead, valves fouled, and a distributor that needed to be changed.

To my amazement, Franco worked extremely diligently and with amazing speed. Domenico Pepe procured hard to find parts. I bit my nails. The spirit of Alfismo was alive and Franco’s promise was good. Ludie was ready to go in just under three days!

Relief and fear washed over me. It was time to introduce Kika to Ludie, but I wasn’t sure whether to feel apologetic or proud.

Still, I tried to convince myself that it was ideal timing. What would be better than late Milanese spring? The days leading up to our wedding in Florence would be perfect, I told myself. Kika would be in a great mood days before the celebration, and Ludie looked lovely in springtime colors.

So we went to see Ludie. I fumbled with lock box with nervous fingers, turned eagerly to see Kika’s reaction. I think there were about twenty, which ranged from surprise, lust, desire, horror, intrigue, fear and maybe even a hint of envy—locked within microseconds.

I could see a history of childhood summer vacations pass across her face and she breathed in the aged perfume of its interior. She was transported to her early youth and trembled with a sense of impending adventure. I could tell that she dismissed memories of being let down so many times in the past, stranded in the middle of nowhere. She hardly stopped to think of the time her mother had to coast down Italian Alps in neutral. She was hooked. I was elated. Until…

Until she turned to me dreamily, almost lustfully, and said, “Let’s call him Vallanzasca.”

VALLANZASCA??? No! This was my Ludie! What in the world gave her the right to trespass on my teenage fantasy? Vallanzasca?!? The Milanese mobster and local celebrity? The quintessential bad boy heart throb for every girl born in the 1950s or later? The horror of horrors. Never had I imagined a reaction so perverse!

Join the Conversation
Related

Leave a Reply