Some years ago I went skiing with some Italian friends. I flew to their home in Pisa and we drove north along the west coast of the country to Sestriere, at the triple juncture of Switzerland, France, and Italy, a lovely ski area.
The road we took went through the area of Genoa. This particular road is a high-speed limited access highway. Probably the A12 according to modern maps. In this section the coast is very steep, almost cliffs running down to the compact city of Genoa. One section of the road is particularly dramatic, an alternating sequence of bridges and tunnels through the steeply inclined terrain above Genoa.
Anyway, as we drove north we went through one of the longer tunnels. As we were in the middle of this particular tunnel I saw a sign that gave me a peculiar Alice in Wonderland sensation. The sign, a professionally executed one with all the hallmarks of the highway system, showed an outline of a cup of coffee, a little wisp of steam proceeding from its top. With the picture of the cup of coffee was the text, “A fine tunnel.”
Yes, I reflected for a moment, it is indeed a fine tunnel, but why have such a sign? Shortly thereafter I realized that I had read the sign in the wrong language. It was not praising the qualities of the tunnel in English but rather alerting tired drivers to the fact that there was a place to get a cup of coffee at the end of the tunnel (read it aloud as ‘ah feen-eh toon-nel’ to hear how it would sound to Italians).
My host, the driver of the car, and I laughed at my initial reaction. A fine tunnel, indeed!