This past July, five guys headed to the very top of Italy with a very simple purpose. We wanted to travel the entire length of Italy in 10 days—no defined routes, no booked hotels or reservations. We were completely reliant on 1 guy, Peter Bragiel, who had been learning to speak Italian with Rosetta Stone. What transpired was grueling, but truly a once in a lifetime experience. We documented every step of our 20 hour days for the branded campaign “Avventura Down the Boot. A Language Learning Journey“, posting daily photos and videos. The entire campaign went off shockingly smoothly, but a few moments were anything but.
The first major near catastrophe came about 2/3 the way through the trip, somewhere between the majestic medieval town of Pacentro and the decidedly uninspiring port city of Bari. Or what I’ve dubbed “the Baltimore of Italy.”
At this point in the trip, we’d all started to wear down and ended up starting out late on an overcast drizzly morning. Not knowing what exactly to expect in Bari, we were doing our best to capture some scenic driving shots. But the ancient ruins and snowcapped mountains had been replaced by mile after… well I guess kilometer after kilometer of barren fields, rain-soaked haystacks, and convenience stores. Suddenly, we emerged from a tunnel and crossed a beautiful suspension bridge. Certainly not the greatest view but at least it was something. We immediately veered off the road; our Vespa and 2 cars so precariously close to speeding tractor trailers, our cars shook when they slammed past. Cameras were snapped together, GoPros were attached, and our Phantom drone had lifted off.
No sooner had this happened, then the local Carabinieri pulled up behind us and they were not amused. 2 officers stepped out of the car, hands resting on gun grips, and angrily shouted at us in a way that seemed WAY out of proportion than whatever we’d somehow done wrong.
After a quick volley of poorly understood questions, we pieced together that we’d pulled off only a few yards away from an official SOS pull-off area. But, in a Keyser Soze reveal moment, we quickly figured out the real problem… A bunch of foreigners, with lots of cameras, holding bundles of wires and oversized batteries, showing far too much interest in a bridge and tunnel. Real panic set in when we thought about the fact that we had a drone hovering literally mere feet over there heads, whining like a weed-whacker. We looked at each other completely agast, silently saying “they have to hear that right???”, knowing that there was zero chance we wouldn’t be carted off to the station if they noticed the hi-tech flying camera.
Their anger and agitation still in full effect, the officers sent us each to our cars for our passports, where Mike, the drone operator, managed to nudge the remote, blasting the drone straight skyward where it stayed, giving us 10 uninterrupted minutes of static footage of that time the Italian police thought we were terrorists. Now the only fear we had was what would happen if the drone batteries ran out. In the end, we were sent on our way unscathed and that was the last run in with the Carabinieri… until the next day.