15 Days Abroad - Odd and Amusing Tales from Italy [PART 1]
On the 23rd of June this year, my family and I departed from our home in the Pacific Northwest and took an over four-thousand mile plane trip to Rome, Italy. From there, we traveled across Northern and Southern Italy, granting me and my loved ones many amazing experiences and, well, interesting stories to tell.
These are the logs of our fifteen-day long journey across the country that, up until now, have been stored safely in my new journal, which I bought right in the streets of Florence. So please, sit back and relax as we delve into my crazy vacation in Italy.
We’ve finally arrived at FCO (Rome Airport) and are now getting off the plane and hopping onto a bus… which is about thirty feet away. Unlike the States, where every plane is basically guaranteed a gate to park, Italy’s airports have huge 777’s unloading right out the plane door and onto the pavement.
It’s not like I’m complaining, though; for the first time in my life I got to see the interior of a huge airplane engine from only forty-or-so feet away. Needless to say, looking at something like that is pretty impressive.
Oh, and by the way, Italy is hot. Coming from the Northwest where the temperature is about sixty-to-seventy degrees (°F), ninety-five degrees is putting a toll on me.
Let me sum up the day in six words:
Four hours. In a wrecked car.
That’s the time I spent trying to resist the urge of using up my mere 300 megabytes of data by browsing Reddit while waiting for Hertz phone support to connect us with a representative.
I want to capture today’s big screw-up from the start, so let’s begin right after breakfast:
My sister, my grandmother, and I, being fully packed and ready to leave our comfy Hilton stay for a hotel in Naples, were calmly waiting in our rooms, letting the hour pass by as my parents stood in line to receive a rental car.
After three, maybe four shows pass on the cable networks our hotel was broadcasting (by the way: Italian sitcoms are very dramatic compared to American shows), our mom calls us and requests that we be packed and ready to leave in few minutes, as they had finally gotten the car.
Right as we all check out of our rooms and enter the rental car, I knew something was wrong. Out of all the cars Hertz had in their big multi-story garage, they gave my mom and dad a stick-shift vehicle.
If you know anything about auto-transmission drivers using manual, you probably know where this is heading.
Around five minutes into our ride on the autostrada (Italy’s name for a highway), my family and I started noticing an unusual amount of smoke coming from the bottom of our car. Already occupied by the frustration of using a stick-shift, my parents didn’t start worrying until all of the cars gears stopped working - on a hill. We quickly parked right behind a bus stop, but at this point the smoke was more noticeable than ever, which basically confirmed for us that the transmission had been busted.
Thus began our second journey - one through the Italian menus and obnoxious hold music of the Hertz International Support Hotline. Fortunately, my dad knows a good amount of the language, and my grandmother had been born in Italy, so she is fluent in both Italian and English, allowing her to be our translator for the trip.
This so-called journey was a particularly long one, lasting a little less than four hours. Instead of waiting impatiently to get back on the road however, the car’s A/C and the chatter I engaged in with my family really made time fly by. Sure, we did miss out on a few attractions in Naples in the end, but I’m glad I still got to spent that lost time with my family.
Anyway, the representative we have been chatting back and forth with for the past few hours (through phone call and even text message, mind you) finally says that a taxi is on it’s way to take us back to the rental place, and that we should bring our luggage and the keys with us and that Hertz will have someone come and tow the van (note: if taking 7+ bags of luggage abroad, always ask for a big rental/taxi vehicle).
At this point, we have finally been freed from the broken rental Fiat (an Italian car brand which is very popular in Italy, no surprise there), and all was well; oh, except the lady from Hertz called us again and told us to wait inside the car because the tow truck driver needed the keys to the Fiat to move it.
First of all, if we had to stay in the car in the first place for another hour or so, why didn’t you tell us that instead of sending a taxi? Second of all, why would a tow truck driver need the keys to the vehicle in order to tow it? At least in the US, if you park in, let’s say, a firetruck lane and walk in to your local Walmart to get some soda, some tow truck driver isn’t going to just come up to you while your shopping and ask, “Excuse me, can you give me your keys so I can tow your truck to a car pound that’s thirty miles away because you parked in a fire lane?” Of course they wouldn’t do that, they’d just tow the dang car!
Don’t get me wrong, Italy is a beautiful, vibrant country, but I’m starting to think that a lot of the logic that I’ve learned in America doesn’t apply here in the slightest.
At that point, we were still screwed up from jet lag and we just told them that there is no way we were getting another taxi to move us back there. Fortunately my parents chose to spend an extra ~€600 on full vehicle coverage, which was easily weighed out by the ~€1000 in damages we might have had to pay without the extra protection. It didn’t even matter if someone wandering around on the same street broke into that Fiat, we were responsible for absolutely none of it, according to Hertz.
The final hurdle we had to get through before starting on our trip to Naples (for the second time) was the line in the Hertz building. The time was already around four o'clock, and the line was so long that the wait could have easily been another four hours or more. Luckily, the clerk who handed the keys over to my parents in the first place remembered us and heard our story, so he brought us to his garage office downstairs so we could get a new car.
She, like the support representative we talked to on the phone, oddly insisted that we take a trip back to the car by cab (using our own cash) and wait for the tow truck to arrive. My dad was arguing with her for a few minutes, which didn’t seem to be working. Seeing this, my nearly eighty-five year old grandmother rose from her seat outside the office and basically yelled at this lady about all the time of our’s that Hertz has wasted, and how the “key-retired-for-towing” rule was completely ridiculous. Eventually she let us rent an even bigger Ford free of charge (I believe, I’ll check with my parents when I can), because of the dissatisfaction of a sweet grandmother. And I’ll never forget what I was thinking right at that moment:
“My grandmother is awesome.”
Well, that’s all the stories I have time to publish for now! I actually have a pretty busy schedule this Summer, so I apologize, but this will have to be split into two or three parts, posted every Monday until I’m finished my work!
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Have a good day!
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