God sometimes gives us unexpected gifts. Our gift has been a grandson who enlivens our lives and makes retirement very different than the one we anticipated. He is a special joy. And that's "Casey." In 2006 we fulfilled our dream of living in Italy for a year. It was every bit as wonderful as anticipated. This blog begins in 2005 as we prepared for that experience. Since then we have explored many places together. That's the "Travel." And finally, I am a person of opinions--spiritually, politically, on just about anything and that's the "Other Stuff." Welcome to my blog.

Sunday, January 28, 2007

How to Part With €198 or $256

Driving in Florence--or Avoid Driving in Florence
Tomorrow, Monday, we drive into the outskirts of Florence to one of Italy’s huge grocery stores where we can buy anything from a new printer to 200 types of cheese to fresh eel.

We will drive to the store because:
  1. We know how to get there.
  2. There are no one way streets or pedestrian or resident only streets between here and there.
  3. There is a large, free underground parking structure.
  4. We don't go on a toll road.

Tuesday we will take SITA into Florence's centro storico—SITA is the usually comfortable, always on time, streamlined, dependable bus system that services big towns and little villages of Tuscany. We do not drive into Florence unless we can stay on the Oltroarno side—there we know how to safely get to our parking lot of choice--or when we take Casey to the orthodontist which is not in the centro storico.

Florence is a city of cameras--not just those carried by tourists. The city has hidden them everywhere--who knows how many candid shots of each and every tourist are on file somewhere. These evil eyes will without fail snap your vehicle license if you are on a street you should not be on--and since these seem to arbitrarily change mid-block, you will get caught.

Unfortunately, you will not know you did anything wrong until 6 weeks later when a ticket arrives in the mail (or you find a charge on your visa bill if you were using a rental car). You will then learn that you have been fined €82 for being somewhere you should not have been (figuring out exactly where that was will probably be difficult.) If you live here, you will take your ticket to the local customer friendly post office and pay the fine--in Italy, everything is paid at the post office.

So far, we have received two of these mail surprises for a total outlay of €164/$211.88. The only consolation being that born and bred Italians are as mystified as we are about how to "drive" Florence and they get their share of tickets, too.

Autostrada Nightmare

In the future we will be exceedingly careful with the ticket from the A1 toll both. It is expensive to drive the autostrada under any circumstances, but, try losing your ticket to learn just how expensive it can be. In our humanitarian effort of 2007, we have experientially researched this question in order to share the knowledge with you.

After almost having a toll ticket float out the window one day, we learned to always put the ticket in a very secure little nook on the front of the dash board. And that is where Ken insisted he put it as we drove to the booth at Valdichiana on our way to Montepulciano. But--it wasn't there.

Pulling over to the side of the far lane, we casually looked on the floor and under the seats, sure the ticket had simply fallen out of its little perch. When we didn't find it quickly, we began the process of tearing the car apart--still certain that it had to be somewhere--we hadn't even had the windows open during the drive. After 10 minutes of frenetic searching, we faced the fact that it just didn't exist anymore--maybe it never had. Did Ken just push the button and neglect the ticket-but the arm wouldn't have gone up then. Did it drop on the ground when he took it? Was he imagining putting it in "the nook?" Whatever--we were now facing the toll both without a ticket.

Ken walked to one of the booths--which amazingly had no cars in line--and communicated using his limited Italiano to the toll taker with limited inglese our predicament. The very nice man told him to pull the car up to the booth. He then charged the toll amount it would have been from the point we entered the A1 to that gate. Then--he gave us a long form that in reality was a ticket for having lost our ticket.

The fine was the toll cost from Milan to the Valdichiana. So-- Ken made another trip to the post office--where we are now known for more than buying stamps. And--the next day he discovered the home of our lost ticket--it is lodged somewhere in the heater vents. We can hear it fluttering around, making an aggravating sound while it reminds us of €34/$43.92 lost.

I wonder if we can get our money back?

1 comment:

Cath said...

I can sympathise. My husband recently got a 60 euro fine for driving his motorino in the bus lane. OK. The fine arrived 8 weeks after the event. During those 8 weeks, blissfully unaware of the offence, he had driven down the same bus lane at least three times. We're just waiting for them to pop through the post!