What would a day in Italy be for us without fiasco upon fiasco? Thankfully, I'm still smiling. In fact, I'm pretty damn happy. The town we are staying in -- Montepulciano -- is divine. High in the hills and much, much cooler than Rome. Sadly, the hill also poses a bit of a problem. All the great shops and trattorias are at the bottom and mom is a teeny bit nervous as we make our descent for dinner.
I digress. I should start at the beginning.
I returned from my fabulous foray to Trevi Foutain and the Pantheon (which I realize I have been referring to as the Parthenon for several days) and mom is a bit beside herself. I've been gone for two hours and she was sure I'd been raped and killed. I remind her I am an adult and perfectly capable of taking care of myself. She says she was about to call the police. I tell her she needs to stop reading the murder mystery she's got her nose buried in.
We grab the bags and get in the cab that Lady Ana calls for us. Meter has been running for a while and is already at 6 euro when we get in after hugs, kisses and a gift of a pair of mom's fabulous earrings to our hostess. We've stayed a bit later than planned to mail off the extra stuff we accumulated without our luggage. Okay, fine... we did a little shopping, too. But when we arrive at Mailboxes, Etc., we discover they are closed. That's the same result we had last night after I dragged the bag uphill for twenty minutes. We get in another cab to head to Termini Station.
That's when mom remembers that we were supposed to leave town early for a reason.
We were supposed to pick the car up in Chuisi by 12:30 PM when the Hertz location closes -- for the weekend. It's 10:00 AM and thing aren't looking good for the home team. I have her get in line for train tickets while I get on the phone to Hertz. No cars in Florence, and no other options near our destination. Awesome. Well, if all roads lead from Rome... one has to take us to Montepulciano.
Ding. Ding. Ding. We have a winner, and unfortunately, it won't be mom, who will probably have a heart attack when she finds out I'm driving us out of Rome. At least it's not on a Vespa! We jump in our third cab of the hour with a driver who is an absolute doll. He regales us with stories about a recent trip he took to America with his family. It was a shame to get to our destination so soon, as we were laughing and having a lovely time.
Which ended promptly when we arrived at Hertz.
The woman behind the counter clearly did not want to help us. She was miffed that mom had paid with her card and I would be driving. Though we had cleared this in the US when we made the booking, it was NOT ok now. We had also rented a GPS, and when I asked if she would show us how to operate it, she glared at me and said she already programmed it in English. Then she had mom sign the damage waiver before we looked at the car. Record scratch, not okay with me, so I asked her to stop. She looked at me and said something about how we were already breaking the rules and they don't have enough cars to go around. Ok, ok... I'll just go take a look. There was, of course, more damage -- including a major dent under the passenger door. Not a ding, a dent. I walked back into the store and asked her to change the other copy she had ripped off and stapled to our re opt for their records. She refused and told me she wasn't renting me the car. I kind of ran out the door with the keys, snapped a few pics, threw the luggage and mom in and pressed go.
Driving in Rome? That was nothing compared to all the other stuff we've experienced.
And the GPS was the best money spent on is trip. Until it died about 45 minutes away from our destination. We call Hertz emergency roadside assistance, which is busy. They say they will call us back. Emergency. Roadside. Assistance. We call the Hertz we picked the car up from, but since we don't understand Italian, we keep getting disconnected at the prompts. About eight times. We call the Hertz at the airport. Nothing. We finally get a call back from roadside assistance, who tell us the problem is the GPS, not the car. I discover later that isn't accurate, but it doesn't matter much. We will stop in Siena on Monday and get this sorted out before we head to the next town. We are hoping to ship stuff from there, too.
I won't be holding my breath on either account.
It isn't clear where we are supposed to go when we arrive in Montepulciano, but thanks to the directions we write down before the machine calls it quits and wonderfully marked roads, we DO actually arrive. Our new hostess is kind enough to meet us at the entrance to town and lead us through the winding back streets we never would have found on our own. There were flowers and a small birthday cake waiting for me when we arrived. I parked mom in the house with the luggage and went with Cinzia and her sister to park the car outside the city wall.
Mom and I set out when I return. Literally right next door is a very old winery, which we wander into, marveling at casks reaching far above our heads. The cellar is brick, with cobwebs hanging from the black candelabras on the ceiling and walls. There are barrels upon barrels, and the musty scent in the air is a mixture of dampness and wood. It is magnificent, and we are sad to be kicked out for a large tasting that they have scheduled, though happy to be invited back later. We stroll down the road and come upon a board with all kinds of posters advertising events. One, a flute concert, is happening tonight. Now, actually. As in it started about 15 minutes before we saw the sign. We move as quickly as we can straight up to the Piazza Ricci to an international music school. I'm following the sound of the music, and we make it in time to hear about six different pieces.
I learn another thing today. I love music. That I knew. I'm a big fan of violin, adore cello, can appreciate the piano, a saxophone or trumpet. I do not like the flute. Please forgive me if you are a flute player, but who the hell picks that as the instrument they want to build a career out of? In a symphony, okay. But solo? Blech...
We haven't eaten much today... a roll for breakfast, a bit of cheese and buffalo salami in the car, and a small snack -- mozzarella and prosciutto on crostini -- after the concert at a small bar overlooking the countryside. We have glasses of white wine and a birthday toast. Then we head to the main square and take some pics before the long descent to poke in shops and eventually grab an actual meal.
So we've come full circle. Mom's blogging tomorrow since I'm coming down with something. Vacation colds have summer colds bat, hands down. I think we plan to take it easy tomorrow. Sleep in.
If you read my post from this morning, you already know that sounds perfect to me.