Seven years ago, I went to Italy for the very first time and fell in love with the country. When my husband’s friend decided to get married in Italy, we were thrilled to have the opportunity to return. (Thank goodness for air miles…otherwise, we could not have done it.) Sadly, this trip turned out to be quite frustrating. Given our experiences, I thought I would share so that you can avoid the same mishaps.
It all started in Rome when we went to the rental car company at the train station. We used Auto Europa (not to be confused with Europe Car) because they offered the best deal for an automatic car, which is hard to come by in Italy. We decided not to take the train because the last time a friend got married in Italy, there was a train strike, which happens often. Since we had to be at the wedding, we did not want to take our chances. Anyhow, we arrive at the train station to find it took them 30 minutes to help each person in front of us, causing us to wait over 2 hours for our car.
When we got to the front of the rental car line, they said they did not have our reservation. We made the mistake of not printing the reservation and only had the reservation number. They claimed this number was only a confirmation that we made the reservation but not a confirmation of the reservation. Huh!? Apparently, they sent us an email that the “real” confirmation comes after we paid online….but we never got such an email. (Who ever heard of two types of confirmations!?) The bad news was they had no automatic cars left, but they did have a manual…for a lot more money than our original reservation. Since my husband had driven a manual over 15 years ago, we thought this was better than nothing. Besides, the line for train tickets would have delayed us another 2 hours.
We drove our way through Tuscany and decided to make a quick stop in Lucca to eat. While backing up in the parking lot, we hit another car. We think the woman raced to get behind us because she did not want to wait for us to finish moving out of the way. After all, she came out of nowhere. Once the cops arrived, she claimed to be injured and called the ambulance. It was so obvious she was lying, even the cops laughed as the ambulance took her away. They said not to worry because of insurance. (Thank you, American Express!) By the hair of our chinny-chin-chin, we made it to the “night before dinner.” Too bad we rushed because they started two hours late.
The wedding was lovely. Lots of food. Great views. Fun Europeans.
We later make our way to Florence. While we printed all reservation information for this trip, we seem to have missed (or lost) the printout for our hotel here. Big mistake because it turned out this hotel said we never made a reservation. What?! We remember getting the confirmation email. Since this was the middle of the summer in Tuscany, we had to hunt around for hotels and had to stay in two different ones during our time in Florence. Minor annoyance, yes, but considering all the other ridiculousness we had to deal with, this was not ideal.
The other issue we ran across was getting lost. We decided to save money on the GPS and instead printed out our driving directions using Google Maps, but this system is for driving the American way. Have you ever tried to give directions to a European in the US? They get confused by all the highway numbers. Why? Because even though Europe has highway numbers, all road signs only refer to the direction of the next major city rather than the actual highway number/name (which is how Google Maps provides directions).
Being the planner that I am, it was frustrating to go through this. We thought we were so prepared! While writing this blog, I see that none of these incidents seem like a big deal, but when on the vacation and trying to relax but facing 3-4 hours of annoyances almost every day really puts a damper on trying to relax.
Anyhow, all experiences in life teach us lessons…big or small. What are the lessons from this experience? If I had to do it all over again, I would have:
- Triple checked reservations
- Made sure we printed ALL reservations
- Purchased an international GPS to bring for any rental car anywhere in the world
- Had an itinerary that is less packed to account for the “Italian way” of no schedules and everything being late
As for the train – that’s a tough call. It would be terrible to show up with hotels reserved in various cities knowing you can’t get to them because of a train strike, but it would also be frustrating to pay a lot of money for a rental car and all the adventure that comes with that. I guess you have to decide what is most important to you.
We did see some beautiful places, and I would probably go back…..but I need a break for now. If anything, I now have a new appreciation for staying put for a while and enjoying the many summer activities New York has to offer.
Before I put this blog to a close, I want to send a huge thank you to the Hotel Lancelot
in Rome. We stayed there our first night and last night in Italy, and they were unbelievably helpful and gracious. When we told them what happened on our vacation, they said we should have called them. They could have helped us deal with the rental car and even loaned us a GPS. Additionally, they sent a bottle of prosecco