The Italy trip saga continues…
Being hopeless romantics, N. and I had reserved our Tuscany stay at a local farm in Montepulciano, a 1.5-hour-drive from Florence. I had downloaded a GPS program on my phone for direction, prepaid for our rental car, and figured we were all set for a scenic drive between vineyards. Ha ha ha. Right.
First of all, we drive automatics here in the States. Apparently, people drive manuals there in Italy. The only manual-car-driving experience N. had had was in a parking lot with our friend Will for a few hours ONCE. I had never driven manuals at all. We dutifully took instructions from a kind Italian man in the Florence parking lot. The only Italian word we recognized from my piano-playing experience was, well, “Piano.” I expertly said to N. “I think that means “Soft.”” (It doesn’t. It means “slow” and “level.”). But whatever, he pressed ever so slightly on the gas, as I whispered “Piano, piano, piano,” and onward we went. N. could drive forward, backward, and stop with no problem. But occasionally when he stopped, he wouldn’t be able to start again very quickly. And we would “stall” at every red light, while impatient Italian drivers honked at us.
I should probably also mention that for various reasons, we did not manage to leave Florence until 10 PM. By then, my phone, along with its handy dandy GPS system, had ran out of battery and died. Ok, no problem, I bought maps. But do you have any idea how bad I am at reading maps? Terrible. And do you know which language these maps were in? Italian. And do you know what else happened at 10 PM? Darkness. It wasn’t so bad inside Florence or on the autostrada, but once we were in the countryside, it was complete and utter darkness.
So there you have it – him on his first stick-shift car, me with my Italian maps, in a country we had never visited. And whoever told you that “It is always darkest before dawn” failed to mention that actually, it is always darkest just before it goes… pitch black.
The drive was supposed to be 1.5 hours in the beautiful Tuscan countryside. I am sure it was gorgeous, but I wouldn’t be able to tell. And roughly 4.5 hours later (yes, it’s now 2:30 AM), we were still driving. My maps were getting rather useless, because there were no road signs for small streets between vineyards, at least not visible ones. Instead, there were fields and fields and fields for as far as I could see. And there was no one around to ask for help.
And then our car stopped. On a hill. And we couldn’t figure out how to start it again. And then it began to roll backwards. Did I mention the hill? Forget about “Piano.” We slammed on every pedal. The good news was that we were completely alone, so it was not as though we could run someone over. The bad news was that we were very slowly rolling backwards. It was only at the bottom of the hill that we got the momentum to start it again.
By around 3 AM, we were driving slowly along random roads, looking for every invisible sign, and stalling every time we stopped. And the local police pulled us over.
“Are you OK?” They asked. “You look like you are in trouble!”
I was so happy two human beings found us that I almost collapsed into the police’s arms. For all I cared, they could have put us in jail and it would still be better than this. At least in jail, there would be toilets.
But these were two of the nicest policemen. They did not know where our farm was located either, but they proceeded to radio their entire station, and they both got on their cell phones making various calls for directions. They then attempted to give me directions in a mixture of Italian and English. But they suddenly stopped and stared. I could see the unspoken thoughts running through their eyes – the realization that “these two dumbasses would never make it on their own.”
And so out of the kindness of their hearts, they declared the best 4 words I have ever heard, “We will take you!” to which we eagerly responded, “Amen.”
This is the part where N. proceeded to stall the car a few more times in front of the police (they kindly laughed), as they escorted us with blazing light and siren through the peaceful Tuscan country side at 3 AM. Yes, we are special :-). Thank you, thank you, thank you, Montepulciano police.
There is a happy ending. We arrived at the most gorgeous place I have ever stayed in, with a beautiful rustic bedroom, a Tuscan kitchen with olive oil, a living room with fresh flowers, and windows that opened onto hills and vineyards.
As our heads finally hit the pillows, N. said to me, “I cannot believe we just did that.” I smiled as I fell asleep in his arms, knowing that I would have gone with him anywhere – in travel or in life.
For previous Italy Trip Reports, click here:
Four Coins in the Fountain
Under the Tuscan Sun