see, in italy, they use LIRA

July 16, 2008

This one time, when I was in Italy . . .

Actually, really, this one time, when I was in Italy with Kim and her Dad, and her brother John, and her sister Shelle and Shelle’s husband Rick. We were there to ski.

We’d been there for several days, skiing very cool stuff from Alagna, up on the Monte Rosa, and down into Zermatt, and back, mostly backcountry stuff, adventure skiing, from glaciers to couloirs. We had one more day to do something extra cool, but Kim’s Dad, Kim, and Shelle were wanting to get down to Florence, buy some clothes (Shelle), see some art (Kim), and eat some ice cream (Senior). So they took one of the rented cars down from Alagna (north of Milan) to Florence.

That left me, Rick, and John jr. to do the couloir rick said he’d “been waiting his whole life to ski.” And, um, I forget the name. But we took 3 trams up, then a snowcat another 30 min up, then downclimbed a small cliff, then traversed a huge bowl, then downclimbed a much larger cliff, then skied an incredible powder-filled 50 degree chute down to the valley, followed by fast, rolling spring snow to the village.

But you know, that’s not what today’s post is about. I just wanted to explain why I was in Italy.

After our awesome Friday, we cleaned up, and piled into the second rental car, and started driving. It’s several hours from Alagna to Florence, and none of us had ever driven in Italy before. I’m here to tell you, it’s CRAZY.

Rick and I did most of the driving, cuz John was young and wasn’t on the rental agreement. But as we approached Florence, Rick and I, being old, got very tired, the hour grew late, and John jr. LOVES driving, so we gave him the wheel for the final leg. And then put on blinders. John jr. is as crazy as the Italians.

Now we’re driving through Florence, looking for our hotel. It’s late, dark, and we have no idea where we’re going. John jr. is driving, I’m shotgun with the map, and Rick is trying to keep from crapping his pants in the back (did I mention John jr. was driving?).

We circle the streets of Florence for what seems like hours, but was probably only an hour or so, and we’re pretty frustrated. Out of the blue, Rick yells “I see it! I see it!” and points to the right, and a little behind us. John instinctively turns sharply left, to go back the way we came. Right into a weird traffic lane which is, unfortunately One Way. And not OUR way.

Scream, skid, smash. We broadside a little Italian car carrying a little Italian man. A JOLLY little Italian man who also happens to be a lawyer who speaks perfect English.

But before we get out of the car to meet the jolly little man, John jr. turns to me and says “Dude! I’m not on the insurance. YOU have to be the driver!”

And before I can stop myself, I say “Um, Okay. Sure.”

Then the cops show up and it’s too late to change my mind. They’re like the Keystone Cops. One man, one woman, both little, the woman is in charge. I tell her what happened, as if I’M the driver. She nods. She does NOT smile. She speaks very little English. The little Italian lawyer man helps translate. He is clearly very excited about the new car he will be getting. Once he saw we were Americans driving a fully insured rental car, any potential animosity disappeared. We were his new best friends.

After the diminutive police woman took my license for examination, the little lawyer man pulled me aside and said “You should tell her you were trying to turn around, the fine will be less.” The FINE? We have to pay a fine? Yes, yes we do. Cash. Now. Is this a good time to mention I have about $3 and change in my pocket?

Attracted by the bright lights and sirens, Kim, her Dad, and Shelle wander by on their way back to the hotel from dinner. Imagine their surprise. And my relief, since Kim’s dad is SURE to have enough cash for the fine.

The woman cop comes back, and informs us that the fine will be about TEN TRILLIAN LIRA! (a couple hundred dollars). The little Italian Lawyer man pulls me aside and says “I miss-spoke earlier–you need to tell her that you were coming from the OTHER direction, and THEN the fine will be less.”

I look at Kim and her Dad–they shrug. Rick shrugs. I shrug. Wearily I turn to the little Italian woman cop and say, in my stupidest voice, “Hey, I’m really sorry for messing up my story earlier. Actually, I’m an idiot. I was REALLY coming from THAT direction. Ha Ha! Erp.”

The lawyer man sort of translates, obviously apologizing that she has to deal with the likes of me, the worst sort of American tourist. He turns and winks at me. She looks at me. She looks at the lawyer man. She looks back at me. She shrugs. My fine is now a mere FIVE TRILLIAN LIRA (somewhat less than a couple hundred dollars). Kim’s dad pays the fine. We get something like twelve copies of an elaborate receipt. The Italian Cop Woman keeps my drivers license. I have no idea how they intend to get it back to me (I never see it again). I only want to get away from these crazy people as fast as I can.

I’m pretty sure they feel exactly the same way. But more so. Except the little lawyer man. HE wants to take us all to dinner.

And that was just my FIRST ski trip to Italy. There were others, including the infamous red purse, a bomb scare in the Paris airport, lost ski boots, very angry restaurant proprietors throwing dishes, and the best food I’ve ever eaten in my life.

We’ll get to those.


3 Responses to “see, in italy, they use LIRA”

  1. tonks Says:

    Those Italians are psycho drivers and your run-in w/the carabinieri is priceless! Great story!

    I’ll have to tell you & Kim about when I took students to Europe several times, and some of the crazy Italian bus drivers we ended up with. And the time I had to drive from Florence to Paris and it took us three different rental cars to get there…good times!

  2. kim Says:

    aww. . .isn’t dug sweet. I’m sure Rick would have done the same if he was riding shotgun. Right Rick?


  3. Rick S. Says:

    See, here’s the thing. At the time, my license had a really good pic of me (with hair). I would have hated to give that up.

    Did Dug mention that EVERYONE in Italy wears black or grey? To make this worse, we are in our bright blue, red, and yellow ski jackets.

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