Driving Adventures in Italy: Part II

It is 5 p.m. Italy time, and I am delighted to say that I drove from Barga to neighboring Gallicano and back this afternoon and incurred neither damage to the car NOR a massive fine, which, when it comes to my 2015 driving experiences in Italy, makes today a whopping success.

Yesterday, Saturday, started out smoothly enough, driving-wise: Dave and I managed to get to the Pisa airport in plenty of time to fetch Elizabeth. (It helped that her plane was nearly two hours late.)

dave and e at il ciocco patio

Look who Dave and I found at the airport! (This picture was taken at il Ciocco, not at the airport.)

We even found a place in the parking garage. And when the automated ticket-paying machine failed to work, we were able to find a real, live person in a ticket booth, who was only too happy to collect our €3 parking fee.

My mistake was that I failed to realize that the broken ticket-paying machine was an omen. My next mistake was to get into the automated ticket lineup when we got off the highway in Lucca en route to Barga.

There were three cars ahead of us, and the line did not move. About 12 cars went through the booth next to us in the time it took us to move forward one car length.

I could have backed up. I actually did back up, but when an official from a neighboring booth came to help the person in the car that was stalled in the booth, I thought, “Well, this appears to be the only line for non-transit-pass holders, so I’d better stay here.”

When my turn came, I put my ticket into the ticket slot, and nothing happened. I wiggled the ticket this way and that. I tried putting it in at a slightly different angle, but the machine refused to accept it. Meanwhile, two unfortunate drivers had pulled up behind me, so I was well and truly stuck.

I kept fussing with the machine, and eventually a dollar (Euro) amount appeared on the screen: €60. I thought to myself, “There is no way it could cost 60 Euros to drive the 19 km from Pisa to Lucca.”

Then the machine spit out a foot-long receipt, and sure enough, the amount read €60. I was floored, but the gate had finally opened, and I had to get out of there. I pulled through and parked on the side of the road. Leaving Dave and Elizabeth in the car, I went to the office to ask what was going on.

However, this being Italy, the man in the office didn’t speak English. I point this out not because I feel he should have, but because I am fully aware that I am at a disadvantage by not speaking the language of this country. If I keep coming back here, I need to learn remedy that. Two of my closest friends are Italian-speakers. I am going to start hitting them up for Italian lessons.

In the meantime, though, I needed to understand why I was expected to pay €60, and he couldn’t help.

I finally found out when we arrived at il Ciocco, the site of Dave’s conference. The desk clerk explained that I was being charged the full amount to drive from one end of the highway to the other, because I hadn’t paid anything.

She also said that I have to go to the closest office of Punto Blu, the telepass-Italy people, and plead my case. According to her, the closest office is on the way to Pisa. Which means I get to drive back on the same highway and risk the same thing happening again.

The desk clerk also made it clear that my situation isn’t unusual; the broken machines are a problem. That doesn’t make me feel any better.

Stay tuned….


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