Things don’t always go smoothly on vacation. But sometimes what goes wrong makes for the best memories. Enjoy my sister Lyn Purtz’s account:
So, Monday morning in Umbria. Did we mention it’s raining? The weather is odd. We have needed to layer every day. But we never un-layer. When it rains, the temperature seems to drop 20 degrees. We are chilled to the bone.
Market day is in Marsciano. Everywhere we drive we do not know where to park, but in Marsciano we find a place right in front of the market! Vendors are selling more fruit and vegetables than you can find in Whole Foods. There’s also sausages, salted fish, anchovies, cheeses. Food trucks with a roasted pig splayed out; the porchetta vendor slices off a hunk of meat and places it on a hard roll with a little salt.
The vendor trucks have awnings that pop up from the roof like an RV. They display their wares either on tables or risers that unfold out of the side of the truck.
A shoe vendor has about 150 boxes of shoes with one shoe displayed on top of the box. Bigger than some shoe stores. Pajamas, underwear, cashmere socks, sweaters, skirts, etc. etc. etc. We are in shoppers heaven! And then…I decide to take the packages to the car.
Whoops! What’s that green paper flapping on my windshield? A ticket. I put the items in the trunk, take the ticket off the car and head to find Barbara & Terry. Then we move the car…up a hill where the parking is free. And then we need to find the police station. We ask a tall man at the sausage stand for directions. Our lack of English doesn’t phase him at all but he gives up on our Italian. “Mama! Mama!” he calls to his mother in the sausage truck. “I’m taking these ladies to the police station,” and then he walks us all the way to the police station.
We follow him around curved streets, across piazzas and then to the government house that doesn’t have a sign outside. How were we to find this? “Sausage man” waves arrevaderci and leaves us there. All the Polizia are women dressed in severe black uniforms. But they are nice. They smile. They shake their heads in sympathy. They try to use our credit card for about 10 minutes before they shrug – “Allora!” – We pay the $28.00 ticket in cash. No one wants our credit cards, not even the police.
We decide to head to Perugia, about 15 miles west of Marsciano. We hike uphil to the town center to visit the wonderful Galleria Nazionale dell’Umbria – a museum that features six centuries of art and historic artifacts in chronological order. WOW! An elevator! We get into the elevator but it will only go to the 5th floor instead of the 3rd floor entrance. We take the elevator to the 5th floor and office workers rush out to tell us: The museum is closed. No reason why. It’s just closed.
We drive around the old town aimlessly lacking the incentive to walk in the rain and worried about our car. Since Day 2, our VW Tiguan flashed a symbol that we do not understand but does say that in 700 km if we do not add-blu the car will not start. Also, our GPS isn’t working correctly. We stopped at a gas station two days before to see what Ad-blu means: an additive to go in the car because it uses diesel. A man at the gas station we stopped at shrugs his shoulders when we ask about AdBlu so we call Eurocar, the rental company. We go to Eurocar and they try 3 GPS’s before they find a Tom-Tom that works, but they cannot put the AdBlu in. They send us to the airport in Perugia where someone speaks English and will take care of the additive.
But before we go to the airport…McDonald’s! Diet Coke with ice! A bakery and coffee bar inside. Clean restrooms with toilet paper AND hand dryers that work! But the crew works at the pace of Italy. Even though we are the only customers it takes about 15 minutes for a small hamburger and two pastries plus Diet Coke — which, in Italy, is Coke Light.
Refueled, we go looking for the tiny Perugia airport. This is difficult because our new Tom Tom works no better than the previous one. Tom Tom’s do not like hills. Or cities. Or water. Our little advisor does not advise “recalculating route.” Instead, the screen of death reads “GPS signal lost.” I swear the Tom Tom gets lost more than we do. We decide to just drive downhill away from the city centers of hill towns when leaving a town and uphill toward the duomo when arriving in a town. To get to the airport, we follow five camouflage-painted trucks full of soldiers downhill, out of town, while we look for signs that will point to an airport. We see one. No, really, we see one sign to the airport. Just one.
Our sister Terry goes into the airport, the Eurocar attendant shuts down the desk, and tells us to follow him in his car…for about 15 minutes…to a gas station. But the attendant and the Eurocar guy can’t figure out where to put the AdBlu. Under the hood? No! In the gas tank? No! Look for the manual in the car? No manual. Make a phone call. While making the phone call a big lorry pulls up. He needs AdBlu. We move our car away from the nozzled hose poking out of the back wall of the fuel station and let him fill up. Back to our quest for to find the hole in our car for the AdBlu. Where do we put the additive? Ohhhhh, in the trunk, under the carpet. Of course! Move everything in the trunk aside. Did I say we were shopping? AdBlu…who knew?
Relieved to be on the road again. Happy that the car will not stop unexpectedly (and we were told that YES it will stop without it).
How to end a lost day filled with travel mishaps and rain? How about a great dinner in Deruta at a Mom&Pop trattoria? Terry checks out Trip Advisor and comes up with a name. Tom Tom calms down and gets us to the tiny hole-in-the-wall on the first try. As we drive, the rain finally stops for the first time in six days. As I look to the left, a huge rainbow appears touching the hills in a perfect double arc. We see both ends of the rainbow as it shines in front of the mountain! Being Italy, there’s no pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just the incredible beauty of the green and dirt hills of Umbria.
We arrive at Osteria Il Borgetto in Durita and a gentleman our age greets us at the door with a welcoming smile and open arms. People in Umbria are so happy to serve you. Love this Place!
It’s been a long day of frustrations and fun. What else could go wrong? As we exit the freeway for the long drive around Marsciano, we turn the correct way towards town, we take the right turn on the rotary as we duck past cars trying to merge into our back seat, no drivers tailgate us an inch from our back bumper, no drivers bright us or honk the horn as we drive the speed limit, we take another rotary and make the correct turn the first time, we drive past the graffiti-covered centro sportivo, make another right turn on the uphill side of the sports center, take anther round about and head away from town (another correct turn), wind up the 1 1/2 lane wide road past the two huge houses set 12 inches from the roadway, spy the pink house near the top of the tall hill, turn right into the long and rutted gravel driveway, drive straight downhill on a slope that looks like it would be tricky to ski on, the rain starts – again – and the ruts overflow their already full capacity, we drive into the valley and lose our Tom Tom signal, we head uphill in the dark, dark night, we miss the first attempt up the steep driveway so we back up and make a running start and make it up the driveway, and we are home!