While much is the same–they drive on the same side of the street in Italy–some things are different. It is like you have just enough knowledge and familiarity to get you into trouble.
–Watch where you drive. Randy was driving in Lucca when they were here. The US GPS said drive here–the older folks were wildly waving us down–it was the city wall, built in the Middle Ages for fortification and not driving. I told Randy it looked like a sidewalk–he said all the streets were narrow. How do you spell retreat? Melisa talked Spanish so they would not know we were Americans. At least that’s how I remember it now that they have returned home. Randy might suggest that I told him to drive there, but his memory would be faulty on that point.
–Get out at closing time. We were on the last gondola down from Mount Baldo in Malcesine on Lake Garda. I needed to use the restroom in the big visitor center below as we exited the gondola. I did. It was then that we discover we were locked in. Thankfully one remaining attendant noticed Kathy and Melisa as he was exiting. He had to unlock the doors and open the underground garage where our car was parked to let us out. Imagine what would have happened if he had not noticed them. I had not been in the restroom long. When they have a closing time, they mean it.
–Take a number. You can get into big trouble by pointing to something you want when you do not have a number from the omnipresent little number machine. Most are manual, some automatic. The manual ones are often stuck. You still need a number. I have learned how to unstick them now and glare at tourists who ignorantly don’t get one. OK, I am not the glaring kind of person; I help them.
–Gloves, please. You take the plastic gloves and put them on before you pick up fruit or vegetables. This is the European way. We are getting used to it and actually like it.
–Weigh it right. They do not weigh fruits and vegetables at checkout; you must weigh them when you get them. You select fruit or vegetable on the screen first, then punch in the two digit number for the item (only two digits, easy to remember) with a picture beside the number that is like the item being purchased. The machine spits out the cost quickly. You stick it on the bag and continue on.
–Rent a car. Even the big chains close on Sunday. If you do not turn in your car by a certain time on Saturday or Sunday, you get charged for an extra day. Thankfully, we made sure to do this right, since we had to leave on a Sunday and if the rental was closed we would have had to stay another day since there would have been no place to leave our car on Sunday. Some of the rentals take an automatic 750E fee in case you have an accident, and should you have an accident, even if not your fault, you do not get the refund until the insurance pays.
–Cross walk. Striped lines mean pedestrians have right of way, unless there is a stop light. They also mean, this is where pedestrians must cross the street. Oh, yes, watch out for bicycles. They mix in with walking traffic. Little bells mean watch out, I am behind you. Oh, yes, watch out for motorcycles and scooters. They mix in with walking traffic. A loud hum means get out of my way; I am behind you and will run you down.
–Meal courses–Menus come with an appetizer and three courses printed out. You do not have to order from each one, however, some do. Many restaurants have price fixed several course dinners for the day. Being Italy, pasta in its various forms is big on the menu. We often order different things and share. That is acceptable. Service charge is on the bill already, but you can leave an extra tip if the service was outstanding, as it is at our little trattoria by the gate that leads to our apartment. The waiter now waves to me when we go by. WEG