With the hotel we probably got the bed bug bites from, Villa Cheli in Lucca, far behind us. It was time to reset and continue the rest of our vacation. Unfortunately, the crazy travel story continued downhill (literally) with a flat tire and more.
Automotive Island Escapades – Flat Tire
Exhausted and stressed, we set off to catch the boat in Piombino to the Island of Elba. We drove the rental car right onto the ship and tried to unwind during the 45 minute ferry ride. We got to our next hotel and discovered that there were no toiletries at all. The stores in the port town of Cava were already closed and the restaurant gift shop only had a travel-size shampoo, conditioner, and soap set for €13. THIRTEEN EUROS!
Since it was still light, we decided to jump in the car and head to the next town over for at least a few more options. As we drove along the deserted road in the middle of nowhere, we ran over a ran piece of rock that fell off the mountain and it blew our tire. Within minutes our front passenger-side tire was totally flat.
We called our travel insurance and they said that was not covered. They could tow our car for a fee to the offices but those were already closed and the car would sit there until morning. Our credit card has travel insurance but we found out it applies to all countries but Ireland and Italy. Figures.
It was dark and we decided to attempt putting the spare on. I tried to change the tire (because I’m Driving Mama, HA!) and put the jack under a solid spot I found. Yeah, Frans and I should have researched it first. We would have found out that there’s a metal plate to put the jack under to prevent slippage. Well, the jack slipped and I hurt my thumb. Okay, not the smartest move and we were fortunate that I didn’t get hurt more seriously.
Fortunately, some kind passersby helped us change the tire with the spare one. We were able to at least get back to town, buy that $13 set of travel toiletries, and get to bed. We weren’t able to get the tire fixed because it blew through the side and the local shop couldn’t get us a tire before we left, which was the next day. So, we just had to drive very slowly (80 kilometers / 50 mph) for the rest of the trip.
American Tourists Equal Dollar Signs
Still dealing with the bed bug thing, we needed to wash and dry the rest of our clothes to kill any critters that might be hiding. So, we all got our bathing suits on and set off to get everything else washed and dried on HIGH heat. We found a full-service laundry place on the island and dropped off all of our clothes. Again, no one spoke English so we relied on Google Translate.
The girl at the counter wrote an estimate of €16. But then the owner came out. He saw us, heard our American accent, and wrote a new estimate of €67. HUGE difference but we were at his mercy and he knew it. We were obviously ripped off but there was nothing we could do about it since we were leaving back to the Netherlands the next day and couldn’t bring buggies back to Frans’ parents house. When we picked up the items later on, they weren’t even dry all the way.
A Recurring Theme
Then there was the time a few days before at the mobile phone store. We had to get new SIM cards because the ones we had from the Netherlands weren’t working for some reason in Italy. At the store, there was a clerk that spoke English. He said we could get 10GB for only €15. So, we decided to get three, one for each of us, since it was such a low price. He said there was some problem with the credit card going through so we had to pay it in cash.
We were so flustered with the other events that we just paid and didn’t bother to check the receipt or final price until later. Apparently, a mysterious €10 was added to each of our phones and, since we couldn’t pay by credit card (though our credit card record shows that it did register) we can’t contest the amount.
Most everywhere we went required cash payments and had no posted prices. We got so overcharged while in Italy that our credit card bill makes us cry. So, if you visit, be sure to bring someone who speaks the language or go with a native Italian guide to prevent your vacation fund from disappearing before your eyes.
That wasn’t all. It was inevitable that the string of events would continue up until our plane took off from the Pisa Airport.