Even with the tiny spare tire attached and still stuck in our swimsuits, we made it back to the mainland. All that was left was to check into our last hotel, get something to eat, fill up the gas tank, return our rental car, sleep a bit, and then fly back to the Netherlands. Oh, if only it went so smoothly…
Gas Stations in Pisa After Dark
Our last hotel was right next to the airport, which was very nice since our plane left SUPER early the next morning. With hundreds of mosquitos enjoying the lobby, we got our room cards and raced up to our room as soon as possible to change our clothes. Feeling a little more protected from the flying blood-suckers downstairs and in the hallways (the windows were open on the second floor), we drove to a gluten-free restaurant highly rated in the area. Unfortunately, it was late and the kitchen had already closed by the time we arrived.
So we jumped back into the car and decided to look for a gas station. We needed to return the car tonight since the office wouldn’t open until several hours after our flight left. As we were driving along the main roads of Pisa, we would notice women standing along the street in odd places and they seemed to stand in strange positions. It became pretty clear what they were doing on the street, especially as we drove behind cars with Romanian plates (known for the female trafficking). We tried to shield our daughter but it was not possible as there was another every so many kilometers/miles.
As Frans turned into a gas station, there in the light stood two of prostitutes. He quickly swerved out and looked for another. At the next station, there was another set. At the next station, there was yet another set. Every single gas station from the restaurant back to the airport had 1-2 women or girls standing there just waiting to be picked up.
It was so sad. They were of different heights, hair colors, nationalities. They also dressed differently. One was obviously dressed to attract less than wholesome attention but were dressed pretty modestly. Some had nice dresses on, another had jeans on with a stylish top, and some looked like young gymnasts in track suits with their hair in buns. My daughter was shocked by how normal most of them looked. I think this my first time seeing prostitutes out. Call me aloof or naive but this incident really drove home to me how real of a problem this and that, yes, females are being exploited even in this day and age.
Rental Car Return Sealed Our Vacation
Finally back at the airport, we explained the fuel situation to Hertz as well as pointed out the flat tire. The representative there was kind and said we would get the charges later. Good thing Frans took a photo of the fuel level. Though the tank was only 1/4 empty, we were charged for 1/2 tank plus a service fee of €30. Oh, and they charged even more for the tire, about €230, plus labor. We tried contesting it but Hertz was not playing nice. Last time we use them ever (also had dirty cars in the Netherlands and charged extra).
When we got home, everyone asked us how our trip was. It was so hard to only tell the highlights so we honestly shared these experiences with our friends and family. Their response?
Bed bugs – “Yep, that’s Italy.” (Read Part 1.)
Being ripped off as American tourists that speak ZERO Italian – “Yes, that happens a lot.” (Read Part 2.)
Prostitutes on busy streets – “Yeah Italy has a problem with that, especially in places like Pisa.”
Though these things are so common, I’ve never heard anyone talk about them. Italy always seems ideal and amazing. The photos were all gorgeous and I couldn’t wait to see those aged alleys with flowers decorating the window sills and Tuscan landscapes. Everyone we spoke with who had previously visited Italy had nothing but glowing words to describe the country. Turns out that some details got left out and my bubble was totally burst. Even the views were not as stunning as I had envisioned as I can enjoy similar views in Napa and Yosemite which are only a few hours a way from me. California has ruined me!
So as you can see, we had quite the trip in Italy. There were some awesome moments but we just had so many stinking bad ones in our five days (yes, that all happened in such a short time) there that it truly cast a shadow on our vacation. Now that I’ve gotten all of this out in the open, I’m looking forward to posting the good parts of our Italian getaway (stay tuned). Maybe it will help bring those good memories to mind while the others fade into the background. And, for you, I hope it will help balance out those travel expectations so that you can enjoy the trip as it is, not as you imagined it would be.