OK. So, I took a day trip from Orvieto to Montepulciano, today. And, I didn’t do my homework about transportation – transportation on a Sunday, more importantly. Most of us have heard of Montepulciano, right? Wine!
Montepulciano is a hill town – like most towns in Umbria. So, after taking the funiculare (€1,30) down the hill to the train station, a train to Chiusi (€8,50) and another train to Montepulciano (€2,50), I stepped off of the train and into – a huge market and carnival! There were so many vendors I couldn’t see any bus or taxi stops. But, curiously enough, I couldn’t see a hill top town, either. I thought, “This can’t be Montepulciano.” So, I did what I always do – started walking. I walked away from the madness and enjoyed looking at some of the nicer homes on the outskirts of this area.
I walked for a long while and couldn’t see a hill town from any perspective. Something was off. I asked a restaurant owner where the ‘centro storico’ was. It was 10 kilometers that way. (I never know what direction I’m going unless there is water or mountains to one side or the other.) He told me there were no buses (being Sunday and all) and that I could call a taxi.
I headed in the direction he pointed, but, didn’t see a taxi sign. But, I did see a man bringing his dogs outdoors for a break so I started a conversation with him. He didn’t speak any English. (Of course, I don’t have an expectation the Italians should speak English, but so many do.) I always preface my longer conversations with, “Mi dispace, ma non parlo l’italiano molto bene.” “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak Italian very well. “They always shoot back with rapid-fire Italian. roll eyes
I didn’t take long before he offered me a ride to the ”centro storico”. All those warnings from the past about not taking rides from strangers buzzed through my brain. He started quoting prices. I’m just keep telling him ‘grazie, but, no grazie‘ and started to leave to find a taxi (hadn’t seen one in two hours, by the way). He ran into his house to get his neighbor to translate. This neighbor was so funny. He smiled while telling me what I already knew, and, his eyes were saying, “He’s shaking you down!”
I decided this guy was harmless enough (plus now another person knows who I was last seen with, right?). We agreed to 10 euros each way – and, a sandwich that the dogs sniffed out of my daypack. We were arguing like an old married couple. He went to get the keys to his beater cinquecento (Fiat 500) – and, his two dogs. OK, all my animal loving friends. We’ve all seen cars with tons of pet hair? You haven’t seen anything like this car!
As we are driving away, the rate doubled. Ya, what a shocker. I had two 10 euro bills in my hand. We pulled into a gas station for benzina (gasoline) and he plucked one of the bills out of my hand – then, the other. The dogs were all over the place. Did I mention one is a Chinese Crested? His name is Paolo. It’s hard to call a dog Paolo when he has a ponytail on top of his head. The other dog, Gina, is some type of bulldog, with one blue eye and one -well, I don’t know what color the other one was because the blue one was eyeing me very carefully.
We had a fun ride to the base of the centro storico. I did feel the need to lean forward going up hill. That poor car chugged and resisted.
My new friend, Mario, agreed to meet me at 6pm to take me back down to the station, but, he never showed. And, that’s where more fun started. Never a dull moment in Italia!