Saturday 28 September 2013

In a summer state of mind

We are still in Italy, still enjoying glorious sunshine and the gradually changing season. Last week we took ourselves back to the Adriatic coast for a couple more days at the beach. Same resort and this time we got a great deal on a lovely 4 star hotel that was fully booked in August. Just my kind of place, right on the seafront, pretty sitting out garden, a rooftop sun terrace with 3 large jacuzzis, quality toiletries, fluffy slippers and a great breakfast. We'd been at this resort in August when the beach was packed and the streets still full of happy holidaymakers at midnight. This time it felt very end of season. Many of the beach establishments had closed and though we easily found beds, umbrellas and deck chairs on the first day, staff were busy collecting hundreds of pieces of equipment from the sand, pressure washing everything, stacking items to dry in the sun then carting them away for winter storage. Every day there were less facilities, we did wonder if the staff might whip our beds away while we were in the sea and we'd return to just a pile of our belongings on a deserted beach. As Mr FF said the weather was still good, in the UK it would be considered exceptionally good, but rules are rules so by the end of September there will be nothing whatsoever on the beach. Luckily the ice cream shops were still stocked but soon the local bars will replace their array of delicious flavours with cakes and biscuits, we are definitely not allowed ice cream in October. The pool at our friend's condominium has already closed with day time temperatures still in the mid 20s. We walked down to the village yesterday in shorts and t shirts and saw locals in their winter jackets complete with scarves. I like this respect for seasonality even though I don't always join in, the way you know what time of year it is by the work being done in the fields, what people are wearing and what they are eating. I've never wanted strawberries or tomatoes at Christmas but wearing my flip flops into October doesn't seem so unreasonable does it?

Tuesday 3 September 2013

We fought the law

We got a parking ticket in the village.  We stopped for less than half an hour to buy fruit and veg, when we came back there was a ticket on the windscreen, the writing was completely illegible.  We asked our friend at the wine shop what it said, he didnt have his glasses and couldn't read it either.  Mr FF was particularly cross because we'd seen our glamorous village police lady in the square where we parked, she of the long black hair, heavy make up and stilletoes.  Up till then he'd been quite fond of her, admiring her attention to style before practicality.  As we drove home we encountered the police lady, stopped and asked her if we had to pay a fine, she said of course we did, she had written it down and it was 41 euro.  She tried to explain why we had a fine, there was nothing in the square to indicate we couldn't park and there were other cars there too, but we couldn't understand and she just kept smiling, 
As instructed on the ticket, we went down to the Commune to talk to them, fortunately we met our neighbour Mario outside he went in with us.  We received a fine because we had not parked in the direction of the traffic and they all agreed, there were 5 people behind the information window, that it was a great pity as we were visitors but no one offered to cancel it.  
Mario told us not to pay, but we thought it best that we did so we went down to the Commune again a week or so later.  This time 2 of the 5 staff were eating crisps, none of them seemed to be working, but after everyone ignored us for quite a while one lady came to the window and we said we wanted to pay our fine.  After making a phone call she told us to go 2 floors down to the police desk.  We went down and it was closed, she didnt seem that interested when we went back to report this.
Just this week we went down again to pay, this time a nice policeman was on duty.  We explained the situation, by this time Mr FF had photos of half the village parking against the flow of traffic and I think if his Italian vocabulary had been better he might have played the racial discrimination card. He did try saying he'd had to park the wrong way because he had a UK car and couldn't get out beside the wall if he was facing the opposite direction.   The policeman also said he was sorry we'd received a fine but that we would need to go the post office to pay despite what it said on the ticket, because he couldn't issue a receipt. However he did say he would complete the complicated payment form for us, you even need your tax number in Italy to buy a sofa as we discovered recently.  And he said because we'd had so much hassle he would give us a sconto, a discount of 30%.  There is legislation about to be or recently introduced that gives you a discount on parking fines if you pay within about 5 days, it wasn't law when we got our fine which we'd had almost 30 days then.  How kind, he said it was a pleasure to meet us and told us to call back when we'd paid to show him our receipt.  We didnt even get cross about the queue of 10 people at the post office and only one counter open, we felt so much better when one of the other customers said his cousin had been fined for the same reason in the same place and not got a sconto.
It all turned out well and Mr FF is finally over his police lady infatuation.