The last three weeks in Sicily and Italy have flown by and now it’s time to return home. While waiting in airports during flight delays (and there were many with an airport strike projected for tomorrow), a few musings of the trip to share:
Room Safe – In Sicily, the room safe did not open or lock properly with numbers on the keypad. We called maintenance. The man fussed with it a bit and also couldn’t get it to work. He had an override key that he gave us and told us to jiggle jiggle the key and it would open and lock. So much for the easy keypad method.
IKEA – Did you know Sicily has an Ikea? We had to wait for a bit before turning in the rental car so we stopped at Ikea and looked around. That was fun to see what different countries stocked as items of interest. Once in Seoul Korea, we visited a Costco and found they stocked Bob’s Red Mill cereal.
Room Towels – Our boutique hotel in Catania, was a little confused about our room when we arrived. We had switched from the penthouse to the poolside room. The poolside room was stocked with one set of towels. I asked hubby if he wanted the towel for his shower or if would he be drip drying. He called for more towels. The maid showed up and made it clear that this room was for a single person and only one towel was available. In my pigeon Italian, I made it clear that there were “due persone” in this room and we would need another towel… please. She returned with another towel. Then each day she made sure we had more towels even if we hadn’t used all the ones from the day before. We didn’t see her after that to ask her to stop bringing towels so we had them stashed in the closet, on the shelves in the bathroom, and on top of suitcases. In the meantime, our friends in the penthouse room didn’t get new towels for almost the entire visit. Go figure.
Driving – Most people know that driving in Italy is crazy. Stop signs and red lights, and speed limits are just a suggestion. However, the farther north you go, the more driving laws are followed. In Florence, they actually stop for a red light, especially when you are in a taxi and trying to hurry to the airport – just saying.
Toilets – In Sicily the public toilets are awful. The first few days we encountered toilets with no seats (yes in the women’s bathroom) and no toilet paper (are there no facilities that stock toilet paper anymore?). At one Unesco site, they had people outside the toilets selling you a few sheets of toilet paper before you entered. And forget about kleenex in the hotels or bathrooms. Towards the end of our time in Sicily, we “borrowed” a roll of toilet paper from the hotel to take with us on our daily experiences so at least we would have that! Once we were in the north of Italy the facilities did have toilet seats and some even had toilet paper.
VAT – Purchasing items of value creates a VAT tax and if you want to get it back you have to go through the process. Once you have found the right window (2-3 rounds of the airport should accomplish this) you have to get your receipt stamped. We showed up at the right window 3 hours and 20 minutes before our flight. They will only process your claim 3 hours before a flight so we were told to wait for 20 minutes and come back. Now he had the paperwork in his hands and looked at everything, but no, we had to come back.
We strolled around the airport some more and returned in 20 minutes by which time there were quite a lot of people lined up. The woman at the head of the line was 3 minutes too early and the man told her to come back in 3 minutes. Really? The man would disappear after each person he helped and the next person in line would have to ring the button over and over to get him to return. The cleaning lady finally hunted him down.
When we got to the window again… wait for it… he would not accept our boarding pass on the phone and told us we needed a paper one and to get one and return with it. Could he have told us this earlier? Oh no!! Paper boarding pass in hand, we returned to the window just to catch the man leaving his chair again. I pounded my cane (breaking a segment of it) to get his attention. He fiddled around and finally approved our tax refund and told us instead of going to the next window which we had already scoped out and talked to the people, oh no, we had to go upstairs to a different window to get our paperwork finished. Are you kidding me?
Upstairs we try to find the other window but were unsuccessful. The TSA guy had to help us find it because it was hidden from the main area. Of course! The person at this window was actually helpful and knew what he was doing. We received a notice the next day that our tax return was being processed and the amount would be returned to our credit card.
So this small transaction employed at least 4-5 people to get it accomplished. I wonder what the unemployment rate is there? LOL
Now it is time to say goodbye to cappuccino, macchiatos, cornettos stuffed with creme, the freshest pasta dishes, delicious pizzas, melt-in-your-mouth gelato, and superior regional wines.
Say hello to soft toilet paper, toilet seats, kleenex, and washcloths. (What is it about Europeans that they don’t use facecloths?)