We had told Fabrizio the day before that since we wanted to get an early start he didn’t need to bother with providing us with breakfast. Still, he was up early to see us off and kindly insisted on driving us and our bags down to our car.
After a flurry of goodbyes and thank-you’s, he zoomed off to work –just as I realized I had left our detailed driving map of Umbria back in his kitchen. I would now have to rely on memory and signage. (Luckily I had scrutinized the map the night before and had a general idea of our route). We would head north through Umbria towards Liguria and the Cinque Terre, a straightforward shot on main highways.
After munching a cornetto and cappuccino at a gas station (no map there), we crept slowly along the foggy road that curled down the hill and into the valley. Thankfully, it wasn’t long before the fog cleared and the rest of the drive was mostly uneventful but for one wrong turn near Pisa.
Entering the autostrada, I pulled up to the automated toll booth. Not seeing any place to throw money, I drove off. Just a short way down the road, however, I realized my error. True, I wasn’t supposed to have thrown money — we were entering the highway, not exiting. Instead, I should have pulled a ticket. The ticket would indicate exactly where we had entered the autostrada and thus, when we exited, would tell the toll-taker how much of a toll we owed.
Berating myself for not mentally slowing down and take time to read the instructions, I imagined we would have a hefty fine to pay when we eventually exited. Several miles later it was time to find out. We rolled up to the toll-taker at our exit, bracing ourselves for the tally.
The man asked for our ticket and I told him we had none. Eyeing us, he calmly asked, “Perche’?” I then explained that we had entered the autostrada at Orvieto, but hadn’t understood (dumb Americans!) that we were supposed to have pulled a ticket.
His eyebrows flew up, which I took to mean he accepted our story as the truth. If we had been trying to scam a lesser toll, we would have stated we had entered at a much closer point of entry. Orvieto was miles and miles back. Without a word, he stepped further into his booth to consult a chart before returning to the window.
“Twelve Euro,” he said. With a sigh of relief, I gladly produced the toll — with no fine attached.