Adventures in Italy

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Finally. I’ve just been dying to share this story with you guys. I am hoping that it will relieve some of the stress in my life that it has induced. Call this post my “outlet” if you will haha.

So, as some of you may well be aware, my parents have been visiting since the beginning of April. I have been trying to introduce them to all that Europe has to offer, giving them a taste of traveling. I shared with you last week a bit about our trip to the Black Forest. Well, the week after that we decided to take an impromptu trip to Venice. Afterall, I am only a 7 hour drive away. It would have been nice to have flown to a few more ideal locations across Europe (Venice wasn’t exactly our first choice), but my 4 month old son doesn’t have his passport yet. There is a European pact that says that you can travel by car across borders of participating countries without passports but you do need them to fly. So that is why we decided upon Venice.

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We were only planning on staying 3 nights there. I figured that would be a nice trip- since we had to drive quite a while that gave us 2 full days to explore Venice. With babies in tow we would need at least that much. And to also make things easier with the kids and the 3 adults, I found an apartment to rent per diem not far from San Marco, right in front of Arsenale (where their Navy builds a few ships). For the cost of what you could get one hotel room for a night, you really can’t go wrong renting a whole apartment. I’ve decided that’s the best way to travel in Europe with numerous people that you want to room closely with. We rented the apartment through Stacy Corson, an American artist married to a great Italian chef. It wasn’t her personal apartment she rents, but rather one that she manages, but it suited us well. And she is quite a wonderful person to work with (more on that later).

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Now that I have set the scene for my story, let’s get down to the real meat of it. I’ll try and be brief. Basically about an hour outside of Venice, on the autobahn, I decided to be extra efficient and fill my gas tank up so I wouldn’t have to worry about it right away on our drive back. Not long after pulling back on to the autobahn the car started to make this ticking, rattling noise every time I hit the gas petal. I started to get pretty nervous… especially once the check engine light came on (never a good sign). I pulled over so my Dad could check things out. He was wondering if maybe a belt came lose and was flapping or something. I popped the hood of my car and went to start the engine back up so he could observe the engine…. uh oh- the engine tried to turn over and failed miserable. Again, and again, and again. It would NOT start. So here I am on the autobahn in Italy, car won’t start, it’s 6pm, no cell service in that country, with two kids, not knowing a lick of Italian. Great

It took about 2 hours before anybody stopped. Eventually we got a tow and the tow people took us to the train station where we took the train into Venice and were greeted at the station by Stacy, the woman we were renting the apartment through. I had managed to get a hold of her on my cell, even though I didn’t technically have service I could borrow Italy’s at an outrageous rate per minute. But what choice did I have in that situation? I am lucky it worked at all. Stacy kindly escorted us to the apartment. She even went completely out of her way to line up a water taxi service for us, which cut our travel time in less than half probably, getting us there around 11pm. She’s fantastic. The whole time we were there she provided us with loads of helpful information about Venice and her Husband helped make phone calls for me to some of the Italians I had to speak with about my car. She even gave my daughter gelato money the night we arrived.

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Your probably curious as to what happened to the car exactly. Ya know, just the classic “I accidentally put diesel in my gas tank” scenario… my bad. It happens more than people like to admit, especially to Americans stationed over in Italy (their gas pumps are particularly confusing), but that didn’t really seem to ease my Husbands mind over the whole debacle. Oh yeah, did I forget to emphasize that this entire time my Husband was in Germany? If he had been there none of this would have happened : (

So the Italians wanted to charge us 5,000 euro to fix my Chevy. They claimed there were two cracked pistons. My Husband was convinced that they were trying to pull one over on us and that we should get a second opinion. After too many days in Venice, we finally made our way to the train, out to Vicenza, and a taxi to where the car was located. From the car garage we rode in the tow to the Army post in Vicenza. We had a bunch of guys at the car care center take a look at it- compression test and computer diagnostic. They said it was fine. Now that the Italians had drained it of diesel and cleaned the parts, all we had to do was dilute the tank and wait for the diesel to completely burn off, probably two full tanks. So at 2pm we took off to head back to Germany in the car! An hour down the road, something drops out of the bottom of the hood, and things start spluttering and smoking. Ughhhhhh. We just wanted to go home!!! We pulled over yet again, and got a tow. At this garage we decided to give up and ditch the car, get a ride to the train station and get home! It took us 5 connections and from 7pm to 9 thirty am to finally get home. I was one bottle of formula away from a starving infant. It was the most stressful trip of my life. My poor 2 1/2 year old and 4 month old…

We are now back home, car-less, and set with Northern Italy for life. The car’s engine is probably destroyed. Who knows. We won’t know until it finally gets a ride back to Germany in another two weeks. The only good thing to come out of this trip was pretty much a new found confidence as a world traveler and a great new family friend in Venice haha.

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Laura is the publisher of Laura’s Sweet Spot- a blog making regular contributions about baking, cooking, and blogging tips!

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3 comments… add one

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  • Reba - Not So Perfect Life

    Wow, what a stressful trip. I can’t even begin to understand how hard that could have been with your kids. Now that everything is said and done the hard part is to stop kicking yourself… Hopefully you can salvage the car. If not ten years from now you will be able to laugh at it.

    • lmachell

      Exactly! I am still kind of upset about the silly mistake I made. Can’t stop playing the “what if” game in my head. I am banking on the fact that this makes for one heck of a story later in life haha

  • Carol prazan

    Are you kidding me? Geez, I feel for all of you. Are your parents still there? At least…. at least you had them with you, Laura. If not it would have been worse (if that’s possible…)
    Glad you’re back home!

3 comments… add one

  • Reba - Not So Perfect Life

    Wow, what a stressful trip. I can’t even begin to understand how hard that could have been with your kids. Now that everything is said and done the hard part is to stop kicking yourself… Hopefully you can salvage the car. If not ten years from now you will be able to laugh at it.

    • lmachell

      Exactly! I am still kind of upset about the silly mistake I made. Can’t stop playing the “what if” game in my head. I am banking on the fact that this makes for one heck of a story later in life haha

  • Carol prazan

    Are you kidding me? Geez, I feel for all of you. Are your parents still there? At least…. at least you had them with you, Laura. If not it would have been worse (if that’s possible…)
    Glad you’re back home!

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