Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The train station and the scam...

I need to begin by saying that as a travel professional of a gazillion years... ok maybe I am exaggerating a little bit, but I think I have a good understanding of vacation scams.  I have talked about scams, taught agents about scams and written about them.  We advise our passengers  to "be aware" while travelling in various situations - not to cause fear but to emphasize the importance of being aware and travelling wisely.

I have travelled a fair bit and I can tell you lots of stories - about other people.  But this story is about me and Camera Guy.

We arrived at the  Tiburtina train station.  We were looking forward to the next part of the trip.  Taking the train to Florence, picking up our car rental and driving to our rented house on the Italian Riviera where Elliot, my son and Leah his girlfriend, were going to meet up with us in a few days!
For those of you who have not travelled on European trains, there is usually a very large electronic board displaying the trains and track numbers.  Everyone stands and watches the board until their track number shows - about 10-15 minutes prior to departure.  You then make your way to your track.

Camera Guy (CG)  and I were waiting for the train on the track specified.  I was huddled over our luggage and CG was tossing something in the trash can about 8 feet away.

My back to the track, a guy pulling a suitcase approached me from behind and pointed to the train so I slightly looked away from the bags and asked if this train was going to the airport.  I said I have no idea and turned back to the luggage - 5 seconds. I had not let go of the top of the bags.

CG at the same exact moment was approached from the opposite direction and asked the same question.

I said to Camera Guy that I felt something was wrong and sure enough CG's camera lens had disappeared.  A 3rd guy, at the exact moment when we were both distracted, scooped the $8,000 lens. CG was heading off to the Commonwealth Games to photograph the Canadian team in Scotland which is why we had that lens with us.  We both were unaware that the other had been asked the same question at the same time....
I felt like the lens was surgically removed from right in front of me... these were skilled thieves.  The 400mm sport lens was in a black bag with a little NIKON label. They knew what it was and its value.

It was insured.  I suppose like any robbery,  you feel violated and upset that you could have allowed it to happen.  And so the day went downhill from there. For insurance purposes we had to report it to the police, which caused us to  miss our train.  When we finally arrived in Florence  and made our way to the car rental depot, it was closed.  I forgot to mention it was a 10 minute walk with the luggage.... in the rain.  We thought it was closer.  Did I mention it was closed?  She smiled at me through the glass and said I could try the airport.  I begged and pleaded through the glass. We told her about our unfortunate experience .... to no avail.

We tried to find a taxi, there were none. We stood in the rain on a side street near the Florence train station outside the closed car rental counter. And so we began to walk... trudging through the streets in the rain... to a hotel where the front desk clerk took pity on the drenched travellers in front of her and called a taxi for us. We found out that the airport car rental counter was not actually AT the airport, but at an office NEAR the airport. The taxi driver seemed really upset that we were not going to the airport and informed us that an additional charge would apply. We were not surprised.
We finally got our car and plugged in our GPS that we brought with us. Hmmm, it didn't work.  The depot was out of maps....

At this point, CG knew the general direction so off we went. We just wanted to get there.  It was about a 2 hour drive. And we did find our way to the closest village  of Zoagli. We then referred to the instructions the owner sent us. 

"At the second church you are in the hamlet of San Pietro di Rovereto, which is a frazione of Zoagli.  After the church the road narrows, you will pass a bar and green grocer.  Shortly after the "village" the road makes a sharp turn to the right and a steep descent..."

The road was very narrow, and was completely congested  due to a music festival in the village that evening. Two cars could not pass each other without one reversing into the nearest open driveway. Cars were parked everywhere.

The rain continued and so did the thunder... and the lightning. I cannot even continue writing, it is too crazy to repeat.
We finally found the house and climbed the 1 million steps up the hill to the house... in the dark, or  I should say intermittent light from the lightning.  The one time I have begged for more lightning.

We went to sleep.  No, we didn't.  We couldn't sleep. We wondered aloud if this was worth it.

The next morning we opened the door.  We opened the shutters.
And this is what we saw....

Ciao for now
Penny and Camera Guy

Next ...the arrival of Elliot and Leah!

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