By Walter Sanders
As far as I’m concerned, it’s been a good year for U.S. Airways. Sully landed safely in the Hudson, and we survived steerage on a flight to Rome.
Groggy, ragged and raw after landing 10 minutes early in Rome . . . things smoothed out after the first cappuccino at a bar in Fumicino. Lots of local color: A Miss Italy look-alike was strutting around and she twisted the necks of a bunch of Italian guys who were sipping their coffees.
Then it was upstairs (2 stories) to the well-hidden autonoleggio center. The couple ahead of me in line at Dollar/Thrifty were Brazilians. The gent seemed confused and spoke in halting Italian with a German/Portuguese accent.
It took awhile . . . but it was finally my turn . . . and I handed over the pre-paid web reservation for my carefully selected, long anticipated, sleek and speedy Alfa Romeo 147 . The signorina at the counter, who looked young enough to be playing hooky from 10th grade, reviewed my paperwork, and then looked at sheets on her desk. “We have a Jaguar for you.”
I thought she was joking. “That’s wonderful. But I want the Alfa Romeo,” I said.
“I’m so sorry, but we don’t have an Alfa Romeo available right now.”
“But I have a reservation.”
“Well how about something comparable-a BMW, a different model Alfa, a small Mercedes?”
“No, I’m sorry. In the same class as the Alfa you reserved, all we have is a Jaguar,” she said.
I called Sharon over, and reviewed the situation with her. “I don’t think the Jaguar will work for us. It’s big, it consumes a lot of expensive benzina, and it sends the wrong signal.” Sharon agreed.
“The Jaguar offer is very nice, but I don’t want a Jaguar. What other options do I have?” I asked.
The signorina looked at her sheets again. “Well, your Alfa and the Jaguar are a class F. All we have available now is class B. Sub-compacts like a Ford or a Lancia.”
A Ford? There’s no way I’m going to tool around in a Ford in Italy! A Lancia?
“Tell me about the Lancia, please.”
“It’s the Ypsilon. Nice car. Smaller than the Jaguar. Smaller than your Alfa.”
Yes, my Alfa, my lost Alfa. My Alfa that, throughout the trip I would continue to lust after as they sizzled past us on the Autostrada, ‘Hey, there’s my Alfa Romeo . . . .”
We ended up with the Lancia. Sporty, not very sexy, but more than adequate . . . .and about five-feet shorter than the damn Jaguar parked down the row in the class F section.
What experiences have you had with car rentals in Italy? Did you get your elusive Alfa? Share your stories with us.