So one of our adventures in Sicily has been with rental cars. I thought I would write about it to show that our trip is not all glamour and fun.
First of all – we are kind of rental car wimps because we need an “automatico grande” (big automatic). Frank knows how to drive a stick shift, but I don’t. So that eliminates 97% of the available cars right away. Plus we need a bigger car – also hard to find – because we have so much stuff. (In our defense, we ARE usually driving around with family members, who bring jugs of wine, basil plants, and a platter or two of pasta with them!).
So – we arrived at Catania Airport in a flurry to find about 80 people in line at the Europcar counter. Europcar is the biggest outfit here – the American companies are teeny with maybe 2 automaticos that are booked far in advance.
When they saw we had a “premium” car, the representative would not even take my Visa – she only would take American Express. I probably should have been suspicious of this, but I was just happy I had one. Then, we had to sign a paper promising never to leave the car unguarded (even in a parking lot) while in the Province of Catania and that our insurance (which we upgraded to the highest level) would not cover losses – including car theft – in Catania. We were relieved we were not staying in Catania!
So off we went – me, Frank, Enza, and all our stuff. We got to the first round-about and a warning light came on. We weren’t sure what the problem was but thought we would stop at a gas station to double-check everything. But the GPS took us on one-after-the-other farm roads – sometimes even dirt roads winding up into the mountains. There were no gas stations. It was so dusty that Frank tried to clean the windshield, and we discovered we had no windshield wipers (I think someone stole them).
We got to our hotel – whew – but the warning light had turned into a written warning of low tire pressure. We consulted the front desk, who suggested a nearby gas station. We went in, and the attendant gave us more air in all the tires. Then – 5 miles down the road – the light came on again. It looked like we had a leak.
We consulted with the family and decided to go to the Europcar outpost in Agrigento – about 35 miles away. This was an adventure in itself. It is a big place. We were using two GPSs – the car and iPad. Once we got to the town center, the iPad just gave up and started displaying a continuous circle. The car GPS held in there, but only after sending us around the same block 5 times (with Enza in the backseat murmuring, “Maria, Maria”).
We finally found the place and the Europcar people said, “No problem” – we have another auttomatica. But we would have to sign a whole new contract. Frank asked them to coordinate with the Catania Airport so we would know if there was a price difference to what we’d already paid, whether insurance transferred, etc. They said no – that these were all separate franchises. There was some debate about what to do with everyone saying what they thought and motioning wildly in the Italian way, but eventually Frank sent Enza and I to sit down while he discussed the issue with the rental car agent – words were exchanged (in Italian) – and Frank prevailed. They called Catania – of course, we don’t really have proof of this and still had to sign their paperwork anyway.
But we happily moved all of our stuff to the new car – an Opel (which is a downgrade apparently because they said we would get a 200 Euro refund). Proud of ourselves, we set off.
And about 5 miles down the road, a light went off warning to add “AdBlue.” We had no idea what this was. Then about 5 miles later, another warning – “The engine will be prevented from restarting in 800 kilometers.” Yikes. We quickly calculated where we might be in 800 kilometers and knew we at least had a couple of days to figure it out. Out of the frying pan and into the fire!
Thank Goodness I Travel With A Rocket Scientist!
Frank tried calling the Agrigento office back – but no one has answered. He consulted our front desk again, who sent us to a local auto parts store in Licata. We found the place and discussed the problem with them.
It was only 18 Euro, so we ended up buying our our own AdBlue (which apparently is to cool down the catalytic converter). They even helped us add it – there is a spot right next to the diesel fill. You have to be resourceful in Sicily!
Our only worry now is that we are going to return the wrong car to the Catania Airport. We are hoping they believe our story that we gave away their Audi in Agrigento in return for an Opel. Otherwise, we may have just bought an Audi – but at least I will get a lot of American Express points!