Saturday, September 11, 2021

Challenges mostly complete, we can truly relax and anticipate peaceful days

After a week of trouble-shooting, Lucy and I have begun to truly relax and experience what we love about being in Montecarlo—slow, simple and delicious food, warm weather, friendly people, creative and fascinating architecture, relaxing and uncluttered days, and the challenges and rewards of learning another language and culture.

One by one, obstacles have fallen by the wayside: parking permit obtained, utilities bills paid, gas turned back on, toilet flushes, Italian cell phones working, lost luggage delivered, house (mostly) cleaned up, flowers planted on our terrazina.

Waiting for missing suitcase.

Of these, the most frustrating was waiting for the missing suitcase. We arrived on a Friday, and the suitcase arrived on Saturday and was picked up by the courier service. Each day, we were promised delivery, and one of us had to stay home almost constantly in case the courier arrived. We didn’t have our phones working yet. Our old phone numbers had been reassigned to other people because of our long absence, and for our preferred phone plan, we had to wait until a new shipment of SIM chips arrived on Tuesday.

The courier service gave us the run-around. “We’ll check on it and call you back in 10 minutes.” No return call. Next day: “It will come today.” At 5:50 p.m. I called again. “We’ll call you back in 10 minutes.” No return call, and the office closed at 6, so there was nothing else to do but wait for the next morning. I called at 7:50 a.m., but there was no answer. I called 10 minutes later. By now, I didn’t have to give them the ticket number. They knew who I was and hung up on me. It was time to bring in the heavy artillery: Elena Benvenuti, a true force of nature.

Elena is a fiercely loyal friend, but if you are not her friend, she is simply fierce. While the lower-level employees tried to put her off, she persisted until she earned the voice of a supervisor. He first said he had been told that the suitcase had been delivered, but when assured that was not so, he turned sympathetic and cooperative.

“You should have heard me,” Elena told me later. “I was very heavy with him.” I wish I had been there, as listening to Elena negotiate is an experience worth paying for.

Lucy rejoices that jam from
Frank & Annette survived the
missing suitcase ordeal.

We were promised delivery by noon of the next day. We called several times ourselves to verify this deadline, and we received the same promise. From 8 a.m. to noon, I planted myself by the window and poked my head out at every passing vehicle. Several vans marked courier drove by. One even stopped for a few minutes and then drove on. At 11:45, Elena called and said she had been told the courier was almost there, and we went outside to wait by the door. As the clock tower was striking noon, an older gentleman in a small car drove up with a single cargo aboard—our red suitcase. I signed for it, and our long wait had ended.

We’ll never know why it took so long to arrive, or why it had been reported to the manager as having been delivered, but everything inside was in order; we were finally free to go wherever we wanted. We celebrated by going to the nursery and buying flowers, and then we took a trip to the used goods market, the cheese store and Esselunga, our favorite grocery store.

Getting the gas turned out could have been even more difficult than the luggage snafu, but once again we have Elena to thank. She called the gas company, and in a rapid-fire conversation that would have left me baffled had I made the call myself, found a quick solution. We had to go to the bank and pay the bill with an IBAN transfer, then photograph the receipts and email them to the gas company. We did that the next day, and the day after that, a technician showed up and we had hot water again—no more cold showers! We also emailed the same company the receipt showing we had paid the electric bill, because—Elena told us—they were just about to shut off our electricity as well.

I did handle the trip to the bank and phone store myself, and also the visit to the Municipio to get my parking permit, all of which required me to speak only Italian. I do much better in face-to-face encounters. Now we have a few days to fully enjoy ourselves before friends arrive on Wednesday. Heaven on earth!

I am ready to enjoy the sunset on our terrazzina with the flowers we bought at a local nursery.


  1. Elena sounds like my kind of gal! Happy to hear this are working out.

  2. Elena rocks!! Paul, you rock for the ability to communicate in these different businesses after a 2-year absence of being immersed in Italian! Hooray for relaxation, flowers, delicious food, and a beautiful sunset. Hope those visitors won't cause you too many problems.

  3. Seems true bliss means you've successfully run a gauntlet!


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