End game – Driving in Italy, Episode 6

The next day it occurred to me that the credit card that I used to pay for the car rental had had a hold applied to the account a few days before.  I had neglected to tell my credit card company that I was traveling overseas and after a few days in Italy they froze my account.  I then conceived of a devious master plan.  I wouldn’t “unfreeze” the account until I had heard from the major international rental car company with a detailed statement of charges that I could subsequently dispute.  Yes, that will work I thought.

We got home and went about our daily lives.  I switched my credit card account to a new account number and left the old one on hold.  After a month or so, I got my credit card statement.  No charges from the major international rental car company!  My plan is working!  But also, no letter explaining anything about the car rental had arrived in my mailbox.  The next month came and went.  Still no word.  Finally, a credit card statement arrived with a charge of approximately $1,000 from the major international rental car company on my new account number.  Huh?

I called the major international rental car company and asked for a detailed statement of the charges.  The US branch clerk told me they had to contact the Italian branch to get the information and that it would take a couple of weeks.  The time came and went with nothing.  I called again and got the same song and dance. By this time the credit card bill was due, so I had to pay it.  I still wasn’t sure if I was liable or not.  After a few weeks, I called again.  No explanation was given, no statement was forthcoming.

And then one day I got a new credit card statement.  Miraculously, my account had been credited $987 by the major international rental car company.  Just a line item on the statement.  I never received any paperwork.  Whatever.  I guess I don’t care how they ever figured out it wasn’t our fault.  They somehow missed the walnut dent too.  Italian efficiency!

To top it off, one day, almost a year after leaving Italy, I got a nice envelope in the mail with an Italian postage stamp on it.  The town of Riomaggiore (one of the towns in the Cinque Terre) sent me a ticket for infringements of the Italian Highway Code.  It was in Italian, but I could make out that it was a ticket for speeding 71 Kph in a 50 Kph zone.  The violation was determined by an automatic camera system on the road.  The Riomaggiore police kindly asked me to send them 180 Euros to pay the fine within 60 days.  If I didn’t they would then ask me for 337 Euros.  As if I am going to pay it!  If some Italian process server shows up at my door in the US I am not going to open it.

Maybe I can’t ever go back to Italy.  They might have issued a warrant for my arrest on the automatic speeding ticket.  But if I ever do go back, I am taking the train. Or maybe a boat.

a canal in Venice, Italy
A quiet canal in Venice
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  • Lennart Andreasson

    Hi Steve!
    It was an interesting section to read about your so called speed ticket in Comune de Riomaggiore, because I got exactly the same in an envelope yesterday. The funny thing is that all information is exactly the same in my letter, the speed 71 km/h, the amount of Euro in the fine and so on. I really wonder where this camera was located, because this speed ticket is my first for 32 years, so I’m a bit irritated. But I think I’m going to pay this fine, because I’m travelling in Italy with my own car every year, since 30 years ago.
    Best regards
    Lennart Andreasson, Sweden

    • Maybe it’s a revenue-enhancing scam for the city? I don’t know. That sounds suspicious!