It’s all very straightforward. Everything is possible in Italy. Just not the way you might expect it.
We made it to the pool where I met the avuncular Franco who runs the place. After smiles at the bambini and discussions about coffee, I asked if we could have a ‘bliglietta stagionata’ (season pass) for the family. ‘Si, si, possibile’. Great, and what about swimming lessons for the children? ‘Si, si, possibile.’ Superb, so whom do I pay, how much and when are the lessons? ‘Domani, doppo domani….’ Franco fairly led me to the pool side, checking on the way that I had not paid at the entrance gate? No? No, in which case ‘vai tranquille’ – use the pool and we’ll sort it out later. We had a super time. La Principessa is completely kamikaze – perhaps we have an Olympic swimmer or deep sea diver on our hands – she is thoroughly fearless and I am thoroughly relieved that we don’t have the luxury of a pool at the house. It does make me question baby swimming lessons: H. – precious first child – has had swimming lessons since she was four months old, yes she is still nervous around water, relying on her swimming noodle for reassurance. La Principessa – deprived third child – has encountered water only at bath time, yet she happily slips in and under, comes up for air and throws herself back for more.
Now, a casella postale is apparently simple to organise, so we slipped into la posta late one morning. La signora took some persuading that I was definitely not on the postal route; I was on the verge of showing her photographic evidence of our rural location when La Principessa – usually ‘contentissima’ – let out a howling scream, beginning a specta – la signora took photocopies of my passport (a random page – the one with emergency contact details) and the house ‘phone number (this not terribly useful as it appears to be ‘non fonziono’) and I thought we were all systems go for a post box. The softly spoken Signora, whispered a flurry of Italian to me, from which I caught ‘non fonziono’, ‘direttore’ and ‘domani’ and I was ushered out of the door.
Domani came: Posta and Piscina – Take Two.
Franco greeted us with smiles and bacini for the bambina piccola. H. and P. were already in the water as I reached for my purse. Bene, bene, vai, vai, Franco gestured to the pool. But the biglietta? Domani, domani – vai tranquille. I wonder whether the bambini inglesi have charmed Franco and the pool is ours to use or whether a canny Franco is waiting to see how regularly we use the pool and will calculate the price of the biglietto accordingly? Is it a free summer pass or will we be hit with an excessive conto at the end of August?
I wouldn’t say the signora at the post office greeted us warmly, rather, fearing a repeat Outraged Baby scenario she quickly came over and gave us some post, before disappearing behind a screen as I waited and wondered whether this exchange was over. Someone bustled with keys around the post boxes but doggedly refused to engage with me. We waited a little longer. La Principessa reached for advertising leaflets to rustle and flap. We waited a little longer. La Principessa grabbed a biro and started to scribble. We waited a little longer. La Principessa roamed for distractions and, finding none, decided to terminate this visit pronto: the scream began and la signora ushered me out with ‘anocora non fonziono’ and more assurances of all being possible – domani.
And so week two in Toscana draws to a close. I’ve not even attempted registering for the all important ‘codice fiscale’, without which very little is possible – I can’t even buy a SIM for my phone without this Italian equivalent of a National Insurance number. I’m wondering whether La Principessa will prove a help or a hindrance when I start that process – might Outraged Baby Performance provoke a more speedy response? This is a challenge for week three. In the mean time, the pool is ours to use – at what price, we know not – and la nuova famiglia inglese is beginning to make itself known – and heard – amongst locals.