Finally, on our fifth visit to the pool, I decided that really, we had to know how much we were going to pay for this magic pass. Tom entertained the children in the water while I sought out Franco at the bar, ordered a coffee, smiled and asked how much this was going to cost us.
Franco laughed, he wanted me to be ‘contenta’, va bene – it’s okay, domani. I laughed again – come on, Franco – let’s get this sorted! Bene, bene – so how much was I offering? Franco was clearly side stepping this issue and couldn’t really be bothered to think it through or explain the costing to la signora inglesa; I am pretty sure this is ‘foreigner treatment’ and an Italian wouldn’t have got away with this. We had a chat. I knew what I wanted to pay, but I also didn’t have a clue what would be standard round here – do season passes exist in Italy, particularly in a small, hilltop town in rural Tuscany? It’s an expensive little outing to use the pool for an hour or so if you pay full whack – it would cost us 40 Euros as a family – obviously, if we were on holiday here, the outing to the pool would be a whole day activity.
Clearly, I needed a decent discount, given that we were using the pool little and often – an hour here and an hour there. Franco wasn’t given anything away – how much did I want to offer? Apparently I had to be happy. OK, so I offered 100, 150 Euros. I wasn’t sure if this was lost in translation – quite a bit of Italian flew around, the lady making the cappuccino joined in, telling me the same thing in Italian. Hearing it from two people made didn’t make it any easier to understand.
Allora, so how much are we talking, Franco? Franco pulled out some paper. He scribbled down two adults, two children, the bambina piccolina doesn’t pay. He added up how much it would cost for the family. He worked out how many days there were in the season, how much it would cost me a day if I paid the full amount every day, how much my discount would be if I paid ‘only’ 400 Euros. I balked slightly at this, comparisons to things like the National Trust and Zoo passes in England sprung to mind. I tried to communicate that I understood the principle of his calculations, but we were only using the pool for an hour at a time, we weren’t coming every day, maybe only a few times a week, maximum…. It went on.
Eventually, Franco scribbled 350 on the sheet. I feigned misunderstanding. Then I feigned the need to rely on ‘il marito’ and consult with Tom before we committed. Vai, vai – anyway, I didn’t have to pay today, said Franco – any time would do.
Tom and I had a chat (one of those ‘rhubarb rhubarb chats bystanders do in theatre productions). I pulled myself together – for goodness sake, bartering in markets in Cairo and Damascus used to be my forte – get with the Mediterranean way, again, Amy!
I returned to Franco, smiling and laughing and transferring responsibility to Tom…. 350 was a bit steep, we were thinking more like 200. Franco laughed and clapped me on the shoulders – va bene, 250 and he’d throw in the odd coffee and ‘caramela’ (lolly) for the children too.
Success, of sorts. We still don’t have a post box. They’re broken and will be for the foreseeable future…