It all started with a dead battery.
And, it all came to a successful conclusion, thanks to the divine intervention of an Italian angel at a local auto mechanic’s shop. Here’s a brief synopsis:
My car wouldn’t start. How frustrating. We jump-started the car, and I drove it around for forty-five minutes, hoping to recharge it. It seemed to work, but two days later, it was dead again. My battery was less than a year old, and still under warranty, but the Fiat dealer who installed it was in Umbria, and we live in Veneto now.
We jumped my car, again, and drove to a local battery shop. They tested my battery, and deemed it fine but suggested I drive the car to the an auto mechanic’s shop up the road, to have them charge it overnight, and do a more thorough check.
The owner of the auto mechanic’s shop was waiting for me (the previous guy had called ahead to alert the owner of the problem). Go ahead, leave the car, and check back in the morning. I walked home (the shop was less than ten minutes away by foot).
The next morning I returned. A bum battery, despite an all-night charge. Dagnabit! Was I going to have to shell out money for a new battery? The shop owner had me call the Fiat dealership in Umbria, and then I passed the phone to him. He then orchestrated the dealership in Umbria to email the Fiat dealership in Treviso the receipt/warranty of the battery (since I couldn’t find the receipt). He secured a promise from the Fiat dealership in Treviso to exchange the battery that afternoon.
Leave the car with me, the auto shop owner told me. I’ll drive it to dealership, drop it off, and pick it up later. You go home and walk back over tomorrow, and it will be ready.
The next morning I was back. Brand new battery, with a receipt for the new warranty. Zero charge to me. Then I asked the auto shop owner how much I owed him for all his time, and he waved it off, telling me I didn’t owe him anything. Only after much insistence did I get him to accept a 20 euro tip (after trying to give him more). It was clear to me this man took payment in the satisfaction that he was helping me out of a bind.
For me, he was an Italian angel.
This wasn’t the first experience of this sort. I could regale you with numerous stories, all leading me to conclude:
Most Italians will take you under their wing, and move heaven and earth to help you out of a crisis.
A dear friend who has lived in Italy for many years gave me probably the best piece of advice I’ve received regarding the Italian people and culture. She told me to open myself up to the Italian people, saying that when they began to personally connect with stranieri (foreigners), they want them to succeed. In fact, she encouraged me to follow this advice when I made my visa application at the Italian Embassy. While many things are essential for getting through the visa application successfully, I can’t help but think this also was helpful.
Be warm, and make a genuine effort to speak the language, and you’ll be rewarded.
I’ve featured several recent posts about the importance of speaking Italian if you plan to spend time in Italy, and how it can open doors. Pair a warm, open attitude, with a decent command of basic Italian (not just Ciao and Grazie), and you’ll, more often than not, have Italians bending towards you to help you in a multitude of ways.
Perhaps you’ll find yourself, like me, in the care of Italian angels.