He explains he is Italian but unfamiliar with the city, becauses he works for a well-known clothing designer in Paris. At this point he pulls out a catalogue of clothing by the afore-named designer.
I actually know where we are and where he wants to go. Being a do-gooder, I give instructions in a couple of English sentences mixed with Italian. On the sidewalk Charley is tugging at my sleeve to get going.
"Grazie, grazie," the man says. "Here, a leather bag from my designer with thanks. No charge!" With this, he thrusts a bag into Charley's arms. Red lights are flashing in my brain and Charley's. Charley thrusts the bag back into the man's lap.
"Non, non, per favore, please take." The bag passes back into Charley's arms. "In return, a little money for gas?" Charley heaves the bag through the car window onto the passenger seat and yanks me along the sidewalk.
It must have been the same con artist our friends met along the Tiber. There was an added twist to their story. After the guy thrust a "freebie" into their hands and asked for gas money, a second official-looking black Mercedes pulled up behind. The crook took off and a burly 6'5" agent-type jumped out of the Mercedes. "Documentazione, per favore," he said, asking our friends for their identification. They produced drivers' licenses and were instructed not to pay anyone who stopped in a car. Including him? After all, he was the one holding their drivers' licenses. Was he part of the scam? Moral of story: keep walking.
One last story about Italians and their directions. On a trip to Lake Como, we inquired in our hotel if there were a walking trail around the Lake.
"Certo, signora! Follow the garden path behind the hotel. There are stone steps up the hillside and they will lead you along the top with beautiful views."
We found the gardens and the path. We even found the stone steps. They should have been our first clue. They were crumbling and in many areas there were no steps at all. Just like the nonexistent guard rails along hairpin turns on the Amalfi Drive.
We continued climbing vertically in our trusty cross-trainers, intent on getting some exercise after all the pasta. At the top, we walked several hundred yards and had magnificent views. We had left any trace of a trail behind.
"Let's turn back," Charley said.
Since he has absolutely no sense of direction, I'm usually the navigator. "I think if we continue along we'll see the next little town below us," I said.
An hour more and we had no clue where we were. In desperation we took the first steps downward and hoped for the best. There was no "good" or "better," let alone "best." There were no steps after the first ten. I slid in mud down the hillside on my butt. We ended up in someone's backyard garden and crept back to our hotel along the road. Within twenty-four hours I was covered in poison ivy.