Arrivederci Siena

By Diane DeVaughn Stokes

Buongiorno! Oh, forgive me. I keep forgetting I am back in the USA. I have just returned from eleven days in Italy where I have vacationed several times before. This time, however, it was a special gift for my niece Regan. My husband Chuck and I made a promise to her when she was ten years old that we would take her anywhere she wanted to go when she graduated from high school. I must admit we were hoping for a lesser cost effective treat like Disneyworld, New York, or even California, but having gone to Catholic School she had her heart set on Italy from day one. So even though we had been to Venice, Florence, Tuscany, and Rome, twenty years ago, we made the trek again just for Regan. And since my sister Donna, Regan’s mom, had never been out of the country and had not had a vacation in over ten years, we decided to take my sister with us too.

What a great decision. It was so wonderful sharing quality time together laughing and catching up on the crazy things happening in all of our lives. Spending time together at holidays is awesome, but there’s always other family members there and just can’t compare to sharing an adventure like this, just the four of us.

And even though there was the romance and gondolas of Venice, the gorgeous Duomo in Florence, the castles and vineyards in the Chianti region of Tuscany, and the tour of Vatican City in Rome, the 176 Euros we spent using the pay toilets during the trip, it’s a mishap that occurred on her first day in Tuscany that we will probably be talking about for the rest of our lives. Isn’t that the way it usually goes? So here is the story.

You never want to drive a car in a foreign country unless you have nerves of steel, but Chuck had driven years before in Tuscany and was feeling fearless. He felt that GPS would have us zipping all over the place, a service we did not have on our last trip there.

As with all GPS services, Chuck named this one “Gina Lo,” short for the famous actress and photojournalist of days gone by, Gina Lollobrigida, an international sex symbol.

“Gina Lo” who did speak English to us did well on her first trek and got us safely from the car rental to Siena with no problem. However, when it came time to leave Siena four hours later, she must have drank too much wine waiting for us to return to the car as she kept telling us to turn right, which was wrong, and we kept coming back to the same place over and over again. That happened three times. Finally, Chuck punched in the info one last time hoping “Gina Lo” would finally get us out of dodge, but before we knew it we wound up in the middle of the Siena Piazza where no cars are allowed, where hundreds of people are eating at outdoor cafes, children are playing in the square, and elderly folks on benches are feeding the pigeons. This was no place for four crazy American tourists, and we knew it by the shocked looks on the faces of the locals as we plowed toward them.

At this point Regan, is in the back seat laughing so hard she is crying, Donna is scared to death and I am trying to read the map, Chuck is cursing “Gina Lo,” and we just knew we were going to be caught by the “Policia” and taken to jail. Then I did something Chuck would never do, just like most men never do, I rolled down the window and begged for mercy in broken Italian asking how to escape this madness. Please get us out of here! A young man nicely told us that we needed to get out of the area quickly or we would be fined heavily, or at least that’s what we understood from his broken English. “Left, then right, then left again.” His directions did not get us out of the city walls, but got us out of Siena Centro at least. I prayed while “Gina Lo” kept yelling turn right, that’s when we disconnected her!

Then just as we rounded a corner into another neighborhood, there was a police officer.

We told him how our GPS “Gina Lo” lied to us, and he never cracked even the slightest smile but he did give us an exit strategy – the secret code to escape Siena.

After thirty minutes of blood, sweat and tears, we were finally free to find our lodging for the night where we celebrated with the finest Chianti wine and could finally laugh about the escapade which made us feel like we were in one of those new maze entertainment venues where you have to answer all types of clues in order to get out. Not fun.

Weirdly enough, “Gina Lo” did much better for us the next day with no more mishaps. Maybe she knew we meant business after we got the police involved. Or maybe she honestly did not know how to exit Siena either! Regardless, I know we were not the first folks to ever be screwed by GPS!

About this writer

  • Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane DeVaughn Stokes

    Diane is the host and producer for “Inside Out” as seen on HTC TV Channel 4, and serves as a commercial spokesperson for several local businesses. She and her husband Chuck own Stages Video productions in Myrtle Beach and share passions for food, theater, travel and scuba diving.

    They own three four legged kids that they adore!

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One Response to “Arrivederci Siena”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    What a fun and funny story. Gina Lo, now that’s a new one. My grandfather was from Italy. I hope my daughter’s dream to visit there comes true and she has as much fun as you.

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