The most important piece of advice I can share is to try not to worry. If you’re in this predicament you probably don’t have any control over the situation, so fretting over all the things you’re missing (at your destination) won’t help.
Since we were literally stuck in a town we never heard of, I wanted to share some of the things we did to pass the time while our car was in the shop. Also, we don’t have any children, so I can only assume you’d have to modify this if you had little ones with you.
- 1. Find the center of town. Every town has its own bell tower and church and that’s usually where everything is (shops, food, people, etc.). Locating the center is a great point of reference, especially in a new place.
- 2. Chow down. Depending on the time you’re there, find something to eat. Find a bakery or a pizzeria and have some food. Your stress levels and tension may be high, so refuel your body and try to relax.
- 3. Window shop. Walk off your meal by window-shopping. Sure, you can actually shop, but if you’re there during riposo stores will most likely be closed. Not only that, but keep in mind you don’t have a place to store things you potentially buy and you’ll be stuck carrying them with you.
- 4. Take a break. Find a bar or geleteria and indulge in some coffee, gelato, wine, or all of the above. Depending on how long you’re stuck in that particular town, separate those breaks so you have something to do over time.
- 5. Go to church. (See number one for location). Every town has one, and despite your religious affiliation, it can’t hurt to pray your car will get fixed so you can continue on your journey ASAP.
- 6. People watch. Since you’re already near the center of town, admire the locals. Italians have a unique sense of style and sometimes it’s fun to check them out, especially if you have free time.
- 7. Find an open market. If you’ve been walking around a lot you may be dehydrated. Don’t forget to drink some water throughout the day!
- 8. Pick up a souvenir. It may seem like the last thing you want to do, but take or buy something—a business card, napkin, postcard, etc.—from the town you’re in. One day you’ll look back on the Time-You-Were-Stranded-In (fill in the blank) and smile. Despite your trip not going as planned, don’t forget that you’re still making a memory!
- 9. Hit the ATM. You may be frustrated because you’ve lost an entire vacation day, but try not to literally hit the ATM—you might find yourself stuck somewhere else if you do that, if you know what I mean. Instead, take out some cash to pay for your car’s repairs. Most of the smaller Italian businesses don’t accept American credit cards. However, you can use the ATM to take out money from your debit card (checking or savings) as well as from the credit card section itself. (If you take it out via the credit card you may be charged more as interest.) If you need more money (impromptu car repairs in a foreign countries aren’t cheap) and have USAA, call them, explain the situation, and request to take out additional money past the daily limit.
*Around this time go back and check on your car’s status. Fingers crossed, things will be fine and you’ll be back on the road in a matter of minutes. If your car is still in the shop and it looks like you may be visiting your new town for a little longer, follow the next three steps:
- 10. Find a hotel. Ask around, keep an eye out, or use a handy-dandy Smartphone to locate a place to stay. It’s not ideal, but it beats having to sleep on the street—I don’t think Italy would appreciate that very much.
- 11. Locate the nearest watering hole. Well, unfortunately it looks like you may not be leaving any time soon. Since you don’t have a car to drive anywhere and you have a newly acquired room for the night, pop into a local bar and enjoy some local vino della casa (house wine) and a nice dinner. Worry about the money you’re spending later.
Do you have any other suggestions on things to do if you're unexpectedly stuck in a new town?