About two weeks ago, I was shown a delightful view from a hilltop town in Southern Italy, overlooking a panoramic view of a city below, rolling away from the mountains and falling down into the sea below. It was quite the stunning scene, shown to me via Google Street View and made even more impressive by the reason as to why I was looking at it. This view was owned by someone I am sort of associated with and this person gets to see it every single day; it was the view from my girlfriend’s ‘family’ home.
And that was that. Google Street View was closed and we continued with our evening. But don’t worry, the story doesn’t end there…
Of course, the real reason for showing me this particular hideaway on Planet Earth is because my much better half (aka, the girl on the couch) was soon to be heading over to the continent to visit her family, leaving me on my own for a week, twiddling thumbs and spending vast amounts of money on ‘phone calls and text messages. But it was just prior to her leaving that I realised our first Valentine’s Day would be spent separated, one of us soaking up the dreary English rain, the other soaking up the blissful Italian sun.
This is, I must admit, an emotional tear in the fabric that is what I call life. On the one hand, nothing has to be organised, nothing has to be booked, nothing can go wrong. For once, a Valentine’s Day with my feet up, I thought. Flipping the coin of course, nothing is organised, nothing is booked and nothing happens. Instead I sit at my desk, on my own, typing up this story. With my feet up.
It was Thursday last week, one day after she left, that I realised something could be done though, a surprise could be organised that although would be for someone on the other side of Europe, I know would bring a smile to a face and therefore, a smile to my face as well. I pondered the difficulties involved, weighed up the pros and the cons, and decided to go for it. I would order flowers to be delivered on the 14th. How hard could it be? I was certain I could navigate my way around a website in Italian.
As it turns out, most of these flower-purchasing sites are well aware that such a product can be sent across borders*, and so the primary language is usually English. You look at a picture of some flowers, decide how much you want to spend, and then fill out the regular forms. It wasn’t rocket science, but I still felt like I was accomplishing something as I closed in on the deal.
It was then that I realised I would need to supply an address. Because, as I’m sure we all know, without this vital information, the delivery person would be left to their own devices.
I could have asked, it is the obvious route to go down. The problem is this would have aroused suspicions and led to more questions than I wanted. I couldn’t think of a good enough reason for needing the address.
And that was that. Google Street View was opened and I started searching…
The home isn’t far from the city, but it is surrounded by lots of similar sized hilltowns that all look the same and most annoyingly, all share a similar view of the landscape beneath. The windy roads all looked the same, the white-walled homes with red-tiled roofs all started to blend into one. Mountains to the left of me, plateau to the right, I was soon getting tired. Unfortunately for myself, I’m a persistent fool and refused to give up.
The ‘family’ home did have one standout feature, I suddenly remembered while cruising by a church on my Vespa (Google Street View is made much more interesting if you have an imagination) – next door to the home is a chiesa, small in size, but complete with bell tower and small area outside for sitting and gossiping in the way only elderly Italian women seem to know.
Hazzah! Google search was loaded…
Erm… “churches in [town]” Nope, no results. “[town] chiesa” Nope, nothing. “churches in [essentially, I typed Southern Italy]” Lots, admittedly, but none that came even close to matching.
I returned to Street View…
Five or six hours must have passed since I started my search, and often I would be wandering down a road and see something I thought I recognised, only to be dashed when I realised it was similar, but not the same. I kept one eye on the view, the other on the road ahead. I have never fallen asleep at the wheel of a car before, but I must admit to coming close on this occasion. Keeping myself going on coffee, I pressed on. The results though, would make it all worth the while.
I did eventually find the home. And I was so relieved the number was clearly displayed on the front gate. With the number and the name of the road and town, I headed off to an Italian postcode finder to complete my mission. With all this information, I returned to the flower vendor, completed my purchase, and waited for my single red rose to be delivered to the wrong house and the wrong person.
Fortunately, my hours of searching paid off – persistence had won. At about 10am this morning, the much better half was woken up by her mother, passing on the delivery that she had accepted moments earlier from the delivery person.
Who said the Internet killed romance?
*Actually, the flowers are purchased from a local florist in the area of the delivery address – there are restrictions on transporting flowers across borders.