'I was leading my two blind friends onto a motorway'

I was sure I had my driving licence when I left the house but half-way through the flight to Milan I realised I'd lost it. At the car rental desk, no amount of smiles, grunts, complaining children or the complete unpacking of our cases could get us our car.

I was sure I had my driving licence when I left the house but half-way through the flight to Milan I realised I'd lost it. At the car rental desk, no amount of smiles, grunts, complaining children or the complete unpacking of our cases could get us our car.

We were on our way to Asti, a town in Piedmont, famous for its Asti Spumanti, Ferrero Rocher chocolates and Nutella spread. In other words, ideal for anyone seeking the perfect ingredients for a 1970s dinner party. However, the only easy way to get there now was to spend €140 (£100) on a taxi.

Asti is a great base for exploring the region. Two hours and you are in the mountains skiing. Just over an hour the other way and you are near Monte Carlo lying on a beach in bright sunshine. None of this is any good for a family without a car.

People must have lost driving licences before and my wife's Italian family suggested I go to the police. They were very helpful. They suggested I'd been ripped off by the taxi driver. If I ever was charged so much again I should call them and have the driver arrested.

As for getting me a replacement licence - no problem. All I had to do was drive to Milan and go to the British Consulate. I tried to explain that if I could drive to Milan I wouldn't need to go there. I had just spent £100 trying to get out of Milan and couldn't afford the same amount to get back. But my Italian lessons hadn't got much further than, "I want a pair of shoes in a white box," so I failed to explain my Catch 22.

Nonetheless, the policeman filled out a long form and very seriously copied the number of my US visa (the most official-looking thing in my passport) onto it. He gave me a copy of the form and sent me on my way.

We were staying in an agriturismo, a beautiful old family-run farmhouse in the middle of the Piedmonte countryside, where the mother would cook eight-course meals.

Piedmonte has some wonderful countryside. It attracts truffle hunters and wine lovers who sample the heavy barollo red wine and the light barbara red which, when drunk young, has a faint sparkle to it.

But we had no car to see any of this, so we introduced ourselves to the local taxi driver, Signor Georgio, who started driving me and my family everywhere. He earned so much from us that his children are now no doubt going to a private school where every student has their own butler.

My wife's cousins, who we were in Asti to meet, were as annoyed as us by the cost of the taxis. One of them, and her boyfriend, decided to help. Both happen to be blind. When they learned that I had managed to get a copy of my licence e-mailed from the UK, they insisted we set off for the local car rental office. No taxis, they insisted - we're walking. But the road we walked down at first lost its pavement. Then its earthen hard shoulder started to thin and it looked liked I was leading my two blind friends onto the motorway to Milan.

They were more confident than me, but even they eventually realized that groping your way down a motorway wasn't safe. So we called Signor Georgio who was delighted to pick us up.

The car rental office had more bad news. The booking expires after 24 hours. Although we are expecting you - and here is your car outside the window, yes it is lovely isn't it? - the computer won't let you have it.

My blind cousin tried to help. "Why are you looking over there" asked an Italian mother-looking type who might have been part of the car rental firm or may have just been passing and decided to get involved. "I can't see," said my wife's cousin. At that stage we were joined by a mechanic with a speech impediment and a lot of Italian shouting went on.

Eventually the car rental firm copied down my American visa number from the police letter and we were suddenly allowed the car. But I had no idea where I was or how to get home. I was the only one who could see and I was the most lost. My two blind helpers started directing me home. They argued about which way felt best and I have to say with an amazing amount of accuracy directed me back to our family.

Italy is a beautiful country. The food is fantastic. Most of the people I met are lovely. My wife's cousin, Renata and her boyfriend are great and Signor Georgio is the wealthiest taxi driver in Asti. I strongly recommend it. Just don't forget your driving licence.

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