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Travel Advice - Getting into the bank may be harder than using the ATM

We had flown on one of those overnight “frights” from the US to Europe. We had worked all day, flown all night and arrived in Italy with a good case of fuzzy headedness, better known as Jet Lag. Our hosts had sent a car for us and we traveled  in style, reaching our hotel in a small town in the Italian Piedmont.

After a short nap, we decided to take a walk around the town, buy some Lira (before the conversion to the Euro), and shake off our fuzziness.

After a short walk past the town square, we saw a bank and decided to stop in and buy some lira. Well, the first problem was that we could not figure out how to get into the bank. We saw people go in and when we tried to open the door after them, it would not budge and appeared locked. We tried this several times to no avail. Therefore, we sat on a bench and observed the situation. Yep, the Italian people seemed to go in and come out with little problem. We tried again, following a man who passed through the door effortlessly; however, the door would not budge.

We decided that this must be a more complex problem than we thought. We adjourned for some gelato (ciocciolate) and sat on a bench pondering the know-how of people who were entering and leaving the bank. Before you get the idea that we could have just asked, you should know that our Italian apparently  wasn’t good enough to ask (we tried). In addition, we were in a small provincial town whose residents did not speak English.

After the time it took to consume a double dip cone, we were able to solve the problem. Well, sort of. One of us snuck in the door after it was opened by another customer. However, I found myself wedged with him in a small space, as we faced a second door that would not open until the first door closed. He turned and waggled a finger at me in the universal “no-no” sign. After the first door closed, the second door opened and let the man in the bank but the door would not open to let me in! Feeling trapped, I tried to reopen the outer door when I heard the interior door click.  I was in.  My traveling companion was still outside, trying to figure out how I had done it: I was inside trying to figure out how I had done it.

To my great consternation, the bank did not provide currency services until later in the day. I had to exit another door using the same procedure as I used to gain access. We walked away very confused. The gelato was good but the bank doors were beyond understanding.

When we spoke to our Italian friends at dinner, they explained that the interlocked doors were to foil bank robbers. The first door allows one person to enter a vestibule and the second door into the bank opens only when the first door has closed, locking itself and unlocking the second door. After passing the second door, it closes, locks itself, and unlocks the first door in the process. The bank personnel can lock a robber in the vestibule, or deny entrance to any suspicious characters.

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