It was to be our first Tuscan Christmas, and with family and friends coming in short bursts, we were looking forward to celebrating the Christmas delights in Lucca. If only it all went to plan…
First to arrive were family friends who had flown in from Barcelona for three days of Italian Christmas culture, food and drink. The plan was to give them the ‘one day in Florence experience’ on their arrival, before taking the scenic way home by bus to Lucca. We met them at the very busy Santa Maria railway station, after saying goodbye to them some 10 months earlier in Melbourne. We were all so happy to see each other as I quickly gave them a rundown of all the ‘must-see’ spots in this very crowded pre-Christmas city. That was until John started shuffling awkwardly, and quietly mentioned that he had pulled a muscle in his lower back, and at the same time, letting out a grotesque cough that sounded straight out of an 1800s dreaded plague movie.
‘Don’t worry about me,’ he said. ‘I will just sit in the sun and have a beer and watch Florentine life as you all wander around.’
I was concerned for him but knew he would be happy getting extra rays on his face, and then I spied his daughter, Beth, who now lives in Barcelona with a Spanish husband, quietly beckoning me to find her the nearest toilet. Needless to say, she was not looking good, but assured me that all would be just great once she did what she needed to. Unfortunately, it wasn’t just one bathroom she needed, as we wandered the ever-increasing busy alleyways of Florence. It was several, and it was becoming more and more difficult to find them as I tried to get my friends to as many Florentine highlights as possible while being well aware of Beth’s ever increasing need.
So our day of taking in the sites consisted mainly of toilet stops and a very slow crawl back to the bus with John very cautiously shuffling along the packed lane-ways, intermittently coughing like there was no tomorrow.
I needed to get them to their B&B in Lucca and quickly! Thank goodness we all survived the bus ride home.
Day two had to be better I kept telling myself, as our daughter Michele and her husband Anthony were arriving from Malta for a couple of weeks.
On the morning of day two, we had two ‘no shows’ for my carefully planned walking tour of Lucca, with John and Beth both laid up in the B&B, making full use of its bathroom facilities. Michele and Anthony arrived with enough luggage to keep them in Lucca for three months. They looked healthy, thank goodness. The next couple of days were mixed with coughers and ‘stay-at-homers’ in the need of a toilet close by. I am sure the problem would have solved itself much earlier if Beth’s sister Carmen didn’t keep popping out to get the tummy-hungry sickies cheesy pizzas! No dry biscuits for them.
Along came day four, all too soon, and we sadly said farewell to our Melbourne/Spanish contingent, still malingering with assorted ailments as they boarded the bus for the airport.
I then went about preparing for Christmas day festivities in Lucca, making a booking for our Christmas day lunch, and I was looking forward to Christmas Eve.
All was going along swimmingly, until I sliced my left forefinger open while cutting an onion. And yes, it did bleed (a lot). However, we had a packed evening of aperitivi and church services planned, so I wrapped the finger up in ‘Bandaids’ and swallowed some painkillers. The “Prosecco” helped as well!
Christmas morning came after a few hours in bed with a very uncomfortable finger, so I decided to have a look under the soggy Bandaids to see what I had done. Daughter and my husband squirmed at the thought of me taking off the bandages, so it was left to my Italian son-in-law to give me some assistance.
While he did a great job, he tugged a little too vigorously on the bandage and blood started to ooze down my arm. I needed to hold it high and tie something around it to stem the flow. What to do next?
Lucca has a plethora of ambulances all with good-looking Italian men in uniform, and their home base was just around the corner, so Anthony and I quickly set off (me in slippers) to seek their professional assistance.
On arrival at the ambulance station the door was closed, and there was no one in sight. All the ambulances were quietly standing in a row outside, unattended.
Okay, I thought quickly as I spied more blood oozing from under its covering, the farmacia should be able to help me. So, Anthony and I hurried around another corner and in burst in the door. The farmacista saw me coming and quickly shook his head while uttering that he wouldn’t touch the wound. He told me I needed to get a taxi and go out to the hospital for assistance.
A taxi on Christmas morning? Just trying to find one of the 25 Lucca-based taxis was almost impossible to do any day, let alone get one patrolling the streets of Lucca on Christmas morning. By this time, I was getting a little annoyed at not being able to quickly resolve my dilemma. We turned for home and headed up the 56 steps of my apartment building to thankfully walk into the path of our delightful neighbour, who readily raced out to get his little car and drive me the 4k out to the new local hospital.
I imagined it would be a very long wait at the hospital, and so insisted that our neighbour not stay. Surely we could get a cab back? After a very short session with a triage nurse and doctor, my finger was assessed and bandaged and I was sent on my way. The doctor said I could change the dressing after a couple of days. Sure, I thought.
We then came out the front door of the hospital, and – of course – there was not a taxi in sight! My son-in-law doesn’t have a good sense of direction, but I could see a church dome in the distance, which told me it was Lucca, and we spent the next 50 mins walking home with my bandaged finger stuck up in the air, desperately in need of more painkillers and something to drink.
After this dramatic morning, we unfortunately had missed our lunch booking; however, we did manage to find a little welcoming trattoria where we enjoyed a very late Christmas meal and a few drinks – a meal where I had to have all my meat and vegies cut up for me as my aching, bandaged finger could not wrap itself around a fork.
Day two after Christmas day, I took myself to my local English-speaking doctor. My ‘I hate the sight of blood’ daughter, Michele, agreed to come along, as long as she didn’t have to look at my wound. Strangely enough there was no one in the surgery, so straight in we went. My doctor took a careful look at my finger so as not to start the flow of blood again. He knew exactly what needed to be done and I was happy for him to check it all out. My finger needed special dressings so he asked Michele to sit in his chair and answer his phone (in Italian), while he darted out to the farmacia for the requisite supplies. No receptionist at the local doctors here!
Michele was mortified that she might have to answer the doctor’s phone should it ring and prepared herself with the assistance of ‘Google Translate’, while at the same time repeating: ‘please don’t ring, please don’t ring’. And course the inevitable happened while the doctor was out. Luckily she used her very limited Italian and could pass the phone over to the doctor as he finally stepped back into his room armed with medication and bandages. We both couldn’t believe it! There was Michele sitting in the doctor’s chair and looking after the office while he, the doctor, went out to get the correct dressings! I could in no way imagine this ever occurring in my Melbourne doctor’s office!
A few days later, Michele returned to Malta, scarred a little by the whole Christmas experience. Needless to say that when they left, instead of sitting back and relaxing after such a hectic time, I got a nasty chest infection when I returned from a lovely three days walking around Rome. This coughing episode took me back to the doctors for treatment that included much-needed bed rest. On my return to my doctor, his waiting room was full of poorly coughing people who had obviously come into contact with this coughing Christmas plague. Probably the very same one all of our Melbourne/Spanish contingent eventually succumbed to during their travels.
Now three weeks on and my finger is slowly mending. My cough is still annoying me but it too is getting better. I am disappointed, however, that all the best-laid plans for our visitors didn’t all quite make it to fruition.
And at this stage all I know is that I am not planning anything for next Christmas!