Thursday, July 2, 2009

Beware the Fleas of Italy

Some might find it surprising that I have such an obsession with Italy - Tuscany, in particular - considering what happened to me while vacationing in the beautiful country a few years back.

Hubby and I learned, after our trip, that the weather we thought to be normal for the late May/early June timeframe was very much non-typical. In fact, they had been experiencing a somewhat unusual heat wave. And heat waves can, apparently, bring on infestations of certain pests, namely fleas.

I should note here that I have an allergic reaction to flea bites. There’s a back story to that … I’ll share it at another time.

Our first stop was in Rome. There, I accumulated five or six flea bites. Thinking it to be a fluke, I grinned and beared the bites as they grew into large blisters. I was slightly miserable, but thoroughly enjoying the historic and culinary experience that is Rome.

Florence was the second stop of this dream vacation. In an effort to be frugal, I had found a wonderful Florence apartment on-line, boasting a gorgeous view of the Duomo. The owner was going to be traveling while we were in town, and had made his flat available for a reasonable price to gullible travelers such as myself.

The flat, with its musty stench and jungle-like plant arrangements did – in fact – have a view of the Duomo. Yes it did. If you went into the bathroom, which measured approximately 3 feet by 5 feet, and stood on your tip-toes to look out the 1 foot by 1 foot window, you could see the peak of the Duomo perfectly. (See that little bug, strategically located on the picture above? That's the bathroom window of our flat, as seen from the top of the Duomo! :-))

The bathroom – view or not – brought me to tears. Upon arriving in sizzling Florence, with my ever-so-itchy blisters, all I wanted to do was wash away the itchiness with a shower. After standing on my tip-toes to view the Duomo, I turned my attention to the task at hand. Unfortunately, a shower did not appear to exist in the 3 by 5 foot bathroom space.

Sink? Check. Toilet? Check (sort of).

Oh, wait … there is a water tank mounted over the toilet; a floor drain in the middle of the room; and a hand shower of sorts propped near the tank. Super … the bathroom is the shower.

I had exactly four minutes to wash, relax, and get my mind off my growing, itching blisters before the tank of lukewarm water emptied. Certainly, though, things would start looking up soon.

The next morning, I awoke to oodles of new blisters. It was then that we pulled back the covers to find fleas dancing on the sheets.

Day’s agenda: Visit the Ponte Vecchio and the Piazza della Signoria; buy hydrocortisone and bulk supply of Band-Aids; and eat lots of gelato to numb the pain and itching.

That night, in the midst of an Italian heat wave, I went to bed wearing socks, sweats, and a sweatshirt. Certainly they wouldn’t be able to attack me through so much clothing.

They did. Our dream vacation was quickly becoming a flea-infested nightmare. Second only to my hubby, Lenirit Idrocortisone Acetato became my close and constant companion.

My main goal as I dressed each morning had become attempting to disguise the increasing number of Band-Aids and hideous blisters under the diminutive selection of warm-weather clothing I had brought along for the trip. “Certainly, I can make these capris stretch down to my ankles!”

In a heroic effort to keep his bride from going insane from the incessant itching, hubby suggested we ditch our next intended stop – Venice – and head north to the cool, fresh air of Zurich, Switzerland. Forget trying to be a good sport … I jumped on that bandwagon and, with a sigh of relief, concurred with the suggested change in travel plans!

By the time we left Florence in a mad dash to escape the heat-seeking fleas, I had 32 blisters lining my body from neck to foot … most of them concentrated on my legs, some measuring the size of a dime.

At this point, frugality was a distant and silly thought. I found and booked a room at the Zurich Best Western, where - upon arrival - I wept with joy at the beautiful tub and shower, and the gorgeous, fluffy down beds.

We emptied the entire contents of our luggage into the bathtub, ensuring no fleas had hitched a ride north with us. Dream vacation saved, though bite scars still remain as a bittersweet reminder of our time under the hot Italian sun.

We do plan to eventually make it back to Venice …this time, however, we’ll be a bit more mindful of timing, in the hopes that we don’t arrive during an Italian flea-infested heat wave!


PJ Hoover said...

What a unique perspective on a trip to Italy!

lisa and laura said...

This story cracks me up because the exact same thing happened to my friend and I when we were in Venice. We were poor students and stayed in some random hostel and woke up the next morning covered in flea bites on our faces. At first we thought they were zits, but then they started itching. Sexy.

And yet, I still love Italy too. I'd go back in a heartbeat!

Danyelle L. said...

*eyes wide*

Wow! I! :D

(I loved reading this, but would have hated living it!)

david mcmahon said...

That's something the guide books don't tell you about!

Merisi said...

You poor soul! :-)

Yours must be of the hardest earned Post of the Day awards contender stories ever! Congratulations and may you never ever encounter a flea in your life.

I have live almost a decade in Italy and am back there often, but I never ever encountered a single flea.

Beth Kephart said...

Oh, Kelly H-Y. I have a similar reaction to all kinds of bug bites, and in Venice, in August, we discovered not fleas but mosquitoes.

I read this with utter empathy, therefore, and with the hope that when you return to Italy, Italy embraces you not just with working luxurious showers, but with a distinct lack of tiny wings.

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Okay, I'm scratching Italy off my list to visit. That Lady Bug marker is so cute, though.

When you do return, I hope you have a much better experience than this one.

Cheffie-Mom said...

What an experience! Are you itching to go back? I came over from David's authorblog. Congrats on the Post of the Day mention!

Brian Miller said...

arrggghhh! i can't stop feeling them now. not sure i want to go to italy now. congrats on the POTD mention.

Michelle D. Argyle said...

Oh my goodness!!! I didn't get bitten anywhere in Italy, and it was HOT. We visited Venice, Florence, and Verona. I'm so glad I didn't get visited by the fleas, though. Oh wow. I hope you get to visit Venice. Just make sure you book a really nice hotel room.

I really enjoyed this post!

Sarah Laurence said...

What a miserable thing to have happen on vacation. I do hope the rest of your trip goes better. You were right to splurge and recover.

Kelly Polark said...

Oh, man. What a disappointing stay! That story made me itch! But lucky you to travel Europe, I've never been. Hope to someday!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Sorry about removing the last post...made an error that needed changing. . .

You must have been in such agony, as I can imagine. Really enjoyed your story. My husband is also allergic to fleas and most bug bites.

A friend of mine is going to Italy this August. Her first trip.

The part you said about the fleas dancing on the mattress was so vivid in my mind. My husband would have been ripping the sheets off and hysterical!

Douglas Florian said...

You weren't in Florence...
You were in Flearence!

Kelly H-Y said...

PJ - Not one you usually hear, huh! But, it was a wonderful trip, despite the fleas! :-)

Lisa/Laura - NO WAY!!!! That is hilarious (well ... not then, but now!) ... so nice to know someone with a similar experience!

Danyelle - I know ... I was really trying to enjoy myself and all the beauty I was seeing, but those bites were so distracting and painful!

David! That is EXACTLY what I told my husband as it was all happening! Thanks for your Post of the Day contender nod!!!

Merisi! Welcome ... thanks for stopping by! Thanks for the wishes ... I too wish I never encounter another one of those little stinkers!

Beth! You too?! Oh my goodness! Mosquito bites are nasty. I loved your wish for working luxurious showers and a distinct lack of tiny wings! Me too! :-)

Eileen! Thanks for stopping by! Don't let me scare you away from Italy ... I truly wouldn't have missed it, but I do hope to not encounter the bugs next time! :-)

Cheffie-Mom! Thanks for stopping by! '...itching to go back'... hee, hee! I love it ... that was a good one! :-)

Brian! Thanks for stopping by! I know ... I was itching as I wrote it! :-) Definitely go, though ... I'm sure it was a bizarre fluke!

Lady Glamis! Not a single one?! I'm impressed! Though ... my hubby didn't get a single one either. Go figure ... it's just that I react to them, I guess! Yes ... I'm definitely going for the super nice hotel room next time!

Sarah! Yes ... the rest of the trip was great ... no additional bites! :-)

Kelly! Yes ... it's a very itch-provoking story, isn't it?! :-) You'll love it when you go someday!

Sherry! Your hubby too?! Poor thing ... I can sympathize with him, that's for sure! They were truly dancing and hopping all over ... ickkk! :-)

PoemHome - BRILLIANT!!!! I should have consulted with you before naming this piece! May I use that as the title of this piece in the future?! :-)

Unknown said...

OH...ugh. UGH. *shudder*

Cathy C. Hall said...

Ah, Roma! Ah, Florenza! Ah, flea-o's?
I spent a summer in Italy and did not encounter a single flea. I got bit a few times. Does that count? :-)

C.R. Evers said...

Oh no! That sounds miserable! I haven't been to Italy yet. I'll keep this in mind when it's my turn to go! Yikes!

Shelli (srjohannes) said...

sounds like the place I stayed in - 4-5 star hotel with great view. I dont remember fleas though :(

Kelly H-Y said...

Beth! I was shuddering too! :-)

Cathy! LOL!!! I'm glad you didn't get bit!

C.R.! Take the trip ... but splurge on the lodging! :-)

Shelli - Your place sounds MUCH nicer!!! :-)

Suzanne Casamento said...

Yikes. That sounds AWFUL. But what about Tuscany? Did you ever get there?

Angela Ackerman said...

Oh my goodness! What a terrible thing to happen, but I like how you did your best to not let it ruin the trip!

Kelly H-Y said...

Suzanne! Yes ... via a short side trip, but there is much of Tuscany to explore that I haven't seen!

Thanks Angela! Yes ... I was determined to enjoy my trip!!

james brownn said...

Thanks, that was a really cool read!
flea bites