Sunday, August 5, 2012

Bagni Regina Giovanni, Puolo, and My experiences in an Italian Emergency Room

First off, let me Say that I am typing this post one handed after slicing two fingers and a thumb when the bottle of wine I was opening this afternoon suddenly shattered. I'll share my experiences with the Italian health care system later.

The day started with myself, my two sisters, and our spouses heading to Punto del Capo to explore some swimming holes we had heard about. The kids spent the morning with Mimi and Bapu on a tram tour of the town.

After breakfast we walked down to the tobacco shop on the corner and bought 2 round trip tickets to Capo. We waited for about 45 minutes for the bus, twice asking busses that stopped, "pehr Capo?" before getting a response of "Si." on our third try.

The bus driver stopped the bus for us at Capo, which consisted of two bars, a tobacco shop, a gas station, and a small grocery.

We easily found the sign for "Bagni Regina Giovanna" that our host Valerio had instructed us to look for.

According to legend and Valerio, Queen Giovanna was a Queen of Naples who built a home here, near where an ancient Roman Villa once stood. She liked men a lot, and spent her life trying different ones out and killing them if they weren't. Her house had a pool behind it for swimming that is totally enclosed except for a small passage. That's where we were headed.

It was a scenic walk down and we took a few pictures.

When we got to the bottom, we saw the swimming hole and the ruins of the Roman Villa.

We explored around a bit, then threw our stuff on the rocks and jumped in. It was an amazing place to swim with clear turquoise water. Almost surreal.

After about an hour we grabbed our stuff, hiked over the ruins, and made our way to a oddly remote cafe/bar on the water where we shared a carafe of wine. I was happy that they had the green Sicilian olives that I've come to really appreciate. There weren't many tourists around other than us, and the guy at the bar didn't speak much English, which was just fine with me.

After our rest, we walked back the way we had came to another swimming hole. We jumped in and I swam to a rock formation about 50 yards out, climbed it, and dove off of it. I see the irony that doing something like that left me unscathed, but uncorking wine later landed me in the ER. You can see the path to the bar and rock I swam to below.

I really appreciated the Exofficio travel underwear and shorts I wore today. I went from hiking to swimming quite a few times, and dry or wet, they were incredibly comfortable doing either. No other clothes I've ever had would have been as comfortable in those conditions.

After swimming there, we packed up our things and headed back up the hill. It was about a 15 minute walk. When we reached the top, My sister Becky and her husband Gabe headed back to Sorrento for lunch. Me, Lori, Jayne, and Drew decided to hike down to the town of Puolo for lunch. We weren't exactly sure of the way, so I asked in the small grocery. We were told to walk along the main road for about 100 meters, and then to take the path down. There wasn't much room to walk on the road.

The sign for the path was far from obvious, but we found it. We followed the path to a road, to switchbacks, and finally to the small beach town.

Again, there were very few tourists. We found a place on the beach to eat, and had panini. My sister had a giant calzone filled with Nutella, since today is her 30th birthday.

After lunch I jumped in the water at the public beach, and then we set off on the 1 kilometer hike up to the bus stop. Along the way we found a couple from Pittsburgh who had gotten on the wrong local bus and were looking for the hydrofoil from Sorrento to the cruise port in Naples. The needed to get there before their ship set sail for Malta at 6pm. They followed us up to the bus stop and boarded with us for town.

When we got off the bus and headed for Villa Adriana, we decided to grab a bottle of wine to share with everyone in the afternoon before dinner. This would prove to be a fateful decision.

When opening that bottle about an hour later, the bottle neck shattered where I was holding it with my left hand. Blood immediately started pouring out of my fingers, and I rushed to the sink. My mother got Valerio, and he offered to drive me to the Emergency Room. Drew offered to come with me since he's British and has some experience with European hospitals. Unfortunately, I didn't have time to grab my phrase book, phone, or camera.

When we walked into the ER, we saw the translation booth. The woman there told us that her shift was over in 10 minutes, so she would notify the next person to come find us. She directed us to a bench in a hallway and told us to wait there.

The next woman translator found us about 30 min. Later and told us that they were dealing with 2 car accidents, and that we'd have to wait.

At 5 o'clock she came back and told us that her shift was over, and that she was leaving. I'd have to get by without a translator.

After a little over two hours of waiting, a doctor came out and said something in Italian to all of us waiting in the hall. Everyone looked around at each other, but nobody responded. Then he pointed to his fingers, and I knew it was my turn.

I went with him back to a room where he asked me what happened using gestures. I simulated using a corkscrew and the bottle exploding. He nodded in understanding and asked me to unwrap my hand.

He and another doctor who didn't speak much English went to work cleaning out the cuts with iodine, and using long strips of tape with glue to wrap up my fingers. The second doctor told me, "No wet, no off - 5 days". The first doctor then covered that tape with gauze and medical tape.

They then gestured me to follow a third doctor who walked me to another room with desks and computers. I figured this is the place where I'd pay. A woman asked me, "passporto?" which I handed over after the difficult process of removing it from my moneybelt with one hand. She took my information, and then the doctor whom I had followed asked me "penicillin OK?". I nodded yes.

He communicated that I should take one in the morning and one at night for 4 or 5 days. He then simulated giving himself a shot in the behind, and said "24 hours". I wasn't sure what that meant, so I indicated that I wanted him to write it down. He did on the paper in which the woman had taken my information.

They then indicated that I could leave. I asked, "pay?" but the woman shook her head no, and waved her hand at me to indicate "don't worry about it". She shook my hand, and I thanked her.

Drew and I then walked to the pharmacy. We figured out that the shot the doctor wanted me to get was a tetanus shot. I wondered why they didn't give me one while I was there.

At the pharmacy I handed the pharmacist the paper from the hospital. She brought me a pack of Amoxycillin and a tetanus shot that she indicated needed to be refrigerated until I used it. Now I understood why I didn't get one in the hospital.

I'm certainly not glad I cut my hand, but I do appreciate the non-touristy, authentic experience in the hospital.

After Drew and I walked back, the whole family headed into town to the Bufilito Inn Restaurant for my sister's birthday. They specialize in fresh local cheeses and buffalo meat. Michael and I had pasta with a buffalo meat ragu, while Lori and Abby had pasta with seafood. We all shared a buffalo cheese sampler appetizer. Everything was excellent.

We ended the night with gelato and a nice walk back to the villa.

Tomorrow we are planning on a more relaxed day: walking tour of Sorrento, seeing some of the local churches, and making sure all of our laundry is done before moving on to Rome on Monday.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad


  1. exciting times...but no more swimming for you

  2. Oh Michael, hope you are not in too much pain and that at least the wind was good! Guess you won't be swimming much more unless you get a wet suit glove. Good thing you are heading to Rome but you will have to stay out of Trevi Fountain!! Hope you can still enjoy the rest of your vacation.