Last week I wrote about my swollen guancia. My check had swollen to the size of a soccer ball. The doctor, who I determine was either a quack, a masochist, or a miracle worker, had sent me to the pharmacy and told me to return the following week. That, of course, occurred after his so-called treatment, which included smacking my cheek several times until it hurt like hell. But, lo and behold, after a few days my cheek was back to normal.
When I returned to his office the following Saturday, the doctor’s waiting room was empty and I was immediately brought into his inner office. The doctor looked at my checked, patted it ever so gently, smiled and asked, “Tutto bene?”
“Si, Si,” I replied and then I asked for il conto or the bill. He waved his hand back and forth as if that were the stupidest question I could ask, said, “Niente” and, with a big smile on his face, this former masochist – haha – guided me towards the door. I too smiled, said, “Grazie mille,” and went out the door. As I descended the stairs it occurred to me that the doctor in Venezia had also refused to take any money – I wondered, did Katerina pay that doctor? Then our friend Randy came to mind. Randy had suffered a hearth attack somewhere around Bologna, if I recall correctly. Randy and his wife Harriet were on their way to visit us in Lucca, when his attack occurred. He spent the next four or five days in the hospital and when he was discharged Harriet asked the doctor where to pay.
She too was waved away. Hmm…I think I like this Italian Health System.
Several years later Donald and I planned a three day trip to Vernazza, in Cinque Terre, one of our favorite spots in the world. We had booked room number 31 at La Mala. The white washed room overlooked the Ligurian Sea and we couldn’t wait to get there. Even more we couldn’t wait to eat the wonderful food served up at our favorite eateries, especially the fresh fish. I was salivating at the notion of eating branzino (sea bass), pesce fritti, tagliatelle con pesce, polpo (octopus) and so on.
The day before we were to leave Donald woke up with tons of little white sores in his mouth. “It hurts,” he said. We called Paolo and Yuriko and told them what was going on. Yuriko said we needed to go to the hospital, which was new and some miles away. She and her daughter Sakura drove us to the hospital and waited with us during the four hours it took to see a doctor. I wondered if a four hour wait was the norm.
The doctor examined Donald, gave him and prescription, and told him that for the next ten days, he could only eat…wait for it… GELATO! For a moment I thought Donald had died and gone to heaven.
“But, we’re going to Cinque Terre,” Donald said to no avail. So, for the next three days each time I ordered an antipasto or primi Donald would ask for gelato crema and when I ordered a secondo Donald would oder gelato vaniglia – he liked to mix it up:)
The first time this happened our startled waiter simply laughed and waited. “No, no,” I said, adding, “it’s true.
He can only eat gelato,” I said, adding, “Per primi, polpo per me e gelato crema per Donato.” The waiter nodded.
“Per secondo vorrei branzino, per favore e per Donato gelato vaniglia. Our waiter, who we soon learned was gay and had a Lucchesi boyfriend, soon got excited by our ordering gelato for every course. Pointing to Donald he’d yell out to the rest of the staff, “Lui manga solo gelato,” and everyone, including the two of us, would laugh.
We returned to the same restaurant every evening, had the same waiter, Andrea, and sat at the same table overlooking the Ligurian Sea. Each time we arrived Andrea would yell out, “Gelato sta sera,” as the other waitpeople would roar with laughter.
Ten days later and back in Lucca, Donald’s mouth had healed. He was ready to kill for anything not named gelato.
“I like the Italian health system,” I told him. Donald looked at me with an evil eye as he downed his focaccia, the first food he had eaten other than gelato in ten days.
“But, where else in the world would a doctor prescribe gelato for ten days,” I said, perhaps unnecessarily so.
I Love Italia,