Saturday, January 28, 2017

Florence, Italy and a hospital visit

Ahhh, Florence. The city of artistic masters and architectural beauty, a city so rich with Renaissance history. We knew we couldn't come to Tuscany without visiting Florence.

On our third full day in Italy we drove an hour east of Lucca to Florence. We had museum reservations quite early at the Uffizi Gallery, as I read that you will want to do so to avoid the crush of fellow tourists. We thought we were leaving with more than enough time, however we didn't realize we would also be within rush hour traffic. We also had a really hard time finding the parking garage. I feverishly searched my Italy book to find the recommendations for parking here all while also trying to connect to the internet to read up on where to park as well on Tripadvisor. We finally found the garage after circling a few times but then had an equally hard time finding the minibus that was to take us to the area of Florence the museums were in. The driver refused to speak to us so we just hopped on and followed along on our phones to make sure the route was correct. Thankfully it was so we sighed a bit of relief to our hectic start. A funny (now that we look back) tidbit is that while we were on the minibus Mike looked up the procedure to purchase tickets for the ride we were taking. Apparently one does not do so via the driver. You are supposed to purchase these tickets ahead of time (we had no idea where). If a controller gets on the bus to check tickets and you are found to not have one you can be fined around 200 Euros per person! We were sweating by this time and when we got to our stop we happily scrambled off! We had a free ride to town, unintentionally! Here is a great article to read BEFORE you visit Florence!

With all this unexpected delay in the morning we arrived at the will-call at the Uffizi Gallery about 10 minutes later than our purchased ticket time. I was worried that they wouldn't honor our tickets but thankfully they did. Phew, we were finally off to look at amazing Renaissance art!

Inside the Uffizi Gallery

A funny at the museum - the bathrooms are in the basement of the museum and you feel like you are walking a maze to get there. We were talking as we exited the ladies room and walked right into the mens room! Thankfully we realized quickly and ran out! Mike laughed when we rejoined him as he saw the whole thing - and then he mentioned he saw several other women doing the exact same thing. Seems they need to differentiate the areas a bit better!

After a few hours at the Uffizi, we decided to take a lunch break and walk a bit to see the sights. We found a lovely outdoor restaurant right outside The Church of Santa Croce. It had a large square in front of it where Ava enjoyed doing a little gymnastics!

Gymnastics by The Basilica di Santa Croce

It was so peaceful and lovely to sit outside and people watch, one of our favorite things about Europe.

Our lunch spot

Once we had revived ourselves we realized we still had several hours until our ticketed time at the Accademia in the late afternoon, so we meandered past the gorgeous Duomo and explored a bit more of Florence. There were a lot of amateur artists trying to hawk their goods, with their artwork laying right on the street. We were careful to not step on it, but I wonder if that was purposely done - if you "step on it you buy it?"

An architectural masterpiece

We were ready to move on to the Accademia to see The David. We arrived a few hours earlier than our ticketed time, but they let us in. It was a small museum, but profund with the amazing David statue sitting underneath a dome built just for him. We all marveled over the immense beauty of the statue.

The David at the Accademia

At this point, we were ready to leave busy Florence and head back to Lucca. While driving we decided to have our last dinner at the very first place we ate at in Lucca with my family a few days before, Cafe Turrandot. We knew the kids had eaten there safely and we just wanted some place easy after the hectic day in Florence.

We ended up getting the same waiter as before - it felt nice to have that familiarity while in a place so far from home. He took our drink order and then when he came back he brought a bowl of shelled peanuts. Oh no...the kids are severely allergic to peanuts. I felt a wave of unease having eaten there just a few days ago. Thankfully they were ok with the food the last time but I was not about to risk it now that I knew they had open bowls of peanuts. I told the kids that we would have to stop at McDonalds for them on the way out and we would just order our food to take back to the house. We needed to pack up and clean up the place anyway so it seemed a good compromise. As us adults placed our order, Braden and Ava went to play around in front of the large church just like they did the last time. Braden is very cautious with his allergies and did not feel comfortable sitting at the table where the peanuts were brought out, even though we had the waiter take them back. As we were chatting about our day, I looked over at Ava and she was swinging so high, one arm each on a cement pole with a rounded ball on top. I envisioned what was about to happen before it even did. I stood up and yelled to her and she flew into the air, hands having slipped, right onto her back. I ran to her so fast and a passerby on a bike dropped her bike and ran to her as well, having watched the whole thing happen. She was frantically speaking in Italian and I just said "thank you, thank you" over and over to her. I know she felt helpless but she knew I couldn't understand her. I ran Ava back to the table and Mike checked her eyes with his phone light and asked her some questions. Having spend a few years in the Army National Guard as a medic, he knew how to treat emergencies. He decided to walk her to what the waitstaff told him was a clinic just around the corner. It was actually an ambulance and they said there wasn't anything they could do there and referred him to a local hospital. We quickly got our food, paid, and set off for the hospital.

We arrived shortly at Ospidale San Lucca. Mike dropped Ava and me off and we ran in. I felt my heart sink when I saw a waiting room full of people. I know in public health care systems it runs quite differently than we are used to in the U.S. I asked the lady at the desk if anyone spoke English. She informed me she did as she was from New York...what a relief. I quickly relayed what happened and she took us right back, took her vitals, and translated questions she was asking me to another lady who was putting everything into a computer. We were then put on a bed in the hallway, which I found odd. There was no separate room as all rooms were full, apparently. I saw all sorts of injured, sick, and banged up folks come through the doors while we waited. The worst was when I heard someone howling over and over, "Papa, papa!" It was an awful thing to hear someone obviously in such pain. At that point I started to feel tears come to my own eyes. Here we were in a foreign country, didn't know the language, the hospital system was so unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I saw folks walking down the hallway holding their own IV bags, going into the bathroom as well. People were sitting in another waiting area hooked up to IVs. It made me so appreciative for our health care in the U.S. One needs to experience a different way to fully appreciate it, I suppose.

Inside Ospidale San Luca

After a few hours, they took Ava for x-rays, which were found to be fine. Thank goodness, no broken bones because I don't think I could have handled her having surgery there with the questionable sanitary practices I was witnessing. We waited a few more hours and they said they wanted to do a "sonogram" of her abdomen. Thankfully all turned out well there but we did find out that she has two spleens! It was a few minutes of a fumbled conversation between us and the doctor and a nurse who spoke a little English. We finally understood that her "two spleens is ok!"

We thought we were finally going to be discharged but they said they wanted the orthopedic doctor to take a look at her. We were positioned just outside the room as someone was getting a plastered cast on her leg. We watched the end of the process and it was such an old-fashioned looking cast. Plaster was all over the room, the patient, and the nurse who put it on. I know we were all thinking, "please no cast!" We had a language barrier again but the kind, older doctor did the best he could explaining that her shoulder had compressed cartilage and it would need to be immobilized until we arrived back home. Again, prayers were sent! She had quite the contraption on her to keep her from moving her should until it healed, but we could deal with that!

After six total hours we were finally ready to go home. I have to stay the staff was all so nice and so thorough, even if it wasn't the cleanest environment and there was absolutely no privacy there. We actually felt sorry for the staff as they are clearly overworked. We are so thankful to them for taking great care of our little girl while there!

Ava with her immobilized shoulder

We got back to the house quite late and just went straight to bed. With this whirlwind of a day behind us, we had another busy day ahead - we were leaving Tuscany and heading to Rome!