Florence sunset

GETTING SICK IN ITALY – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Getting sick while you are on vacation is no fun at all. We plan to be healthy, but still it can happen, you wake up feeling like death warmed over, your tummy is in knots or maybe you have a splitting headache. If something major happens, such as your appendix gets going or you break a bone, obviously you will go to the hospital, but what about the other stuff?

This past summer I had a makeup job in Belize the week before I went to Italy. I woke up my third day in Europe with a nasty cough that progressively got worse, to the point where I had to sleep sitting up. It was miserable. It turned out I had breathed in spores in Belize that then took up residence in my sinuses and wrecked havoc on my summer. The bright side of the experience was that I got the opportunity to work my way through the Italian medical system, and see how incredibly functional and affordable it is!

Certaldo Alto

Had I been in the US I would have high tailed it to my nearest Target/Walgreens/ CVS store and loaded up on DayQuil and NyQuil, but they don’t have those products in Italy. I normally travel with a small kit of OTC medicines in case something goes wrong, but this time I had left the bag at home in the name of packing light. (Never again!)

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The first medical stop was to see a doctor. The owner of the vacation rental I was staying in hooked me up and got me an appointment. The doctor was great. He asked a million questions, including “Belize??? What the hell were you doing there?? Do you have any idea how many crazy illnesses they have in Belize???”

Then he went to a cabinet full of drawers and pulled out a packet of antibiotics, a nasal spray, an inhaler (that costs 10x more in the USA) and wrote me a prescription for some cough medicine. It was brilliant! None of this waiting an hour at the pharmacy like you do here. A basic prescription comes prepackaged and ready to go. Why don’t we have that here??

Next I went to the pharmacy to get my cough medicine. Again, it was super efficient. Everything is prepackaged and ready to go. No waiting around.

italy pharmacy

 

Because I was going to be moving around the country I couldn’t come back for a follow up visit, so the doctor wrote me some other prescriptions in case I needed them.

Normally your first stop isn’t to a doctors office, normally you start at the pharmacy. 

Pharmacies are easy to find in Italy because they have a big green cross in neon outside. It is a very different pharmacy experience than you have in America. 

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The DayQuil/NyQuil/Benedryl products that we buy over the counter here aren’t sold over the counter there. In Italy you will speak to a pharmacist, and this is going to feel like you are speaking to a doctor. They will ask you tons of questions about what’s going on, so they can diagnose you correctly and give you the right products. If you want something for a cough they will ask you all about the cough, where it is coming from, is it wet or dry, and then decide which is the best option for you.

Normally the first stop isn’t a pharmaceutical, but will be a natural remedy instead. They do the same in New Zealand – it’s amazing how many ailments that we medicate in the US that they treat and cure overseas with non-pharmaceutical products! 

Across the course of traveling through Italy for 6 weeks with a never ending cough I was able to experience many, many pharmacies. They are all independently owned, not giant chains like they are here. In each and every one whomever was helping me asked tons of questions then made a decision specific to my needs. When I got to San Gimignano and was still coughing, the pharmacist said I needed to see another doctor, then organized it for me.

This doctor wrote some more prescriptions including a steroid to stop the cough. I ran back to the pharmacy and once again they just opened drawers and pulled out the boxes of medications. There was no waiting around, no pharmacy techs counting out tablets, instead the prescriptions are already in boxes waiting for you.

I speak Italian pretty well, but I don’t speak medical jargon. (I don’t speak mechanical Italian either. If you need your car taken in for an oil change and tire rotation I don’t know any of the words!) I found that in every pharmacy I went to up and down the country, they spoke English, or enough English for us to communicate.

I am a big believer in bringing some OTC meds with you in case you do catch a cold or get an upset tummy etc while on your trip, but if you don’t have what you need don’t worry. 

Volterra Stairs

What To Do If You Get Sick In Italy

Don’t get freaked out!

Act on it immediately. You may need to take a day out of your trip and sleep it off – whatever you have to do to nip it in the bud. You are better to deal with it quickly and stop it from getting worse, than to get really sick and ruin your trip. If it is a tummy issue you really need to act quickly because public bathrooms are few and far between in Italy.

Go to your nearest pharmacy and expect to speak at length with the pharmacist or the tech. They will sort you out. 

If your illness is beyond their ability to help they will help you find a doctor, and in most cases a doctor who speaks English.

If you do need a doctor and they can’t help you find one, your hotel or your landlord can help you.

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 Italian OTC (Over The Counter) Equivalents

You won’t find Advil, Motrin, Excedrine etc in Italy, but you will find these equivalent products.

Asprin = Aspirina

Ibuprofen products, like Advil are Brufen, Moment, and the best one for headaches – Nurofen.

Acetominophen products, like Tylenol are Paracetamol are Tachipirina and Efferalgan.

Naproxen products, like Aleve, are Momendol, Naprosyn and Naproxene.

Antihistamines: Reactine and Zyrtec, and a product called Telfast which is close to the American Allegra. The pharmacist will probably recommend a nasal spray as well.

Medicines To Pack

I recommend packing a small first aid kit when you travel. Make sure you have bandaids, a small tube of neosporin, a small tube of the painkiller that works for you (Excedrine/Tylenol/Motrin). You may encounter plants or air that sets off allergies you weren’t expecting, so pack an antihistimine. I bring Zyrtek with me because I find it works quicker and better than Claritin.

You should pack for tummy ailments too – something for upset stomach and something for a backed up stomach. Being in a place with different water from home and with different food from home could set you off in either direction.

Pack an insect repellent. Italy has some hungry mosquitos! But if I’m there you will be safe because they will buzz right past you to come eat me! One cool trick I learned was to pack a few tablespoons of baking soda. If you get bitten (or like me, eaten alive), mix a teaspoon of baking soda with just enough water to make a paste, paint it over your insect bites and let it dry. Once its all the way dry, rub it off rather than washing it off. It takes the redness, the itch, and the swelling out of insect bites really quickly! You can use the same trick for sunburn.

If you have OTC medicines you recommend packing, please tell me in the comments section below!

If you are traveling to Europe this winter chances are you are thinking about what footwear to bring.

I have been really trying hard to pack less on my European trips. On my summer Glam Italia Tours I have been taking a pair of Supergas, a pair of good sandals to walk in all day, a pair of sandals to wear out at night if I want to change it up, and a pair of flip flops for beach days.

I have another winter trip coming up, and at this point I am planning on taking only 2 pairs of shoes, a sneaker and an ankle boot. Maybe a velvet mule to wear out an night, but am not sure yet on that one.

boots and shooes for Europe this winter

Things to consider when you are planning your winter footwear for Europe are weather and how much walking you will be doing. If you are going to a rainy place you need to factor in footwear getting wet and how long it will take to dry. If you only have 2 pairs of shoes and your first pair haven’t dried overnight, you need a backup pair. I know from my years of living in London that shoes sometimes don’t dry out for a few days because there isn’t always an abundance of heating. If you only have 2 pairs that can mean wearing damp shoes (not happening) or buying more shoes there (game on!). I recommend having a pair of waterproof boots

Obviously if you are going to the snow you need snow appropriate shoes.

I tend to be in Italy, France, Spain – places that have relatively temperate weather. They all have snow, but I don’t go to the snow so it doesn’t factor in to my packing equation.

The next thing to think about is how much walking you will be doing. My iPhone step tracker app tells me that when I’m on my Glam Tours we are walking an average of 25,000 steps per day. In Paris in September we were averaging a little more than that, somewhere around 11 miles per day. I’ve had tour groups in Rome who have wanted to stay out exploring on their first night, and we have ended up walking 32,000 steps their first day! What this means is that you have to have really comfortable shoes that support your feet and don’t leave you blistered and wounded. Don’t forget that Europe is full of cobblestone streets, so you need to think about ankle support and low heels. (Or no heels)

Sneakers

The absolute biggest thing in Paris just over a month ago was the Adidas sneaker. They were worn many different ways, with jeans, with pants, with dresses. They were madly chic. I bought a pair of Campus style in salmon that are beyond cool, and I wore them to death. On Zappos.com I found these Adidas Gazelle suede sneakers that would be great for non-rainy days

 

adidas gazelle grey and pink

adidas Originals – Gazelle (Pearl Grey/Trace Green/White) Women’s Tennis Shoes

adidas Originals - Superstar (White/Gold) Women's Tennis Shoes

These  adidas Originals – Superstar (White/Gold) Women’s Tennis Shoes were everywhere in Paris. You could wear them with jeans, but I wouldn’t advise wearing white sneakers in the rain. The leather uppers make them good for winter, and if white feels too summery they have lots of other colors to choose from too. I found a great pair of black leather Adidas with white stripes that would also be great.

Boots

Ankle boots are fantastic because they don’t take up much room, look good with everything, and don’t leave boot marks at your knees showing through your jeans!

Blundstone - BL550 (Walnut) Pull-on Boots

Blundstone – BL550 (Walnut) Pull-on Boots
 are waterproof, can be dressed up or down, are super comfortable, and this is actually one of Blundstone’s best rated boots. Available at Zappos.

Born - Casco (Black Full Grain) Women's Pull-on Boots

Born – Casco (Black Full Grain) Women’s Pull-on Boots
 Born boots are super comfortable and easy to walk in forever. I have a pair that finally need replacing after years of working hard for me. I’m a huge Born fan. I also like the look of their Chisel Boot below.
Bornshoes.com offers free shipping and exchanges on all orders, and hassle-free returns!

Born Chisel Boot

 

Geox are know for their well made, super comfortable footwear. I think every major city I go to in Europe has a big Geox presence. Their shoes and boots are not only stylish and comfortable, but chic too. I particularly like the Etienne boot below.

Geox Etienne
Shopgeox.com offers free shipping and exchanges on all orders, and hassle-free returns!

Sofft - Bergamo Waterproof (Black Wild Steer) Women's Slip on Shoes

Sofft – Bergamo Waterproof (Black Wild Steer) Women’s Slip on Shoes
 are another great ankle boot option. I lived in Sofft sandals and shoes all summer in Europe, and they were probably the best travel footwear I have ever had in terms of comfort (walking 25,000 steps per day), durablity – they are still going strong, and they looked chic.
Sofftshoe.com offers free shipping on all orders, easy returns, and free exchanges.

 

Sam Edelman - Aven (Malbec Silky Velvet) Women's Clog/Mule Shoes
Sam Edelman – Aven (Malbec Silky Velvet) Women’s Clog/Mule Shoes
 I love the look of these velvet mules from Sam Edelman. I wouldn’t walk all day in them, but after a long day of sightseeing it would feel great to slip into these and head out to dinner.

Related Post: Chic and Super Comfortable Shoes and Sandals To Wear In Europe, Summer

Other winter footwear items to pack:

Warm socks. Make sure they are soft and comfortable warm socks.

Bandaids for blisters.

Insoles for your boots. I use Dr Scholls, mostly because I like the gel pad in the heel.

More warm socks.

 

 

Naples villas and palaces

I’m infatuated with Naples.

Naples is gritty and dirty, and parts of it are loud and a bit scary, which I think dissuades some travelers (including this one) from going there. I had thought Naples was a city I needed to stay away from, until I actually went there and discovered how magnificent it actually is! When I finally decided to go see Naples I messaged a Facebook friend who I had never met, and he wound up taking the day off work and showing me around. It was absolutely fantastic! We walked this incredible city for hours, stopped for coffee breaks (Naples has the best coffee in all of Italy) ate Baba and pizza, saw a million  amazing things, had no end of fun, and when I got on the train to go back to Salerno that evening I realized that there are a million more things I need to go back and see. I even have a guide lined up to take my Glam Tour ladies through Naples should I get a group who want to go spend a day there.

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Pompeii is a suburb of Naples, as is Herculaneum. The Palace of Caserta is nearby too. I had the crazy good luck of arriving at the palace on a Monday afternoon in December, when the crowds had left, leaving me the entire palace to myself. I wrote about it here. While there I learned about Marie Carolina, the absolutely fascinating sister of Marie Antoinette. She lived at Caserta, a palace built to outdo Versailles, and she ran the kingdom of Sicily and Naples. I plan on really studying her and getting well versed in all her accomplishments and then heading back to visit her palace again, this time being more informed.

Related Post: Discover The Palace Of Caserta

Naples and its surrounding area have so many sensational palaces and villas to visit and explore. If you are planning a trip to Italy you should consider checking some of them out. To whet your appetite I want to share this fabulous article I found in Italy Magazine about 5 palaces and villas that are part of Naples’ aristocratic past.

Enjoy!

Naples Aristocratic Past: Five Palaces and Villas That Are Sure To Wow

From the 13th century to Italian unification in 1861 Naples was the seat of far-reaching kingdoms, whose territories included the regions of Southern Italy. Neapolitan rulers, depending on the century were Angevin, Catalan, Austrian, Spanish, or French (under Napoleon), their dominions referred to as either the Kingdom of Naples, the Kingdom of Sicily, or the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, according to the realms won and lost in the constant battles for power. A change in rulers often initiated a building spree; not surprisingly, Naples and Campania are home to many aristocratic dwellings, with the Spanish Bourbon kings and court spearheading the construction of some of the most magnificent palaces and villas that have survived to this day.

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Here are five not to miss on your next trip to Naples.

[Villa Rufolo, Ravello]

VILLA PIGNATELLI (Museo Diego Aragona  Pignatelli Cortes). Since the Middle Ages the Pignatelli family has been one of Southern Italy’s most influential and powerful clans, who at the peak of their power could claim title to14 principalities, 16 dukedoms, 22 marquisates and 18 earldoms. Through strategic marriages the Pignatelli married into the major noble familes of Italy including the Caracciolo, Colonna and Orsini. This beautifully restored neo-classic museum house came into the Pignatelli family in 1867 (after being owned by the Rothschilds and Ferdinand Acton, son of the Neapolitan Prime Minister, Sir John Acton) and for years was a center of Neapolitan social life. You’ll find find many decorative arts collections here reflecting the aristocratic obsessions of the day, including an outsanding array of porcelain from local purveyors like Capodimonte. Del Vecchio, and Giustiniani, and from such major European names as Meissen, Limoges, and Sevres.

Some of the reception rooms (like the White House) are organized  by color scheme—red, blue, and green. In these and other rooms you’ll find fine 19th century silver pieces, gilded furniture and ornate clocks.The villa also showcases the San Paolo Banco di Napoli art collection with landscapes, still lifes, and sculpture from major 16th to 20th century Neapolitan artists (including the prodigious Baroque-era painter Francesco Solimena and Gaspare Traversi, a painter associated with the Rococo period, whose work was influenced by Caravaggio). The garden was landscaped English style, no doubt, due to the taste of its original owner. In 1952 Princess Rosina Pignatelli donated the villa and its collections to the state. Riviera di Chiaia, Napoli; cir.campania.beniculturali.it/museopignatelli. Open: 8.30 AM to 5 PM. Closed Tuesdays.

[Photo credit: Wikimedia commons]

PALAZZO ZEVALLOS STIGLIANO. Built for the Duke of Ostuni, Giovanni Zevallos, in the 1600s by Cosimo Fanzago, the Bernini of Naples, this palace-museum is noted for its outstanding art collection, which includes Caravaggio’s The Martyrdom of Saint Ursula, believed to be his last work, and an extensive collection of Neapolitan paintings from the Cinquecento to the 20th century. The Neapolitan pieces include canvases from the Posillipo School or Art, named after the waterfront section of Naples where artists, among them Anton Pitloo (1790-1837), whose plein air depictions are regarded as forerunners of Impressionism, and Giacinto Gigante (1806-1876) practiced the art of vedute, or landscape painting. There are also works from the Resina School, referencing the seaside town near Naples whose painters were influenced by the Florentine Macchiaioli, sometimes referred to as Italian impressionists. The Palazzo is part of Galerie d’Italia Intesa San Paolo group. Via Toledo 185; gallerieditalia.com/it/napoli/  Open: Tuesday to Friday:10 AM-6 PM; Saturday, 10-8 PM. Closed Mondays.

[Photo credit: Due Sicilie – Magna Grecia]

VILLA RUFOLO. Big names have long been associated with this villa, from the powerful Southern Italian nobles who owned the property to celebrities like Jacqueline Kennedy who came to visit. It was built in the 13th century (according to lore with more rooms than days in the year) by the Rufolo clan, an influential family that held sway in Amalfi, then a maritime republic (like Genoa and Pisa) and its architectural style references the area’s ties to the East (Amalfi was an important trading hub), blending Arabic and Gothic elements.

So important were the Rufolo, one even figured as a protagonist in Bocaccio’s iconic Decameron. The constant power struggles in the region saw Rufolo fortunes rise and fall; over the centuries the villa was owned by other aristocratic familes like the Confalone and Muscettola.In 1851 it was bought by Francis Nevile Reid, a Scottish botanist, who restored the structure and gardens. The Great Tower, once a strategic lookout and nearly one thousand years old, provides dramatic views of the Bay of Salerno. Today the villa and gardens are the site of contemporary art exhibits and the world famous Ravello Festival. Piazza Duomo, Ravello; Villarufolo.com. Open: 9 AM to 9 PM. Tower museum: from April 1, 11 AM to 5 PM.

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VILLA FLORIDIANA (Museo Nazionale della Ceramic Duca de Martina). One of Europe’s finest porcelain collections is housed in the Villa Floridiana, a former Bourbon royal residence, and summer home to Ferdinand IV of Naples’ second wife Lucia Migliaccio, the Duchess of Floridia (his first spouse was the powerhouse Queen Maria Carolina, Marie Anoinette’s sister). In 1919 the government purchased the property from Migliaccio’s descendants and turned it into a museum, whose debut exhibition featured porcelain collected by the Duke of Martina, a highly regarded decorative arts connoisseur. The collection was further enhanced by a bequest in 1978 when an heir to the duke gave the museum a bounty of furniture and porcelain. The museum today showcases over 6000 porcelain and decorative items—Bohemian crystal, Gothic ivories, Sicilian coral, Venetian glass, and bronze objets—ranging from the Middle Ages to the 1800s. Of particular note is the Renaissance-era majolica; pieces from the great porcelain production centers on the Italian peninsula, among them Capodimonte, Deruta, Gubbio, and Faenza;  and a large collection of porcelain including Ming and Qing dynasty china from Asia and from the great European names like Limoges, Sevres, and Meissen. Via Cimarosa 77; polomusealecampania.beniculturali.it/ Open: Wednesday to Monday 8.30 AM  to 7 PM.

PALACE AND MUSEUM OF CAPODIMONTEIts name and location might suggest a focus on porcelain, but this large neoclassical palazzo, built by the Bourbon king Charles VII as a hunting retreat, houses one of Italy’s richest art collections. Its hillside setting proved to be both blessing—affording striking view of the Bay of Naples—and headache, due to the location’s steep incline, which made the transport of building materials difficult. Construction, which began in 1738, took 100 years to complete.

From its earliest days the palace was thought of as both residence and museum, showcasing an important cache of classical sculpture and paintings from the renowned Farnese art collection, which Charles inherited from his mother, Elizabeth Farnese. The palace, home to the National Gallery (Galleria Nazionale), displays works by the major names in Western art like Titian, Botticelli, Raphael, Massacio, Bellini, Caravaggio and El Greco and even a 20th century icon, Andy Warhol. The royal apartments, lavish for a residence designed as country retreat, contain 18th century furnishings. Villa Napoli 2. Open: 8.30 AM to 7.30 PM, except Wednesdays and Christmas. Royal apartments open at 10 AM. A shuttle runs from Naples city center (Piazza Trieste e Trento/Teatro San Carlo) to the Palace and Museum.

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