In all my years in Los Angeles, I (thankfully) never went to the Emergency Room. In Italy, even before we moved, both David and I both made visits. Me first, me first. As David said, he got to ride … But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So … we were going to spend the day in Forte dei Marmi, a posh beachside resort on the Tuscan coast. Very tony … they make you pay to pee. Even if you bought a cappuccino or croissant. We wanted to see the sea, dip our toes in it, swim in it … people were telling us that the Tyrrhenian Sea, the Mediterranean side, was nicer and cleaner than the Adriatic side.

As we were driving, I started to feel feverish. I shrugged it off. I adjusted the air conditioning vents toward my face. We found a place to park a few blocks from the beach, on the beautiful and sunny and warm morning. We had our beach chairs and a bag with towels and snacks (don’t leave home without it) and sunscreen. Waterproof SPF30. We looked at the intersection … no smartphone to pinpoint our location, not clever enough to take a photo. And off we walked toward the sound of the surf. I feel feverish. I shrugged it off.

We got to the sand and flung off our sandals ... letting our toes enjoy the familiar warmth and texture. We walked to the gently lapping “waves” (sorry, those of us from California know waves … we should have many terms, like Eskimos have for “snow”) and decided to walk along the water line until we could find a good place to settle. Much of the beach is reserved for those who are paying for a lounge chair and umbrella, different colored umbrellas for the different hotels or cabanas. Cool water … warm sun. I feel feverish. It’s getting harder to shrug it off. We kept walking.

Finally I realized that I can shrug it off no longer … and at the lifeguard station, under a red pop-up tent, is a chair. And I collapse into it.

Always pale, I am paler than usual. The lifeguard (I am well enough to realize he is a bronze, buff, brunette Italian young man!) is immediately there to help. He asks what is wrong … I explain. He tells me that there is a doctor sitting in the nearby area, and he will bring him over. I think I know why I have a fever, I think they are worried I am having a heart attack. The doctor arrives, asks a few questions and takes my pulse. Can you walk to the stretcher over there?, pointing 20 yards behind us. No. So they pick up the chair, and carry me (the bronze, buff, brunette Italian young man and the doctor) … and from the stretcher into the ambulance waiting where the sand meets the street. David, carrying all of our gear, sat in the passenger seat … shotgun. And off we drive, with siren, to the nearest hospital … the hospital in Viareggio.

Someone forgot to proofread from the back … Rimini by night.

They triaged me, and seem to realize it’s not my heart … but want to find out why I am so weak and unwell. And by the standards of the olive complex-ed, this Czech girl is white as a ghost. Blood … urine … EKG… ultrasound. The tech even complimented my Italian. I’m in a ward with 8 or 10 beds … they won’t let David stay with me, though I see a person here and there among the other patients. I didn’t protest … clearly I wasn’t feeling well [wink] … saving my fight for I-want-to-see-a-doctor-and-see-him/her-now. The nurses would come by periodically to check on me … 15 minutes.

15 minutes.

Puglia … morning, noon …
… and night.

Finally I could see the doctor and discuss what was ailing me. I asked for my husband … easy to find in the waiting room, the tall guy with all the beach gear. The doctor was very nice, and he liked us right away when David said he looked like George Clooney. He said he wanted to do one more test, I can’t remember what. It could be done in 15 minutes. An Italian 15 minutes … David asked how crucial it was to make a diagnosis … not mandatory, simply a good idea, being thorough. It seemed that I had a kidney infection. I’d had them before, and under the summer sun with not enough water … I was zapped. We decided to skip the last test. The doctor gave me a box of antibiotics, and I took one immediately. Drink water, he admonished. I drank some more.

It was mid-afternoon, maybe a bit later, 4.00-ish. I was discharged. Without knowing the amount of my bill, the nurse at the window said they would mail it to me. Really? With the Italian postal system, I knew there was a 50/50 chance it would never reach me.

And now, back to our car. Which is where …? We called a taxi … and gave the driver the worst directions in the history of taxis. Sort of here, sort of there … as we got closer, he drove up and down a couple of streets. And we did remember … not just the street names, but also the brand and model and color of our rental car. There it was. The driver probably still laughs about the stupid stranieri who barely knew where they parked their car.

I was feeling better by the next day … but always the good patient, finished my medication and made sure I drank, drank, drank. We also bought a six-pack of Fiuggi water … a brand of water that is reputed to be the best for any medical problem below the waist because it has less sodium than other brands. I like it because it is the first bottled water I remember drinking oh those many years ago on my first trips to Italy.

The bill arrived in Los Angeles a few months later. 300 euros. Total. A bronze, buff, brunette Italian young man and a doctor who looked like George Clooney … and David rode shotgun in an ambulance.


This is great with walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, macademias … probably pecans, too. If you make it for a party, there will be none left …it’s the first dessert to be finished.

8 oz. butter, softened
½ cup sugar
2 cups flour
1 cup nuts, chopped

- Preheat oven to 350° F (170° C).
- Butter an 11 inch round false bottom or springform cake pan, and dust the sides with flour.
- Sprinkle a few nuts into the prepared pan.
- In a large mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar. Then add flour, followed by the rest of the nuts … it’s cookie dough, not cake batter.
- Scoop the dough into the pan … press with your hands and a spatula to spread it to the edges. (It will be a thin layer.)
- Bake for 25–30 minutes until lightly golden and set.
- Let cool for a few minutes, then turn/flip onto a serving plate … the bottom becomes the top.
- To serve, just break off pieces, large and small, with your fingers. No need to use a knife.