It might seem like all my stories from Italy have to do with bugs.
A lot of them do.
There aren’t a whole lot of bugs in the dry, hot climate of my hometown, Las Vegas, besides scorpions and ants.
The humidity of Italy, on the other hand, is a bug’s paradise; it’s my worst nightmare.
I saw three different kinds of bugs more than any others: spiders, mosquitoes and those lanky weird, flying insects that eat mosquitoes that look terrifying but are more good than evil.
I learned the Italian word for mosquito (zanzara) when my entire class took a weeklong field trip to Firenze and stayed in a hotel that had more mosquitoes than actual guests.
I have never seen more mosquitoes in my life. I don’t know where they kept coming from. We kept our windows and doors closed around the clock, yet every time we came back from sightseeing, there would be five more in our room, flitting around like they owned the place.
We slept with our pants tucked into our socks, our shirts tucked into our pants and our heads under the blankets, despite it being both hot and extremely humid in Firenze during the time of our visit, but we’d always wake up with more incessantly itchy bites.
We visited a farmacia and bought some mosquito repellant, but it only seemed to entice them more, like spreading butter on a warm piece of bread.
It got so bad that we devoted an entire night to killing the ones that had set up their homes in our hotel room.
We declared war.
We waited until they emerged from whatever crevice they were hiding, and then smashed them with a shoe, spraying our freshly sucked blood across the wall.
Our efforts were rewarding at first.
We felt as though we were both solving the problem and punishing the offenders for their crimes. However, more found their way into our room somehow. Maybe they were coming in through a crack in the wall, or an air vent. Maybe they just materialize out of thin air. I’ll never know.
Regardless, there seemed to be more after our mosquito war than before.
We just had to accept the fact that we had these uninvited roommates.
During our trip to Firenze, I also got pink eye and bit by a spider for the first time in my life.
I had to go to two Italian hospitals and buy expensive drops and creams for my eyes. I wasn’t allowed to wear my contacts, and I didn’t have glasses at the time, so I wasn’t able to see a lot of the awesome stuff Firenze and the towns around it had to offer.
However, my week in Firenze is one of the most memorable trips I took.
I got to eat tacos (the first Mexican food I had had since arriving in Italy), see the Venus de Milo and visit the town where Under the Tuscan Sun was filmed.
(I’ve never seen or read Under the Tuscan Sun, but the town was magical nonetheless.)
I also got to experience one of the most beautiful things I saw the entire time I was in Italy: the Duomo.
We were being dragged around by our tour guides and chaperones to different places throughout Firenze and were tired, cranky and hungry, which was making us consider breaking off from the pack to go grab a slice of pizza margherita.
But we stuck it out, and after meandering through Firenze’s markets and stores and farmacie, we came around the corner and there it was.
The white marble façade glimmering in the light of the setting sun.
The red tile roof against the bright blue autumn sky.
I want to say it was amazing, but amazing is an understatement.
I had never seen anything like it.
We, of course, snapped a bunch of pictures and stared at it in awe for a long time, until the sun began to set and it was time to go get some pizza.
In that moment, I forgot about my stinging eyes, my itchy bites, my exhaustion, my hunger.
It seems as though seeing a lot of bugs during a trip in Italy is good luck, since my two best trips were marked by bug infestations.
It’s just one of those things you have to get over.
Seeing the famous works of art and the Duomo were worth having to suffer through five or six (or twenty…) mosquito bites.
I’m hoping to return to Firenze when I go back to Italy this fall, so I can see all the beauty and wonder the city has to offer again, but with perfect vision this time.
And in case you’re wondering… no, I will not be staying in the same hotel.