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Travel Tips for Italy: 8 Lessons learned from a Minor Injury

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Sometimes there are just things, albeit unofficial, that you should just know. That’s why I’m telling you all about my non-medical travel tips for Italy…that I learnt from a minor injury.

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The painstakingly beautiful, Piazza della Erbe, Verona, Italy

A few short weeks ago if someone had told me my best purchase in Italy, known by some as “the land of shoes” (well, by me, anyway), was going to be foot-related, it wouldn’t have surprised me.

But if someone tried to tell me that this purchase of the foot genre was going to be a pair of 27,50 Euro crutches at a pharmacy in Venice, at my own risk, I would have chosen to ignore them.

You may also like: A Verona Photo Essay

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Self portrait of the injured foot on the day after the “incident.” I borrowed my daughter’s Converse, but even they wouldn’t fit for much longer

Last Sunday in Verona, I met a curb that didn’t like me. Jumped out of nowhere; I swear it did.

One minute I was crossing the street with my two teenage daughters towards Ponte Nuovo to have a look at the Adige River, the next I was screaming – yes, really – trust me it was called for, albeit embarrassing in this heavily trafficked tourists’ area – and curled up on the sidewalk.

Whether I wanted to or not, I was about to learn a few things, and walked away (on crutches) with some travel tips for Italy that I hope you will never need!

You may also like: Lessons From Solo Travel In France

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I’m pretty sure Scarabella means “beautiful shoes,” but ahem… I see what looks like Crocs in that window

After what could have been an hour or mere minutes, and with both daughters’ help, we were able to shuffle and hop to a cafe where I could more accurately assess the damage.

I knew it wasn’t the best thing that could have happened on our big trip, but being somewhat experienced in this area I was able to quickly determine I had not broken any bones. Immediately I was most thankful that it had happened towards the end of travels in Italy.

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With its cobblestones, crowds and unexpected curbs, Verona isn’t the only city in Italy or in Europe that can feel like a gauntlet.

Over-the-counter help shows up along with the room key

On the walk from the cafe to our hotel, suddenly we were spotting people on crutches everywhere. Was it that we had just not noticed them before?

When we eventually got back to the lovely Hotel Accademia, over-the-counter pain medication and a pair of crutches were manifested from behind the desk with the same ease as our room key. It was almost as if my vacation-altering experience were of no surprise, and it got us all thinking.

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Another broad on the streets of Verona, injured 

I needed to have everyone ignore my screams. Really.

At first I really needed to scream.

Soon thereafter, I needed to plop myself dramatically (not histrionically) down in the middle of the sidewalk, sob some more – call me a wimp if you want, only Holly, Meg and I know the truth – and assess the damage.

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Kill or be killed. In any major tourist area, there will always be those who are in full mow-down mode, while others are not.

The road rules of the tourist track are different than in “real life.” If you are the person who has just torn a calf full of ligaments, don’t expect your fellow foreign tourists to help you. This is okay, and I believe how it is supposed to be.

Remember that your fellow tourists are probably on their honeymoon, or on a trip they’ve been dreaming about for their entire lives. It is unlikely they can even see you; and unless they are a bilingual orthopedist or emergency room worker, can’t help you anyway.

For both my daughters and myself, I had to remain self-reliant.

Being self-reliant when being the head tour guide of the family had been a breeze compared to what I was now facing. In those first moments all I wanted was someone to make it all better NOW. I wanted an ambulance full of able and handsome Italian attendants complete with Euro-sirens dispatched to meet my needs NOW.

I wanted pills. I wanted a hospital in Italy with a well-oiled emergency room. Mostly I wanted to go just a few minutes back in time. I wanted to hand my problem over to someone other than me or my daughters.

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Roman Baths or big hole in the ground on a major pedestrian street? You decide.

Both mentally and physically, take one step at a time.

When faced with feelings of panic the human tendency is to get way out in front of ourselves both mentally and physically.

Even when in pain, if we take a deep breath and do our best to stay in the present moment, we will make better decisions.  In my particular case, there was no need to use everything I had in me to get to an emergency room, and our shuffle/hop to the cafe needed to take just as long as it needed to.

If I had allowed  panic to set in, it wouldn’t have done any of us any good.

Get a good attitude. Fast.

I was the leader of our little triad, the planner, the map reader, the advance team, the cheerleader; wallowing in my sorrows for too long and heading down the tubes mentally, would serve no one.

The easiest thing to do would have been for us to watch MTV Europe for the entire day in our beautiful hotel rooms. But giving up in that way would have gnawed at us, and taint the memory of what had been a spectacular travel experience with my daughters.

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If I hadn’t had the opportunity to sit in the same place for a couple of hours at the outdoor cafe at our hotel in Venice, I probably wouldn’t have spotted this.

Be realistic, because “it is, what it is”.

A good attitude is definitely helpful, however, not by any stretch is it everything.  Be sure you aren’t burying your head in the sand, and get medical help if you need it. Stay adaptable, and take care of yourself.

Ambitions for our last couple of days, which would be in Venice, would have to be dialed back. In some cases I would learn this the hard way, such as in the middle of a crowded Piazzo San Marco before I had a chance to buy my own 27,50 Euro crutches.

People and things (including shoes) will show up to help you at just the right time

The tourist centers of Italy in summer can be hot, crowded, infuriating and worth every second.

They are filled with things that are so beautiful they will break your heart and with people who are incredibly rude, as well as those who are unforgettably kind (thank you Hotel Antiche Figure for finding my 27,50 Euro crutches and Hotel Accademia for loaning me yours).

It’s because of all this that although we go home, gladly sometimes, we know that if we are lucky, we will come back.

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The Scalzi Bridge near Venice’s St. Lucia train station. Although pedestrian friendly, I wouldn’t call Venice with its bridges and crowds exactly “crutch friendly”

The Mephisto Store, well-known as the makers of the best and most comfortable walking shoes in the world, presented itself like a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, just opposite of the Scalzi Bridge (pictured above).

I bought a pair of Mephistos, my first. Not the best looking shoes I’ve ever owned, but downright gorgeous as far as shoes I can walk in for days go. (For now anyway, I still like my crutches better.)

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At the end of the Scarzi Bridge was the Mephisto Store.

As corny as it sounds, always be on the lookout for the silver lining

The list of ironies was long. (An example: Our hotel room in Venice was way down an adorable alley and up three flights of stairs.) But as long as I allowed the story of our last few days in Italy play out, the good far outweighed the bad.

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Meg retrieving a dessert menu so we could order more emergency gelati and other dolci

Raising children is a long process of learning to let go. After “the incident”  I was no longer able to always be there, between my daughters and their travel experience. I wasn’t always there to make things easier. I sent them off alone to eat meals, go on tours and avoid curbs.

On our last morning in Venice, I sat in the same place at the outdoor cafe at our hotel for a long time, while they were off on a tour of the Doges Palace I had pre-arranged. I saw things, I never would have seen otherwise. We all survived rather nicely.

You may also like: Visiting Venice With An Old Friend

Best Lesson? Gelato with vodka

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I think it was the minute I spotted the gelato on the menu at that cafe we went to in Verona just after “the incident” that I knew everything was going to be okay. We’d been making jokes since the beginning of our trip in Rome about our daily need for “emergency gelato.” On this cafes’ menu were pages of real emergency gelato: It had vodka in it.

You may also like: Choosing Artisan Gelato

*Photos 3, 4, 5 and 6 by Meg Millure, the rest by Margo Millure. All rights reserved.

About the author

Margo Millure lives in Richmond, Virginia. She is a portrait photographer, writer and founder of Travel Belles. Learn more about her at www.MargoMillure.com.

This article has 33 comments

  1. Krista

    Oh my friend, I’m so sorry this happened to you. 🙁 But so glad you were able to be brave and make the best of it. 🙂 What a gift you’ve given your daughters, and such marvy memories you have together. 🙂 Hope you heal up beautifully very soon!!

  2. Tuula

    You did a great job with this post Margo! I love the photos (esp. the “concealed” one, lol) & it’s obvious you handled the situation with a great deal of humor. My favorite tip is to Get a Good Attitude…Fast. Whatever happens on a trip, you just gotta roll with it!
    Nonetheless, happy to hear you’re feeling better 🙂

  3. food lover kathy

    I’m sorry Margo, but I laughed through probably too much of this post. You started me on the humor path with that title, though. And, then the photo of the bridge in Venice. How did you manage Venice’s bridges with your foot and luggage!? I agree with Tuula that the “good attitude…fast” is key, and it looks like you found that quicker than you found the crutches.

  4. Camels & Chocolate

    I live in flip flops, TOMS or sandals of some kind and am ALWAYS hurting my feet. My husband, on the other hand, lives in Chucks, which I swear have a hidden steel toe, and a) he never gets hurt and b) half of my foot injuries sustained are from banging my foot on his stealthy steel toe!

  5. Eleonora

    And of course the “scalzi” bridge meaning ‘barefoot’ …!
    Hugs,
    E xx

  6. Erica

    I do think it a bit silly that even though you were injured and sitting in the cafe that you hopped to an alley to take a picture. <3 Real photog there!

  7. Cailin

    Oh my gosh Margo! I am SO sorry.
    Hope you are on the mend.
    xo

  8. Margo Millure

    you have got to be kidding! perfect 🙂

  9. Margo Millure

    Erica, it was the weirdest thing – I turned around in my chair and there it was. That right wall is the side of the hotel! That is one of the coolest things about Venice – there are all these beautiful nooks and crannies everywhere you look.

  10. Margo Millure

    Thanks, Krista! (you too!)

  11. Margo Millure

    Thanks so much, Tuula. I love your new pic – is it from your honeymoon?

  12. Margo Millure

    Thanks, Kathy! It was not easy, but Holly and Meg were awesome and dealt with all the luggage. Thank goodness I packed as light as I did (not that it was THAT light) and for handrails on all those bridges. I don’t know what I would have done in this case if I had been alone!

  13. Margo Millure

    Kristin, maybe we both should switch to Chucks? NAH. I put the crutches up today and have been shuffling around in the shoes I bought, and I LOVE how comfortable and secure they feel – but I’ll probably be back in flip flops soon 🙂

  14. Margo Millure

    much better! Thanks, Cailin 🙂

  15. Jessica

    I’m so sorry you got injured in the middle of your fantastic trip! However, it looks like you were able to keep a great attitude and still make the most of your time in Italy!

  16. inka

    I too hope you are on the mend. What a bummer, but of course, true travel belle that you are, you overcame all obstacles with grace and chic.

  17. The Travel Chica

    Love your title 🙂

    #4 is very important. I hope I remember that when the inevitable happens to me.

  18. Katy

    Great post – I’m glad you still managed to enjoy the rest of your time in Italy despite the injury! If you have to get injured anywhere, I’d say Europe was the place to do it – for the medical care that is, not for the cobbled streets and stairways!

  19. Nomadic Samuel

    I especially agree with tip #4. It’s paramount to have a decent attitude to deal with obstacles while travelling.

  20. Cailin

    I have a fear of getting sick or injured while traveling! Glad you are ok and that your daughters were there to help you hobble to the cafe.
    Also I never knew that there was gelato with vodka in it!!!! Sounds wonderful and would definitely be something that I would go for if I was in the same situation…. and lets face it even if I wasn’t… haha 🙂

  21. Margo Millure

    best take home recipe of the trip! 🙂

  22. Margo Millure

    it’s always interesting to hear people describe their travels… sometimes they may have dealt with the exact same things (heat, crowds, rude people, things costing a lot) but have totally different perceptions.

  23. wandering educators

    hi margo! what a crazy accident – and SO glad you were able to figure out how to get around. YIKES!! your 8 tips are brilliant, and hard-won. as a person with a mobility disability, i often skip places because i can’t walk more than a block (venice being one of those places). it makes me sad that i can’t do it. but i also know that i see things more deeply because i move slowly (or sit a lot, while my family explores and reports back). great, great article. thank you!

  24. Lisa

    I’m sorry to hear of your injury but you have a very positive attitude. I’m glad you were able to get around and still enjoy the gelato and a little scenery.

  25. Vera Marie Badertscher

    One of the most amazing sites in Venice is the women in 4” heels tripping (sometimes literally) on and off boats and across cobblestone walks. Amazing!

  26. Margo Millure

    thank you so much! And thanks for sharing your situation… I now know exactly what you mean about seeing things more deeply. I’m not very good at sitting still, and it was an exercise in observation and empathy 🙂

  27. Margo Millure

    thank you!

  28. Margo Millure

    I’ve always marveled at that feat as well! 😉

  29. Sofia

    Sorry to hear this happened to you, but I like how you still managed to see the positives. I do find it strange though that nobody helped you, honeymoon or not shouldn’t matter.

  30. admin

    Thanks, Sofia! At the time I found it strange and a little maddening too, when no one helped! When I finally got back to the room and thought about it though, I realized that having my daughters was enough… Having suffered a couple of more serious injuries in my life, I guess it’s that I know sometimes well intending strangers can do more harm than good – it’s always best to be as self reliant as possible, as you need to be able to “hear” what your body is telling you and let it compensate.

  31. Lev Parikian

    Hi
    I found this post by searching for “where can I buy crutches in Venice?”
    Got to love the Internet.
    We’ve been in Venice for two days now and I haven’t been able to go out as I’m in the middle of an episode of gout. It’s getting better, but putting a shoe on my left foot is still painful, and walking Venice-style out of the question.
    We’re here for four more days, and I’m determined not to be beaten by this, so my question to you is “where can I buy crutches in Venice?” ie which farmacia?
    We can obviously go out and look tomorrow (or, rather, I can send my wife and son out…) but it would save us a good deal of time if you were able to answer…
    Thanks in advance!

  32. Margo Millure

    Hi Lev – so sorry to hear about your challenges in Venice! The front desk at Hotel Antiche Figure found them for me and acquired them. They are located directly cross from the train station and it was my understanding the farmacia was very nearby. I From what I gather most pharmacies have crutches – so I would just check with the one nearest to you – if they don’t have them – my guess is they can either point you in the right direction or get them for you quickly. Best of luck to you! Margo

  33. Richard Horton

    Margi, I am sitting next to my wife's hospital bed in Brescia a long way from our home in Melbourne Australia. It was not a curb but a steep rocky track on Monte Isola that took her down. I am about to go in search for crutches for her with the newly fixed fractured ankle. We have already come to the same conclusions except for the vodka and gelato. Will give it a try when she gets out!

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