So I’ve been in Italy just over 10 days now and the language isn’t exactly a barrier as it is an entertainment exercise. It’s a good thing that Italians are patient and talk with their hands. It’s probably a bad thing that I never played Charades as a kid.

I carry a small tube (about the size of a lipstick) of Tylenol in my purse. Tylenol’s not the greatest, but it will definitely take the edge off and not knock you for a loop when you’re in a business meeting.

So I ran out.

Gosh, I thought (in English, not Italian), when I go to the market this evening to restore my supply of refreshing carbonated beverages (read “Coke Zero”), I’ll need to pick up another bottle.


I had forgotten from my trips to London that Europe takes a different view of OTC drugs than those of us in the USA who expect to purchase lawn chairs, mosquito repellent, T-bone steaks, and allergy pills for our cookout all in the same mega-mart.

Let me emphasize this for those of you who are contemplating being right of the Atlantic any time soon. It ain’t happenin’. Drugs of any kind are sold in PHARMACIES, not grocery stores. Doesn’t matter what kind — you gotta go to the pharmacy.

In London, at least, they have progressive pharmacies where you can pick up hair color, toenail clippers and your favorite pain killer practically on the same shelf.

In Florence, apparently at the grocery store you can buy syringes off the shelf, condoms next to the check out register, but you can’t buy an aspirin to save your life. In the pharmacy (where you go to buy those ***drugs***, everything, and I mean everything, is ***behind the counter***). You get to take your number and wait until a pharmacy staff person calls you for your consultation.

Okay, so I’m being a bit over dramatic, and I’m sure things would work fine — if I spoke Italian. And guess what, most people in Florence (especially those working pharmacy counters at 7:00 pm) don’t speak English. Fortunately (for me) they tend to take pity on poor stupid Americans and try to help them out, if nothing else, to get them to leave.

So I go up to the counter. There was a nice blond pharmacist lady. I said, “Tylenol.” At which point she looked at me like I had said XXLLGELSJJN. Then I remembered that Tylenol in London is paracetamol. So I tried that. She looked at me again like I had said XXLLGELSJJN.

So, I resorted to the tried and true means of communications that has allowed me to survive (if not thrive) in this foreign land — pantomime.  I put both hands up to my temples and made a horrible face like I had a miserable headache and looked at her hopefully. She said, “Paracetamolo!” and I said, delightfully, “Si!”

So she goes behind the wall (I’m sure where the highly secret drugs like cortisone cream are kept) and stayed for a very, very long time. (Maybe it was her espresso break, I don’t know.) She comes out with a small package of 16 blister-packed Tylenol/paracetamolo, and I say “Si!” again.

Now you have to remember that I am from Texas. And even though it’s a cliché, I have to be honest and say that some things really are bigger in Texas. For example, I expect to buy a 500-count of extra strength generic Tylenol for a couple of bucks — two-for-one if I have a coupon.

She wraps my piddley little package of 16 [not-even-extra-strength] pills up in a generic, plain, [not brown] wrapper, rings up the cash register and says it’s 4 Euros and 4 cents. That’s like 7 real dollars for 16 Tylenol.

Of course, by that time, I can’t say “no” and I really did want the security of having a stash of Tylenol in my purse, but my goodness. If it’s $7 for Tylenol, I would hate to think about what my Enbrel would cost.

Like I said, language is an entertainment exercise and there’s almost always a surprise at the end. [Sigh.]

So, five more days in Italy. My husband shows up tomorrow to spend them with me and help me manage to get home with all my achy-breaky joints. I’ve learned a lot in Italy, including how wonderful and helpful people can be — because I certainly could not have made it without some kind people taking pity on me.

I hope the world is treating you as kindly as it’s treating me. Thanks for checking in.