We have all heard of horrible bedbug stories. It’s one of those things I never thought would happen to me. But it did!
I often saw hippie backpackers with bedbug bites all the time when I was in Southeast Asia. Some were really bad – big, bright, red raspberry bites scattered all over their legs and arms. I told myself I will never let that happen to me. Maybe it was their dreadlocks or maybe because they looked so natural walking around the streets barefoot, they gave me the impression that comfort and cleanliness were not a priority.
I always read reviews of all my accommodations and made sure the rating for cleanliness is high, so I will be fine. How ignorant I was!
But out of all countries, I can’t believe it had to be Italy! I will forever equate Italy with bedbugs! I was fine even staying at some not so clean places in India!
I couldn’t figure out which guesthouse was guilty of causing me misery all the way from the beginning of my trip. Was it the 16-century, ex-convent in Rome or the homey guesthouse in Florence?
My bites started showing up when I left Florence for Cinque Terra. I woke up feeling very itchy on my arms, back and legs, and more bites started showing up throughout the day. They weren’t like mosquitos bites. I had no idea it was bedbug bites. The next day the bites all turn bright red and bumpy. They were scary looking. I turned to google and checked out the images. It diagnosed me with bedbug bites!!
I did what it recommended me to do. Once I arrived at the guesthouse, I asked the owner where the laundry mat was. I dragged all my clothing to the coin laundry up this little hill. There were no workers there, but just a small room with a few washers and dryers lined up on each side of the wall and a table for folding. There were posters with instructions on how to use the machines written in Italian. There were no windows and the front door was left opened.
I took the largest load, threw all my clothes into it and inserted 7 euros. I was all ready to kill all the bugs that may be hiding somewhere. The machine didn’t move. I tried opening and closing the door again. I pressed a few buttons to see if the coins would come back out. Nothing happened. No way was I going to pay another 7 euros to try the other machines.
There was a number written on the wall. I guess if people had problems they would call for help. But there was no telephone around. I got irritated and with no air conditioner and feeling the heat wave coming through the door didn’t help. What to do?
I stepped outside to see if there were any people around. It was very quiet even though it was in the middle of the day. I walked to the restaurant in the corner to see if I can borrow a phone, but it was closed. The building next door was under construction. I heard drilling, so I knew there were workers up there. Just when I stepped in the door, a rough, not-so-friendly looking man was making his way down the stairs.
He didn’t speak English, so I simply led him back to the laundry room, showed him the machine and then point to the number on the wall. He tried to get the washer going. He started talking really loud like he was angry. I couldn’t make out if he was upset with me or with the fact that no one was in the laundromat to help. I asked if he can help me call. He said a whole bunch of things and gestured that he has no cellphone.
He stormed out of the room, mumbling. Then he quickly turned around to tell me he is going back upstairs. He came back soon after with a cellphone and dialed the number for me. After screaming on the phone, he hung up and told me someone will be coming. He paced back and forth. I told him to go back to his work, that I will be fine. He waved his hand “no” and continued walking around.
We started to talk and that was when I finally realized he wasn’t speaking in Italian all along, but Arabic. I was sure when I heard the word “Inshallah”. He is a Moroccan, living and working in Italy for the past ten years. He goes back to visit his wife and two children every two years.
Ten minutes later, a young man walked in leisurely with a big set of keys in his hand, and went straight to the machine without me telling him, as if he does this many times a day. He inserted a key into the back of the washer and it started running. He left soon after without saying a word
The Moroccan man patted me on the back and said good-bye. You really can’t judge people by the way they look and talk. I was grateful for his kindness.
My bites got worst. They were crazy itchy. They got bigger and redder from scratching. I couldn’t get a hold of any anti-itching cream and the hot weather really didn’t help. It got so ugly that I felt the need to wear a long skirt and long sleeves to cover up.
When I got to Venice, I made sure the manager of the guest house who was always there to socialize with travellers didn’t see my bites. He just seemed like someone who would be concerned. And I was right. The day I checked out, as I reached out my hand to take my credit card back, he saw the bites that were exposed through the small opening of my sleeve cuff. He stared at them and said, “Oh, what happened to your hand? Don’t tell me they are bedbugs and I hope you didn’t bring any with you.”
When I got home from the trip, I put everything in the washer again and left them in the dryer for an extra 30 minutes. Luckily, I didn’t take any of those monsters back home with me!