Wednesday, July 1, 1998

Pronto Soccorso

If you have to have a medical emergency, try not to have it in Palermo, Sicily

I think I shall revise my maxim about what one must see, beyond the sights, to really experience a country. Before it was just to eat the cuisine (naturally) and to watch some local TV. Recently, I've added shop in the local market and/or K-Mart equivalent.

However, I am increasingly of the opinion that to this list we must add one other activity without which no country experience is complete: a visit to the emergency room of the local hospital.

Now of course I don't mean a visit for drastic reasons requiring an ambulance and IV drip. I mean relatively minor yet still annoying ailments, such as Frances' flu on that rainy night in Rome, or the vicious Scottish germs I waged a bedridden battle against on Santorini.

Or, of course, Jay's recurrent sinusitis that's been worsening over the past few days ever since we spent that night atop the volcano (long story).

So after a lengthy walk through some of the more bombed-out sections of Palermo—I know of no other European city that still has whole blocks of broken and charred buildings destroyed in World War II still rotting in the very center of town—down city streets that have become dirt roads, back and forth and in spiraling circles as we got repeatedly lost, and then across several dusty, wind-swept squares, we finally stumbled across Palermo's Ospedale Civico.