A Roman Nightmare: How His Gaul Bladder Almost Got Removed - My Family Travels


Last winter, I spent my vacation from school in Rome with my boyfriend's family.  I was incredibly excited to go and had been counting down the days until departure for months.  

On December 23, 2010, we left on a MacArthur Airport flight to the outskirts of Rome.   The eight-hour plane-ride flew by (literally) and, thirteen suitcases, seven people, and one extremely cramped car-ride later, we arrived at our rented apartment on Viale della Bella Villa.  After some ill-construed negotiation with our renter (none of us spoke Italian besides me, and my abilities were elementary), we worked ourselves and our luggage inside.  The apartment was absolutely gorgeous and beautifully furnished.    


At that moment, we were all looking forward to the trip ahead.  We predicted excellent site-seeing, exposure to Roman culture, good times and happiness.  What we could not predict was that I would eventually plummet down the staircase (shown above), that Bill, my boyfriend’s brother, would be admitted to the hospital for Pancreatitis, and that we would almost get mugged on New Year’s Eve.

The first day of our Roman vacation was spent at the Vatican.  Armed with umbrellas, we walked to the Vatican walls whilst it rained heavily.  At every step we were bombarded by merchants selling umbrellas; we would eventually learn of their persistence when it came to selling.  We saw beautiful artwork and ended our day with dinner in a beautiful, street-side, glass restaurant on Via Veneto.


I (left, bottom) ordered the Tagliolini fatti in casa aromatizzati al Limoncello d’Amalfi and it was absolutely delicious (and highly recommended).  The sauce was light with a hint of lemon; the pasta a la dente.  Bill (left, middle) was getting painful stomach cramps so we decided to go home early.  We were all exhausted but happy from a fantastic first day in Rome.

The next day began our Roman nightmare.  We had woken up early on Christmas morning to find Bill collapsed and vomiting from pain.

I rushed to the phone to contact hospitals and doctors as I was the only Italian speaking person.  We eventually came into contact with an American doctor who resided in Rome.  He arrived, examined Bill, and, after several more phone calls, admitted Bill to a hospital.  Thus began our acquaintance, familiarization and eventual hatred for what we would soon discover to be the most expensive hospital in Rome.  

"This hospital will take care of your son.  Their rates are inexpensive, the doctors are well-trained gastroenterologists and they will give him the care that he needs."  The American doctor told us this while the seven of us crowded in Bill's hospital room.  Bill was eventually diagnosed with acute pancreatitis, and the next few days were spent in the hospital next to Bill while he was treated and eventually cured.  The American doctor visited frequently and we were extremely grateful for, what we thought was to be genuine concern and dedication to his practice.

We would eventually learn that – although Bill indeed had acute pancreatitis and although he was indeed cured – we were also being scammed.  The first warning sign was when the American doctor tried to remove Bill's Gaul bladder without consulting with the family.  The second and final warning sign occurred when we heard the American doctor refer to us to the nurses as stupidi Americani.  

We did the unthinkable.  We snuck Bill out of the hospital in the dead of night.  We got Bill final, proper care for complete recovery through the American Embassy and, on the last full day of our "vacation", the nightmare was coming to an end. We spent our final day seeing as many things as we possibly could:  The Colosseum, the country-side, the catacombs, the Pantheon, Capitoline Hill.  That night, we got gelato and went to the Piazza Navona to celebrate New Year's Eve.   We were confronted and almost mugged by two, angry, drunken men.  We slipped away and celebrated the New Year back in our apartment.

We flew home that morning.

We had never been so happy to return to New York.

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