I'm panting and pointing furiously at my hugely swollen forearm, hoping the sexy and impossibly young-looking dottoressa will glean that I'm talking about a wasp, not a motor scooter.
In her silver stilettos, plunge-neck T-shirt and skinny jeans, the thirtyish emergency-room doctor is better dressed for riding Italy's favourite look-at-me transport than for assessing the lethal potential of the wasp sting suffered by an anxiously out-of-breath inglese .
I've been brought by my fellow middle-aged travellers in Tuscany to a tiny medical establishment in Castelfiorentino, a small town located 20 switchbacking kilometres from the secluded villa we've rented.
A wasp defending its nest under the vines that surround our hillside swimming pool has dive-bombed my arm and inflicted an angry wound. Hours afterward, it's late evening and I have swelled up badly, my chest and throat are tight, and my heart's hammering. My companions keep asking if my throat's closing. It tightens more each time they ask.
Although everyone's been drinking wine to celebrate our arrival in this Dante-esque paradise, the situation is felt to be urgent enough to pile into a car and ask the GPS to guide us to the nearest hospital.
During the nauseating ride, swinging left and right around tight turns, the chatter in the back seat is all gleeful excitement – a real-life adventure on our very first night! In the front seat, I'm quietly concentrating on inhaling and willing my throat to relax.
When we get to the four-storey hospital, the lights are all out. But we mosey around the back of the building and see a curly-haired young paramedic leaning on an emergency car, smoking a cigarette.
He goes to the door and flicks on the lights, and we enter a hallway. Magically, the doctor emerges from a small room.
Both of these medical staffers are beautiful enough to have modelled for Michelangelo, and they are visibly absorbed by each other's erotic potential.
He eyes her up and down. They exchange smirks and giggles. She whispers “ inglesi?” to him and rolls her eyes slightly to express the comical uselessness of Canadian tourists, who speak English, not Italian, and are no doubt hysterically overreacting.
“ Allergia ?” she asks me calmly in the treatment room.
“ Si! Si!” I stutter.
She twists her body slightly to point to the upper part of her buttock, and mimes pulling down her jeans.
Oh, I get it. I need a shot. Cortisone, to quell the allergic inflammation.
I sheepishly expose my backside, and she administers the needle, then pronounces in clear English: “I think that is all.”
The paramedic is in the room now, ogling her. She sends me out to the hallway, where my friends are still yukking it up, having a great time. I'm not sure if she intends me to leave, but I'm not going anywhere until I can breathe easily. I take a seat.
The treatment-room door closes on the frisky pair, and does not open again for 20 minutes.
When they emerge, they look slightly surprised to see us all sitting there in the hallway.
Perhaps concluding I need more reassurance, the doctor fetches a blood-pressure cuff. All's normal, she indicates. “Okay to go,” she says.
“ Il conto ?” I ask nervously. “The bill?”
“No, no!” she laughs.
Which saves me calling back the dour health-insurance agent who had grilled my friend on the phone for 20 minutes before she hung up on him and we set off for the hospital.
I'm suddenly feeling not only well, but rejuvenated: full of vigour and life force. It's not just the drug, I think, or the freedom from financial hassle. It's the sexy playfulness in the air, and the casual kindness. It's not just that I'm going to live, it's that I remember why.
Grazie, vespa.Report Typo/Error
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