Travel Writers: Toothless in Siena By Samantha Smith

Location: Siena, Italy, Western Europe

Okay, I admit it. I’m your stereotypical American. I’m loud and obnoxious, drink too much, wear bright clothing . . . and have no problem with making a complete idiot of myself, especially in foreign countries.

This summer I decided to fly to Italy to visit some friends who were taking language classes in Tuscany. It would be my second time touring the land of gelato and chianti, and I was more than excited to venture about. Every night, my friends and I would drink and talk in the Piazza del Campo inside the medieval city of Siena. Surrounded by towering walls, this wide open space is a favorite of tourists and locals alike. Here you can socialize with the natives and discuss romantic notions of never returning home.

Siena is famous for a horserace that takes place twice a year called il Palio. This race uses the perimeter of the Piazza del Campo as its track. My trip was ending one week before one of these illustrious races and I was a little disappointed to be missing out on all the fun. My good friends and I were having the “grand hurrah” in the Piazza, when one of my buddies took it upon himself to enter us in a little Palio of our own. With the wind to his back and the swiftness of a mongoose, he hoisted me onto his shoulders and proceeded to run at a full gate around the track. The audience full of Italians shouted, “Vi, vi,” (“go, go”); we were sure to be going down in history.

I wish I could tell you that we made it one time around the track, maybe even halfway around the track, accompanied by the admiration of the crowd and the pride of being an idiot. The truth of the matter is, we faced our certain doom after only about thirty feet. You see, when running at top speed over cobblestone . . . don’t wear flip-flops. This former good friend of mine tripped on a rock, propelling me ten feet through the air only to land on my face. The term “biting curb” doesn’t do it justice. One missing tooth and two busted lips later, I found myself rushed to an Italian hospital at four in the morning.

No one at this hospital spoke English, and none of my friends knew enough Italian to converse at an emergency room level. I used my universal communication skills of pointing at my face and grunting to convey that I needed medical attention immediately. After basically a root canal with no pain killers or anesthesia, the merciful doctor was kind enough to sculpt me a brand new tooth for the blue-light special price of only thirty Euros. Sure it may glow in the dark, but how many of you can say you have a hand-crafted tooth from Italy?

Text © Samantha Smith, all rights reserved.

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