I Got a Hernia in Italy and I’m Really Angry About It

Update! I’m having surgery on November 30! I can’t wait to get back on my feet & put this all behind me. I appreciate all the notes of support & good vibes.

I’ve been thinking about how to write this post for over a week. The second day of our much anticipated anniversary trip to Italy, the day I climbed 320 stairs to the top of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica (totally worth it, BTW), I got what I thought was a pulled muscle in my hip. It persisted as was walked all over Rome, but it was more annoying at first than painful. Fast forward three days later & I am walking through the streets in Florence in tears. I knew it wasn’t a pulled muscle &, thanks to Google, prayed it wasn’t appendicitis. I suspected it was a hernia. €60 & a visit to a friendly English-speaking doctor later (turns out going to the doctor in Italy is much cheaper & more efficient than going to the doctor in the U.S.), & my suspicions were confirmed: I had a hernia on my lower right side, the most common place for women to get them.

After my appointment, we laid on the bed of our hotel room, hot, angry tears streaming down my cheeks. As I stared up at the frescos covering the ceiling, emotionally exhausted, B & I debated what we should do. Three days later, we were scheduled to go onto Bologna for one night, & then onto Venice before heading home. This meant two more train rides, two more times dragging luggage around, two more hotels. The prospect of moving that many more times was exhausting; I was in so much pain, I could barely walk down the street without doubling over, let alone carry any luggage. I could walk 5-10 minutes at a time, so the prospect of getting endlessly loss in Venice, something I was so looking forward to, sounded scary.

We decided to end our trip three days early. Instead of heading to the Florence train station on Thursday to continue onto Bologna, we would head to the airport & go home. Phone calls were made, plane tickets rebooked (an expensive proposition at $1700 each – always buy travel insurance, friends!), hotel rooms cancelled, doctor’s appointments made, dreams of wandering the back alleys of Venice & eating our way through Bologna, dashed.

Social media often (rightfully so) gets a bad rep for only highlighting the glamorous side of life. So I’m here to share reality: on Friday, while in Rome, I suffered a hernia. It has been getting progressively more uncomfortable as our days have passed & walking has become more challenging. On Monday I visited an English speaking doctor in Florence who confirmed it wasn’t appendicitis (which was great news). I am very limited in what I can do – we’ve had to adjust our schedule to basically do one thing per day so I can rest. Yesterday, we made the heartbreaking decision to leave Italy tomorrow & not continue onto Bologna & Venice. My guilt for this is ample, as I feel like I’m ruining what was supposed to be our romantic anniversary trip. But there’s no point in continuing when it’s so physically challenging for me to get around & could benefit from seeing a doctor in the U.S. sooner rather than later. I am emotionally exhausted – this certainly isn’t at all how I envisioned this much anticipated trip going & there’s nothing more humbling than being unwell while traveling in a foreign country. This morning, while B runs to the cheese shop across the river, I’m staying in bed with a cappuccino, a whole lotta Nutella, a book & a little self care. I’m determined to have a wonderful last day in this beautiful county. PS this is also book 14 of #17booksfor2017! Such a great one full of emotions & intertwining stories. Loved it!

A post shared by Christina Saull (@middleseatview) on

The mood on our trip actually lightened a bit after we decided to leave: I felt comforted knowing that by the end of the week I’d be home & seeing a doctor. B didn’t have to spend half the day guessing what was wrong & carrying my stuff all over the place. 80% of my long list of things I wanted to do in Florence was cut: no sunrise photo shoot along the Arno, no sunset drinks from a rooftop someone told us about or no wandering to find a hidden aperitivo spot in the residential neighborhood we had discovered earlier in our trip.

For two days, I made a few short trips out of the hotel as I could: a visit to Accademia to see the David (while B did our Rick Steves podcast walking tour, I sat on a bench & looked at David’s impressive tush). An express tour of the Ufizi where I walked really slowly, but still got to see beautiful art (& for once that week, the tears were not sad, but at the beauty in Botticelli’s Primavera). Dinner at a rowdy trattoria which served the best chicken breast I’ve ever eaten. And a magical carousel ride in the Piazza della Repubblica, where Brad gave me an anniversary ring & told me he loved me. Determined, I walked down Florence’s streets gelato in one hand, the other hand free to grab my abdomen every few steps to try & stop the feeling that someone was punching me in the hip.

Our last night, we drank Aperol Spritz at a touristy place right on the Piazza della Duomo. In the shadow of the Duomo’s baptistry, watching the world go by, talking about our favorite moments in the trip. Our drinks were insanely overpriced, the aperitivo snacks tiny & it was the kind of place I’d normally hate going to. But on the trip that almost nothing went right, I was oddly okay with the ending.

Sadly, this story doesn’t have a happy ending – well, not yet at least. We made it home just fine, thanks to some very kind Lufthansa ground crew who helped us get through the Frankfurt airport on an electric cart. The day after we got home, I spent all day at the doctor’s, going through a number of tests (including an emergency ultrasound to rule out a life threatening condition). I met with a surgeon a few days later, but need to get a second opinion due to a possible complication from a condition I had as a child. Turns out it’s hard to get surgeon appointment, so my next one isn’t until October 30th. In the meantime, I’ve been trying to catch up at work & stay off my feet. My emotions have shifted to anger & I’ve spent much of the time I’m not at work throwing myself a pity party. But I’m trying hard not to mourn the part of the trip we lost. Because, after all, we still spent six amazing days in Italy celebrating ten years of marriage – & that’s not something most people can say.

Bright spot in Florence – a Flytographer photo shoot!
Photo by the amazing Alberto for Flytographer

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About christina

Christina is a 30-something D.I.N.K. travel writer & photographer who travels the world often wedged into the middle seat. Follow her on Twitter & Facebook.

40 Responses to I Got a Hernia in Italy and I’m Really Angry About It

  1. Diane Shaw October 23, 2017 at 3:18 pm #

    I cried as I read this. I am so sorry! I hope you get to return and that it exceeds your expectations!!!

    • christina October 23, 2017 at 4:10 pm #

      No! There’s no crying in Italy! Well… except all my crying :) Thanks for the well wishes!

  2. Victoria N. your ACS CAN buddy October 23, 2017 at 10:05 pm #

    It looks like you had a beautiful trip! I’m sorry it was cut three days short, but I believe you’ll go back and it will be three TIMES better! Love love!

    • christina October 24, 2017 at 9:18 am #

      Thanks so much for your kind note, Victoria! (How are you, BTW?)

  3. dcborn61 October 24, 2017 at 10:52 am #

    Wow, so sorry for the hernia and cutting short your trip. Hope you get healthy soon now that you are back.

    • christina October 24, 2017 at 11:15 am #

      Thank you so much for the well wishes!

  4. Clara October 25, 2017 at 11:07 am #

    I can feel your sadness about how the trip turned out. At least it wasn’t too serious a condition and you were able to complete part of your trip.

  5. Jim L. October 25, 2017 at 4:03 pm #

    I only had a minor experience like this – I lost a tooth filling while traveling. I went to a dentist in Belfast, Ireland, concerned about the dental health standards outside the U.S., but it was the BEST dental visit of my life! Such an eye-opening experience – less expensive, more efficient, and more informative.
    So sorry your Italy trip was cut short, but it made for a great blog post! (so that’s a wash, then, yes? ok, probably not.)

    • christina October 25, 2017 at 5:09 pm #

      I think anything dental would make me super nervous! It is not surprising, though, that our experiences outside the US were positive. There’s a reason medical tourism exists!

      And yes, all I kept thinking of is: this is going to be one helluva blog post!

  6. L △ U R △ October 26, 2017 at 4:17 am #

    Such a shame your trip was cut short by such an unpredictable thing. I’d have been just as upset as you.. but at least you have those 6 days and made some beautiful memories because disaster struck.

    Hoping you get well soon!

    Laura ¦ http://www.laurahasablog.co.uk

  7. Patricia @ Grab a Plate October 26, 2017 at 10:59 am #

    Aw, man. I’m sorry you’re not feeling well with your condition, and sorry your amazing trip was cut short. But I’m happy you’re able to see all the positives and lovely experiences that you did have! Hope your recovery is speedy!

    • christina October 27, 2017 at 9:34 am #

      Thank you for the well wishes! I’ll be on the mend soon and keep reminding myself that in the grand scheme of my life, this is just one short time period!

  8. Brittany October 26, 2017 at 1:20 pm #

    Aw what a crazy experience! At least you had support there with you :) This reminds me of my trip to Italy last year. I went backpacking with 3 girlfriends and on the 3rd night, I got a UTI and had to take antibiotics. On the 6th night of our 16 night backpacking trip (walking and carrying packs the ENTIRE time) I sliced the bottom of my foot open while skinny dipping in the harbor of Riomaggiore (I don’t recommend this LOL). 4 days later I ended up with a bacterial infection in my intestines from the antibiotics I took (turns out they killed ALL the infection, good bacteria included). So I spent the rest of the trip rushing to the bathroom every 20 minutes haha. Still the most amazing trip I’ve ever taken though! xo, Brittany | http://www.theblistblog.com

    • christina October 27, 2017 at 9:33 am #

      Yes! I’m so thankful to have my husband there with me. And mine is mild compared to your story! Wowser! Glad you’re healthy now and have a great story to tell.

  9. Jenn October 28, 2017 at 10:18 am #

    hugs! I spent most of my honeymoon feeling sick from a medication complication. It SUCKS when you’re so looking forward to a trip and you feel awful or have to cut it short. Definitely a valuable lesson in buying travel insurance! Hope you get back to Italy :)

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:42 pm #

      SO miserable! It’s so hard to have a trip you’re looking forward to – like your honeymoon – only to get there and not feel your best.

  10. Sarah October 28, 2017 at 10:53 am #

    Ugh! What a terrible thing to happen abroad. A few months ago I suffered a life threatening internal hernia, so I know all to well the incredible pain it can induce! I can’t imagine what my fate would have been had I been in another country! You certainly made the right decision to head home early. I hope this is all resolved soon for you! Take care!

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

      I’m so sorry to hear of your troubles! I am very thankful that mine was not of the life threatening variety.

  11. Rachel Heller October 28, 2017 at 10:57 am #

    So disappointing! I hope you recover really soon, and get to plan a new trip to Italy!

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:41 pm #

      Thank you! A new trip is definitely needed!

  12. Sarah October 28, 2017 at 11:13 am #

    That stinks but glad you got the help you needed and made the best decision for you. You can always go back to Italy but taking care of yourself when you need to is never something that can be pushed off. Glad to know the doctor in Italy was affordable! We are always shocked, pleasantly surprised, and in turn irritated by our own country’s (US) health care costs when something comes up on our travels.

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Thank you! I’m always surprised to hear about people’s stories (and now my own) about going to the doctor in a foreign country and how affordable it is compared to the U.S.

  13. Kavita Favelle | Kavey Eats October 28, 2017 at 11:30 am #

    Oh nooo, felt so bad for you reading this, but grateful it happened somewhere you could get good quality medical care without bankrupting yourself. (If this happened to me while visiting the US, I cannot imagine how big the bill could be!) I have always been paranoid about travel insurance, mostly in case of medical emergency or accident, though it’s rare one has to use it. These days, many banks in the UK offer free travel insurance with a standard account, so I rely on that, it may not give me as high cover for lost luggage or that kind of thing, but it will help if and when there’s a health emergency. What’s probably so frustrating for you is that in some ways a hernia isn’t a big deal, medically, and yet because of the pain and inability to walk / pull luggage around, you couldn’t do all the things you’d planned and dreamed about. Hope the consultant you see on Monday will have you on the path to mending very soon so you can plan the next trip.

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:40 pm #

      Thank you! Yes, the US system is a mixed blessing: I feel like I’m getting top notch care, but darn is it expensive.

  14. Danielle October 28, 2017 at 11:41 am #

    Oh no, I’m so sorry to hear about your hernia! Cutting trips short is always the worst, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. Hope you get to return to Italy soon!

    P.S. Congrats on 10 years of marriage!

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      Thanks! Luckily 10 years of marriage has prepared B well for my neediness when I don’t feel well :)

  15. Bejal October 28, 2017 at 11:55 am #

    I really enjoyed reading this and it looks like you had a fab time. So sorry to hear about the hernia though. Really like the photos too. I noticed that the photograph at the bottom is credited to Alberto! He was our photographer when we were in Florence a few weeks ago!

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:39 pm #

      What a small world! Alberto was the best.

  16. Nina Zara October 28, 2017 at 12:26 pm #

    Hope you get better soon without complications! Thats why I always buy health insurance, i had few years in a row, got sick in Tanzania each time, once I had to fly home and continue treatment in better conditions because the quality of healthcare just wasn’t comparable.. It saved me one several hundred Euros when i got reimbursed by insurance company. Dont be angry, accept situation as is and I am sure everything will be all right:) .

    • christina October 28, 2017 at 12:38 pm #

      Thank you! It’s so scary to be sick in another country – I can’t imagine being in Tanzania!

  17. Lucy October 28, 2017 at 1:36 pm #

    You poor thing, what an awful thing to experience on holiday, and shelling out for those flights must have been a kick in the teeth! Wishing you a speedy recovery xo

  18. Kristin @ Camels & Chocolate October 28, 2017 at 1:50 pm #

    I’m so sorry this ruined the end of your vacation! Sending you happy thoughts as you undergo surgery and heal.

  19. Alina October 28, 2017 at 2:57 pm #

    I did not know hernia could get painful so quickly, as usually it takes a long while to develop, but your experience shows it can happen!I hope you get the surgery done soon and are back on your feet in no time! You still got to see some parts of the country, and while expensive as it was, it could have been worse…
    Take care and get well soon!

    • christina October 29, 2017 at 3:27 pm #

      Actually, I have learned, there are 8 types of hernias which range from minor don’t need surgery to life threatening emergency surgery – and everything in between!

  20. Eva October 28, 2017 at 3:19 pm #

    The post may not have had a happy ending, but the last sentence warmed my heart. Congratulations on 10 years of marriage, that is a beautiful achievement. And you brought back that beautiful shot in Firenze.
    I got seriously ill on holiday only once, and luckily (?) it happened on the way back – on the airplane. Was not deemed fit to fly the second leg, got hospitalized and ended up spending two days where I was only supposed to have a 6-hour layover. So I’ve been much much luckier. But still, it’s good to hear you managed to go back and see a doctor. I wish you a speedy recovery, and hope you’ll make it to Bologna and Venezia soon enough!

    • christina October 30, 2017 at 8:04 pm #

      Thank you so much, Eve and I’m so sorry to hear of your medical troubles while traveling! There’s nothing more humbling than being sick while traveling.

  21. Amy Poulton - Page Traveller October 28, 2017 at 3:26 pm #

    Oh man, so sorry this happened to you! Yeah, insurance is one of those tricky things – you need when you least expect! Thanks for your sharing your honest story.

  22. Joanna October 28, 2017 at 3:29 pm #

    Things happen for a reason and maybe your trip had to be cut short so that you return to Italy. I hope the surgery will go well and who knows, maybe next year you will celebrate the success of it by taking another trip to Italy.

  23. Emily October 29, 2017 at 1:40 am #

    Ah bummer!! Getting sick while traveling is the WORST. Also….so are hernias. Hoping you are 100% soon.

    can’t wait to read about the next time you go to italy — healthy and happy.

  24. Holly October 29, 2017 at 3:42 pm #

    Oh, I felt so heartbroken for you guys reading this! I can’t believe how expensive it was to change your flights. I really hate that the airline industry capitalizes on people in unfortunate circumstances who typically have no other option but to pay whatever price is given. Such an unfortunate situation. I am glad that you at least got to enjoy as much of the time there as you could and hopefully you’ll be able to return!!

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