A short drive from our little hotel in Rovereto had us in the little town of Riva del Garda. It was strewn with little hiking, sailing, and parasailing. Somehow, it reminded me quite a bit of Colorado mountain towns – a little bit newer, a little bit younger, and quite a bit more fun.
Alas, we were not to stay. We had a boat ride and Limone to get to by dusk. At the edge of Lake Garda, we paused the bus to allow our generous crowd of forty or so to unload.
“Right, got everyone- off you go Giuseppe! ” the guide waved to the driver. He rolled slowly forward. A large rush of water poured out from under the carriage.
“Oh, my wife- she is in the bus restroom,” the Malaysian urologist told the guide. He said this in a tone that suggested there was no particular concern.
“STOP! Giuseppe! STOP!” the guide shouted, flapping his arms about and chasing the bus the few feet it had traveled. With a lurch, the bus stopped. He clamored on and from the curb we heard a frantic conversation in lilting Italian as they paced up and down the aisle. Giuseppe stumbled out into the road to inspect the water still pouring out from under his bus. He shook his head and shouted at it before disappearing back inside. “She’s not on the bus!” the guide exclaimed.
“Oh, no, no- she went ’round the corner to a shop bathroom,” her husband stated.
“But you just said- You just- Didn’t he just say she was on the bus?” the guide stammered. From around the corner, she came, loaded down with bags. “Madam! We cannot stop for bathroom breaks and go on a shopping jaunt! We thought you were in the bus! We thought it had overflowed onto you!” The HR manager beside me burst into a fit of laughter. “You are coming along with us, are you not?”
“Oh, yes,” our missing woman replied. “But I must put these bags onto the bus first.”
“Ah, Christ,” he muttered. She disappeared onto the bus for quite a long time. He followed her on. Through the shaded windows we saw a lengthy conversation unfold. Her husband came on and joined in. The two came outside as she trailed behind. A pause. “Onward, Giuseppe!” Giuseppe began and then halted. “No? Are you coming? You must decide? Yes? Come on then!” She took a step down and faltered again. “No? Yes? No. Giuseppe! Away with ya!” He turned to us with a mischievous eye. “Away before she changes her mind again,” he muttered.
We piled into our little boat and began our expedition across Lago di Garda. Smaller boats zipped past as the wind whipped our faces. Parasailers and hang gliders floated overhead. They lazily made their way across large swaths of sky before swirling towards a landing patch of grass.
We docked in the little cliffside town of Limone. Given that it was late September, it was a welcome surprise to see blooming bougainvillea trailing over doorways and trellises. The town was pastel-washed and sprawling up the mountainside. At the dock, the other Malaysian physician- an oncologist – stopped me. “You are an oncologist?” he asked.
“Oh! No- I work in pediatric oncology but I just do back end paperwork. Licensure, websites, that sort of thing.”
“Ah.” He paused for a moment looking out at the lake. “What do you know about retinoblastoma? Is it very common? Very difficult to treat?”
“For most of our patients, no, it seems to be pretty simple. Sometimes a surgery. Sometimes just chemotherapy.”
“Really!” He brightened. “Not a lot of deaths?”
“I don’t think so? I can’t think of any patients we’ve lost from retinoblastomas. Usually we follow them for a year and then they’re free to go. They all seem to do quite well.”
“It is still quite sad though- for children. But they do well and that is good. Is it very expensive?”
“Yes, but it depends on the condition. And the insurance. Or if you have it.”
“Without, chemo is affordable?”
I laugh. “It varies by drug but the last quote I heard was $15,000 a dose without insurance.” His eyes bulge and he mouths the quote back to me. His wife waves him over and scolds him for talking business.
“I am very interested in sarcomas as well. We will talk later? ” he asks from a distance, waving. I nod and wave back. I’ve gotten used to giving vague answers about medicine- after all, I can’t really give anything more in depth anyhow as again, I only handle the back-end paperwork.
I wander up the hills past pastel little cottages and shops, ducking into whatever looks interesting. We load up on lemon flower honey, limoncello, ‘cellos made from a myriad of other citruses, little biscuits, lemon everything. It seems to be one of those frothy towns to breeze through though I hear many stop for longer, given the amount of large hotels clinging to the cliffs.
At the dock the former school counselor, a friendly but overbearing in a dorky dad way, sits down next to me.”Whatcha got there?” he shouts, though less than a foot away.
I open the bag to reveal an assortment of tiny liquor bottles.
“Whooo!” he hollers. “Are those for your boyfriends?”
“Nah, all for me. To recover from all of them.”
He skips a beat before starting up: “You know when I was in college, I had six girlfriends at once and none of them knew about the other.” He dropped this statement and sauntered off out of earshot.
“Oh, really?” my mom muttered sarcastically. “Six girlfriends. Please. Honey, you were probably one of six too.”
“Right?!” the woman next to her started. “I’m his wife and I don’t even believe that!”
Up next: Malcesine!