So there I was, in need of a dentist in Italy. As it turns out, the best, English-speaking Italian dentist was located in the heart of Pisa. As this area is a spider’s web of one-way roads and vehicle restricted zones, I decided to park outside the historic wall and walk 15 minutes to the dentist’s office.
But before we talk about that, here are two things that happened on the 25-minute drive to get there (because driving in Italy is chaos in motion):
- At one point, I had mopeds driving next to me, on both sides of my car, in my same lane, on a two-lane road.
- Once, I pulled up to a stop sign, where I waited for a truck coming up the intersecting road to pass. Instead, the truck slowed to a stop and parked directly in front of me, forming a massive wall in front of my lane. Then he got out of his truck and left.
I escaped the madness in a nice, big, paid-parking lot on the outskirts of town, which happens to have a pretty great view.
My daughter (who came with me) and I walked from the parking lot, along the Pisa wall, and turned under the great stone archways into the old city. It was a pretty phenomenal way to get to a dentist appointment. It was an absolutely gorgeous, sunny day and even though I was in a hurry, I couldn’t help noticing the richness of Pisa’s sights, sounds, and smells (good and bad).
During our walk, we had to step into doorways on two separate occasions to avoid trucks driving halfway on the sidewalk. Then, we stopped to help guide a delivery truck that was trying to inch down a narrow cobblestone road, between another parked truck and an awning.
This is why I didn’t drive past the city wall. Decision validated.
When we reached the point on the map that indicated the dentist’s office, there were only old Italian buildings and an even older stone tower. Nothing that looked remotely like a dental office. Luckily, I noticed a kid going into a gated entrance with his school bag and bike.
I went to ask him if he knew where the dentist was and he gestured toward a tiny gold plaque on the old stone wall which said “Dentista.”
We followed the kid (who took one look at me and immediately struck up a conversation in perfect English) into the courtyard, where he directed us to the first floor.
We climbed the stairs and found a nondescript wooden door with another small gold plaque on it.
Inside, the dentist’s office was adorned in turn-of-the-century chic. Seriously, look how pretty this is:
It was so pretty, I would have wondered if I was in the right place; but it had that distinctive dentist office smell. There’s no mistaking that aroma.
Flash forward to my actual meeting with the Italian dentist, who fortunately spoke absolutely perfect English (#languagegoals). He was wonderful. And – GET THIS – he spent a full hour with me. Like, the actual dentist, spent a FULL HOUR talking directly to me.
In the states, they usually have a receptionist seat you, then the dental hygienist does all the prep work. Then, at some point, the dentist sweeps in, dives into your mouth, and is gone before you fully register what happened. Then, they send you on your way – the sooner the better.
The Italian dentist spent time getting to know me. He asked all kinds of questions about me, my daughter, our family, and how we were adjusting to life in Italy. He also knew everyone my husband works with by name. Eventually, he looked at the tooth and did x-rays. Then we chatted some more. Then he took a look at my other teeth, just to be thorough. Then we chatted some more. Then, I asked about payment and he said, “Of course, step into my office and I’ll go over everything with you.” And he did.
Like, the actual dentist sat with me and answered billing questions.
There were other staff members there, so it wasn’t a one-man show. It’s just that no one seemed in any kind of a hurry. Like, at all. It was honestly a little disconcerting. I mean, I may have moved to Italy, but I’m still an American; we’re born in a hurry.
Oh, and my tooth – turns out, it isn’t dead. It’s just deciding whether or not to die. It’s thinking about it. We’re going to give it a few months and see which way it goes.
As we got ready to leave, the Italian dentist asked me where I had parked. I told him I was about 15 minutes away, by the tower.
“No, no,” he said. “There is a parking lot right across the piazza.”
Then he showed me how to weave my way through the city’s one-way streets, avoiding the car prohibited areas where cameras would spot me and issue a fine.
I said “thank you,” knowing full well that I will always walk. Always.
Plus, when you walk, you can stop for pizza and gelato, which we did. I’m giving my tooth something to live for.