Italian Insomnia


The summer I turned 18, my older sisters Karen*, Deanna* and I packed our bags for three months of backpacking around Europe. We were three college students trying to pinch pennies, staying in dorms of 20 people and overnight trains, mastering skills like washing our hair in sinks and sleeping on train station benches.

After two months we found ourselves in Florence, Italy on the way to our hostel. Our luxurious six-person dorm was a vagabondís paradise: clean, crisp sheets and a private washroom! The place was clean enough you could eat off of the floor. We claimed our beds, myself on the top bunk, Deanna below and a nearby bottom bunk for Karen.

Our first night in Florence was spent in peaceful bliss with no roommates to speak of. However, this peace quickly ceased to exist the next evening when our new roommates dropped their belongings on the remaining bunks. After a brief introduction to the three loudest and largest Scottish men imaginable, they left for a football match and an evening of boisterous celebration.

We turned in early and woke around midnight as our new roommates drunkenly stumbled into the door, then, after figuring out how to use their keys, made it through the door. In the glow of the city lights we watched their attempts to get into bed, all the while slurring their team anthem between intoxicated hiccups. The first two men wrestled for the bunks across the room and the third, and unquestionably the largest and drunkest, made his way for the bunk above Karenís head.
We watched fearfully, as this monstrous man climbed one foot after the other to his bunk. The metal bed frame swaying overtop of Karen as he lurched up the ladder. Luckily, all three men fell asleep almost instantly. Unluckily, they began the loudest chorus of snoring imaginable. Three men, three different snores: one was constant but quiet, one loud and provoked by intermittent phlegm regurgitations, and the third was a pitchy whistle that filled the only gaps of silence between the other two. Not even a pillow over my head and a Matt Nathanson playlist could block out the sounds assaulting my ears. The three of us lay there, staring at the back of our eyelids, waiting for sleep.

This persisted until 4:30 am, when the deep phlegmy snore situated directly above Karen changed dramatically. The first choking noise made Deanna and I bolt straight up in bed and at the sound of the second we urged Karen to get out of bed. She didnít hesitate to bolt to our side of the room, just in time for the man above her to begin spewing vomit, more vomit than I have ever seen in my life. It was dripping from the end and sides of his bed and down the rails of Karenís bed. It was coming out of his mouth faster than it could cascade down the luggage lockers. The drunk, covered in puke, began to waddle to the bathroom as we grabbed our valuables and fled. Once safely in the lobby, we decided to retrieve our backpacks and start our day.

We bravely returned to the room to gather our belongings and were greeted with a putrid smell that made your eyes water and an unimaginable sight. First, a vomit stained t-shirt by the bathroom, vomit stained underwear near the bed and lastly, an extraordinarily hairy and vomit covered Scottish man in Karenís bed, naked, except for a hostel sheet. We retrieved our stuff from the lockers and Karen bravely reached over the indisposed, middle-aged man for her iPod on her bunk bed shelf.
Gear in hand with no plans to return to that wretched place, we left the hostel before the city was awake and made our way to the Piazalle Michelangelo. We sat on top of the famous hill as the sun rose over one of the most beautiful cities, with the Ponte Vecchio Bridge perfectly illuminated in the morning light. The river below was draped in a crimson-pink blanket of sunlight and the mountains in the background boasted a halo of the same brilliant shades. After spending the worst night of our entire trip in a torture chamber, it was impossible to dwell on any negative thoughts because it was those wild Scottish men that got us up before dawn to marvel at what is truly one of the most spectacular sights I have ever laid my eyes on.

- names have been changed

C Duncan

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