Sun Protection Encounter of the Worst Kind

by Olivia

It was April in northern Italy’s Po River Valley, where I had seen the sun for only four days in five months. I needed to see sunshine and Easter Week was coming up.

My elderly mother was visiting from the United States and deserved more than the dreary weather of northern Italy. We stuffed some bags in the car, grabbed a map, made plans for great eating, and headed south, many, many kilometers, seeking the sunshine of Puglia, the “heel” of Italy’s boot.

And there it was, indeed, wonderful, glorious sun, shining onto the bright blue Adriatic Sea.

The sun felt great. I found a lounge chair on the roof deck of the little hotel and settled in. And then I remembered. It had never crossed my mind to bring sun protection, of any kind. After all, I hadn’t seen the sun in months and was constantly bundled in a jacket, hat and gloves.

Okay, I thought. This is too spectacular to leave. My mother, who has Macular Degeneration, had her protective sunglasses and a jacket, and I had my sunglasses and a sweater.

I can keep my arms covered, I thought. I realized I didn’t even have a cap or hat, though my mother sensibly did. Still, after the long, foggy, dark winter, I had no intention of moving. So I stayed, setting myself up for a sun protection encounter of the worst kind.

Even though I went looking, the next day, for some sunscreen, the shops had little and it was sun protection level 15 (SPF 15), for more Euros than it would cost to buy enough good sunscreen in the U.S. to last me for three years.

So I kept up my encounter with the sun for a couple of days and ended the lovely stay with at least two sun charred spots on my face.

The encounter led me to ask a friend to bring some good quality sunscreen from the U.S. on her return to Italy, though I never saw such glorious sun again during my year long stay, and it will be some years before I see the full impact of my unwise sun protection encounter.

Now I carry sun screen in my TSA approved plastic quart bag, along with a hat and sunglasses, wherever I go.

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