In Telese Terme, we were all scheduled to be the recipients of some spa treatment or another in our hotel, which was built on thermal springs (and also strongly resembled The Shining in its sprawling, vacated corridors and abandoned rooms of dusty baby cribs that I eerily stumbled upon). Although I had received two massages already in the same number of weeks—call me spoiled, but it comes with the territory!—I didn’t want anyone scraping off the skin on my face or tickling the soles of my feet, so again, I opted for a full-body rubdown. And what a rubdown it was. Luckily, Heather, bless her, had warned me in advance.
“You’ve had a European massage before, right?”
“Um no, come to think of it, I haven’t actually. Unless a Swedish counts?”
“Well, let me just tell you they’re…how do I say this…a bit invasive,” she carefully selected her words in perfectly diplomatic Swiss-like conduct.
“Oh…um…OK…well, I’m sure it will be fine,” I hesitated, the Southern modesty in me rising to the surface.
But still I wasn’t prepared for the next half hour that would await me. If you’re not familiar with European spas, I should preface this story by telling you that they’re clinical and used more for longterm, alternative treatments for ailments and injuries. The entire facility resembled a hospital, if not mental institution with its sterile qualities. Hospital beds and IVs filled the rooms and hallways, and the massage tables were only separated from one another by a thin wall and lacked any sort of ceiling, much like being in a tanning bed.
Cheesy 80’s Italian pop filled the air, and the phone rang off the hook. I could hear old Renzo blabbering on over the divider in his rapid Italian, and I sort of felt sorry for whomever was responsible for kneading his wrinkly body (OK, now I feel The Guilt for saying that, because he is very nice, but seriously, a bit creepy and you really deserve the full mental image). I entered the room and prepared to remove my clothing and get situated under the sheet before my treatment began, only a) there was no sheet and b) my massage therapist followed me in and motioned for me to remove my dress and delicates right in front of her — with her eyes boring into me like a man at a strip club. Not disobedient, I did as she demonstrated — she spoke no English — and she immediately began caressing my leg, all the way from my ankle up to…well, you know where. I couldn’t figure out if I was getting a Brazilian or on my annual visit the gynecologist’s office. Neither are my favorite ways to spend an afternoon, for sure.
The whole massage took place with me laying on my back, exposing all of my womanly assets, and I just squinted my eyes shut and pretended I was dreaming. When she was finished, she took paper towels — what, terry cloth is asking too much? — and patted me dry of the oil. I emerged from my room less relaxed than when I entered and decided to remedy that with a dip in the thermal hot tub which was the size of a small swimming pool. Only, there were two problems. First, in my haste to make it to my appointment after waking up late from a nap, I grabbed my bathing suit top and a nude bra, no bottoms. Second, Renzo floated atop the sulfur-y waters. I didn’t really want him ogling me in anything less than a nun habit, so instead of retrieving my bathing suit’s other half in my room, I chose to blog instead.
Moral of this story? If ever given the opportunity for a spa treatment in Europe, opt for the facial.
Haha! Funny massage place you went to. I’ve had massages that seem like the complete opposite of what you had to endure. In Europe. Well, Austria. We have towels and privacy and silence. And our massage therapists don’t go anywhere near your coochie. (See, I used my new vocabulary!)
Ugh. Ok, you’ve convinced me never to get a European massage. No thanks, not for me!
um, hi, i once stayed in a hotel that had the exact. same. carpet. as the Overlook Hotel. i nearly died. i swear. The Shining scares the bloody crap out of me.
also? the massage? i’m dying. hahahah!
Weirdly invasive massages is maybe just what they do in Italy…?
I would have found that massage kind of awkward too, but your friend did warn you ;). I do hope you realize it’s a cultural difference regarding the human body and consequently what a complete massage is…I love Italy and Italian culture and am saddened when the cultural differences are misinterpreted or judged. Italians hold less malice and embarrassment over a naked body. In fact Italians are very touchy, human contact is important and there’s no shame nor anything wrong with it…but for someone who needs their space, that kind of behavior is seen as invasive. So, I have to agree with you…if you feel that way about space, definitely don’t get a body massage in Italy.