Italy: A Study in Birds

July 7, 2014

Anyone who’s hung out here long enough is familiar with my deep-seated, irrational fear aversion to birds. If you need a little refresher as to why I’m not fond of things avian, you can find out here. In short, birds are dirty, sneaky, vindictive wee fuckers and I hate them.

They hate me back.

The bad thing about having a bird phobia is that, well, birds are everywhere. If you’re scared of snakes or scorpions or sharks, it’s not that hard to avoid them, but birds? Good luck with that.

If you have issues with things of the feathered and winged variety, Italy may not be your ideal vacation destination. Everywhere I went in fair Italy, birds managed to plant their nasty behinds in my path.

Take Venice, for instance, the first city on our tour. Everyone says, “Oh, Venice! It’s so romantic! Make sure to just wander the winding streets and sit at a cafe in the Piazza San Marco and watch the people go by.”  Hmph. “Watch the people?” My fat fanny.  More like “watch the pigeons.”  Jesus, those suckers roam in hordes in the San Marco, terrorizing espresso-sipping tourists.

Now some morons, like this kid, who tote bags of bread to the San Marco, thinking, “Oh, wouldn’t it be fun and kind of charming to feed the birds?” deserve to be assaulted.


Believe me, we saw plenty of those morons as we sat in the Piazza with our afternoon apertiva. A few people nutjobs went so far as to place bits of bread on their arms, shoulders and heads, hoping to get a picture of the feathered cuties perching on their bodies.

Umm, bad idea. San Marco pigeons don’t perch. They attack like marauding Huns. I could only watch in horror as these iPhone clutching people became engulfed in fluttery-gray tornadoes. I think it gave me PTSD.

When we arrived in Florence, which was much less pigeon-infested, I breathed a sigh of relief. I mean, there were pigeons in the streets, certainly, but it wasn’t a deluge. I felt fairly confident walking the cobblestoned streets. I was out of danger.

Or so I thought.

One evening, as we were walking to our favorite wine bar, we stumbled across the most adorable pair of children I’ve ever laid eyes on. They were dressed in Sunday-best clothes; the girl, blonde and beribboned in a starched gingham dress and a freckle-specked boy in a crisp white shirt and suspenders. They were playing marbles in a corner of the piazza. I was just about to coo to my husband, “Oh, sweetie, look at those gorgeous children,” when the girl raised her little arm and hucked a chunk of dinner roll at my head, unleashing a swarm of pigeons in my direction. The adorable wee ones howled with mirth and then ran off like their pants were on fire as I screeched and flailed my arms, batting away ardent birds.

Those little swearjars.

I will never trust handsome, well-groomed children again.

I knew Rome would be a challenge, but I wasn’t sure what to fear more: flocks of birds or speeding Vespas. Turns out, the Vespas were far more menacing. I was a little worried because our hotel boasted a charming little courtyard, and everyone knows that courtyards are really just disco joints for birds, but our courtyard wasn’t too bad. Our room was warm, though, and so we did open a window (overlooking the courtyard) to let a breeze pass through during the night. Around 4am, I heard the very shrill, high pitched laughter of a woman who was obviously intoxicated to the gills. I flopped a pillow over my head and waited for the sloshed harpy to turn in for the night, but danged if she didn’t make herself at home in the courtyard for a good half hour, pretty much ending my rest for the night. I groggily hauled myself to my feet when the alarm went off at 6am (early-bird Coliseum tour, y’all!) and asked my husband, “What the hell was with that cackling woman in the middle of the night? Did you hear her?”

“That was a woman?” he slurred. “I thought it was a shrieking baby.”

We slogged through our tour, fueled the rest of our day with espresso and pasta and walkingwalkingwalking, and fell into bed around midnight. Again, our room was humid, so we opened the window.

4am: “heehaawhittyheehee! Hawhawheehee!”

“No freaking way,” I moaned. “She’s back. And drunk again.”

“She won’t stay long,” my husband said.

She stayed. I got so pissed that I hobbled to the window and yelled,”Go to sleep or shut up!”

She wasn’t afraid of me and kept right at it.

By 5am, the sun was coming up, and I was furious. I looked out the window and scanned the courtyard, ready to give this inconsiderate lout a piece of my mind.


The courtyard was empty. Whaaaa? Where was that jerk? I turned my gaze to the roof of the building across the courtyard.


A bird.

One fat, oddball-looking bird, making all of that racket.

I leaned out of the window and gave the bird a very menacing middle finger, but it just stared back at me with those freaky black, beady eyes that all birds have.

Our final night in Rome, humidity be damned, we kept our window closed.


I wasn’t sure how I’d fare in Capri, bird-wise. I mean, it’s an island, and usually island = birds, but then again, we weren’t hanging in a big city, so I didn’t think I’d have pigeon issues. Maybe Capri would only sport cute little songbirds who live in lemon trees?

The first day in Capri, I didn’t see any birds at all. This was totally weird, because we could hear them everywhere, and our hotel was basically hanging off a cliff (birds love cliffs over water, yo) and everything–the restaurant, the pool, the lobby lounge–was open air. My little songbird/lemon tree fantasy didn’t seem so ridiculous any more.

It was only on the second day that I noticed why our hotel was relatively bird-free.


Long, thin, almost clear-colored wires. They were strung from trees and rooftops, hovering over any open air space, and they were arranged in elaborate and intricate patterns.  I looked up from my lounge chair to scan the sky and then I noticed them; they’re that clear and unobtrusive.

“What’s with the wires?” I asked my husband, so he Googled it.

Sure enough, it’s an old-school method to keep birds free and clear of open spaces. Apparently, the birds fly above and when the sun hits the wires, it creates some kind of optical illusion that tricks them into thinking they can’t land. Genius!

Except there was one bird who had this shit figured out. While I was lounging by the pool the second day, I saw this brazen little devil saunter right past me, make his way to the pool, and take a nice refreshing drink and bath in the blue water.

Damn. That looks kinda like a pigeon, except smaller and lighter-colored. I think I got punk’d.

I poked my husband hard in the side. “Bird,” I hissed. ‘This dude isn’t afraid of anything.”

Still, the bird wasn’t flying and flapping around; he was just out for a bit of a stroll and some cooling off. He left us the heck alone, even when we got our little happy hour tray of nuts and little snacks.

The  next day, when I saw Brazen Bird waddle up to the pool, I almost didn’t mind. I was sort of beginning to like Brazen Bird; the bugger had moxie.

Until later in the day, when he did catch air and decided to do this.



They win again.


{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon July 7, 2014 at 6:57 am

We used to have a bird when I was a kid. We named him Dirty. For good reason.
I love birds, but only at a distance. I don’t understand those people at the zoo who go into the bird cage with a little cup of nectar. They are just asking to be shit upon.
Your Italy trip sounds so wonderful, pesky birds, notwithstanding.


Jamie July 7, 2014 at 8:00 am

Bahahahaha!! The last pic is a classic! By the way, cute swim suit top, too!


S in AK July 7, 2014 at 10:41 am

That was probably retaliation, because that DOVE was probably wicked pIssed you thought he was a pigeon!


Dana Talusani July 7, 2014 at 2:18 pm

That’s a DOVE? Who knew?


Annie July 7, 2014 at 12:43 pm

And now you know why I don’t mind hunting and shooting birds.

That last pic is priceless!


C. Troubadour July 7, 2014 at 5:01 pm

Somehow I KNEW this post was going to end with somebody getting shat on. Glad it was not in your 300 euro lunch!

Some days you’re the pigeon …


Alison July 8, 2014 at 12:06 am



Tinne from Tantrums and Tomatoes July 8, 2014 at 12:14 am

Oh you made me laugh with your description of the Venice birds… and the poor schmucks who try to feed them.
Sorry you got ‘Birded’. Nice bikini though.


elizabeth July 8, 2014 at 8:08 am

Yup, that last guy definitely looked like a dove, so he was probably salty you were lumping him in with the pigeons. :)

The shrieking bird in the courtyard, though? I would have asked for a BB gun to take care of that one after the first night.


Jennifer July 8, 2014 at 12:01 pm

That sucks. Did it fly away after it pooped on you?


Jody July 8, 2014 at 9:51 pm

Italians consider it great good luck to be shat upon by a bird. You are among the chosen. Brazen Bird has blessed you.

I swear this is true.


Thomas July 9, 2014 at 12:36 pm

Bad birds…
Overtime Rush Hack


pamela July 10, 2014 at 7:42 pm

This picture is hilarious!! I am not a huge fan of pigeons either but I like birds. Just not the kind of city birds that crap on your arm. Ew.


Tiffany July 11, 2014 at 7:21 am

Oh man! I hate birds!


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