A Mediterranean Medusa | Sardinia, Italy

When the English-speaking world thinks of Medusa, we remember the Greek myth of three horrible sisters who have snakes for hair.

In Italy when one hears the word Medusa the following comes to mind:

Now let’s review:

English Medusa = Greek mythology.
Italian Medusa = JELLYFISH!

Yesterday afternoon we took a nice long stroll along our favourite beach. It was a beautiful hot spring day and we enjoyed it to the fullest. On our walk back my husband noticed a jellyfish on the ground and I just had to snap a photo.

My husband has told me his horror stories as a boy being stung by a jellyfish. His body was covered with welts that lasted over a year. He survived.

Last year a 69 year old woman from Cagliari was swimming in Porto Tramatzu in the comune of Villaputzu when she was stung by a jellyfish. She was able to walk out of the ocean to call for help, but moments later she collapsed on the beach and died from cardiac arrest.

Every year I hear stories of people being stung by a medusa/jellyfish. Every year I see people coming out of the ocean shrieking in pain.

I found this reference chart by The International Ciesm JellyWatch Programme which outlines the various types of  Medusa living in the Mediterranean.

Before you jump head first into the warm inviting waters of the Mediterranean I suggest having a look around first:

  • Are there other swimmers in the water?
  • Do you see people coming from the water shrieking in pain?
  • Can you see something floating peacefully in the water? Maybe it’s just a piece of plastic but maybe it’s a MEDUSA.
  • Look before you leap!

Have you or someone you know been stung by a jellyfish? Tell me your stories below.

45 thoughts on “A Mediterranean Medusa | Sardinia, Italy

  1. Just got stung 6 days ago at La Ciacia near Valledoria. I think by looking at that chart it was a little one that floats on the surface. The velella. But, I don’t really know for sure. Anyway, according to the doctor I did all the wrong things after stung. First, I got out of the water. Wrong! Staying in the ocean water is best. Second, I put fresh bottled water on in. Again, wrong. I don’t know why, but, fresh water is not great for the sting. It aggravates the venom or something. Then, some local told me to pee on it. So, I did cup some of my urine later that day, and used a q tip to swab a bit on there. Do not do that. Then, I went out in the sun with it uncovered. Bad. It got infected and I had to see a doctor.
    Initially the sting was somewhat painful, but, not as bad as I thought. More just shocking. It was a brownish sludge residue on my inner forearm. So, if you have a credit card type thing, go get it and get back into the ocean to keep stung area in salt water. Use the credit card to flick off the residue. When you get home, soak it in hot water for a bit, then dry and put an anti-biotic ointment (Neosporin). It will take some time for the discoloration to disappear. If it itches, go to pharmacy for cortisone cream. Calamine lotion is also good. Sardinian pharmacies are very different than in the States, so talk to the pharmacist to see what they have for the sting. Keep the area covered from the sun. Sea water is okay, but wear a bandana or something over the sting. And, I still use Neosporin and clean occasionally with hand sanitizer. (reverse order)

    • Oh no! There seems to be a lot of jellyfish this year. I’ve noticed at my local beach that most days there’s a few jellyfish hanging around.

      Thanks for your excellent tips on how to heal a sting.

      Wishing you a speedy recovery.

  2. I was stung by a Medusa jellyfish in August 2017 of the coast of Solanas beach in Sardinia. To best describe it, It was like being whipped by a bolt of lightening, incredibly intense, steering hot pain, followed by blistering welts and phantom pain in the days to come. It caused enough pain for me to abandoned the swim and aim for shore. As a swimmer, I now ware a surfers rash vest whilst swimming during the warm weather in Sardinia when heading out in long swims.
    PADI- the Professional Association of Diving Instructors have good information on how best to deal with jellyfish stings.
    Divers only know to well that shot-lines are forever decorated with broken of jellyfish tentacles, and this is just one of the reasons why instructors encourage young divers not to loosely grasp the shot line while ascending to the surface. As it might stop you holding that post dive beer!

  3. I was stung by a Medusa on La Praia beach (Praiano) last month. My wife used a razor to “shave” the stingers out, then poured balsamic vinegar on it….really was painful…

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  6. Hi we was in Italy last week and my daughter got stung we convered her ankle is sand for a about ten minutes she still has the marks around her ankle looks like 3-4 lines which are raised and swollen and red we don’t know which type of jelly fish however .

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  8. I have been stung many times by jellyfish, but one occasion stands out vividly. About six years ago I was swimming in a river baths that runs into Botany Bay, and unfortunately collided with a red jelly blubber. I had never seen a red one before, and i never want to see another. My husband concluded that it had been brought in through ballast, and this theory was verified by others with expert knowledge of such things. Anyway, the pain was horrible, and I ended up getting abnormal heart function for a few hours afterwards. The welts faded after a few weeks. Thankfully, that’s the last time I’ve been stung: and believe me, it was the worst.

  9. In Canada we have jellyfish too! I remember as a kid seeing them washed up on the beach of the Atlantic Ocean. The water was too cold, so we rarely swam there. Just walked the shore. Another time we were in a bay and I waded up to my knees and almost walked into a small one. It was almost invisible, but a thin outline made the body just visible. I quickly exited! In Cuba we went to a reef to snorkle and the guide wouldn’t let us in the water because dangerous jellyfish were spotted. He said we would die before we got to hospital if stung. Many were disappointed, but I wasn’t taking any chnaces. One was on the beach and I snapped a photo… that was close enough.

  10. Just in case, remember to always bring with you a s.o.s. stick, it’s most commonly made of “ammoniaca”, but it’s also available on a 100%organic base (chroton lechleri), wich really helps in healing fast in case someone gets stung! And it’s helpful also for bees bites!

  11. Jennifer, I’m still loving the feel of your new blog design. It is so crisp, fresh and easy to read. I am very afraid of jellyfish. My best friend was diving and was stung by one big one. She came to visit me three weeks after the sting and her legs and arms were still covered in welts. But I have to say they are quite beautiful! Great post!

  12. growing up in Australia there were always jellyfish. i got stung numerous times by bluebottles and of course in the Northern Territory the Box jellyfish has everyone scared out of the water…

  13. A perfect post for Summer. Much as we enjoy the beach , we need to be cautious. My friend’s daughter got stung two weeks and the jellyfish did some damage to her daughters arm. She’s still healing. I felt lucky in a way cause my son and I love the beach and so far we have not encountered a jellyfish and its potential dangers.

    • I’m glad your friends daughter is doing ok. Sometimes we don’t realize the potential danger in the warm inviting waters. Jellyfish stings can lead to death and/or serious scarring.

  14. I was stung by a medusa in Positano a few years ago, it hurts! I photographed some huge Rhizostome yesterday at Forte dei Marmi. The see was full of them, but it didn’t stop people jumping off the pier into the water.

    • They are brave souls to jump in the water!! I once took a sailing trip in the Whitsundays in Australia and we anchored in one lagoon festooned with jellyfish, but they weren’t harmful. The captain dove right in and swam with the jellyfish. I stayed on board and drank VB! 😉

    • Thanks Kathy,

      Five years ago if I was on an Italian beach and someone yelled out MEDUSA, I would have looked for the mythological representation of Medusa and probably jumped straight into the water! yikes! 😉

  15. A friend and I were both stung a few years ago. I remember swimming and then looking over and seeing her run out of the water screaming. So I went back to shore to see what was up. I could see a huge rash developing on her back and side. Then moments later I could feel a sting on my leg and arm. She got it way worse than me but that sting hurts a LOT. We stayed out of the water for a bit but did venture back in later. Was the atlantic ocean though.

    • I’ve been lucky and have never been stung by a jellyfish (rubs large wooden kitchen table for luck) but I know plenty of people who have. My husband recounts his sting story in horrific detail and pain. He was young when it happened and and he said the scars just dreadful!

  16. Only once have I been snorkelling in the Med and suddenly been freaked by jellyfish everywhere. I didn’t follow your first rule. I got out – and have never gone back in.

  17. The name “medusa”, which we associate to the jellyfish, is because Medusa had her head covered by snakes, and snakes bite and hurt, just like jellyfishes 🙂 I’m from Sardinia and love your blog!

    • Ciao Sara,

      Thank you for loving my blog! As a child I was fascinated by the Greek myth Medusa, I am not however fascinated by jellyfish … nor snakes for that matter! 😉

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