It's been awhile. Sometimes I go back in memory to try to remember what it felt like to be exploring streets and corners of Verona, Florence, Cinque Terra and Roma. I wonder things like, for example, are all your men as robustly friendly as the guys who followed us in Florence?
"Ciao Bella! Go for coffee? Go for coffee, ciao Bella, please!"
Or the guy at our back streets hotel in Rome who couldn't get done making sure the Three Little Women from America didn't get lost or hungry. I eventually took to slinking past corners trying to find a spot in the hotel where the wifi worked and he didn't. This was one spot one could count on a bit of quiet.
Your neighbors, the French guys? They were more subtle. They merely took one's hand to stare deeply into one's eyes for 5 eternal seconds. And all for a tip from a travel-stained foreigner who could only say "merci, monsieur," for keeping her luggage an extra five hours. London men gravitated toward taking the hat from ones head and sporting it for a minute while laughing at the sassy American who wanted her hat back.
Back to Italy
You were charming. I expected that. The warmth of your cities and people seeped into my bones and the art students at every corner of Verona were sweet serendipity. I'm terrible at making lines and curves, shadows and spaces, breezes and sunshine look artistic and accurate, but I'm super at observing and admiring them. All these you have in abundance, and in short, Italia, you got inside my heart and soul, and incidentally my belly. I may have pretended to be all heart and soul, but inside rooms and under canopies spread with sun-soaked vines and wine I was stuffing my face with pasta. By covered bridges lined with jewelry more expensive than I ever want to wear there were copious amounts of gelato being consumed (ask anyone following me on Instagram in late October of 2015). In a little grocery store near the Duomo my friends and I were loading our arms with chicken, vegetables, pasta, cheese, bread and yogurt, which were then cooked into a concoction called "Death by Tuscany." This isn't Death by Tuscany, but pasta is pasta, right?
Dining al fresco takes food from a crush to devotion.
Plus, somehow when one eats pasta in an Italian dining room, accompanied by Italian wine, well, everyone relaxes. Maybe too much. Not you Mia.
Italy, I just have to tell you, one of my favorite moments in your country happened at the end of a terrible day in Rome. We had walked around an entire country that day, looked in vain for the Sistine Chapel, missed the closing and Michelangelo's work of art, gotten lost, missed buses, were groped at on a bus, and had seen maybe a fraction of what we wanted to see. People, heaps and scads of people, didn't count. Have to admit, it was amusing to watch all the tourists try to wrap sweaters and scarves around their bare shoulders and legs at the Vatican.
It was a grandiose thing, to see the center of a religion. Christianity has never really had that, and this makes me think that something that can stay alive despite having no home, well that is an enduring thing because it lives in the hearts of people. This was a beautiful place, but it was just that, a location of religion. No matter what it means to the people who belong there, it is still a temporal symbol.
After what seemed about 3 days in the Vatican we looked up how to get to the Coliseum, which I wanted to see because when in Rome.. right? Well, after miles of walking we finally got there, because the girls were determined not to use buses after their experiences and who could blame them after the harassment? We arrived and couldn't get in because, surprise! We were too late. But we saw it, we just didn't get inside. Good times.
How I wished I had a day or two there, because it was enchanting to stand in the midst of that much history. It was history that meant so much more to me spiritually than any other place, as I have a bit of a crush on the Apostle Paul, and aside from Paul it was Rome. Christianity made a stand here.
It was sunset though, we were exhausted and hungry, and it was time to return to a place where we could catch a tram back to Trastavere where we stayed.
It was the last day, why so anti-climactic Italy? All was not lost though. On the way back up a wide, curving avenue lined with tall trees and old, grand architecture, the sun disappeared completely leaving behind a faint, warm glow. The twilight was magical. Time ceased as we walked through that warm, Roman dusk and I felt a strange happiness. Some say that happiness is elusive, it is. But now and then it comes like a flash and dwells in a mortal. Italy, you gifted me with happiness. In that last day of a dream trip, you came through - you gracious hearted friend you.
Italy, I love you, but puh-leeze do something about the public transport in Rome. As one British tourist beside me aptly described as the worst experience of her life:
My friends and I had a slightly different way of describing the experience:
I will be back if possible. For gelato and pasta, if nothing else, but also because your streets, the little nonno's and nonna's, the markets, the green grocers shops, the fruits, the country side, the enthusiastic people, the wine, the views, the sun drenched countryside...
Say hi to Verona from me. And Vernazza.