I’ve found that it is difficult to write about Travel. I capitalize it here because Travel is a movement and a state of being- it is a noun because you not only travel but you actually become a component of the verb- you become Travel and Travel becomes a part of you.
My 7 days in Italy in October of 2015 was what awoke in me a burning, unceasing desire to be a Traveler. It was a fall vacation from studying abroad in France- Southern France, with all of its aroma of lavender and herbs de Provence, the saltiness of the Mediterranean and the abiding cliffs, coffee, cigarettes, and nasal laughter. France taught me the sweetness of homesickness, the tang of new friendships and adventure and people.
But Italy taught me the true joy, and true pain, of Travel.
3 Nights in Rome at the Rome City Hostel, exploring the Vatican, Roman Forum, and the streets of Rome
3 Nights in Florence at Hostel Gallo D’Oro, with a wine tasting in Tuscany and touring the Uffizi Museum
2 Nights in Naples at the SanGennaro B&B, with an excursion to the island of Capri
I fear that I will never again be filled with so much awe and wonder as I did when I first saw the majesty that is Rome. Nor will I be filled with so much disappointment.
I packed up with a fellow study-abroad student and we stayed in the dingy Rome City Hostel on a run-down street,walking a couple miles to the bus and train station for two days. We got there at midnight by stealing a ride on a bus (we couldn’t figure out how to pay- and I’m pretty sure half the population doesn’t..) and got lukewarm pizza from a closing joint across the street.
The next day was a whirlwind. I remember being annoyed by the throngs of people, as if Rome was supposed to be a quiet city I’d have all to myself. I remember seeing the Coliseum and Roman Forum and being both stunned by the immensity and shocked that not everyone was not immobilized by the greatness of History that stood before them. I remember walking, forever walking. It was hotter than I expected too.
We got pizza again at a little place near the Coliseum, like a pizza deli where it was already prepared and the man there warmed it up for us. He spoke English, and invited us to a party that night. We didn’t end up going, but it was my first experience actually interacting with an Italian, in their city, and it was so, so cool. The pizza was good- although probably better because I wanted it to be. We stopped for coffee at a little café- with the few words in our arsenal which were cappuccino and Grazi- where we could look at the coliseum and take in the fact that we were in Rome.
We explored the Coliseum, the Roman forum, wandered through renaissance churches and medieval streets. I don’t recall how we filled the whole day, but we must have wandered until nightfall- we got dinner somewhere between the Trevi Fountain (closed..) and the Spanish Steps (also closed..), down a Via Della Something-or-other. It was dark and you could see the stars. We tried speaking Italian to the waiter, who thought we were uproariously funny in our attempts. The wine I had that night was probably the best I’ve ever tasted- it’s funny how the atmosphere you’re in can make everything taste better. I remember it was a chianti, probably sangiovese (revealing my limited knowledge on wine).
Afterwards, we went trooping through the streets, searching for Piazza Navona, which I was hell-bent on finding so I could glimpse the famous Bernini Fontana dei Quattro Fiumi. We stumbled through a square (our feet dead weights at this point) and saw columns, to which I exclaimed, “This is the Pantheon?! It’s not like I thought it was…” and filled with disappointment, trudged on- until we found the real Pantheon and stood there, mouths open and Gelato melting (we had stopped for gelato on our way). We sat for a bit gazing at the moon above the Pantheon, laughing at ourselves for thinking we had passed it already, and musing about life, taking in the quiet.
We left and after getting lost a few more times, behold… Piazza Navona.
Of course.. it being 11pm at this point… I didn’t get the greatest picture of all time.
I sat in that square, and tears came to my eyes. I felt the majesty of centuries-old art, streets, buildings, and culture all in one moment of time.
Ever since that moment, I’ve been chasing that feeling.
To be continued..