I had been to Italy before, but never to Rome. And what I thought the city would be, it was – beautiful and ancient, full of history and religion, brimming with delicious food and cobblestoned streets to wander. Men leaned too close into my ears, telling me the stories of the city as they chain-smoked. Tourists swarmed, their numbers swelling into the hundreds of thousands at the famous monuments each day. The sun shone and the rain came, spring making way for summer.
It was a good week, but a busy one. I walked for hours every day, stopping only for photo opportunities or for another cup of espresso. I deliberately saw more sites than I’m used to; I had grown accustomed to the lazy days of South America, the days when I knew I still had months and months to explore. And, although seeing these famous places was, as always, enlightening – the Trevi Fountain, the Sistene Chapel, St. Peter’s Basilica, the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona – it was in the quiet moments that I appreciated Rome the most. It was in the purchase of a painting by a local artist on the banks of the Tiber river, or in the glasses of wine on a small street in Trastevere. It was in the gelato shared at midnight with a man I’ll never see again. It was in the few times when I would turn a corner, escaping the throngs of tourists, and, for just a brief moment, I’d have the whole of Rome to myself.