Wednesday, May 20, 2015

24 Hours In Rome (Alive She Cried)

What can you possibly do in Rome if you only have 24 hours?

That was all I had given myself. I arrived around noon on Wednesday and was booked on the 11:50 a.m. Frecciarossa to Florence the next day so I could meet up with friends there and begin the real work of the Nostalgia Package Tour.

Oh you can do so much in 24 hours, I jotted down in my notebook, as I sat in the window sill of my second-floor hotel room in Rome, looking out over the street below and eye to eye with the ‘H’ and the ‘O’ in the vertical hotel sign on the side of the building.

Here’s what I saw, in some cases just quickly, after walking several miles around Rome over fragments of two days:

The Pantheon, the Campidoglio, the Roman Forum, Piazza Navona (with its many tiny balcony gardens), Palazzo Madama (the seat of the Italian Senate; I stood outside for a while, ogling the carabinieri in their crisp uniforms) the Thursday morning weekly produce market in Campo Dei Fiori, the Tiber, the tony neighborhood of Monti by the Coliseum, a friend from college I haven’t seen in exactly 20 years, and the largest ciambellina I’d ever seen (or eaten for that matter).

I also noticed men and women in religious garb everywhere, sometimes on bikes or cupping cellphones to their ears, and realized I might have been a stone’s throw from Francis.

I jotted down in my notebook, as I stood on the street, gaping up at the Campidoglio: I’m in super computer mode. As I walked the streets, I took photos, I recorded snippets of conversation on my phone, I breathed in my beloved tiny, white, gelsomina flower (which spilled over walls, and climbed up the sides of buildings, unleashing a powerful memory agent for this blogger) and I lingered over well-tended floral displays adorning terraces, window sills and the outdoor seating areas of trattorie tucked into vicoli.

It probably sounds like I was in a mad dash. But, of course, I had the luxury, in most cases, of having visited (multiple times, in some cases) whatever incredible monument I was passing.

(I also found I had such adrenaline, that a mere five hours of sleep was all I needed, especially if I stayed on my feet, drawing energy from my constant movement).

My eye was on the lookout for signs of life, symbols of the Roman personality. My objective was to breath in the Eternal City so that when I returned to America, a part of it would linger on long after I walked away from the Pantheon (my favorite building in Rome. Maybe the World. Shoot, who knows?).

Let’s just say: Mission Accomplished (as you'll see in future posts about encounters with taxi drivers and near collisions with nuns on bikes and conversations overheard and thoroughly enjoyed).

In fact, not only did I remember it’s an amazing city, I wondered – for a half-minute, abbiate pazienza – if I had chosen the wrong city to live in. Because Rome is a city I’d like to live in. A city that remains Italian, Roman to the core, a city where you can have real encounters with Italians, in Italian, if you just endeavor a bit.

Oddly enough the person I have to thank for being able to take such exquisite advantage of the scant time I had wasn’t anywhere near me. My little Leo. Since becoming a mother, I’ve learned to sfruttare (exploit) the hell out of five free minutes. So to think I had 24 hours there, well, shoot, what an embarrassment of riches.

Twenty-four hours in the Eternal City? Well, it felt like an Eternity to me.

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