“Rome was a poem pressed into a city”. ~Anatole Broyard
Saturday August 20, 2016
I left my hostel and walked into the sunny streets of Rome. I had made a promise to myself to avoid hostels, but my CouchsurfEr was sick and I didn’t want to be a burden. So I left. And dropped my bags at a hostel. Sweat collected in the small of my back in a matter of 10 minutes. The streets at first werE wide. Impersonal. I turned to the side streets. My favorite ones.
Colorful Vespas and Vespa rental shops were everywhere.
Graffiti. Beautiful scrawlings in Italian everywhere on all the buildings. But only from shoulder height down. I wish I could read what they I said.
Turning down random streets.. I was Surprised with old, worn down historical buildings or modern, uncharacteristic boring buildings or intricately designed churches or charming little streets with ivy covered walls
Streets and alleyways jutting off in every random direction.
Gelato and pizzeria shops everywhere. Advertising air conditioning and wifi.
Military tanks and men in full garb and equipped with giant rifles stand guard everywhere, instead of filling me with a feeling it safety and security, a feeling of sadness.
I reached the Colosseum. My destination. It was Beautiful. Huge. Magnificent I wanted to touch its walls. Hear all the stories it’s walls had to tell. My walk down to it was tainted with the people all around thrusting water bottles and souvineers in my face, incessant that I buy their things. I walk by, shaking my head no, no, no I don’t want your selfie sticks or colorful straw hats or mini replicas of the colosseum. I want to hear the colosseum whisper to me tales of gladiators and peasants and emperors and aristocracy and slaves from long ago.
Once again, clustered with tired, hot tourists eager to get that perfect selfie.
A girl spoke to me from the crowd, “Do you want to go inside?” She had one of those tourist group tags hanging around her neck. I declined politely and walked on. As I was walking, I hesitated… Yes I hate tours groups, but this was my chance to hear the stories. Ok. Fuck it. I look for signs on this trip. Omens. Sure. She speaks to everyone, but I want the rich history. I turned around and had her lead me to the meeting spot.
Inside. I got to touch the walls. Imagine what it was like. The intensity of the crowds cheering like crazy. I saw the old bathrooms. I saw where the gladiators fought. Where the emperor got to watch the games. The aristocracy. The common people. The slaves. I imagined it in all its glory. With the frescos. The marble. The mosaics. The 24 flowing fountains. The 2 entrances for the rich and the 78 others for the rest of the people. (I wasn’t totally paying attention so cuz I kept daydreaming so I am sure the numbers are wrong) The hungry animals they kept in deep dark caves with no foid for 7 days, releasing them in the center of the ring, hungry and angry and ready to eat anything in its path.. The trembling, terrified slaves and enemies of Rome.. My feet were covered in dust. The three water spigots has lines of exhausted, sunburned people staring longingly, waiting for their turn.
Of course the walls were falling apart. Crumbling. The marble and frescos and mosaics were “recycled” in the 14th century to build different cathedrals and churches and other palaces. It’s hard to believe this crazy beautiful structure was build in only 8 years… I was filled with a desire to time travel. I closed my eyes and willed it so. Only to open my eyes and see crowds of people taking selfies and couples kissing, locked in blissful embrace.
I realized I probably looked worse than all of them. Crazy travel plans made it so I shy had a shower in a few days. But I didn’t care. I was here for the sights. The stories. The feelings. Not to look good for people. I looked around. Everyone was glistening with sweat. Their clothes starting to grow dark and damp on their backs and under their armpits. It was scorching. Where were all those guys selling the water for a Euro???
I gave in and bought one. Fur 2 euro. I eagerly put it to my lips and drank. It lasted 2 gulps. It was the most delicious thing. Where was the rest? I surely didn’t finish it all in 2 gulps… Ice… 3/4 of the bottle was pure ice. Awwwwmannnnn I wanted it now. Now now now. I didn’t want to wait until it melted… An hour later it was still frozen. As I walked around I noticed a few more people struggling to get a sip our of their frozen block of ice. I felt comforted knowing i wasn’t the only one peering into my water bottle trying to figure out how to squeeze liquid out of it.
And I wandered through the maze of ancient ruins. My tummy growling. And I left the ancient ruins. And I wandered the streets again. And then I found it.
A CAT SANCTUARY!!! I happened upon a little square.. There was a wall around a bit in the middle.. More crumbling ruins lay inside… Intriguing… What was it??
And then I saw a cat!! And another!! As I walked around it I saw a sign proclaiming it as a cat sanctuary for homeless cats… There were stairs to one side you could walk down and go inside and pet the cats. Hold the cats. There was air conditioning and water for the cats. Wooaawwww!!! I spend a good hour holding and petting those beautiful things. They smushed their head into your hands. Eager for more love. And by golly I gave it to them. I needed to be needed by them.
And then I wandered some more. Across a bridge that brought me to the most beautiful bits of Rome I’ve ever seen. This was what I thought of when I thought of Italy. Tiny streets. Ivy covered walls. The smell of pizza wafting through the streets. The clink of wine glasses. Loud, animated conversations in Italian. The streets lined with colorful vespas.