Blaring sirens, gunweilding carbonari, potent oregano, loud Italians: Rome.
We left the map the hotel offered us in Sean's back pocket and wandered down alleys that beckoned us with mouthwatering scents. We settled in at a trattoria. I decided I must have the black truffle fettuchine and the broccoli herb risotto. It was not a mistake.
We walked down crowded streets rubbing shoulders with strangers. Everywhere we went there were long lines, crabby people, and ancient history. The juxtaposition between ancient and modern was striking. Two weeks into Europe, we had no desire to stand in line for an hour to see painting or buildings. But this was Rome; we're talking the Colosseum, the Pantheon, and Vatican City. What other option did we have? Besides, we had no where we had to be.
We found ourselves in jumbled formation outside the Colosseum. In true Italian style, there was not so much of a line as a blob of humans. Claustrophobia kicked in 20 minutes into the wait but I couldn't have left if I wanted to. I was simply lost in the blob, moving when it moved and stopping when it stopped.
"I have an idea," Sean said, smirking. "Moooooooo. Mooooooooooo."
The sound startled me. The last time he did this we were waiting to get off the Seattle-Bainbridge ferry with 300 commuters.
"Stop!" I said, nudging him in the ribs. It only encouraged him."
I noticed the Italian man who'd been standing on the back of my shoe move away slightly. I looked up and saw that Sean created a protective force field around our bodies. Everyone in a five foot radius looked at Sean and if he had two heads.
"See?" he gloated. "Mooooooooo. Oink. Oink."
"You're certifiable," I said, secretly grateful. I wasn't 100 per cent sure but I thought the man behind me "accidentally" grazed my rear end one too many times for it to be an actual accident.
After an hour of mooing and baaing, we made it to the ticket booth. We walked up the steep stairs into the Colosseum. We didn't speak; we couldn't find words. Knowing that you are standing in something that has been around for thousands of years is hard to take in.
Moss covered the top of the rocks, and they were slippery to the touch. Intricate tunnels weaved in and out of the maze. Thousands of years ago, men came to fight to the death in this very building. The thought gave me shivers. We took our time, not wanting to miss anything. I walked to the top floor and leaned in between a crack in the stone. Rome flooded the scene. Ancient ruins, modern apartments, restaurants, and streets filled the horizon. Rome certainly wasn't built in a day.
Once we'd had our fill, we walked to the Trevi Fountain. The cool water sprayed my face as I stood on its edge and threw in a penny. Surely I would visit Rome again. We grabbed cafes and walked to the Spanish Steps. From the top, we watched the sun set. Pink, purples, and blues painted twilight. Down below, Rome was busier than ever. Women in beautiful and provocative attire led men down the streets headed to restaurants and clubs.
"I don't want to jinx anything," Sean said tentatively. "But nothing bad has happened in Rome yet. Maybe the Eternal City will be our haven."
I looked out over the city. For thousands of years it has endured wars and natural disasters. Suddenly, losing a debit card and missing out on Germany didn't seem like such a big deal.
"Even if something does happen, I'm okay with it. This here, right now, this is what I wanted last October when I stormed home with The Binder."
I found it unfortunate that we have the least amount of time in Rome when there was clearly so much to see. We decided that we must prioritize, and that meant omitting certain things. One thing I demanded to see was the Pantheon. And so we walked for hours, past the Trevi Fountain and found it wedged between unsuspecting buildings. It didn't seem right to me. I wished there was more space around the Pantheon, but like everything else in Rome thousands of years of building has caused a tight squeeze.
I left Sean outside. I knew where I was going, where my legs had to take me. Once at my destination, I looked up. One hole in the ceiling, surrounded by hundreds of square tiles. The gray light hurt my eyes but I refused to look away. The Pantheon emptied as thunder roared overhead. It was the perfect place to hear my first Italian storm. I could feel the moisture in the air and then it came; rain drops pitter pattered on the marble floor. They echoed in the vast space. I felt drop after drop pound my face.
Not wanting to be completely soaked, I moved from the center and admired the artwork. However, what I admired the most was the sound of rain hitting the marble. Pat, patpatpat, pat. I wondered how many people through the history of the world had enjoyed storms from inside the Pantheon.
"Babe, we need to head out and get our things from the hotel," Sean said, grabbing my arm. I was surprised to learn I had spent two hours inside the Pantheon.
I nodded and followed him out. We were catching an overnight train for our last adventure in Europe: exploring the city of love, Paris.