Roman Morning

Water squirted up from the olden spout and into my mouth. I managed two large gulps, but what didn’t make it beyond my lips splattered onto my face and the cobblestone bricks of the Roman piazza. “Now you are Italian,” he said. I smiled. “Really? I thought it took Italian DNA to create Italians.” “No. This makes you officially Italian.”

It was blazing hot, and although the Pantheon was old news for my two Italian guides, I couldn’t help but stare back at it from the piazza. I wiped the fountain’s water from my chin. I was fascinated with its antiquity, not the part that sat with its Catholic “upgrade”—even though the upgrade was pretty antiquated in and of itself—but the part behind that veneer, bold and raw before Rococo and gilt edging.

I had gone into the basilica ignorant. I honestly didn’t remember that the Catholic Church had taken it over, although I should have assumed, since they had remodeled everything—and I mean everything—into a Catholic symbol as Christianity spread. Also, let’s not forget I’m in Rome, home of the Vatican, root and marrow of Catholicism. Why I expected to see statues of gods like Zeus and Venus I’m not sure, but I’m guessing it was years of watching the History Channel and their digital recreations of what once was.

I had been in Le Marche, jaunting about its eastern seabed communities. How did I end up in Rome? Well, I just happened to find myself in a conversation turned invitation: ”Come along for the ride,” they said, “We could use the company!” Now….  when someone asks you—out of the blue—if you want to go to Rome for a day, and all you have to do is get in the car, YOU SAYYESSSSSSS!!!!!

It only took a small sacrifice: sleep. I woke at 3 AM and stumbled into a tiny car positioned in front of the village walls of Civitanova in Le Marche.  As the night sky went from azure to amber, I sleepily chatted with folks in my broken Italian. Mostly, though, I half-slept. One brief outing at an Autogrill, and then, “Buongiorno, Roma!” We were there. 7:00 AM had arrived and I was in Rome—a bit incoherent, but I was there. 

After a brilliant and amazing crème filled cornetti and cappuccino, the day moved at the speed of light, sliding through my grip, escaping me. The Pantheon was now officially “experienced,” after years of curiosity. Fontana di Trevi , bright and sparkling and humming—now a memory.  The Calling of St. Mathew, by Carravaggio —witnessed, hanging in all of its splendor on the chapel walls of San Luigi dei Francesi. A viewing of the sheltered feral cats at the Largo di Torre Argentina—accomplished. (This monument was particularly interesting both visually, with its iconic ruinous columns, and olfactorily with its ancient feline smell.)

It was now 10 AM, and as if Puccini himself was serenading me, I heard the voice of gelato calling amongst the Roman buildings. We found a little spot down a narrow street and ate giant, and I mean GIANT, cones of gelati. I stared down at the camera I had brought to witness my day. Pointless mechanism. It had gone willingly ignored. How could anyone take time for photos when there is so much to see!

I ached for more time—time for Rome to seduce me and pull me into its history and culture. I wanted to be whisked away like Psyche by Cupid. I wanted all the fantasy to come true—the food, the romance, the gelato. (Wait…I did that.) I wanted vespas whizzing by. I wanted Fellini and Audrey Hepburn to invite me to a bar for some prosecco and good conversation. I wanted to play in the fountains, drink the wine, and on and on and on….

The winding streets, churches and the many many stores selling priest’s robes were becoming a blur. The weight of my in-a-car-non-sleep was catching up with me. The heat of the day whipped me. I was happy I wore a dress, but unhappy I chose a black one. If I could just finda place to take a catnap….  “No No NO!  I can’t. I only have a few hours left!” I yelled at myself.

We pressed on through the morning—I couldn’t believe I only had half a day! I began to aim for shelter from the sun. My legs felt wobbly. After walking through some ruins, that unfortunately my head was too dismantled to log in to memory, we were on a tram to a quaint little neighborhood called Trastevere for a real Roman lunch.

We first meandered about the quarter, but that proved pointless. What time did we get up again??? Our stomachs ached, our feet ached; our eyes ached. English and Italian words became mix-matched like a Mensa international crossword puzzle. We couldn’t bear it any longer and aimed our bellies and our bodies towards the restaurant. 

Daft! They weren’t open yet!

We sat on a small curb near the restaurant and waited. We didn’t have the energy to find a new place, or to hobble back to the car. I literally began to sleep sitting up. The restaurant staff took pity on us. That pale-skinned woman in the black dress is going to die in the streets if we don’t help her. We were finally invited in out of the sun.

I had a beautiful dish of pasta, tonnarelli cacio e pepe, and then without any more will left in my body, fell asleep with my head on the table.

The tram took us back to the car. The car took us back to Le Marche, and Rome was behind me. I remembered the coin I threw into the Fontana di Trevi. It is said that if you throw a coin in the waters of the Fontana di Trevi, you will return to Rome. I was counting on it.

Elise McMullen a.k.a. The Galavant Girl 






Fontanadi Trevi

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