Though my previous entries on the topic have been about details I missed while reading Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, this will be about an adventure I do believe she missed: taking on Rome overnight.
I’d met a truly vivacious and beautiful woman from Rome, Grazia, at a medical conference the year before my journey; she was working in New York and was in Chicago for the event. In the midst of my Roman angst, I contacted her to see if she knew anyone who would be interested in showing me around. Graciously, she arranged an evening with her friend, Ivo.
I decided to play the day cautiously, my mind still sore from the events of days prior. Though I’d been around the outside of the Colosseum both by foot and by bus, I’d yet to venture inside. Since it was nearby on a seemingly safe route from the hotel, I made a day of this. Truly… unforgettable.
I stopped by some shops to gather post cards and souvenirs, but spent most of the day just lounging around, researching my jaunt to Florence the next day and wondering what the night had in store. I thought about canceling the evening’s plans, anxious about what to expect and feeling like I’d be a bit of an inconvenience. But something deep down told me to go…
I obsessed, a little, over getting myself ready and made the decent to the lobby, where watched every man who came in with curiosity, wondering if he was my guy. After about ten minutes, the most handsome one I’d seen so far wandered through the door, and I thought I could only be so lucky. The second he said my name in his thick Italian accent, Rome redeemed itself; this evening could turn out to be quite all right.
There was an immediate awkwardness as we realized there’d be more of a language barrier than expected. Ivo had spent time in Canada and knew English quite well, but was doubtful of his ability and, shamefully, I had still had only learned about five Italian words and phrases. I’d been writing Grazia in Italian, trying to learn, but Google translator proved more an enabler than teacher.
We moved past this quickly, as his car proved a bit of an adventure, and my stories of Fontana di Trevi and The Vatican amused him. We talked about our distain for these certain types of Romans (and certain types of Americans) as we made our way to meet his friends for desert. A perfect little cafe outside the tourist district, I got to see a bit of real Rome. And taste a bit of “the cake of the bleeding heart”. Chocolate upon chocolate filled with chocolate; amazing.
We were there a bit late, and I thought the adventure may end. But Ivo had plenty of sights in store. The streets were mostly empty, there was a damp and cleansing night air, and Rome was ours, as if everyone’d been told to go inside and just give it to us.
We made our way through the streets of a shopping district, up and down the Spanish Steps, every which way. The peace and the dark seemed to bring out the character of these places so much more. There was nothing to distract me but him.
And a welcome distraction he was, vastly knowledgable about all that we saw. I’d never been a fan of history, but found myself caught up in each tale he told. Like the story of Giordano Bruno, who was burned at the stake for heresy in Campo di Fiori, where his statue now stands. Giordano believed that the sun was a star, and the Universe was vast and composed of many worlds with other intelligent beings. I couldn’t help but feel his energy as we walked around, and shared with Ivo that the statue was creeping me out just a bit. Incredibly eerie.
As much as, once again, I’d love to go with some fireworks and sunrise plot twist, Ivo was more than a gentleman and returned me to my hotel safely. Smart and super easy to be around, this evening with Ivo ranks among the best “dates” I’ve had, (after all, what have the Chicago-guys got on the backdrop that is Roma!?). Ivo and I wrote for quite some time and actually chatted about meeting up in Paris, but life and work got the better of us, and that’s yet to be…
But finally… finally… I’d learned how to see Rome right.