The heat has set in making itself comfortable for the coming summer months. My hikes are now accompanied by wonderful dripping sweat which takes me away to summers past. Summers spent traveling under foreign hot suns, spent staring up at ancient ruins, looking at inspired art, drinking in the new world before me all while I sweated. I’ve begun many stories of these visits with sweat. So in this mood, reminiscent as it may be, I am going to re-post a story of possibly my favorite moment, in my favorite place, and yes, at my favorite time of year. Rome in the summer.
The sweat pooled in the dip in my lower back and I absently ran my hand over the spot. My attention wasn’t on the heat that was rising with the early morning sun or the sweat that spotted my forehead; it was on the majestic scene laid out before me. Time stood still and I couldn’t catch my breath as I attempted to take it all in: The Coliseum, the grand symbol of Rome, rested at the end of an ancient road.
I flexed my rested feet on those ancient stones upon which I stood and felt the pounding awe grip my heart. My dreams are here, they always have been. I left them here when I was a naive child. I left them in this place.
I let my neck strain backwards so my eyes could take in as much of this ancient structure as they could, and it still wasn’t enough.
I woke this morning, after very little sleep, and by six a.m., I boarded Roman Public Transportation headed for the Coliseum. I walked around in a daze, smiling as I walk past the Circus Maximus, La Bocca della Verità (Mouth of truth), and drop off a pagan prayer at the foot of Hercules’ ancient temple. My only company this morning are the grounds keepers who pay me no mind.
I make my way into The Forum. The place I’ve studied and romanticized for so long. There is history at every turn in this city. The walls radiate with life, but this city is dirty, it’s a dirt we don’t have in America. Ancient dirt; a mixture of empires, art eras, popes, kings, and dynasties. A dirt that, if cleaned up, would only be a sad Disneyland version of Rome. I enjoy the dirt, it is history stamped upon Rome.
I wander toward the morning streets that are slowly filling with Roman’s on their way to work. The women are clad in high-heels and layers of make-up, they were born to look beautiful, even the old women still wear their make up and high heels as if it were a expected uniform. They keep their hair done just so and I feel Italian women deserve a nod for the things they go through in the name of fashion.
The men are sexual creatures who respect their mothers, take pride in their virility and appreciate the texture and, dare I say, very essence of women, all kinds.
I sit in a small café with my espresso and my bottled water dreamily full, staring, loving, writing epic poems in my head. I dream up images of powerful Caesar, the young men who whistle at women in the heat of ancient stones, Virgil writing his Aenied, and the founders of this great city, Romulus and his brother Remus. I examine the piazza in the early heat and consider perhaps Rome is male.
Rome is a dark, greasy man who is taunt and muscular from his years of hard labor. He smells of dirt and perspiration and something more…there is a trace of the early empires on his skin.
He delights in the bounty that is set before him; he eats it up and cherishes each taste that bursts in his mouth. He is attractive and sensual and sure of himself. He is easy going, the life of the party, and he makes you feel as if you are the most desirable woman and he pulls you into his grasp and smiles as his full lips roughly descend upon your own…yes, Rome is definitely a man.
Early morning is my favorite time to wander the streets of this ancient city I decide. Everything is just opening. My only company on such an early morning are the bakers and priests. During this hot month, the old city yawns and wipes the sleep form his eyes, readying himself for the onslaught of tourists. But early morning is when the piazzas’ are still empty and I can quietly spend time with statues sculpted by great men, daring them to whisper their stories to me.
It is only nine, time for more meandering before I am to meet my friends. I slowly walk through the streets and come to the Pantheon. Again my heart begins to beat faster and I stare up at the Latin letters that run across the top of the structure, I try to pull any of the Latin I learned in high school from the recesses of my mind, but it doesn’t work.
I walk in and am astonished by the hole in the top of the building, letting in the first rays of the heat of the day. A few people are silently wandering about this converted state building. Some people sit off to the side and stare at the magnificence. I take a breath as a pigeon flies through the domed shaped Pantheon; behind me the New Yorkers stare and shake their heads saying such things as ‘this is an architectural wonder’ and I’m glad they find this place so wonderful, I’m glad they are treating it with reverence.
It is these pictures I think I will take with me, after this adventure is over and I merely have photo albums filled with my smiling face in front of old structures, these are the memories I will take out on cold nights to reassure myself that I have had at least one great adventure in my life.
But I don’t have to do that, not yet, this trip isn’t over.