Boom! It’s Rome

Bus Tour in RomeOf all my childhood toys, the most fascinating was a top. As it spun on the hardwood floor I’d study the tiny, plastic enclosed clown that barely moved amidst the whistling metal below. Oh, how I wanted to be small enough to climb inside there and feel what it was like to stand still while everything spun around me.

Forty years later, I got my wish.
The energy of Rome consumed me from the moment we stepped off the train. The Central Station was like O’Hare airport in seventy eight speed. Nuns and priests were everywhere. On the street speeding cars and whining scooters flew by at a dizzying pace before a backdrop of jewelry stores, cafes, and of course – the ancient ruins. Sitting amidst modern culture, they looked even more intriguing than I’d ever imagined. The Roman people walked very fast (probably to avoid street traffic which extended to the sidewalk on occasion) yet managed to make eye contact if they sensed a reciprocating face. They were smartly dressed and generally good looking. The women seemed overtly proud of their cleavage and that’s probably what encouraged the men to whistle and sing.

Donna was anxious to hit the streets. We checked into our hotel, threw our packs on the beds, and ran back outside. It took only minutes to become addicted to the energy of Rome. Anxious to see the the sights, we flagged down a “hop-on-hop-off” double-decker, open air bus and climbed to the upper deck. We drove past the former Circus Maximus – the chariot racetrack that once sat thousands of Romans – it was now a grassy park where the locals picnicked and played soccer. At one end workers were building a stage for an upcoming concert. “Phil Collins” our driver noted over the intercom.

My first glimpse of the colosseum was as spectacular as I’d hoped. No matter how many photos you see, there is nothing like rounding a corner and meeting a celebrity structure for the first time. It took my breath away.

While crossing the Tiber River, our bus stalemated in a traffic jam. A symphony of honking erupted. Suddenly we heard a thud of metal hitting plastic. “Holy Shit, check this out.” Alex said, leaning over the railing. Below us, a Smart Car blocked the intersection. A larger car was ramming it – actually backing up and ramming it over and over until it had cleared a path. The driver, with no control of this propulsion could only make hand gestures at the other driver. When we passed, I expected to see a look of rage in his eyes, but his expression was sullen – almost accepting, like a goal tender who’d been scored on.

After dodging gypsies at the Spanish steps, Jill declared she’d had enough of this fast paced, out-of-control town. She refused to toss a coin over her back into the Trevi fountain in hopes of never returning to Rome.

“Can we just find a quiet place to have dinner?” she asked.

A man wearing a chef’s had stood on the sidewalk in front of a non-assuming establishment. “Come in, sit down – you look hungry – we have good food.” In one sentence he succeeded in charming us through the doors of his restaurant. Inside paint-by-number art covered the paneled walls and the tables were covered with white linen. He snapped his fingers and another man handed us menus. I thought about Nick from Arles, and how I’d looked forward to visiting a country full of people like him. So far Italy was living up to my expectations. I ordered two glasses of wine and three sodas. The kids ordered pizza. Donna and I enjoyed ravioli filled with curd (ricotta) and spin-ach-ay (as the waiter pronounced it). When I bit into my pasta, the flavors inside didn’t whisper, they shouted. Our waiters joked with us and sang – providing a level of entertainment we couldn’t pay for at home. I caught Donna’s eye and she smiled.

NEXT: Meet the Parents

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