Rome. The place that took a bit more than a day to build. I've been here before, but without the extreme contrast between my darling young baby son and the Ancient Rome that is, well, Rome. This place is the epitome of old. It has the market cornered on "Been there, done that". Everything in this city is crumbling and peeling, yet these structures still stand tall, erect, towering over us little people with importance and, dare I say, omnipotence. Though this was once a public playground for pagan worship and then the centerpiece for the Catholic hammer, I am still fascinated by the mystery of how this city came to be what is it. The books tell me. The tours demonstrate. But the missing stories between the milestones are what continue to beg me. Stories that are long-forgotten, lost between the years of oppression and opulence, smuggled into the backs of books and shuffled into the darkest corners in the tombs of Catacomb. Or perhaps buried beneath the Vatican with the legion of lost Popes. The stories of Rome. The nitty-gritty. The real-life. The ones that I could potentially relate to - where are those?
I will just have to tell the stories I do know. The ones that I've lived while I was here. The first time I came to Rome was magnificent; I was dumbfounded by the ludicrous Forum and the rightfully-named colossal Colosseum. I was seduced by the bread and wine and pasta, succumbed to debauchery by the smoky cappuccino and velvety gelato. I was undone by the leather bags, the silk ties, the supple scarves, all alluringly displayed in the teasing street-side windows. The stone sidewalks beckoned me down every windy way, the impossible maze mapped only by doorway after doorway of mysteriously, decadently draped florals. The lilting tone of the Italian accent punctuated each syllable, echoing down the colorful alleys. The women tap-tap-tapping down the street in impossibly high heels. The men chain-smoking in their finest suit, dark hair a bit undone. Brooding, hollering, smirking, escaping. That's what I love about these people. They are insanely chic by owning their just-a-bit-messy demeanor. The red lipstick and rumpled dress. The snakeskin leather shoes and sweat-stained shirt, yet still, there is an allure. The peacocks are out, strutting and laughing and leaving you feeling breathless. And impossibly, unfortunately American. We just don't have this kind of sex appeal. None of us do. It's through-and-through, an Italian thing.
I'll leave it to them to be alluring. I will enjoy retelling my latest escapades in Rome, which were markedly different than the last. Instead of staying out late, I was up incredibly early. Up with the birds, awakened by the clamor of my energetic baby boy. He was ready to play, eat, and see the world. So we showed him. Up, espresso, maybe a bit of biscotti, and then out the door in a swirl of readiness. We had the privilege of meeting up with our dear-hearted pals Troy and Carrie, along with their sweetheart baby daughter and their incredible parents. The 8 of us stayed in a beautiful Airbnb just off the Piazza del Popolo, in the vicinity of the Spanish Steps. The first few days we were just getting our bearings, learning how to navigate our stroller and enormous mounds of gear through the narrow doorways and down the cobbled streets. It was a challenge, but one that we were more than prepared for. We were so excited to be alive, be abroad, traveling with our son and our friends and exploring a familiar, yet completely exotic place. What a dream. I was very aware, almost hyperly-so, that we were living the dream. At least, our dream. A lot of people scoffed at me before we left town, "You're taking your baby WHERE? Why?! Why not just go alone??" Well, we didn't want to go alone. We wanted to bring our son into every adventure, along for every ride, even if that meant slowing us down, interrupting our sleep, stretching us and challenging us.
We did Rome. We did so much that it won't possibly fit into one post, so I'll be posting all week long. One of my favorite places that we explored was the Borghese Gardens and Park, where I tried to hop the stone fence to retrieve some low-hanging lemons. I failed at my attempt.
We took Everett into the Pantheon and threw him high into the air. He giggled incessantly and, thankfully, we didn't get the stare-down like when he made a ruckus in the churches. The last time we explored the Pantheon, we did the full, Rick Steves audio tour. This time, we just kind of stared in disbelief at the domed, mathematically pristine ceiling. And tried to explain the history to Everett. He just wanted to be thrown in the air. So then we mostly did that.
My son is only a baby, ten months old (!) but I still think these moments have impact. Greatly so. It was a pleasure to usher him along the way and begin his own adventurous, traveling journey. I want him to grow up understanding how different the world is, how the United States isn't the whole picture. How we live in a world that is vast and complex and varied and sad and happy and beautiful and disgusting and colorful and ancient and, oh, so many things. I want him to swallow all that he can, ingesting the best and brightest that our Earth and it's history has to offer. How else are we to change the world if we don't know it?
More Italy pictures to come, all week long :)