You wake up this morning in a foreign City. You hear a relative stranger snoring loudly. It’s early. This does not please you. You check your phone. She says she might be in Rome next week. You’ll be in Rome next week. You perk up. You’re not entirely sure what you want to do today. You begrudgingly roll over and stare out the window. You see a fortress on a hill in the distance. You set your destination for the day.
You descend the stairs of the hostel and set out in the general direction of the hills. A few blocks down, you see a McDonald’s presenting itself as an upscale breakfast establishment. You are tempted, but principled. You move on. Instead you find your way into a café playing Scott Joplin’s version of the Maple Leaf Rag. You’re not quite sure why you know this. After ordering the usual cappuccino and pastry, you sit for a moment and enjoy the atmosphere. But not for too long; you have work to do.
You have started to notice that all Italian women look 24 years old when they are 20 meters (you have started acclimating to the metric system) or more away. You don’t mind.The air is cool and crisp and you only wore a long sleeve T-shirt and jeans. You make sure to stay in the sun. The buildings and people keep passing, but the goal seems to stay the same distance. You eventually come to a large canal separating the city. The landscape is beautiful, but crossing requires an extra few blocks of walking. You decide to take a left, but are immediately whistled at by a military officer. He motions for you to cross the street immediately. You decide that arguing with someone holding an assault rifle is not the best course of action. When passing the building you notice that it has an American flag in front of it. You deduce this to be the American embassy. You grin at the irony.
You finally cross the canal and you start to avoid sunny streets now. It has been at least two miles. The jewel in the sky has started to approach, but as you get closer, it seems to start elevating. You contemplate how much you actually want to see this. But you push on, ignoring the sunk cost fallacy. You start to crisscross streets in hope of an entrance to the hills. It takes a very long time to find one. Once you do, you follow another man who seems to have imposed the same journey upon himself. He is clearly in much better shape than you. Your knees scream and your calves burn, you are sweating more than you should in 55-degree (you still don’t get Celsius) weather with a steady breeze. You continue to climb. Finally the ground levels out and you start to search for the bar or café that surely offers a view with a drink. You find none. In fact, after much searching, you realize that this is a purely residential area. You contemplate throwing yourself off a ledge.
But then you find that ledge and you see the city below you and more green hills beyond that. The history of the place crashes onto you unexpectedly. You see incredible structures. You don’t know if these were secret Medici meeting spots, or Michelangelo’s muses’ (read: side chicks) residences, or Da Vinci’s favorite place to paint. You find the specifics to be largely irrelevant. You start to drink it in as a whole and find that elixir to be more intoxicating than any Tuscan wine you previously sought.
You walk a little more and find an unoccupied little park. You sit on a bench and breathe in the wood-tinged air. You hear nothing but birds chirping and the breeze through the trees. Your gaze rests on a castle in the distance that is three times as old as your home country. You rest your head on the back of the bench and feel the trees shower you with some type of seed every time the wind sees fit. You don’t brush it out of your hair, lest you disturb the moment. You glance at your watch. It has been an hour and a half. Your stomach suggests you leave Eden.
You find your way back to the canal, somewhat awestruck. Stumbling into an Italian place offering a full course meal and a bottle of wine for 13 euros, you take a seat. The wine is good. Clean, semi-sweet, and a little buttery. The seafood they bring out is spectacular along with the red sauce on top of it. You hope you don’t die of food poisoning, but then you reason that food poisoning trumps starvation.
You magically find your way all the way back to the hostel. You are exhausted but exhilarated. You could use a coffee. You try to put into words how the day has gone. You fail miserably. You lay down for a quick nap. The night beckons.