Excerpts from The Italia Diary:
We go from JFK to Madrid to Rome and before we know it we are drinking wine and Cappuccino at The Spanish Steps, wine near Trevi Fountain, and more wine near The Spanish Steps. Next day we see the Coliseum, Ruins, and a lot more history I never thought I’d see in my life. Eat eggs at the hotel, look up in the Sistine, nod to the Pope, eat pasta, and drink incredible amounts of wine before hopping a train to Florence and entering the Duomo, seeing a David replica, and then seeing the actual David. We have gelato, pasta, and wine. Not just once, and not in that order. Car picks us up and we drink Chianti and cruise through medieval castles and villages. More Cappuccino. More Chianti. Take a train to Pisa, take a photo and eat Pizza in Pisa. Why Not? Back in Florence for a minute then hop a train to Venice to check out the canals, streets, and San Marco pigeons. Prosecco, pizza, and gondola rides. Not just once, and not in that order. If you would had told me that some day I would see all of this and that it would be done in a week I would tell you to go check yourself into a mental institution. This is my story.
Arriving from JFK we walk to the front of the taxi line and are quickly riding very fast toward Rome. Our hotel, IQ is steps from the Opera House and a supposed fifteen minutes from The Spanish Steps. We would learn what that means in Italy time soon. The boutique hotel was all about their breakfast, vending machines (espresso, beer, and wine), and their internet tracking. For a country so lax on security it was a surprise to find that they track who, what, where, and when logging on to the internet.
With multiple maps and books in hand we head off toward The Spanish Steps. We are lost within minutes. Not “we missed a street” lost. We have lost all sense of direction lost. We hail a taxi and she drives us (fast) to The Spanish Steps. We take pictures and then find a wine bar where I attempt to practice my Italian and order a Cappuccino and two glasses of wine. “Un Cappuccino y due biccheire vino de bianco?” It is an utter failure; the waiter corrects every word and repeats my order in English. I have a minor anxiety attach, drink my wine, and grade myself an F.
Next we walk to Trevi Fountain, getting turned around only once, making the ten minute walk into an easy twenty minutes, looking for taxis along the way. Pictures are taken and coins are flipped into the postcard worthy fountain. Something we learn quickly is that wherever there is water or a fountain of some sort they have you flipping coins “in hopes you will come back soon”. It’s like a tourism tax. We are hungry so we find a local pizzeria that caters to tourists and allows me to rape their language as we order wine and pizza. What’s nice about ordering a Margarita Pizza in Italian is that it translates to Margarita Pizza! After a liter of wine and so-so tourist pizza and meeting many other Americans (who also found the touristy pizza joint) we attempt to find the Hard Rock Café. We have a Hard Rock Café pin collector in the family. For those of you not familiar with Hard Rock pin collectors it’s a lot like a crack addict, the one exception being you don’t get a moment of “AH!”. We walk and walk. We are lost, again. We pass a street named Cappuccino four times until we finally find the HRC, go in buy the pin and leave.
ROMA: A Love Story
This is a story about a girl; this is also a story about a boy.
The girl grew up in the Traverste neighborhood of Rome, around her friends, and always around her family. She was quiet as a child and almost mute in her teenage years. She liked long floral dresses, the opera, and gelato. When she turned fourteen she began working as a hostess at the family Ristorante, Pelino’s, near The Spanish Steps. Each day her father walks her to work where she stands in the front bringing in tourists hypnotized by the checkered tablecloths, smell of fresh tomatoes, and her flowing dresses. She was felice. She was happy.
The boy grew up in New Orleans, moved to Rome in 2005, started working at Aneteca Ristorante, across the street from Pelino’s Ristorante. The boy started as a dishwasher, then busboy, and then head waiter. It was waiting on the outdoor tourist tables when the boy saw the girl. The boy met the girl in 2006, fell in love with the girl soon after.
The girl continues to sway customers into their eatery, the boy, he dazzles his guests with top service and wine. Between the two establishments there is a secret rivalry, between the boy and girl: only eyes. One day the boy approaches the girl and they go for a walk. They push through the tourists near the Trevi Fountain and flip coins while standing backwards, giggling along with the thousands of tourists doing the same. They travel to Florence, travel to Venice, and then back to Rome. They explore the ancient history and modern sites. They continue to giggle and look into each others eyes.
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David S. Grant is the author of several books. His latest, The Italia Diary: A Travel Narrative with Inspired Fiction is now available. For more of David's travel writing go to http://www.fearandloathingtravel.com and http://www.davidsgrant.com. Follow David on Twitter .david_s_grant