Saturday, June 21, 2008

Night in the Eternal City

Rome is one of those cities you want to see from the time you’re small. Its very name evokes a plethora of imagery in even the most unimaginative person, and walking streets that have thousands of years of history embedded in them brings a feeling that is indescribable.

Nights in the Eternal City are truly something special. Nominally on a walking tour in our guidebook, my family and I were really on a gelato hunt. Starting from our hotel, we walked a block to the Spanish Steps, where a hundred or so people sat, doing everything from drinking to just sitting – it’s not a wide range, and that’s the great part about Roman nights. You can do nothing and not feel the least bit guilty about it. I watched, amused, as a beer bottle toppled end over end down the steps like a Slinky before shattering on the fifth one.

We dropped by the Pantheon next, which we had visited earlier. Though the pre-Christian church with its impressive dome was interesting during the day, it seemed that the night breathed new life into it. A loud cheer interrupted my thoughts, and I spun around to see its source. I smiled when I saw a throng of Italians congratulating themselves, a few dancing in circles with dark bottles held above their heads. It was the 2004 Euro Cup, and the Italian team had just scored a goal.

Something else about the Italian football (fine, soccer) fans piqued my interest – gelato cups. Next door to the bar where they watched TV, a little gelato stand was doing brisk business. We hurried over to it and ordered heaping cups of their superior version of ice cream. The fiore de leche flavor I had was outstanding.

Gleefully eating the gelato, we wandered around a few streets and narrow alleys, not paying particular attention to where we were. We turned a corner, and there it was.

“It” was the Trevi Fountain. A few quick steps down took me to the cobblestones leading up to it. I had never seen Roman Holiday, Three Coins in the Fountain or any of the other movies that helped make the waterwork famous. The subaquatic lights illuminated the water in the pools as a bright turquoise and reflected off the coins strewn about the lowest level. The god Neptune rode a shell chariot drawn by horses, and the whole effect was mesmerizing.

I bought a beer of some sort from a vendor and then, because the man’s bottle opener was broken, befriended a couple of New Zealanders who assured me they always had an opener on them.

Drinking my beer and talking to my new friends, I joined the rest of the fountain’s mass of spectators, who watched something people have seen for 250 years, but which never gets old.

Tradition and superstition dictate that using your right hand to toss a coin over your left shoulder will ensure a return to Rome. Standing there that night, I scrambled for a coin (OK, I stole one from my dad) and did just that.

I was delighted to return two years later. I tossed the coin again (my own this time), and I can’t wait until I can once more fulfill the promise the coin offered.


NorCal Cazadora said...

I'm envious! I'd love to see Rome. And Athens. But for now, I have to be content to enjoy doing very little right here at home. Right after I finish cleaning house.

Natasha said...

I cant wait to go back either!! The Trevi fountain was my favorite. good times! :)