Roman Holiday

May 19, 2011
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“Where are we?” I think we are on via del corso.” My mom tiredly replies, throwing yet another unfamiliar Italian street name into the air. I take the map from her hands and carefully comb through all of the different streets, mentally tracing through our confused journey. I blink lazily in the heat, and can almost feel my eyelids sticking to my brow bone. I slowly shuffle closely to a young woman, baby in stroller, and attempt to attain directions using my shoddy Italian. “Scusi. Dove la Fontana di Trevi?” I suddenly feel embarrassingly inferior and uncultured in her presence as I take note of her smooth beige leather jacket and her modish black heels. “Ah si, si. La Fontana e dritto in questo modo” (The Fountain is straight this way) She eloquently drawls, pointing her manicured nail at possibly the thousandth obscure alleyway that I had seen just that day. “Grazie signorina.” I gratefully reply.

We amble down the alley, eyeing the shops filled with brightly painted plates, assortments of beautifully crafted ceramic trinkets, and of course, the expansive abundance of clothing and shoes. I can see my mom itching to poke her head into one of the stores, but she knows the look on my face of pure determination mixed with the day’s hard earned sweat says that I’m not wasting a second in the heat. A second to spare means I would have to recognize the pain in my feet in my too-tight sneakers from treading on the mangled cobblestones. A second to spare means that I would have to remember to apply more ointment to the stinging mosquito welts on my complaining ankles. I do not have a second to spare. So, on we trudge, our shirts sticking to our backs and our brows dripping with perspiration. I observe the rough walls of the buildings lining us on either side. They are worn with age and the force of nature’s elements. I try to pretend that there is a canopy formed between the two building walls, to buffer the penetrating rays of the sun. It’s no use, because when I look up, the huge glowing orb is still there, casting its unwanted warmth onto my skin. It is mocking me. Why Liana? Why are you so intent on seeing the fountain? It says. Why are you torturing yourself in the unbearable heat when you could be inside the hotel, or next to a pool, or enjoying an ice cold... Stop. That was me talking. I shake all thoughts out of my mind and begin to take wider strides. I hear my mom groan with annoyance. I’m not slowing down because we are almost there. But with each step, I feel the opening to the alley growing smaller and less approachable. I look back for my mom, to check that she’s keeping pace, but as my eyes dart from face to face, I grow worried. Which shop has enveloped my mother? I look accusingly at an enticing bag store, as if it had literally swallowed up my mom. Avoiding the swarm of people, I flit through the crowd until I end up on the store’s front stoop. Peering in, I see no one familiar. However, the saleswoman seems to find me familiar, and warmly welcomes me in with her hand on my back. Exasperated, I quickly make a lap around the store, thank her, and hurry out to once again be greeted by a cloud of heat, thick enough to grab at. Once again, I search for my mom and finally see a large-brimmed sun hat bobbing along the crowd. I make my way over to her, ready to snip at her for her unruly behavior, but my groggy voice is lost somewhere in my throat. I simply turn and continue on toward the alley opening, and she follows, evidently un-enchanted by what she saw in the shops. As we get closer to the opening I see a crowd of people clearly formed at the entrance to the small square containing the treasured Trevi Fountain. Ten more steps and I would be there. 5 more steps. I had arrived. It was hard to see what awaited over everyone’s heads. I was attempting to cram past the ensuing crowd when a rose was thrust in my face. I turn to face a man holding a bouquet of roses, seemingly trying to squeeze a bit of change out of the transaction. Unimpressed, I ignore him and continue my journey through the mass of people. I catch a glimmer of turquoise water over the heads and look up farther to see Neptune, the king of the sea in all his glory, riding in his chariot shell. The chiseled stone is beautifully done, with the details intricately carved to create the nautical theme of “taming the waters”; a theme that the architect had tried to communicate. After admiring the fountain’s beauty, I begin to think of whether the experience has met my expectations. My expectations had been unintentionally risen by the movie Roman Holiday. Audrey Hepburn had encountered the spectacle fountain on her tour of Rome. To me, it was not only a prime example of Rome’s charming beauty, but the tradition that came with the culture as well. Supposedly, throwing a coin in the fountain meant that the beholder of the coin is destined to return to Rome. I had always loved magic. I wish I could feel the same thrill of excitement that Audrey had been feeling, but it’s just too crowded, too loud. What I want is for everyone to be quiet so I can hear the fountain’s water trickle. Hypocritically, I want the nuisance tourists to leave. I want people to stop hounding me for money using flowers, or fans, or whatever else as their ploy. My mom finally makes it over to where I am. She removes her fogged sunglasses and scans the fountain. She beckons me to come sit by her on the crowded bench. I plop beside her, smooth back my frizzed hair and begin to rub my sore feet. ‘It’s gorgeous, isn’t it?” She asks. I stop and look at the fountain closely, again. “Yeah mom, it really is.”

I decide that maybe the sites in Rome aren’t made for people to observe alone. If Audrey Hepburn hadn’t had Gregory Peck to guide her through Rome and relay the secrets of its history with adoring eyes, she wouldn’t have found it quite as enjoyable. I’m glad that I am able to experience Rome with my mom, after what we’d gone through today. We had gotten lost countless times in the sweltering heat to reach this fountain. But, I don’t think that an adventure is about the destination. It’s not even about the journey itself. It’s about whom we journeyed with.

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