The Art of a Roman Holiday
A frigid wind is wickedly pelting us as Filippo naturally maneuvers our scooter through the chaos of Roman traffic. He does so with the ease of having called this city home for eight years and for that I am grateful. I feel safe, alive, and free, albeit today chilled to the bone. We are late to meet a special friend who has proven that all roads really do lead to Rome, even our beloved Camino.
The Sunday after Christmas we tumbled out of bed late after yet another night of hibernation induced by our chilly rented apartment and nightly food coma compliments of Filippo’s talented sister-in-law. We got ready haphazardly, intent on making it to hear the Angelus, Pope Francis’ weekly address to the crowd in St. Peter’s Square. Just days before, on Christmas Day, in much the same manner, we raced towards the Vatican praying for boulevard green lights. Once in sight of Saint Peter’s Basilica, we parked our shiny sky blue scooter, and as the masses gravitated to this grand rock of faith, tears of joy fogged up my eyes. Similar to walking up to the Catedral de Santiago after a million-some steps, nearing St. Peter’s Square towards the voice of Pope Francis was all-inspiring.
Papa Francesco was but a small white dot up on his balcony, but the crowd of thousands filling the square felt the magnitude of his presence and message. At the conclusion of the prayer, as we moved with the flow of the masses towards the outskirts of the square, we heard that familiar American accent that has a natural way of distinguishing itself in a sea of Romance languages. Filippo, like always, informed me “my people” were present and nudged me to go talk to them. While I shied away, Filippo struck up a conversation with this group of priests, only to make the connection that they were from the Pontifical College in Columbus.
Cue more St. Peter’s tears when we found out that our dear peregrino friend, Daniel was there in Rome with their group. Daniel had just walked off, but less that an hour later, Filippo and I surprised Daniel in the lobby of his hotel. It was yet another reason this two-week vacanze romane will forever be one of my most cherished and beautiful chapters of all.
On this journey to Piazza Navona to meet Daniel, pushed along by Rome’s icy winter breath, I find myself not counting down the minutes until I am warm again, but adding up all the moments that have made my heart sigh.
What will I remember the most? Will it be loosing myself in spoonfuls of carbonara, the aperatifs enjoyed under heat lamps at the neighborhood bar, or perhaps the romantic musicality of Italian and the way I try to partake in the holiday greetings — a buon natale here, an auguri there. Could it be I am falling a little more in love with Italian than Spanish? I suppose I was already halfway there with the man by my side.
Then there is ochre, that orange hue brushing the city in variations of intensity with the crescendo and decrescendo of light. I’ll forever associate it with the memory of Filippo guiding me through dream sequence-like light rays to an unassuming green door. Putting my eye to the peep-hole, I was taken aback by the perfect view of the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. Some cities are dusted with beauty, Rome bleeds it.
Of course Filippo, in true Italian fashion, knows how to make an already stunning scene all the more glamorous. Take a perfect view of the Roman Forum and Colosseum, at the magic hour, with the sweet, crisp taste of a Prosecco toast, and all hope of a moment being any more romantic flies away right along with the flocks of birds circling the ancient ruins.
Surely though I’ll remember my subtle falling for a beautiful Italian family —uniting through tastes and the shared experience of a nightly movie, communicating through music or by sharing a Christmas tradition.
We accelerate to get through a light and I’m jolted out of my daydream. The dream is still all around me though; Rome with it’s ancient splendor, poised to perfection at Christmastime. Rome wins. In the end, it’s as simple as that.