Sunday, December 29, 2013

How to find the Road Less Travelled

There are those who want to make a plan and stick to it, and those who look for the road less traveled. Personally, I've always been a fan of Robert Frost.
A hot Italian sun beat down the July afternoon with righteousness. Jonathan and I had meandered half aimlessly among hidden alleys and sudden public squares with a whimsical checklist of temples, fountains, and piazzas: The Pantheon, Fontana de Trevi, Piazza Navona. If we found them, good. If not, we were all the better for an adventurous exploration of Rome's ancient streets. Miles we trekked. Sticky, happy, and not a little achy in the feet and legs, we decided, after the requisite photos and a video of the teeming masses that swarmed the concrete steps and brick streets of the Trevi Fountain, to mosey our way back to Stazione Termini to catch the train to our lovely B&B.
Heading in the general direction of the station, we pulled out the map like a couple of tourists, attempting to decipher the straightest path that would save our sore soles. Taking couple of turns, we headed up a familiar alley only to happen upon a set of stairs we had definitely not passed before.

Steep and narrow, the stairs receded up to a point like a perspective drawing, and the American in me stopped to photograph the quaint and picturesque image before moving on. Looking at the map again, I continued up the alley.
     "Wanna go this way?" asked Jonathan from behind me.
     Not really... I thought, as I looked at the stairs and felt my feet pulse. "Do you want to?" Dumb question.
     "If you want to..." my considerate son hoped. I stepped up.
Tiny, shuttered windows on my left led into a row of apartments.On the right, only yellowish, stuccoed walls. The well-manicured steps were austere, and their tight steepness reflected what it might be like to live in such close quarters with so many people. We stepped and stepped, slower now... occasionally commenting on a plant or the black radio sitting snugly in a windowsill.
     We made it to the top and, like kings of the hill, surveyed our path to victory, then turned to see where the stairs around the corner led: right back down to the street off of which we had turned into the alley. We blinked at each other and laughed.
     Retracing our climb (it was more leisurely going back down), we continued onto the path we had started, eventually passing emasculated statues (thanks to some popes who apparently didn't appreciate culture), Il Vittoriano (the "wedding cake" building), and Colosseo to reach the now-familiar stazione whose subway system would shuttle us back "home."
     It's the simple things, sometimes, that invoke the greatest inspiration or create the most cherished memories. Yes, I will always remember our visit to the Coliseum, touring the Palatine Hill, and meditating in the Sistine Chapel. None of these are to be discounted. It was my son's spontaneous suggestion that we see where the stairs go, however, that became the theme of our trip: exploration, discovery, and wonder.