I walked out of Fiumicino Airport and stood in line for a taxi. It was hot, I was overdressed. I was so tired from the red eye flight from Montreal, but I was completely awake with excited nerves. I took a deep breath. I was here. Alone. In Rome! The city that has fascinated me since I was a child.
The cab driver smiled shyly as he said, "Ciao Signorina," and placed my bag in the trunk. I soon realized that his shyness did not translate onto the autostrada. He drove like a wild man, writing onto a notepad, and then fiddling with the radio. I checked to make sure my seat belt was properly fastened. Oh please God, don’t make me die before I see the Colosseum.
Talkative as I am (in any language), I began to ask questions about the weather (mostly to keep him from writing on that notepad again). He loosened up when he realized I spoke Italian and explained that the weather was horrible and rainy until today. E 'come hai portato il sole--It is like you brought the sun. (Ah, a charmer. I'll take it).
He spoke so quickly- so elegantly, my ears feasted on the Italian language and the Italian rock music playing on the car radio. The sun was high and bright as we drove into Trastevere. From the rear view mirror he could see me smiling from ear to ear.
Him: Hai un bel sorriso. E 'la tua prima visita a Roma?
You have a nice smile. Is it your first visit to Rome?
Me: Si. Un sogno diventato realtà.
Yes. And it is a dream come true.
Him: Capito. Non c’e nessuno posto como Roma.
Understood. There is no place quite like Rome.
Suddenly he began to drive slowly, enough for drivers behind us to honk and shout profanities (and can I just add that even Italian profanities in Rome sound lovely). I had paid a flat rate for this cab ride, so he was taking his time because he wanted to. He turned down the radio and began to point out some of the autentico restaurants in Trastevere that I absolutely had to try (not the tourist traps). And then we drove by the amazing Porta Portese Sunday flea market. It was in full swing and jam packed with people. Colour, everywhere! Noise, everywhere! And was it possible I heard live music coming from the heart of the market?!
We finally drove into the historic district, and sped past the pristine white Il Vittoriano. I literally gasped at the sight of it. My God, I thought to myself, I will burst. After some crazy twists and turns (I’m still not sure how taxi drivers in Rome fit through the tiny cobbled streets and manage not to kill pedestrians or cyclists) my driver says proudly: “Ahhh. Via della Maddalena and Piazza della Rotonda. Is here, where you stay, Signorina.” I thank him with a big fat tip and wave goodbye to the first person I would ever speak to in the city of my dreams. He left me in a piazza with my luggage and my smile.
While zipping up my knapsack, I heard water trickling behind me so I casually turned around to find myself face to face with- the Pantheon.
You can’t imagine how the world came to life, both inside and outside of me.
I was in Rome. Finally.
Why did it not feel like the first time?