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I am a New York-based writer, travel lover, and author of The Drive North and Destination Paranormal. I have several other books in the works, including fiction.

Remembering My Walk Across Rome

I sat on the sidewalk in the shade. It was a sweltering hot day in early June. All of the transit employees – subway, bus, etc. – in Rome were on strike for a reason I didn’t know. All I knew was that I had to find my way back across town from the Vatican to my hotel. It wouldn’t be easy, particularly dressed like we were for a visit to the center of Catholicism, but we had no choice.

I am reminded of my walking trip across Rome by the most holy of Christian holidays, Easter. It was celebrated the world over yesterday by Christians and those who have an extreme appreciation for ham. I had to work, so I didn’t get to celebrate the day in either fashion. I had just enough time to pause and recall my visit to my third country outside of the United States on my first trip abroad.

I was in between my junior and senior years in high school on a trip to Greece, Italy, and the Vatican. My high school history teacher organized the trip, something she did annually for any students interested in gaining a better appreciation for her subject first hand. As a high school student, I was more interested in the relaxed European drinking laws – everything else was a bonus.

We spent the previous days traveling through Greece and the south of Italy. The bulk of our group was scheduled to travel north to Florence. But since a friend wasn’t feeling well the previous day, a handful of us decided to stay behind – the fact that it was unchaperoned had nothing to do with it – to take him by the sites we had seen the previous day. Our first stop was the Vatican.

The transit lines were still up and running in the morning, so we took the subway across town. It was a comfortable morning, but while we walked through the Papal city, it became blistering hot. So hot, as a matter of fact, that I wish we would have done something else, since a visit to the Vatican required a certain level of decorum when it comes to dress – as in long pants and a long sleeved shirt for boys.

And then we learned of the transit strike.

We sat in the shade of a boulevard staring at our city map as we slugged down a couple of sodas. No one had any real good idea on what to do other than to set off immediately, hoping it wouldn’t get any hotter. But then, just as we were about to get up, it seemed as though our fortunes were about to change.

“Y’all from the U.S.?” asked a man with a Texan drawl.

Our eyes got big and our jaws dropped. Could we really be so lucky? It seemed impossible. This kind of luck was lottery kind of luck. It just didn’t happen.

“Yes sir, we are. We’re from Minnesota. Can we get a ride back to our hotel?”

“No, I couldn’t do that. Well, actually I’d like to, but these MPs wouldn’t let me. I’m sorry.”

He was sitting int he back of an army jeep shaded by the wide brim of his cowboy hat. He needed every bit of it, too, since he had to be dying in his business suit.

Our spirits dropped when we learned the man, who claimed to be the assistant ambassador to Italy for the U.S., couldn’t give us a ride back across town. Despite part time jobs we weren’t exactly taxpayers as high school students, so we couldn’t bitch and moan too loudly, but our parents most certainly paid more than their fair share. The argument never crossed our mind, so we simply scowled and waved as he drove off to what was liekly a handsomely air conditioned building.

We made our way across Rome on foot. It wasn’t easy and the only way we survived was by ducking into air conditioned stores along the way, only pretending to shop. A couple of my other friends bought things – one, oddly enough, thought it a good idea to buy a leather jacket in the heat – but really it was just drinks and cool snacks to hold back the heat.

I slugged along behind them, practically out of money, hoping we’d get to the hotel sooner rather than later. I needed to cool down. They wanted to continue on to the colosseum. I knew it was an important historical monument, which is why I saw it the day before, so I could give a damn about seeing it again at that point. I needed to rest and rehydrate. I was easily on the verge of a collapse.

And that I did as soon as we arrived back. It was late in the evening by the time I woke up, groggy and in bad need of something cool to drink. Later in life I would learn that this feeling had a name – most people call it a hangover. I wasn’t really hungover, though, in the classic sense; I was just exextremely dehyrated.

This memory, the clearest from my first trip out of the United States, will likely stick with me to the day I am no longer traveling. It makes me laugh, the thought of walking across Rome with friends from high school. And it makes me laugh, recalling how I collapsed on my hotel room bed in complete exhaustion. How can something like that be funny?

Well, after I woke up form my slumber, I chugged a bunch of water and headed out to enjoy my last night in Europe as a teenager. The transit strike was lifted and we were all ready to go out and live it up. And that we did, partying and looking cool – or so we thought – as we sipped our beers in public on the famed Spanish Steps of Rome.

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One Comment on “Remembering My Walk Across Rome”

  1. Kat April 9, 2012 at 1:07 pm #

    I ❤ Rome so much. I was there in June during a heat wave (as hot as it gets in august they told us) and it was nasty! I took a cold shower and nap every afternoon for my three weeks there!

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