Good Day Sunlight

It was after 12 o’clock when M and I began our adventure. I know it was after twelve because we’d quit our homework at noon and gone to the kitchen to find some lunch. After eating oranges, and hard crusty rolls dipped in olive oil, we gathered our things and left the convent. It was then that our adventure began.

Outside, the sunshine runs like birds singing, and we walk across the street to the bus stop. The bus stop was once a bright yellow, but over time the paint has faded in the sun and the combination of graffiti and advertisement mark up the yellow pallet till it seems that there is no bright colour left mentioning. We get onto bus 90 without saying a word, hoping that if we keep silent no one will assume that we are Americans. I stare out the window until a senora sits down across from me. 

“Molto caldo,” she mutters as she places her designer bag on the empty seat beside her and withdraws a handkerchief from her sleeve. She is a large, blonde woman, with carefully curled hair and tight lips, which, with her gesticulations, makes me think of an ancient, aristocratic porcelain doll. It is hot on the bus and as she dabs herself with a handkerchief she rattles off a string of mutterings in Italian. Her words are directed at M and me, but we keep our gazes directed out the window, as if fascinated by the traffic passing us by. If we reply our nationality will quickly be revealed. We say nothing and pretend to be Italian, obliviously staring out the windows.
Line A is ready to depart as we enter the platform at the metro station. Together we rush to squeeze ourselves into the already packed train car. I make it on, as does half of M's bag. The door closes. She stands on one side and I on the other.

We begin to laugh. Laughter like sunshine in the deep cavern of the subway line. For a moment the door again opens and M pulls her bag from the jaws of the door. I try to catch the door as it slid shut once more and attempt to pry it open enough to allow one more college girl inside. “TREVI.” She mouths to me through the window as I try to let her in. But the doors on Italian metro trains have minds of their own and with a snap and gasp of air hot air, my train takes off. 

I am pressed between an Italian businessman and an Asian traveler. Clinging to the metal bar as the train to a stop at each station and began again with a jerk, I can not stop laughing. It feels like champagne bubbles are foaming up out of my soul and I can’t keep my shoulders from shaking. It is just so funny. The Italian gives me an odd looks and the Asian backs away from me as much as is possible on the tight train.

I exit at Bastite and proceed to ride up the longest escalator I have ever seen in my entire life. Melissa finds me waiting at the top and together we re emerge onto a sunlit Roman street. Laughing.
The adventure had begun. 

We were in search of two things: the Trevi Fountain and mint chocolate gelato, in opposite order of importance. Yet while most metro stations had previously dumped its passenger right in front of the noteworthy attraction, we found ourselves in the middle of a very normal looking VIA. Tall Mediterranean building with wrought iron windows and brown shutters lined the streets and there was a tabacchi shop on every corner.
We saw no fountains.

The idea of becoming lost in the city and discovering random shops and sights thrilled us, and so we began to wander. Spray paint on the side of a building read “Fontana di Trevi” in big blue letters and we followed the arrow down an uneven alley. A motorbike zoomed past us, kicking up gravel and burning rubber on the worn cobblestones.

Again we found ourselves on a busy street, but the only fountain we saw was a cement drinking fountain at the base of a wall. We took pictures of ourselves getting thoroughly wet and then continued on our way.

Rome is full of underground bookstores that smell like leather and play piano music in the background. We stopped in several of them along our way, lovingly touching the hard binding embossed with gold letter and wishing we could read in Italian.

Returning to the sunlit street we decided on a course of action. While I photographed the tiles and brick work on a particularly stunning set of apartments, M kept her eyes out for tourists. It did not take long for us to choose a group. They all worse matching t-shirts and the leader help a red flag as they resolutely marched down the roman streets as Napoleon marched in on Paris. Keeping our distance, we followed the embarrassingly obvious group. Down two streets. Around a corner. The number of tourists doubled and the VIAs became crowded with both people and vendors selling cheap Roman souvenirs.

“20 Euros!” a man shout s at me waving his artwork in the afternoon breeze. He has grey hair that sticks out in all directions and has piercing black eyes. It is a watercolor of the Grand Canal in Venice and he painted it himself, he swears. Why should I buy a picture of Venice when in Rome, I wonder, as we walk on leaving his to shout out to the next unsuspecting tourist.

I imagine the magnificence of La Fontina di Trevi is somewhat muted by the existence of hoards of onlookers. The water is clear and cool, but the coins that litter the bottom of the basin reflect the flashing bulbs of the cameras. The sound of rushing water is almost drowned out by the hum of the talking mass. 

“Well come back again another day,” we say to each other, walking down a small side street and away from the commercial chaos, “Perhaps at night when the fountain glows. Now that will be something to see.” Perhaps.

Finally we found mint chocolate gelato at a pizzeria by the Spanish steps and after enjoying our delicious cones dripping with sweetness, we spent the rest of our afternoon sitting on the white steps of a church and reading portions of the Aenied. The sun sank low in the west casting shadows of steeples and lamps on the marble steps. Before twilight in Italy we catch the bus back to Via Nomentata and once again enter the sister’s villa. “Did you have a fun day?” people in the kitchen ask us when we return.

M and I look at each other and smile.
I am tired and happy. It has been a good day.


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