I woke up very early, to the sound of m cellphone alarm. It was still a bit dark but I knew I had too take advantage of every single hour if I was to spend the whole day in the city of Rome. I entered the shower, thinking about how strange it was to wake up early in a holiday but that after all it was the best reason to do it. I didn’t take very long, dressing up pretty quickly and then grabbing my bag, where I kept everything I needed to walk around. I would leave my backpack, which was my only luggage, in the room until the next day when I had to leave the city.
My real holiday had been spent in Greece, where I had been laying in the sun for almost a week. But I had decided to go back home via Rome so to have one day of sightseeing around the city. In Greece I had also walked around a lot, visited museums, gone to the beach, taken hundreds of pictures and getting to know one or two Greek men. Yes, I had a very good time in that country.
I went down to the hotel restaurant and realized an hour had already passed since I had woken up. As I helped myself to orange juice and cereal, I noticed only another table was occupied at that time by an elderly couple. Every other person, especially families, woke up late during the holidays which would have been great but I wanted to have the option to visit as many places as possible. As I ate, I checked a small schedule I had created with things I could do: museums were ruled out as they usually take a long time to go through. But I couldn’t avoid going to the Colosseum and to the Forum as they were symbols of the city and walking them wasn’t that time consuming.
After lunch I decided to go there first, as it was the farthest place on the schedule. I would begin to walk from there closer to the hotel, in order to get there late to have some hours of sleep and then leave early in the morning for home. The metro station was not very far so it was in a matter of minutes that I arrived to the Colosseum. The place was very majestic, although some of the walls were covered as they were being repaired. There were men dressed as ancient roman soldiers all around and a lot of tourists, even that early. The place had a weird vibe, as if it was palpable that people had died there. On the highest part, I took several pictures and realized more and more people were entering. After some more minutes, I crossed a small piazza towards the Forum. The entrance fee covered both sites so it was perfect.
Various temples still stand, very large structures and the general layout of the site is magnificent. It was there when I noticed two things: there were lots of tourists in the city and the temperature was rising fast. After all, it was the middle of summer. Silly me, I hadn’t brought a water bottle with me and I already started to feel a bit lightheaded. I went on walking; trying to “shake it off”, but it wasn’t that easy. Finally, a sign saved my life when I realized there were water fountains all around the premises, in order for people to fill their bottles or drink directly. Apparently the city had one of the purest water in the continent.
I didn’t walk all around because some areas were only trees and some ruins. I took pictures and then moved on. The Circus area was a disappointing place, more like an undeveloped terrain than anything else. Across that stretch of land, which was pretty big, I made the line to put my hand in the Mouth of truth, a whole in a marble image that people used to think was good to use as a lie detector. I then walked through the streets to finally reach the Piazza Venezia where there was a large statue of Victor Emanuele, the man who united Italy and made it a republic. I only took pictures from the outside and it was here my luck had run out.
My camera had stopped working. It wouldn’t turn on so I decided to walk towards a small square in front a church and sit there to check it properly. This would have taken a lot of my time and I had no time to lose. But that was visible not important to an unanimated object that wouldn’t work. I took the battery out, the memory card, I shook it and even yelled at it but it just wouldn’t work. As I did that, someone came closer to me and said something in Italian I didn’t understand. It was a man, maybe in his thirties, who was extending his hand to me. For a moment, I felt scared, but then I realized that if the camera was broken, there was really no harm in giving it away.
The man took it in his hands and checked it all around. I, for one, was looking at him. Italian men were very into the facial hair thing and always very lean, not muscular or fat but rather nice complexions. The man didn’t seem to notice my eyesight going all over him as he tried to ask me something in his language. I tried to understand, breaking it up buy words. I recognized the word “help” and the word “camera”. I nodded, looking a bit stupid, and then he stretch out his arm to me and I grab it, clumsily again. He started talking and walking and I just followed him. I realized I was losing time but I felt I couldn’t just be rude to him.
He talked every step of the way. I just nodded and smiled, thinking how stupid I must look doing that like a robot. After a few blocks from the square, he pulled out some keys and entered and old building. Inside, it was beautiful. The place was full of lowers and everything was very clean and taken care off. A cat slept on a corner and barely looked at us as we passed. I followed the men up some stairs and to, what I presumed, was his apartment. It felt really cool at this time of day. He offered me a chair and then started to check my camera on a table with a big lens and a lot of different tools and gadgets I had never seen but would attribute to an engineer or a mechanic or something like that.
He had stopped talking and was very concentrated in the camera. He opened one side and started moving things around. I nervously took out my cellphone and realized time was passing fast. I needed to head to the Trevi Fountain if I wanted to visit every place I had put on my list. Uneasy, I stood up and tried to say something but couldn’t think of the words. Anyway, it wasn’t necessary. He turned around, put a hand around my wait for me to get closer and explained slowly what he had done. Funny enough, I understood it all. The camera was working again and I could keep taking pictures. I took out my wallet to pay him for his troubles he grabbed it and put it back in my bag.
So he didn’t wanted pay. I asked again but he kept nodding his head negatively so I stopped talking and just stood there like an idiot. Then I remembered my schedule and decided to just shake his hand and be on my way. As I turned around, he pointed at himself and said he would take me around. Yes, he spoke in my same language which was both funny and annoying, as if I had know he knew what I was saying it would have been less of a weird experience.
We went out to the street and right enough, we went to the Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, Piazza Navona and through streets he knew very well. We didn’t really talked about ourselves, not even when we decided to have lunch in the afternoon, after walking a lot. We had a delicious pizza and ice cream for desert and it was only then when I told him I was a writer and he told me he worked fixing all kinds of electronic devices. But we went on to talk about Rome and Italy and politics soon enough.
To be honest, it had been a great day with him and I had more time to spend. So we went to the Vatican and entered Saint Peter’s basilica, which is enormous. It feels like entering a huge cavern or something like that. Pietro, as he had told me his name was, explained to me everything there was to know about the site. Funny enough, some tourists thought he was a guide and began asking him questions. He was kind enough to answer every single one of them. After that, he took me again through the streets, taking pictures of people, cafés, ice cream parlors and just about everything. The sun had already gone and I had only a couple of hours left.
He invited me to have some wine and then we chatted again about things that were not us. About other people, my trip, his country. He was very charming and I could feel he didn’t do that often. He wasn’t a player or a very outgoing person. He was just one of those people that loves to help and that feels alone, because that I could see, as he walked me to my hotel. His eyes talked as his mouth didn’t and that was more than enough for me. When we got to the lobby, I wanted to shake his hand but he decided to hug me instead. It was a very nice hug, also speaking volumes, which his mouth was unable to express. We bid farewell and then I went up to my room.