There’s No Place Like Rome

David is sleeping in at the hotel and I go two doors down for pizza and beer. I’m sitting at an outdoor table and an older woman sits at the table next to me. She is limping along with a forearm crutch. She sets a beer on her table and looks at me.

It’s too hot to eat anything,” she says in Italian.

Soooo hot!” I agree.

We drink our beers and she asks where I’m from. Her brother’s daughter is studying in LA. No, she’s never gone to see her. Last year she was hit by a car and was in a hospital bed for three months, then a wheelchair for another three. With physical therapy, she’s been able to get around with the crutch, but can’t travel more than an hour or two by train before it becomes uncomfortable. Yes, yes, she does like to travel, only been a few places, but she always comes back to Rome. Yes that’s right, Rome is where her heart is.

We finish our beers and she wishes me a good day, shakes my hand, and we agree the conversation has been a pleasure.

These are my favorite things about travel.

“Hey, guys, I feel like I’m in a dream, I can’t believe I am here in Rome with you!”

Matteo is soaking wet from a post-workout shower. Still the same hilarious, outgoing, now-24-year-old trying to figure out his place in the world. His latest plan is to move to Dubai to become a physical trainer.

For now.

We meet my mom and Gary for dinner. Gary just arrived and is still a bit jet-lagged after a very turbulent flight. Conversation is animated and punctuated by laughter, as it always is with Matteo.

Funny guy!

Matteo makes plans to meet me at an open pharmacy tomorrow morning to help me get my necessary COVID test for entry into Portugal. It’s already sweltering at 9 am. Finding the pharmacy is bananas because Google maps does not understand Italian streets. But I find it.

No Matteo.

He’s still in bed, but he rushes to get dressed and meet me. We go through the DMV-like process of getting my test (he has dubbed himself “my manager”), talking and laughing and I am “always breaking his balls” about something, but that’s what he likes about us. We like our freedom and we can give each other shit.

We get a cold drink, he suggests a place to buy something for my son and helps me pick it out, then it’s goodbye until next time…

David is still tired, so I walk alone to meet Mom and Gary for lunch – they are headed to Ischia the next day to visit the family of their most recent exchange student, and have about four weeks left in Italy after that. Lucky ducks! The lunch is delicious,though we are showered in dust and pollen by the wind and the current of passing cars.

We wish each other fun new adventures, and I walk back to the hotel.

It’s better today, Signora!” a shopkeeper says to me in Italian, standing in his doorway as I walk past.

Yes, there’s more wind! It’s more fresh!” I reply.

He smiles, stretching his arms out slightly, turning his palms forward and lifting his chin to catch the breeze.

Ciao!” I say.

“Ciao,Signora!” he calls back.

These are my favorite things about travel.

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