Travel

My dearest Virgil, light and guide to the Eternal City

What maidens loath? In tangled sheets you taught me Keats, and there I learned—they loath to leave…

What would Rome have been without you? What I would be without you? I was a rare privileged one who slipped into the life of a Roman. With you, I lived the life of a Roman.

With you, I strolled through the market, surveying fruits and vegetables, giddily selecting meat to be hacked off the beast’s limb before our very eyes, picking up bread and cheese. In Rome, each vendor specializes in just one thing, whether it’s cleaning supplies, a watch store, the wine market, or the butcher, baker and cheese maker. We selected only the best, a simple but elegant meal, all for a simple Friday’s lunch.

You taught me Romans don’t eat complicated pizzas. With you, I learned to the merits of only the freshest pomodoro, to cherish the creamy texture and taste of buffalo mozzarella with the simplest compliment of basil.

You guided me through the streets of Rome showing me a city unknown to tourists. Fountains where “My Way” isn’t echoing off marble and cobble, the city beyond its ancient walls, life beyond the Campo. With you, I entered the homes of many who may not be seven generations Roman, but who are the life of the city nonetheless.

You taught me what siesta really is. Romans come home, if they’re lucky to live close enough to where they work, to undress, lower the shades and relax letting the heat of the day slip away. If you can’t make it home a quiet café will do, a cool drink in hand and an easy heart at rest.

With you, I learned the nuances of the Roman daily routine… How to fit showers in throughout the day so as to feel fresh and happy. How to eat so that I never became hungry, and could eat four meals instead of four. How to appreciate wine with lunch, and cold rice salads. With you, I learned how to stay up late and rise early without being tired and worn. With you, the days seemed longer, the nights sweeter and the times in between so full of richness and meaning. My body was fortified, my mind eager and at its best to learn and to grow. I learned how to truly engage in each day seeing it through to its fullest potential.

You taught me just how important music is in the life of the Roman. We stopped to appreciate street musicians, an outdoor concerto in the tiniest piazza, and friends with a guitar at a party, or sitting at home playing and singing along to our favorite songs.

But my favorite part of learning of Rome, with you, was long conversations about life, love and poetry. Discussing my day, all that I had learned, all that I had to offer when I came home. You envied me. This was your city and I claimed it as my own in a way you never had. I spoke of Caravaggio and Raphael, of which you’ve only had time to see a few. I spoke of Horace’s Esquiline Hill, of top floor apartments before they were penthouses, and you smiled at me bringing to life a city you’d never known. I spoke of Sierra’s mother, her grieving for Persephone, and the lines she read and you saw poetry tear through my soul to its darkest depths. But you spoke to me of Keats. Line after line you brought to life, you painted the urn upon my body, indelibly on my mind for all time.

You—you were beauty and you were truth. For you, I changed my life—for you were my Virgil.

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