It was our first trip to Rome. We had just moved overseas for a few years and were determined to see as much of Europe as we could. If we weren’t already on a trip, I was home planning the next one. Pondering over a map and endless internet searches for the best deals consumed me, and once the plans were finalized, I was off at a run with my husband holding on for dear life to my coat tails. And we never stopped. Like dedicated tourists, we hurried from one sight to the next, with our faithful Lonely Planet in hand, checking off the recommended Top Ten Sights to See like a couple of frantic school kids on a scavenger hunt.
And what did we have to show for it? Lots of good memories, hundreds of photos, some silly souvenirs and bone-tired bodies yearning for a vacation to recover from our vacation. It was fun, but somehow unsatisfying, because we had set ourselves up to see/do/experience it ALL. Impossible expectations.
But when in Rome…
Our first day we did a walking tour of all the major sights – the Coliseum, the Roman Forum, the Pantheon, Trevi Fountain….and the list went on. It was amazing, and exhausting. So much so that the next morning we awoke with conflicting feelings about our plans for the day – the Vatican. Neither one of us wanted to admit that we were just too tired to take on another full day of sightseeing, but God knew exactly what we really needed – a solid day of rain to shake things up and challenge our creativity.
Our B&B was located in a predominantly residential area northwest of the Vatican. The cobbled streets were lined with charming stone buildings that housed apartment units above street level cafes and stores. Armed with one massive umbrella (compliments of the B&B – inclement weather wasn’t in our travel plan), we walked down the street in the drizzle to explore our neighborhood. We didn’t find any museums or monuments but we did run into an impressive fountain (those Romans and their water features!) and a few interesting stores.
We wandered in the truest sense of the word, with no destination or goal in mind. Just enjoying the day and each other under that big umbrella.
About 2:00 in the afternoon, the heavens opened and the romantic little drizzle erupted into a ferocious downpour. Ducking for cover into the nearest establishment, we shook ourselves off and looked around. We had run into a grocery store like no other grocery store I’d seen. This was a marketplace for imported delicacies from around the world. Spices, teas, coffees, oils and exotic canned goods and jars lined the floor to ceiling shelves like some kind of culinary library. The smell was intoxicating.
For the next two hours, we wandered around the store marveling at the variety of food stuffs, picking out an old balsamic vinegar (there were hundreds to choose from ranging from 25euros to 500 euros), and sniffing herbs and spices from exotic lands. The rain kept pouring and we took refuge in a corner table savoring the moment and a hot cup of espresso, a pastry and time.
We still took home hundreds of photos and even a souvenir from the market, but our best memory by far was that day reinvented by a rainstorm in Rome.