When I travel, I become someone else. Perhaps it’s closer to who I really am. Who I strive to be at home. Regardless, I feel freer. I do things I may not do at home. I pack my life with as many moments as possible. Each one escalated. Playing in HD. Essentially, I live on more whims.
I went to Italy in October. Pasta, sun, history, wine and men. Inevitably men. I don’t know why more single women don’t flock to Italy for a burst of attention. While I was in Italy on my first mother-daughter trip, I knew there would be distractions of testosterone. Around every brick corner, under each archway, and on a variety of bar stools. The Italian stallion is no myth.
Our last night in Rome came with two such distractions.
My mother and I had a carb-rich dinner on a street just off Campo de’ Fiore. Eating too much bread, gnocchi, caprese salad and tiramisu. White wine washed the feast down and digested it in our bellies. We ate as though each meal were our last.
Throughout dinner, I had been receiving eyes from a man sitting at a table across the street. He looked like a gladiator. Tall, dark, regal, handsome. I may (definitely) have even returned the eyes when my mother wasn’t looking.
As our pasta plates were cleared, the Roman marched across the street in his finely tailored suit. A card in his hand. With a deep hello, he placed the card in front of me and said, “I hope you call.” My mother’s jaw dropped. And I watched him walk away. All six foot three of him. Walking with purpose as though off to battle a ravenous lion. In addition to his name (Cristiano), title and contact information, the card said, “Call me for a drink later if you’d like.” Oh, I would like.
Would a North American man have had such gall as to approach a girl with her mother?
I was impressed. My mum was impressed. In fact, she insisted I stay out and meet with him. After our dessert, I walked her to the bus stop that would take her back to the hotel. She bade me farewell with a motherly, “Be careful.”
I returned to the same restaurant for a Limoncello, to debate my actions, and to shamelessly flirt with the waiter sans mother.
Of course I would text the Roman. There was adventure and possible romance to be had. I was in a foreign land and a handsome stranger wanted to show it to me.
But first… the waiter… Marco.
We had been smiling at each other all night. In fact, I had spied him the day before when I sat across the street writing with a glass of wine. He was one reason why I had chosen this restaurant for dinner – my motives are frequently ulterior. He had a popped collar. A feature I would pronounce as “deal breaker” in North America, but one that added to the attraction in Italy.
As he set down my Limoncello, he asked me to join him for a drink when he got off work. I took his phone number and promised I would text him later. Limoncello on the house.
Cristiano tried to convince me to come to his apartment for a drink with his friends. After much persuading, he lost and agreed to meet me at a nearby bar with his friends in tow. I was pleased to discover they all spoke English extremely well, and my dry humour translated. Flirting came easily. And, after three days in Rome, I was finally surrounded by real Italians, not tourists.
Two glasses of wine later, Cristiano, now in t-shirt and jeans, escorted me out of the bar and on to an impromptu party in an apartment above Piazza Navona. With my hand in his, we walked quickly through the narrow streets, people yelled out “Caio” and “Buonasera” in our wake, and Cristiano paused now and again to shake a hand or pat a back. Had I met the Prince of Rome?
We made it to the party in record time – a party held in a lavish apartment overlooking the grand fountains below. I imagined myself as Sofia Loren as I leaned out the massive windows for a view a tourist ordinarily wouldn’t see – the breeze ruffled strands of my hair away from my face and I closed my eyes to retain the image.
Snap. Moment captured.
The party continued. I met people from all over the world who now called Rome home. Luckily for me, English was the universal language.
I found great entertainment with one particular Italian man who owned a chic boutique, “My name is Frederic by day and Frederico by night.” I was immediately charmed. Even more so when, after gaining permission from his girlfriend, he grabbed my hand and spun and dipped me around the apartment, dancing to the music in his head. The spotting of white powder on his upper lip clued into the root of his behaviour.
With an hour under our belts at the party, Cristiano stopped my twirling to whisper in my ear, “Come, I’ll show you the Spanish Steps.” As I still hadn’t seen their glory on this trip, I allowed him to guide me through the eerily vacant streets as the clock kept ticking past midnight.
We turned onto Via Condotti and I had to pause as the ordinarily trampled steps came into sight. They were deserted. And magically lit up, welcoming and inviting me to dance up them like Ginger Rogers’ feet were mine. After staring in reverence at the scene, we turned to walk back the way we had come. I was in a trance-like state. Seeing Rome through new eyes.
I stopped at a building to put my hands on the ancient wall, “Do you ever touch the buildings to feel the history?” Cristiano looked at me as though I’d gone mad. Another batty North American discovering Europe. I trotted ahead a few steps and placed my hand on an old foreboding wooden door that would have fit a giraffe’s long and slender neck, “Like this door. Think of all the people who have used this door over the past hundreds of years.”
Without saying a word, Cristiano reached into his pocket and pulled out a key, which he deftly slotted into the keyhole. My eyes widened as I thought, “Who is this man to have a key to every door in the city?”
He pushed the door open, “I live here.” Silly rabbit. Of course he did. Just another instance of serendipity. His cunning choice of the Spanish Steps suddenly became clear. I’m not the only one with ulterior motives.
And what, pray tell, happened to the waiter, you ask? Well, he showed me his tour of Rome at 2am.
Lessons from a Roman bar stool:
1. If you’re going to have a date in a foreign land, meet somewhere public. Anyone can pretend to be Prince Charming when you first meet them.
2. Be bold. So what if a girl is with her mother? Approach and pounce.
3. Rome is best seen when the moon comes out and tourists sleep.
4. If you repeatedly tell the girl you are with, “Don’t worry, I’m a good boy”, you are not fooling anyone, bad boy.
5. Always create a name for yourself after dark.
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