Travel Journal

Rome, Italy, 11/13-11/24

(Thursday 25 November 2010) by Joanne Chang
I love Rome. I knew I would. Ancient and modern, big and easy, busy and comfortable. After Palermo, Rome is calm to me. It doesn't seem loud or chaotic, or even that big. Though I do get lost all over the place. With winding streets and piazzas everywhere, I get turned around in seconds and end up somewhere else entirely. But I love it. Massive structures like the Pantheon and Trevi Fountain, that suddenly appear before you off a quaint side street, the Colosseum glowing like a ring of fire when the sun sets, the markets at Campo Fiori and in Trestevere, where I buy a replica of my Burning Man boots for 10 euro. I try more wine made of grapes I've never heard of -- Sagrantino Montefalco, Teroldega Rotaliano, Raboso Piave, Refosco, Frascati. The Italian grape varietals and regions are endless, awesome in every sense of the word, and I understand why they call California "new world". I've lucked out with accommodations, too. Francesco is one of the nicest people I've ever met. He doesn't speak a lot of English, but he really tries with me and we have some meaningful conversations about life and love. Of all the places I've stayed in, his is the nicest and the most affordable. Yay.
Statue in St. Peters, reminds me of me :)
Statue in St. Peters, reminds me of me :)

The other side of Rome, is not Rome but me. I am reclusive here much of the time, and also very lonely. My friend Alaa, who I met last year in Barcelona, lives in Rome so I see her a couple of times, and I meet people who invite me to call them, and I have dinner with a man twice my age, Lorenzo, who falls in love with me (and I realize I'm at that age where no man thinks he is too young or too old), and I am lonely. I miss George a ridiculous amount. After the Lorenzo incident, I can't summon the energy to connect with strangers. I don't think I've written about them here, but I have found myself in multiple dramatic situations and unfortunately it's made me apprehensive. Italian men are really intense, sometimes it feels like they will devour you.

I also sign and send the final divorce agreement in Rome. It's funny but I almost forget to mention it. Not because it's insignificant, maybe because it's overwhelming. I don't know what else to say except I'm working through it.

I feel like I should write more about Rome, about what I did and saw. I have done this actually but I think you'll be bored by it. I'll put it in captions on the photo gallery. Instead...

I've been summoned home for the holidays. Via an email from my sister, via my father who saw me on Skype and thought that while I sound pretty good, I look like I need to come home, and is there ANY way I would consider it? I spend one restless night considering it before I respond, but I know there's only one option. If I go to Spain for Christmas my heart will be in Chicago, so I might as well be there too. 24 hours later my flights are booked. It hits me hard. I am simultaneously sad (I am not ready to go home!), and relieved. After my head spins around a few times I realize I'm terrified of going home. Further analysis says I'm afraid because I haven't done what I set out to do (nor do I really know what that is), and, afraid I'll get too comfortable to leave again. Traveling solo, while priceless and satisfying like nothing else, is also exhausting. The constant planning, being lost in strange places, not understanding a word people are saying and hoping nobody attacks you while hobbling around with luggage and a sprained ankle. Being a woman is that, multiplied. Other than Catherine the only people who want to connect with me are men and the men here scare me. Maybe that's what Dad saw in me, even on a computer screen from thousands of miles away. As it turns out, maybe he's right. Like Catherine telling me I need to rest when my foot is weak.

But first, a road trip! A little gift to myself. I've rented what may be the only automatic Fiat in Italy to drive through the Italian countryside, solo. I am terrified of getting lost or crashing the car but, well I just have to trust myself. There's no way I'm leaving Italy without doing this.

Travel Jo by George S III
Travel Jo by George S III


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