Did you ever return to a place that you visited long time ago? For me this place was Rome. Last time I visited Italy was in 1988. Twenty-five years ago. Since then I kept asking myself: why did I ever leave this magical place? I want to see Rome again, so we went. I knew I was going to see it through very different eyes, but I had a fascination with this city and I was curious how I’d feel about it after all this time.
Those of you who read my blog (how many are you, anyway?) probably know that I started traveling late in my adult life. No, it was not by choice. It was because I was born in a communist country where people were not allowed to travel outside the border for fear they would never return. Rome was the first place I set foot after we emigrated from Romania.
Then: We were on our way to California and stopped in Italy for three weeks. No money, no job, just two suitcases and a 3-year-old boy. But Rome seemed like Paradise: the vibrancy of the streets, the historical sites, the opulence of the stores, it was like a dream. I could never forget those days in Rome when I seemed to be walking on clouds.
Now: I am now a seasoned traveler. I spent the last twenty-five years roaming the world obsessively, trying to make up for the years of deprivation I suffered in Romania. I’ve seen so many beautiful cities that it would be really difficult to make up my mind which one I like best. I still love Rome. It has the same vibrancy and charm, but I find it very touristy. I remember St.Peter’s Square being almost empty. Now it’s so crowded you can barely take a picture. Is it I, or people started traveling more?
Then: I remember wandering the streets of Rome and staring the history and art that surrounded me everywhere. I just couldn’t get enough of the ruins, the museums and the monuments. I loved the fountains of Rome. They looked so romantic. I could have walked for hours and hours without even thinking that I am tired. But for our 3-year-old son, I would have roamed the streets till dawn.
Now: I am still in awe with Rome and its undeniable great history, but I get tired of constantly watching for pickpockets. I still like Fontana Di Trevi and all the other fountains, but I am not in awe of them anymore, although I admire the art. I’d love to walk like I used to, but my feet react to any kind of footwear after a while. I have to stop and patch my blisters.
Then: I didn’t care too much about food. Besides we didn’t have money for expensive restaurants and good wine. Street food was good enough and skipping a meal was no problem. I would have rather spent the little that I had on souvenirs or clothing.
Now: I love food and my husband does too. I no longer like to walk from monument to monument and from museum to museum on an empty stomach. I am crazy about porcini mushrooms and the way they prepare them in Rome. Besides, a good glass of wine is just what the doctor prescribes after a hard day of walking . . . The doctor being my husband.
I love Rome but didn’t go back there for the monuments, or the architecture, or for the museums. I went in search of that feeling that I had twenty-five years ago when, for the first time in my life I was walking the streets of the free world. I went in search of that time when money didn’t matter, food was no issue and my feet didn’t complain. As for the magic I experienced back then, I was never able to recreate the feeling no matter how hard I tried.
Did you ever go back to a place and saw it from a totally different perspective?