So, now that the logistics were settled we needed a plan.
"Well alrighty, Little Miss HotShot," I thought to myself, "now what? Exactly what is it that you are so bloody eager to do in this city that you simply can't do at home?"
The answer came swiftly and quietly:
The last thing I wanted to do for 3 days was run myself ragged all over town just to stand in queues with hoards of loud, sweaty tourists. I am not sympathetic to their complaints about Roman toilets nor can I comprehend why some of them religiously adhere to the notion that one's level of comfort is directly proportionate to the relative position of a given outfit on the continuum of fashion abominations.
Seriously people (you know who you are), think about it: if Italians can walk around on cobblestone streets, steep hills and narrow stairs for their entire lives without sporting Nikes, Birkenstocks or Crocs, you can probably manage it for a few days too.
But I digress...
What I really wanted to do was simply pass the time doing whatever it is that we would have been doing over the holiday weekend at home: enjoying each other's company sitting in cafes, shopping for things we can't afford, people-watching and gossiping over cappuccino, and consuming immoderate quantities of pizza, pasta and prosecco.
Nothing terribly exciting really, but for the fact that the pizzas would have those papery-thin yet impossibly flavorful wood-fired crusts, the pastas would be perfectly al dente with gorgeous sauces clinging to every delectable bite, the cappuccinos would have just the right amount of foam, the stuff we can't afford will at least be runway-worthy, and we would be people-watching in piazzas (with pirlos in hand) where the cacaphony of Italian chatter would be music to our ears and little Italian kids crying "Mamma! Mamma! Mamma!" would sound like singing cherubs, unlike the shrieking wombats that are indigenous to our home.
Most importantly, we would be doing all of the above in Italy.
At this point in my life I thought it was the closest I would ever get to experiencing an authentic slice of life in il bel paese. To enjoy the luxury of lazing about a cafe, lingering over coffee or a glass of wine, blissfully unconcerned with tour bus schedules or any other marker of time. To admire historic monuments from afar, perhaps recording a snapshot or two but absent an obsessive need to photograph every last doorknob. To casually wander past the grand buildings, the fountains, the narrow streets dotted with gelaterias and cafes, breathing in the majesty of this beautiful city.
To sit still and be quiet, letting its essence seep into my skin and marinate in my veins rather than chasing it all over town like a rabid paparazzo.
That was my grand plan.
Having lived in several versions of paradise from California to Thailand, I had no delusions about the realities of life in a place that naturally appears idyllic to anyone who is temporarily liberated from banal concerns like paying bills, going to work or doing laundry. But all those things were waiting for me back home and since none of them would have stopped me from enjoying a care-free holiday weekend in Chicago, I could confidently say that even if I did have such things to worry about here, I could just as easily shove them aside and enjoy three lazy days with a friend.
To this day, I can't think of a better way to spend a weekend in Rome...