I love walking through a European city at night and Rome was no exception. My travel buddy Krissy and I wanted to walk by all of the major monuments and sites to see how the city looked in the dark. We were a lonesome duo without out our third person, Liz, who was sick in bed with food poisoning and while we felt bad leaving her we promised to document our nighttime adventure.
After eating my last dish of gnocchi with pesto, we first went to the Pantheon. There were no crowds filtering in and out of the temple so thankfully the white lights at the base of the columns at the entrance were clear. The night lights made the temple even more strong, unwavering, and massive than at first glance during the day.
We walked over to Piazza Navona hoping to take home an oil painting. Krissy and I were not the most aggressive negotiators as opposed to Liz who would have happily helped. Rows upon rows of easels and accordion-like portfolios were lined up on either side of the piazza. The fountains on each end were still flowing with their cascading water. Cafe tables bordered the piazza and patrons were talking but it just sounded like a low rumble reverbating around the rectangle. We walked from artist station to artist station trying to find the perfect piece to buy. Each painting may have looked the same at first but a second look showed variation in landscape and colors, always the colors.
It was the browsing of paintings that I loved the most at night. I loved taking my time browsing and standing in front of a portfolio while the artist flipped each painting forward for me. The gust of air from the flips brushed my face and I loved smelling that mixture of canvas and oil paints. I finally decided on a portrait of a desolate canal in Venice. After bargaining with the artist I guess he still liked me enough to sign his name on the back of the painting and he rolled it up for me while my mind started to wonder how I would fit it into my tiny backpack.
With our cylinder canvasses tucked under our arms we were on a mission to eat gelato while sitting at the Trevi fountain. It may sound like an easy mission but it is actually pretty difficult especially when there is a gelato shop on every corner. Krissy and I had one particular shop in mind that was right down the road from the fountain. We had heard so many wonderful things about the place but the flavors were not to our liking. Luckily, Krissy knew of a more traditional place and so we ran in the opposite direction past the fountain. I don’t know why we ran as if we were on a race against time. Maybe we thought the fountain would disappear if we couldn’t sit in front of it at the perfect moment with a cup of gelato in our hands. Nevertheless, we kept running around on empty streets as if it was our personal playground.
The family owned gelato shop gave us the gelato we wanted and again we ran back through the streets. Even though I had the canvas in one hand and the gelato in the other I still managed to eat some bites while I was on the run. I didn’t want it to melt and I also had no control so that by the time Krissy and I actually sat down in front of the fountain, my gelato was pretty much gone. I didn’t get to taste and see at once but both the gelato and the view were worth it.
It wasn’t nearly as crowded around the fountain as it was during the day when I had to fight my way to the fountain’s edge to toss a coin in and make my wish. To our right stood a man presenting his new bride with a rose and taking pictures together. Krissy and I told each other how we couldn’t wait to come back to Rome with our future husbands and have that kind of lovey-dovey, mushy-gushy moment in front of the fountain.
Our last stop on our nighttime trek were the Spanish Steps. During the day, it was one hot jumbled mess. Krissy, Liz, and I squeezed ourselves into a spot on the steps and withstood the heat for only so long until we had to wade into the current of people to find shade. Now at night, the steps were devoid of revelers. There were a few stragglers who strolled about as Krissy and I took a seat on the fountain that rested at the base of the steps. We sat in silence for a little bit and I looked to my left and right down the empty streets. With no one around and the street lamps casting a yellow glow it looked like a movie set. The scene was all mine and I couldn’t be happier.
While we could have stayed in that spot forever we needed to get back to the hostel and to Liz. The metro station was closed and we could hear thunder claps which meant we needed to find a taxi fast. We made it to our hostel just in time because as soon as we put one foot in the door the downpour started. Sitting on my top bunk right by the window afforded me the view of the fattest rain drops I had ever seen in my life. The weather made the night one of a kind.
A few weeks later, I returned home with my painting unharmed. It now hangs in the entry way to my house and I love putting my nose up to it to waft in that familiar smell of canvas and oil just to remember the night I bought it in the Piazza Navona.
Have you had a memory of traveling through a new city at night?