Two vagabonds on a lottery ticket. Part I – Roaming the streets of Rome.

It’s day 4 and I still can’t believe it. This is what my life will look like for the next four or five months, maybe even longer. I used to hate living out of a backpack, not being able to sort and organise my things, but I’m loving every bit of it so far. We’ve adjusted well to Rome and the travel-life in general. Leaving the Netherlands feels like it’s been ages ago and I can barely remember it. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.

The 2015 adventure kicked off at 4 in the morning. The weather had been an absolute nightmare the days before, even with flights cancelled at Schiphol Airport. However, on the day Mace and I were set to leave, the weather seemed to have calmed down and we left without much of a hassle. There was one ‘minor’ incident though… When booking my ticket with KLM, the kind lady on the phone informed me that arriving at the airport two hours prior would give us plenty of time to check in, even though the KLM website stated that you’d need a good three hours. I should have listened to the internet, because it took me and Mace quite some time to get through. Then we had to wait at Oversized luggage for another fifteen to twenty minutes before security arrived to clear Mace’s flight case. Once that was finally all good and done, he was pretty much being rolled away before I could (emotionally) respond. For three or four seconds, he was staring at me from his plastic cage, his eyes fixated on me as if he was asking me “Why am I stuck in this stupid, plastic container, being taken away and are you just standing there?” I did my best not to get emotional, telling myself that he’d be back at my side before I knew it and it was probably worse for me than it was for him, much like it was horrible for my mum and sister to see me leave, whereas I was excited and happy.

It took some time to get through security and once through, I had to hurry to get to the gate in time. Not even thirty seconds on the plane, spotting a lady with her laptop and I instantly missed the weight of my laptop in my arms. Fuck. No. Did I just leave my laptop somewhere? After telling myself, while clumsily handling my camera-filled bag and laptop case, whatever you do, do not leave your laptop somewhere? Yes, I did. I rushed back to the entrance of the plane, blurting out that I had left my laptop somewhere. The people from KLM were so kind and calm and comforting that they prevented me from having a massive, all-out episode. I had no choice – Mayson had already boarded the plane (this I knew because I checked with every flight attendant that I came across to make absolutely sure that he’d be on the plane with me) and they were bound to leave in a few minutes. Leaving now would mean that I was going to miss my flight and, more importantly, they had to get Mace and my luggage out of the plane again. I could book another flight (which would cost me) but that wasn’t much of a problem. Booking a new ticket for Mayson could be. I comforted myself with the idea that at least I had a back-up of all my pictures and all the other personal stuff, mostly my writing, would be lost in this worst case scenario. The most important thing, I guess, was that my dog was on board. I had my cameras in my bag. I had everything I needed. So, leaving my laptop behind, I took my seat. The more than friendly flight attendant knew my name and my seat number, because they ALL knew that there was going to be a dog on board and that I was his owner, and shortly before taxing away handed me Schiphol’s lost and found contact details. He also informed me that he had contacted people from security and they would check the tobacco store where I bought cigarettes and the smoking area where I went (how’s that for service? They were all aware of a dog being on board, knew me by name and knew my seat number as I was the owner and they took care of my lost luggage! Never flying with another airline again (unless it saves me a lot of money, but then I do mean a significant amount). Messaging with my mum and about thirty seconds before I had to switch my phone off, I remembered where I left my laptop.

At the security check point.

Of all places to leave your things behind, I chose to leave it at probably one of the safest places. How’s that for karma, hey? At that moment, I felt myself calm down and the nerves settled. My laptop would most likely be safe, my dog was on the plane (as was I) so now my trip could finally begin. It was a hell of a way to start, but we were on our way. And thanks to some friends that work at Schiphol Airport, my laptop was located within an hour of getting lost.

Because I don’t have my laptop with me, picture-wise I’m limited to using my phone for some editing. This isn’t a major problem since I mostly shoot film anyway, but it’s not my usual way of publishing my pics. It also means that I won’t have too many to share, but I reckon I’ll have plenty to show you for now. We will have to wait for the picture overload anyway, until my scans come in.

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Though we’ve been here for four days already, it’s still hard to put everything we’ve seen so far in words. There still too much going on. Italians, or perhaps I should say Romans, are strange people. The eldery are especially nice, returning my smiles when we walk passed each other, whereas a lot of the middle aged Romans just ignore me and look ahead with a stern expression on their face. And it’s not true what they say about Italians and driving – it’s not crazy. It’s absolutely mental. Switching lanes is done without a turning signal, in fact, half the time they just drive in the middle of the road, or somewhere along the line. They stop at the middle of the intersection if they want to go left or right and so, since lights to go straight ahead are green in both directions, blocking the entire intersection when the other ‘straight ahead’ lanes get the go ahead. They honk their horns for the littlest of reasons (rush hour is insane here), which is something the Dutch could learn a thing or two off, since using the horn is quite often rewarded with a fine in the Netherlands. Most Italians drive around with the window all the way down so they can easily put their hand out to apologise and/or make all sorts of gestures to other drivers if they don’t agree. Since Mace and I walk a lot, we’ve often come across streets where there isn’t a pavement so pedestrians just use the side of the road. Italians are pretty used to it I guess, since we haven’t been hit by a car, haven’t been honked at and they usually make plenty of room for us. Cyclists either use the pavement or just the road. People cross the street when the green light is on, but also when it’s not. There doesn’t seem to be any organisation direction-wise on the curb either, there’s no ‘left stream’ or ‘right stream’, they simple walk on the pavement and zigzag through the crowd.

I’ve actually learned quite a few Italians words already, though I’m far from being able to form any sentences. Thanks to Mace, the first words I learned were ‘cane’, meaning dog, and ‘maschio’, meaning male and, of course, ‘bellissimo’ or ‘bello’. I’m currently trying to decipher the words they use to tell me that he has stunning eyes and that they’re blue. Overall, Italians love dogs, but they love mine in particular. Wherever we go, we hear ‘bellissimo’, they look at him, then at me and then smile, or they point and start chatting in rapid Italian. We’ve been to the city centre twice now and we do turn some heads. Random people walk up to me to talk to me about my dog, want to pet him and have even approached us to take pictures. Mace seems to either be fine with it, or simply ignores it. I guess he’s used to it, but then again, he doesn’t understand a word they’re saying whereas I keep hearing that he’s so beautiful (and yes, I know, his eyes are blue). Overall, I try to be polite, I smile a lot, and say ‘gracie’ all the time, but I wish I could just do like Mace sometimes.

We’ve done a lot of exploring the neighborhood and boy did we pick an amazing location to stay at. We’ve about a seven minute walk from the most amazing, absolutely stunning park (parco). It goes on for miles and we thoroughly enjoy both a morning walk or a morning run here. The park, Parco di Aquedotti, actually hosts some ancient ruins – aquaducts – that used to run the water into the city. With the ruins on one side, the city on the other and some insane views (more mountains!) in front of us, it’s hard not to enjoy these walks.

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Morning runs.

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Coming across a flock of sheep while exploring a huge nearby park.

The two girls we’re staying at, G and M, are more than wonderful hosts. M doesn’t really speak English, but she understands it a bit, which makes communicating with her heaps of fun. We use a lot of simple words and hand gestures, which not only creates quite the scene, but also adds a ton of entertainment. G is extremely friendly (they both are) and they both help me in learning the language. Living with two Italian girls is an experience, one I most likely won’t forget, and it’s such fun to watch those two chat away (something I’m quite sure of, doesn’t stop!) We sleep downstairs in a renovated basement and it’s a huge space. We’re so close to the metro station (not only convienent to get around, but also a massive help in trying to find my way around – all I have to do to get back is to follow the metro stations!) that we actually hear the metro pass us by. I feel extremely lucky, and perhaps even a bit blessed (though I’m not a fan of the phrase) to have found these two hosts to start this adventure. It’s a warm welcome into the city of Rome and a wonderful way to kick off.

More will follow soon.


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For the whole Italy series, please go here.

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