Rome. My goodness, how I love Rome.
I'll never forget the first time I went to Rome with my parents. I was 16 years old. We had just arrived to the Fiumicino airport and were feeling pretty tired and disoriented.
We step out of the airport with our luggage, looking for a taxi to take us to our apartment. We were renting an apartment in the center of Rome for a few weeks. We had booked it through a website called 'Rome Sweet Home.' This was all before AirBnB even existed, or was a thing, and it was our first time booking an apartment through the internet (dial up).
As my parents were loading their luggage into the back of a taxi, a female taxi driver took my luggage (she saw an opportunity here) and put it in the back of her taxi and then waited as my parents took theirs out of the other car and into hers. The first taxi driver saw what she had done and they started yelling at each other and making hand gestures only an Italian would do. This woman was trouble, and we should've seen the signs.
We gave her the address to the apartment, and she immediately begins dialing a number into her brick cell phone. The taxi was stick shift so she has one hand going back and forth between the wheel and the gear shift while the other is holding her phone. She immediately begins yelling at the person on the other side of the line.
The car was extremely small. My long-legged father was sitting up front and she reaches over him to the glove compartment. She pulls out a telephone book, like the yellow pages, and starts flipping through to get to the map section. I'm in the back wondering what hands, if any, were on the wheel and I saw that at this point, she was driving with her knee.
She's still on the phone.
She sees a pedestrian crossing in a crosswalk, and honks and yells at them. The guy has to literally do a little trot to get out of her way. Still no hands on the wheel, and definitely none on the gear shift. She's somehow weaving through traffic, not slowing down for anything or anyone.
I notice a cross hanging from her rearview mirror. It's not really hanging so much as swinging and swaying as she whips her way through Rome. I wondered if that was the thing that kept us from getting killed by this woman.
As we zip through the city, we catch glimpses of Roman ruins. "There's the Circus Maximus!," my dad exclaims as he's clutching the grab handle above his passenger door.
We're all sweating, a provoked sweat and finally we arrive. She's still on the phone, but manages to tell us how much we owe. It was a lot, like way too much to be considered normal, but we paid it because I think we still wanted to trust this woman. All of the luggage is dumped into this little piazza and she takes off.
The piazza is quiet, oddly calm, and we're panting like we've just run a race. We wait in stunned silence, not really sure what just happened, for someone to let us into the apartment. The person eventually arrives and takes us up to our apartment and we drop everything off.
As a rule, we try to stay up and go to bed at normal hours so as to fight jet lag. We tidy ourselves a little and then head out to stretch our legs. We all agreed that that woman was absolutely out of her mind and that she majorly ripped us off all while nearly running over a pedestrian. Each of us noticed the cross hanging from her mirror too. It seemed frivolous? Ironic? Unnecessary, but maybe very necessary? We couldn't decide.
As we walk out to our little piazza, we hook a right and stroll down a short narrow street. The fresh air felt nice. People were walking in pairs and enjoying the afternoon. Before I could take in any of the sights and smells, there it was.
"My goodness," I thought to myself, "I love Rome."