I could see the Colosseum ahead of me by a quarter mile. The sun was starting to set and sunlight shined through the windows of the Colosseum just right. It was around 5pm, so many people were out walking, a mix of tourists and locals leaving work. Something was happening at a cross street, a mother was hollering at her son or something like that, and an italian man about my age started to speak to me about it in italian.
“I’m sorry, I don’t understand,” I said.
He was handsome, taller than me by a half foot or so, wearing jeans, casual dress shoes, and a light Northface style jacket.
“Oh, an American?” he said. He was charming… and italian.
“You speak english?” I asked. “Yes, I work at a hotel in town, so I must speak english and italian,” he said as I was swept briefly away by his dark skin and deep brown eyes.
We chatted for another two or three minutes on our way towards the Colosseum. I learned that his name was Francesco and he managed a hotel in the center of Rome. He was on his way home for the day. He asked where I was from, where I was headed, and why I had decided to travel alone to Rome.
“Amanda, you must let me take you on a date while you are in town.”
“I’m only in town for tonight.”
“How about right now?”
“I have a class to teach,” I declined. I was running Wealth University, an online school for entrepreneurs, at the time, and I was already in a rush to get back to my AirBnb and on the line to teach our students at 6pm Central European time. My sister (and part-time Project Manager) would be waiting patiently for me to log on.
“Amanda… American Amanda. I wish to take you on a date. Please, meet me after your class.” I remember how bold and direct he was.
I thought for a beat, checking in with myself. How compelling this all was. I had just spent the day touring this city where I could touch the walls of the Colosseum... where I had thrown a coin into Trevi Fountain (one for marriage, one for divorce, as they say - I did both). How many times would I be asked on a date in Rome, I wondered?
“Ok. I’ll be back at 8pm.” I was ready for a date. Ready for love in my life again - not true love, or a lifetime of love, but just a little opening in my heart that felt like the present kind of love where you know you're in the right place at the right time. My divorce was in full swing, and there was nothing I could do about it, and this Roman man made it feel like, for just a moment, that was all okay.
“I’ll wait for you here,” he said, standing at the small church entrance right next door to the Colosseum. He was handsome and dark skinned and soft around the edges. And, yes, he literally waited at that church entrance for another two hours while I rushed away to teach my class despite my lack of cell phone which might allow me to inform him of running late or changing plans.
The Wealth University call went 10 or 15 minutes late and I rushed through a shower, threw on some clothes - a sheer, long sleeved gray shirt, slightly torn skinny jeans and my black boots from Paris.
I was late. Only five minutes or so, but I could feel the pressure of rushing my way there so this beautiful Roman man didn't give up on me and head home for the evening.
Passed the Colosseum… I was almost there. I rushed around the corner and saw Francesco, leaning against a brick wall in the old marketplace with a romantic smile on his face. “Amanda, you came!” he said as he embraced me with a hug.
He immediately grabbed my hand and began walking me around the city. He didn't let go of my hand for the rest of the evening, and I didn’t mind at all.
Churches. The Spanish steps. Side streets with gelato shops. Trevi fountain, where we stopped to admire the people, the sculptures, and each other. How bizarre it was to stand at Trevi, remembering just a handful of hours ago when I'd throw one coin in for the marriage I'd let go, and one coin for the divorce I was currently facing. Just as I let my mind wander to the past...
Francesco kissed me. With his thick italian lips and his soft italian skin. He kissed my lips, my neck, my ears. Anywhere my skin was showing, Francesco touched his lips there.
I was shy and embarrassed, but flattered. Most of all, I felt liberated. For the first time, I felt the freedom that came with my husband leaving. Not because I wanted to sleep with Francesco, but because I had the opportunity to say yes to something I really wanted to do, in a place I really wanted to be.
I wanted this Roman man to hold my hand and march me around his city… I wanted to get lost in his kiss… I wanted this full, romantic, heart liberating and soul gratifying experience (also... who wouldn’t want the charming Francesco to press them up against the ledge of Trevi fountain and kiss them passionately?).
I only had 24 hours here, and although it was brief and fleeting, it was everything I imagine Rome can offer.
Fleeting is a good word to describe many of my experiences throughout my travels, including this Roman one. Rarely does one enter into a relationship with the awareness that it will be a fleeting experience, but I knew Francesco’s and my passion would be short lived, which helped with the liberation.
I wonder if all things in life are meant to be fleeting, and it’s in my attempt to make them permanent that I create my greatest struggles.
Whether it’s a relationship, program I’ve built, health routine I’ve committed to, group of people I facilitate, or belief system that I’m learning, maybe they’re all just fleeting moments that I’m grabbing onto in hopes that the joy they give me in their passing by will last forever.
I’m not sure if it’s because marketing has pounded into our minds that to build a life you have to hold on - hold on to one person, a home to put down roots, a job or business that financially provides, a set of principles to abide by, a clothing style… we talk about living in the moment, but how often do we actually have the opportunity to do that? We’re holding on to many things in hopes they’ll stay permanently that it’s rarely possible to enjoy something for the fleeting but fulfilling moment that it offers.
This fleeting moment with Francesco made me feel drunk, I was so present that I couldn’t think beyond it or before it.
I was there now, in Rome with Francesco. It was ok that this one was short lived and would be over within the hour. Because here I was, kissing this very Italian man during this very italian experience (one that still makes me light up, not because I was in love but because I had a fleeting moment and I was all the way in it).
After our passionate make out session at Trevi, Francesco marched me past the Spanish steps and through city streets... past gelato shops and down brick alley ways, and he never released my hand, not once. And then began our climb up a steep hill outside of the city.
I started to get uncomfortable. We were leaving the public style atmosphere in which I could leave or ask for help if needed. But as we continued, step for step, up this hill outside the city, I wondered if it was safest to declare that I wanted to go home now. He hasn’t given me any reason to not trust him, I thought, and I continued on.
After a 5 minute hike similar in steepness to the Grand Canyon’s uphill climb, we arrived at a park… Parco Savello, which had a full view of the city, lit up in the evening sky, and we stood on top of a hill admiring all of Rome. I could see the city lights, the circular design of the city, the expansive nature of Italy itself... and Francesco, I could see Francesco, and for the first time in a long time, I could feel myself.
This was worth leaving my intelligence behind and trusting Francesco. It was worth the risk of not knowing what would come next. It was worth being with a man I didn’t know in a park I didn’t know my way home from. This was the best possible day I could have in Rome.
(A few minutes later we were seated on a bench and Francesco was asking me to give him a hand job in the dark, quiet park, so the romance of the evening had worn off, but that didn’t matter. I was satisfied with my 24 hours in this city.)
I was ready to go home now. Although Francesco tried to convince me a few more times to come home with him for the evening as he walked me back to the very spot where we met for our date, I declined his requests, gave him a kiss goodnight, and walked my way home with a full heart and satisfied traveling soul.