When in Rome...

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Italy, Day 18

(Spoiler Alert! You might want to start with Day 1 to follow this trip from the start!)

We began our first morning in Rome by immediately pumping pastry into our bodies. While this was not our usual weekend Flying Biscuit breakfast, I was sure there were worse (albeit lower calorie) ways to greet the morning.

Lucky for us, the small pastry shop we found online was owned by an Austrian trained pastry chef and only a few minutes walk away. We ordered our treats to go and enojyed them on the steps along the via del Teatro di Marcello (I'm still not really sure how to work street names into a proper sentence so yeah, just go with me on this one...)

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After breakfast we forced ourselves to get dressed for a run. Like usual, we set out for the nearest bridge to guide our route. We were only a block from the Tiber River so we jogged down a stairway and ran along its bank.

Legend has it that Rome's founders, the twin brothers Romulus and Remus, were abandoned on the shores of the Tiber, where they were eventually rescued and raised by a she-wolf. Anyone else remember this interesting Roman tidbit from Art History class? Anyone?

The Altare della Patria also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or "Il Vittoriano" is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy.

The Altare della Patria also known as the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II or "Il Vittoriano" is a monument built in honour of Victor Emmanuel, the first king of a unified Italy, located in Rome, Italy.

We were still trying to warm up to Rome when Zan saw what he declared was a human turd on one of the steps. I insisted it was surely the work of a large { ahem } dog — mind you, not that we'd seen a dog weighing more than 15 pounds since we arrived in Italy... perhaps the aforementioned creature was still haunting the place?

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After the run and a shower, I was moving slower than ever. Exhausted from almost three weeks on the go, we missed our desired lunch spot and settled for our first "touristy" meal of the trip. Surprisingly, the service and the food were both really good. 

After lunch we headed back to our apartment to crash, resting on the classic "When in Rome" mantra as we jaywalked across the street, through six lanes of rushing traffic, like crazy people... 

Author's Note: We initially planned this trip a few years back and contacted a friend of the Maddox family, Stéphane, who lived in Rome. Zan's family hosted Stéfane when he arrived in the States as a 17 year old high school exchange student from France. Though he stayed with them for almost a year, the two had not seen each other for 25 years. We were hoping to catch up with him this trip.

Author's Note to Self: I can't believe I am are married to a guy old enough to have a high school friendship from 25 years ago. I'm glad I am not super old like him. Oh merda! Wait. Is life really going by that quickly?

Restored after the travel coma, we got dressed for dinner. A quick 15 minute walk through the heart of the city, within epic view of the Coliseum, and we were there. We rang the doorbell at 7pm and were warmly greeted by Stéphane. It was surreal watching him and Zan reunite after all these years.

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Upstairs, we met his wife Elodie, teenage sons Thomas and Marc, and their daughter Claudia, the youngest. Stéphane prepared a scrumptious dinner including caprese salad, pan roasted duck and mashed potatoes that we savored in their private garden.

The evening passed quickly as we talked and ate and I could see Zan grow more at ease with Rome by the minute. I was still trying to process sitting across the table from an all-grown-up Stéphane and his French speaking family in the middle, quite literally, of Rome, Italy.

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The family spoke French with one another but we discovered that the children, with varying levels of comfort, also spoke Italian, English, German, Spanish and some Latin. Come on America, I mean really? To top off the multi-lingual evening, Elodie gave us a children's book that she wrote about Rome to help us find our way around the city. Of course, the book was written in French, and I was fairly certain my brain would explode if I attempted to read it after almost three weeks of strenuous Italian immersion.

We were also tickled to find out that Stéphane, with all that he had going on as a father of three and University instructor, had made some time to entertain our "Grand Tour" of his adopted country as he followed our blog.

It was late when we finally decided to pull ourselves away from our gracious hosts. As the trip had become more than a collection of historical buildings or charming vistas,  the evening's dinner was another perfect reminder that the best things in life were enjoyed with the right people.

Stéphane walked us down the street, pointing to proper historical remnants as he guided us back toward our apartment. It occurred to me as we walked that there were really two kinds of history surrounding us that night...

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The first kind of history was always present as we traveled through Italy, most especially in Rome with it's gigantic columns and crumbling ruins strewn about. This history was epic, the kind that marked civilizations and inventions and defined religions... it was extreme and overwhelming but always rewarding to witness.

And then there was the second kind of history — the kind that was at once more personal, but certainly more universal. The kind of history composed of small stories and intimate moments shared by parents and children, lovers and friends... The second kind was the type that defines you as an individual and shapes your view of the world. The kind that transcends time and space and waits for you, virtually untouched by the years.

Rome, to be sure, was this first kind of history for both Zan and I — foreign and confusing, yet somehow terribly compelling.

Reuniting with Stéphane was most surely the second — warm and comforting like a childhood blanket that keeps you safe in the dark.

That night we were lucky enough to be enjoying both kinds of histories, and to be making memories for the next generation to come...