Sunday, September 27, 2015

When in Rome, transform your perspective

Char and I have some crazy ideas when it comes to doing stuff for fun, and the three days we spent in Rome with her parents were no exception. (Here it is.) 

Question: What do you get when you drop two aspiring endurance athletes into the middle of ancient Rome?

Down the not-so-deserted streets of Rome we go!
Answer: An uncontrollable urge to recreate Abebe Bikila’s 1960 marathon victory.

Ok, so that wasn’t going to happen, but we did go for a run.

We’d spent the previous day walking some of the oldest and most renowned historical sites in Rome. Everywhere we went the streets were crowded with like-minded visitors and after a while it became routine to round a corner and see something ancient, snap some photos, and move on to the next one. The excitement waned, and boredom began to set in.

Maybe we were burned out, maybe we just needed to see the city from a different perspective.

Cheesy grins in front of the Roman Coliseum.
We woke up before sunrise, thinking that the streets would be empty and quiet and perfect for a quick scavenger hunt run past some of the most historic sites from the ancient, classic and renaissance world. Surprise! Cars, taxis, buses, scooters and motorcycles were already zooming along the streets, horns blaring and people bustling to get wherever they needed to be at 530 in the morning.

Double-checking directions on the map at Piazza Navona.

No worries, we padded off along the mixture of concrete and stone paved roads and sidewalks to the sites on our list that included Santa Maria Maggiore, the Coliseum, a huge memorial to Vittorio Emmanuelle II, Piazza Navona, the Fiume Tevere (Tiber River), Castello Sant’Angelo. (Ok, it was in the background when we got to the river, but come on! We were running out of time for breakfast!) We finished off the run with a sprint (sort of) up the Spanish Steps and drank in the view across the rooftops of Rome. In the distance, Saint Peter’s Basilica barely reached into the early morning rays of sunshine. (Later that day, we’d fully tour the Vatican museums, Sistine Chapel and St. Peters, but it was a bit too far for our tight timeline that morning.)

Even with the early morning rush hour of traffic, the historical sites usually crawling with tourists were almost entirely empty leaving us free to appreciate them without the usual hectic multicultural fray. And being up early enough to watch the sun slowly illuminate the city, to watch the cloud of darkness peeled back to reveal aging stone, marble, and brick, was worth it.

Take the time, sacrifice a little comfort, and appreciate what’s around you like you’ve never seen it before. What you see and what you learn just might surprise you.

The Tiber River just before sunrise.
This wasn’t our first scavenger hunt run through historical sites. To read about our DC adventure, click here.

Spanish steps and Rome skyline just after sunrise.

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