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Quiet morning hours are the best time to see Rome in the summertime. (Deena Douara/The Globe and Mail)
Quiet morning hours are the best time to see Rome in the summertime. (Deena Douara/The Globe and Mail)

I was happy wandering Rome alone, and then I made a friend Add to ...

Sometimes things don’t go as planned – and those moments often make for the best stories. Tripping columns offer readers a chance to share their wild adventures.

I wake up from the heat at 5:13 in a hostel bunk bed in Rome. I love photographing these isolating dawn hours and so, against all instinct and habit, I get dressed and hurriedly make my way out. For some time, I am the only person on Via Cavour, just up the street from the Coliseum. Two suited men pass and their muted conversation is the only fleeting disruption.

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I trace the alleys and a couple times spot the same guy sporting a backpack and cap. One of us asked for directions and the ensuing conversation continued for hours as we explored the city’s winding routes and junctions together.

Gaga was from Georgia – the country. A doctoral student studying in Genoa, he had business at the consulate and had arrived that morning. He was funny and sweet and platonic and comfortable. We exchanged cultural observations over cappuccino alongside rushed businessmen starting their day. “The economy is getting so bad in Georgia,” he joked, “that women are marrying for love.”

And then it was time for him to get to the consulate, and for me to catch my museum appointment.

Four days I’d eaten dinner alone. Found myself lost and lonely and unsure of how to get back late into the night, amid throngs of partying youths and smartly dressed Italians. Struggled to communicate where I was headed, and struggled to remember the myriad turns needed to get there. But this night would be different because Gaga and I were meeting again. We settled on a reasonable time – first 4:00, then 4:30. At the subway exit of a station neither of us knew well.

But for now I trek over to the MAXXI, where I meet a professor whose sons brag to me about their mom’s incredible stroke recovery. Then to the Parco della Musica, which is unpolished and un-enterable so I instead nap on a bench. (Yes, I did that.) And then I’m guided to the whimsical Quartiere Coppede neighbourhood with its frog fountain and eclectic architecture. I can’t wait, though, to sit and enjoy an evening with a friend whom I can describe my day to over shared appetizers and a cheese-infused meal.

I get to the station early. So I browse and I groom until I realize I’m now 7 minutes late. It’s 4:37. And there are three exits. I rotate quickly amongst them, hoping no one’s observed the circuit. After a while it occurs to me he may have gone at 4:00, despite our plan change. Still, I do this for some time, somehow desperate for company after being contently solitary.

Finally, sad, sticky and stressed, I resign myself to more solitary wanderings and anxious evenings.

I do go out for dinner that night, a busy restaurant near my hostel, and after telling diners sitting inches away from me that I’d be inadvertently eavesdropping, I am invited to join and I talk about my day over a cheese-infused meal.

Eventually, but far too late, I find an e-mail for Gaga using clues amassed through the day. He confirms what I’d suspected, that he had stuck to the 4:00 plan. He writes back regretfully: “Who knows, we could [have] become good friends.”

 

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