[Credit: Expert Vagabond]
I make my way down a narrow street on wobbly cobbles stones. I want to look at my feet to make sure that I don’t trip but I cannot avert my gaze. My eyes dart between Venetian buildings painted in an array of worn out colours. The buildings look old and tired, yet that is their charm. As I turn the corner, I see the Rialto Bridge spanning the Grand Canal. The architecture is breathtaking. The single stone arch span supports a broad rectangular deck carrying two arcades of shops. Underneath the bridge, gondolas float by with each being led by a man in a blue and white striped t-shirt. I feel the heat on my neck and have a huge desire to jump in the canal. I can imagine myself swimming with the mild waves as Italian guards yell at me to get out.
[Credit: The Times]
I am walking on a hiking trail between five coastal towns on the Cinque Terre. I look down at my feet and ask the question: Why did I think that wearing thongs was a smart idea? I pass fellow tourists and hear one of them laughingly say, “Australians” as they stare down at my shoes or lack thereof. I shrug the comment off and refrain from dwelling on my stylistic choices, in order to not take for granted this experience. There is something so beautiful about walking amongst nature, especially in a foreign country where the landscape, flora and fauna differs from what we know. I am amazed by the bright blue colour of the ocean and the way in which it contrasts with the pastel coloured houses that remain scattered on the clifftops. I find a café before entering Corniglia. I sit down and stare at the ocean. To my side, there are bees flying around the flowers that rest near my table. They come close, yet I do not flinch. I am too preoccupied by the view of the Mediterranean Sea.
I am now in Rome staring upwards at the Pantheon. I am speechless. This city is all about history and all I want to do is learn. As I enter the Pantheon, a tour guide tells me that it is the most preserved and influential building of Ancient Rome, as it is a temple dedicated to all the gods. It was built and dedicated between A.D. 118 and 125. I walk inside and notice the dome at the top of the ceiling and the oculus sunlight moving throughout the interior walls. I stand silent and overwhelmed that such a building exists and that I now exist in it today. Walking through the streets of Rome, there is a gelataria on nearly every corner, with numerous pizzerias in between. It is almost impossible not to stop and buy a strawberry gelato. The ice cream melts in my hand as I make my way to the Colosseum. The afternoon sun glistens around and through the holes of the Ancient ruin, making me think. There is something about this city that exudes warmth and feels like home. I can’t quite place my finger on it but I know that it won’t be long before I return.