I survived two nine-hour flights, traffic in Rome, 37 degrees, blisters between my toes, blisters in my heels, water "pressure," 4 a.m. bouts of wakefulness, my shitty camera, a union strike, cobblestones, too-firm mattresses, headaches, aching feet, an aching back, stiff calves, diarrhea, tourists, towels whipped into sandpaper by the warm Venetian wind, mosquito bites, intense sneezing fits and an alternating runny/stuffy nose, rose peddlers, no milk, the erection of scaffolding immediately outside my hotel window, and no rock and roll, anywhere (except for Queen on repeat that one time).
In return for the minor inconveniences that travel invariably brings, I was rewarded with Roman drinking fountains; cobblestones; the motherfucking Colosseum, man; gelato; the Roman Forum (you wanna see ridiculous? shazam); the Ecstasy of St. Teresa; the bones of 4000 dead friars, artfully arranged; the "glory" of the Circus Maximus; statues of lions; plates of meat; Michelangelo's melting face in the Sistine Chapel; the babble and murmur of the Trevi Fountain; dancing Mickey Mouse and splat guys and blue-green lights in the sky; frottage on the bus; discovering Bernini; a cat sanctuary; gelato; a gondola ride under the full moon with my adventurer-love; Peggy Guggenheim's grave, and the grave of all her dogs; vino rosso della casa every day; the rolling marble floors and golden ceilings of St. Mark's Basilica; traghetto crossings; the stone prison cells under the Doge's palace; granite limone; the graves of dead bambinos; glass boobs in Murano and candy-coloured houses in Burano; Roxy's; soaking my weary feet in the jade-green waters of the Grand Canal by moonlight; my first opera; the ticket seller with Tourette's syndrome at the Correr Museum; gelato; the tomb of Galileo (that rascally heretic); Caravaggio's David and Goliath for the second time in my life (how lucky am I?); unexpectedly stumbling across Dante's house; the oversized head and hands of Michelangelo's David; olive groves and cypress trees and umbrella pines and vineyards; the zebra-striped cathedral in Siena, torture museums in San Gimignano, and tourists holding up the tower in Pisa; gelato; Italian children; scooters; bicycles; keyholes; a stroll by the Tiber and dinner in Trastevere; and, finally, always, in any situation, prego.
My own bed, when I finally fell into it, was like clouds, and the contented purring of my cat while she lay wrapped around my head on the pillow was almost as great as more than 2000 years of art and history. The world is an incredible place, from the spectacle and tragedy of Rome to the decaying grandeur of the Grand Canal to the rolling Tuscan hillsides to the simple pleasure of one's own showerhead. Ciao, Italia, and, per favore, don't ever forget to riot on.