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Lost in Rome (Laughed, Lost, Learned)

Something is really unexplainably exhilarating getting lost in a foreign land. The mixed emotions of panic, anxiety and enchantment coupled with fatigue and tight budget, in some way fires up our sensation. One would say Rome is the hardest to explore even with a map on hand. And the absence could spell either a misadventure or a marvelous escape.

After our guided visit to the magnificent churches in the Vatican, we walked our way to La Soffitta Renovatio where we had a sumptuous lunch. Sitting next to the heads of the company, I recalled my travel buddy “Otep” was missing. It took half an hour before he got in as he, together with his “amiga”, lost their way following our flock. Henceforth, I have decided to stick with him and keep a close distance with the group. After the end of tour, we were transferred to the Spanish Steps.

Our tour guide left us wandering the streets of Trident, the luxury and exclusive shopping centre of the city.

Finding ourselves at the heart of the shopping cult par excellence, we strolled through the nearby streets to discover a tawdrier place. As our clique is capable of splurging, we left them at the base of Piazza di Spagna and intrepidly traversed Via del Babuino on our own.

Intending to discover more of what this place offers, we found ourselves at the heart of Piazza del Poppolo.

As we gazed around, we spotted Museo Leonardo da Vinci.

For 10 euros apiece, we delved into the museum with hopes of finally witnessing da Vinci’s masterpieces. (Read between the lines. Haha ... fail!)

After an hour tour inside, we had a short trip to Basilica Santa Maria del Poppolo. 

Soon after, we passed by a stall owned by a Filipino-speaking Punjabi and bought a bundle of souvenirs at bargain price.

We then headed straight to Via del Corso while laughing our hearts out. Walked each step schmoozing about our “amiga - Sheila” who bought a faux Dolce&Gabbana travel bag offered along the streets of Vatican. It was an hour of irresistible guffawing and heckling coupled by a passing visit to every chapel along the way.

We walked the avenues unmindful of the destination as we were amused by the street entertainers as well.

Nearing the sight of Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II, we realized that we strayed away from our meeting point.

We wandered around the maze of streets asking people for directions along the way. Language then is a challenge as locals scarcely direct us the route. We even tried to backtrack and retrace our steps but it only made things worse. The scattered alleyways and winding side streets seemed endless.

We were puzzled by the undistinguishable similarly-designed old architectures. Rome is a labyrinth. Adding up to history, we got lost in the oldest city in Europe.

While we both accepted our fate, Otep tranquilly led the way eyeing for “kababayans” as I anxiously read through all street signs eyeballing.

Nothing on our way back looked familiar. He spotted a number of “kababayans” who gave a bit of confusing directions. As the sun sets and the twilights shadow turns to grey, we knew that we wasted a lot of time and we’ve been gone long enough for the tour bus to await.

We were so exhausted as we drag our feet to the scheming passageways of Rome. In retrospect, I guess we’ve made a number of wrong turns along the way.

There was no familiar place. We were lost in the middle of Roman mosaic streets. Nonetheless, we savoured each step and turns until eventually met a sympathetic Italian who directed us straight to the view of Piazza Mignanelli . He was God sent, I knew.

Being an hour late, the bus already departed and us two were left staggered.

We surveyed the area for a cab; talked to non-English speaking Italian cabbies. Undeterred, we went on with the queue and showed our hotel card. Alas! This cabbie knows Hotel Bettoja Mediterraneo! Mille Grazie Amigo! We hopped in to the cab once again laughing our hearts out.

Pondering what have just happened, we were thrilled to have navigated the streets of Rome unplanned.

If you’d ask if I regret going against the itinerary, I’d say “NO” and I’d rather do it again. I read somewhere that the only way to see a foreign city is to get lost in it. Next time though, I’ll lose my way earlier and I’d bring a wallet. Ditch the map. Oh yes, the wallet is in the hotel during this whole ordeal.  That adds up to how terrific this journey has been. Should we followed the planned itinerary, we won’t be able to stumble across the scenic streets, visit magnificent chapels, buy cheap souvenirs , enter museums, and speak to “kababayans”; you just never know what is around each corner in Rome.

There is something fulfilling about the impulse of aimless strolling especially when you discover a hidden gem in one place. Being lost actually helped me managed the stress of being somewhere unfamiliar. Delving in to the unknown is quite fun. I found myself immersed in spontaneity and unpredictability. Huge thanks too to my travel buddy, Otep for keeping it cool all throughout. He made the initial panic dissipated and gone astray. Remember he was the first to get lost in Vatican and still got the “positivity” despite the setbacks.  Ottimo lavoro mi amigo!

Back in the hotel ...

Laughed … Lost … Learned. It prolly is one for the books.

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