Once we found a hostel in Rome we walked to a restaurant across the street. The waiter insisted that we order wine. At first we felt ripped off. Then we realized that is just the way in Italy. We drank the wine and ate our two pasta dishes. I never knew that pasta can taste fresh. Like eating a fruit that is perfectly in season, the pasta tastes fresh. We then had coffee and tiramisu. It started to pour rain and it felt really good to be so close to the hostel. There were women behind Brad sitting at a red checkered table, playing cards, drinking coffee, beer, and wine. We commented on how the entire restaurant felt like a prop. Saying "grazie, bonjouro, and ciao" felt almost phony. We were afraid Rome would be cheesy and too touristy. But these prop like restaurants, phrases, and people were all real. And it was wonderful.
That was the beginning of eating in Rome. We never looked at prices, we only thought about how amazing the food would be. And we were never let down.
We took a side trip to the town of Celano, where Brad's paternal relatives come from.
We ate more delicious food. Eating that ravioli was like making love.
We met more characters. And through the help of google translator found a place to stay.
We sat through a Tuesday evening mass in an old church to stay warm.
There were wooden confessionals and the ceilings were painted. When the mass ended we wandered into a dress shop. The owner told us it was the oldest dress shop in Celano. I splurged on an Italian dress. In my fantasies, Brad's great-grandmother had bought dresses from the same shop.
Once we had returned to Rome we had big plans for our last meal in Italy. At this point, we were really good at scoping out the atmosphere of restaurants. We decided on one with retro decorations, including a motorcycle. Wine, appetizers, pizza, pasta, and desert. We were there for well over two hours and spent about fifty euros. We had done a good job staying within our $50 per day budget for most of the trip. We gave up in Italy and it was all worth it. We got back to the hostel and did our final pack, a little drunk.
We ate chocolate croissants as the sun was rising the following morning. Then we stood in line at the airport with other Americans for a nonstop flight to New York City. I watched a woman eat a hot dog with too much ketchup while she was on a bus to the gate and I wanted to vomit. Brad talked to an eccentric woman with a puppy who, in American fashion, felt no need to keep any secrets about herself. We were going home to unpack our backpacks. On the plane, I noticed the ownership that one does not feel when they have lived out of a backpack for three months. And then there we were in New York City.