this is the story of how i unknowingly almost broke into someone’s apartment in the heart of rome.
after kaitlyn flew back to the states, i opted to stay in rome another day. i contacted natalie, a friend of a friend and 20-something english girl living in rome “on holiday” for a few months, working the front desk at a hostel in hopes of learning italian. she sent me directions to her apartment and i showed up with my 100 lb. backpack, looking really put-together, i’m sure (this was only several hours after the lion’s mane wake-up call, mind you). i unpacked some of my things, changed clothes, drank some water (read: a liter or two) and then headed back out into the city with natalie to grab a late lunch. we could have walked there or taken the metro, but natalie recommended we go by bus. as the bus approached our stop, i asked her how many euros i needed to buy a ticket. natalie’s response to this was unbridled laughter. she informed me that in rome, you never buy a ticket – that it would be a waste of money because no one ever checks your ticket and only tourists buy them. let’s all pause for a moment and realize how disastrous this mindset would be in germany or austria, where rules are RULES and if you break them, you die (or something like that). long story short: i bought one when she wasn’t looking.
i asked her how her italian-learning was coming along (her motivation for moving to rome) and she told me it wasn’t coming along well at all; that working at an international youth hostel is the last place you’ll find italian speakers, which makes sense since mostly all international youth speak english. of course, she tells me this and then proceeds to carry on a pretty lengthy conversation with the waiter in italian. i was impressed.
after lunch, natalie had to work a double shift at the hostel, so we parted ways, as she hurriedly gave me instructions back to her apartment that went a little something like this: “okay, so, i won’t get off work until midnight, so here are they keys to my flat, so just take the same bus back in the other direction and then get off at the stop we got on at and walk to the end of the street and then my apartment will be on the left and call me if you need anything and have fun and i’ll see you later tonight and bye!”
i spent the afternoon sight-seeing, shopping, wandering, taking photos, eating gelato and crepes, and being slightly worried that i would have no idea how to get back to natalie’s apartment. turns out, i was right to worry.
around dinner time, i decided to head back to natalie’s place and shower, as i was currently dripping in sweat and felt like the temperature outside was maybe 1,000 degrees. celsius. so i got back on the same bus (and paid for a ticket), going in the opposite direction, got off at the right stop, and walked to the end of the street. the only problem was….no apartments looked distinguishable to me. natalie’s street kind of looked like this and suddenly i couldn’t remember which door was natalie’s. at this point, i had no choice but to walk up and down the street and try natalie’s key in each door. and there were multiple keys on her key ring, so imagine me standing at each door and trying a series of keys for several minutes before anxiously moving on to the next – that’s what you would have seen, had you been a random passerby. (side note: of course my phone chose that moment to go out of service, before i could call natalie and inqure, “WHAT THE EFF!?”).
now, here comes the real conundrum: i finally did match a key with a door and crossed the threshold, breathing a sigh of relief, only to be reminded that natalie’s apartment was one of many overlooking a courtyard (imagine something like this) and i couldn’t remember under which arch to walk. (to tell you the truth, i felt like harry, ron and hermione at the end of the sorcerer’s stone, when they have to riddle their way to their destination by overcoming obstacles both mental and physical, which only made me a little bit happy.) when i had arrived at natalie’s apartment earlier in the day, she had met me at the door to the street and had led the way to her apartment, so i didn’t pay much attention to the arches in the courtyard. half-laughing, half-cringing, i went from door…to door…to door…trying the keys in each one, knowing that, at any point, one of those doors could fly open, leaving me in a pickle as i try to explain why i appear to be breaking into a home that did not belong to me. and in fact, at one point, i attempted to put a key through a key-hole, only to hear loud italian voices booming from the other side of it. i jerked the keys away from the door, turned on my heel and fled the scene, fully aware of how stupidly stupid this failed mission had become.
mad at the world (or maybe just rome), i stormed out of the courtyard and into the street. i walked into the nearest restaurant, seated myself at a table for one and ordered a plate of food, followed by another plate of food, along with the biggest bottle of water on the menu. i read my book, tried to relax, took deep breaths, and finally got my phone to work. i reached natalie on her cell and casually requested the number on the door of her flat. she told me it was number 54 and then asked, “is everything okay? are you finding everything okay?”. i told her, “of course! rome is great! everything is great! this food i’m eating right now is great!”. she assured me she’d be home by midnight and would love to take me out for a drink when she returned, if i was still awake. i told her i would totally try to wait up for her.
….needless to say, the moment i found the right apartment and let myself inside, i was sound asleep within 30 seconds. sorry, natalie -- maybe next time!