After settling into my new apartment in Rome, my housemates and I decided to hit the town. One of my roommates met a couple of girls at the grocery store down the street from our place, so we invited them over before going out. They showed up at the lobby of our apartment, a few too many drinks deep and two hours late. The duo disjointedly explained there was a cab coming to take us to “a club called something like ‘hari-kari.’ ”
Three of us were not convinced that getting into a mysterious cab with a man speaking a language we could not understand en route to a club with a name suggesting it could lead to ceremonial disembowelment was the best idea. So we decided to walk to the club dubbed Shari Vari.
We set out into the crisp night air. The 30-minute walk to the club felt quick as I explored my new city for the first time. We reached the Ponte Sisto footbridge with an incredible view of the Fiume Tevere — Tiber River — with the Vatican glowing in the distance. We strolled through curved streets lined with tall multicolored buildings and reached an alleyway with strands of light draped across the top. The street was packed with well-dressed 20-somethings all headed in the same direction as us. It was around midnight, and a huge crowd had begun to form around the bouncers.
We approached the horde and, upon hearing English, realized it was a mass of Americans. Everyone was pushing toward the front and shouting out desperate things like, “We have eight girls and five guys!” or “We know Alfredo — he told us we could get in!” There wasn’t a chance in hell they were going to let three American guys in, but we swallowed our pride and started trying to convince the bouncers that we were worthy.
After 30 unsuccessful minutes, my friend and I decided that the wait wasn’t worth it. We were in the center of Rome, and I wanted to see something mind-blowing. We looked at a map and realized we were a block away from the Pantheon. We turned a couple corners, and bam — there it was. Just as massive and glorious as I imagined. And how bizarre that one of the best-preserved ancient Roman buildings, originally built in 29 B.C., stood moments away from some sleazy nightclub. The night was still, and there wasn’t a person in site. We then went and saw the Altare della Patria, which put us in eyesight of the ancient Roman Forum, which ultimately led us to wander around the Colosseum at 4 a.m., with the sky a dark royal blue, the ancient marble glowing brightly and no people crowding around the sights. This was the best way I could have imagined being exposed to my new city.
And that’s just it: The city I now like to call my home is bursting with culture, art and history. It is unavoidable and amazing. Even if you intend to go to a trashy nightclub — which you really never should — you will end up surrounded by incredible architecture, monuments and ruin, remnants of the city that began more than two thousand years ago.
I am constantly surrounded by color, beauty and inspiration. Every day, I wander the thin winding cobblestone streets in awe and stumble across things I never could have expected. And every day, I appreciate more and more the privilege to constantly be able to see and experience new things.
Michael Drummond is a contributor to The Weekender. Contact him at [email protected]