After a fifteen hour bus journey, comprising of overpriced arancini, substandard pizza, nearly getting stranded dock side, after spending too long exploring the boat & not staying on the bus & very little sleep, we finally arrived in a very glum, cold, rainy Rome. Having made the unfortunate decision to remain in my sandals, upon leaving a warm Sicily, my feet were not appreciating the damp conditions.
Moody, tired, hungry & damp, Kate & I got the metro into town to go & meet Mara. Running late, due to many unfortunate factors & still with my damn bag, which I was quite ready to throw down a flight of stairs & burn, we met up with Mara & her friend & took a stroll to the Trevi Fountain. No matter how many times I have been to Rome & no matter how long it has been between visits, I still stand in awe of this aquatic masterpiece.
Stopping for some much needed gelato, the four of us pulled up a chair & made conversation with the locals for a while. After which, we continued on to the Spanish Steps, for a spot of people watching. I love watching the guys trying to sell cheap toys & roses to unsuspecting tourists. Handing small children rubber blobs to play with, forcing parents to cough up the cash, once they find themselves unable to get the damn things back off the now crying infant. Smart marketing. Then there are the roses. Handing them out to every girl that passes, like they're a free gift & then chasing after them, demanding money, much to the tourist's great confusion. When the girls won't pay & try to return the stems, the scrupulous sellers refuse to accept them back, forcing the tourist to either pay or throw them on the floor & walk away, quickly. You can't deny they've thought through their strategy & in most cases the seller walks away the victor, after pocketing their cash.
Leaving my friends & the hustle of Rome's city centre, I caught the train alone, out to the suburbs, to a town called Monterotondo. Situated ten minutes from the train station, was an agritourism farm, run by a young family of four. Unfortunately, half of this family was made up of infants, a fact of which I was not aware of when arranging to stay. I have never hid my dislike of small people & I can't deny the horror I felt upon being made aware of their existence. Much of my time was spent attempting to avoid them, which was harder than you'd think. Nothing makes me gag more than a small boy grabbing my sleeve, after his hands have been down his pants. I will never get over the smell of pee on my jumper. [shivers]
Another unfortunate aspect to this stop on my trip, was that there was simply not a lot of work for me to do. In two weeks, I spent two days olive harvesting, two days assisting a fence being built, two days working on a synergistic garden & a few days picking open pomegranates. Having been given an apartment to live in, with a very quiet Polish guy, who didn't speak any English & my host family, somewhat leaving me to my own devices, this left me with a lot of free time on my hands. You may be wondering as to what is wrong with this situation, but believe me, time alone is not good for me, not good at all. Too much thinking time can be dangerous with a mind like mine.
With Rome continuing to suffer from a bout of rain & with the temperature having dropped rather severely for the majority of the time, I couldn't even go out for a walk & so, spent the majority of the time, tucked up in my apartment, abusing the free internet, streaming copious amounts of films & TV shows. There were times where I motivated myself just enough to do something useful, like study my Italian & I did start to see an improvement.
Thankfully, one of the few beneficial things on offer, was use of the wellness centre, which included an indoor heated swimming pool, a sauna, a turkish bath & a yoga class twice a week. I made sure to use all the facilities as much as possible, although, was disappointed when I found out I had to wear a swimming cap in the pool. What is it with European countries & their love of swimming caps! Nothing more unflattering than a bit of rubber suctioned onto your head.
On my first visit to the pool, I took my things into the empty changing room, to put my bikini on. It had been a little while since I'd been half naked in public & looking into the changing room mirror, I felt my bottom lip tremble at the sight of myself. I hadn't fully seen myself half naked for some time, & had thus avoided seeing the full impact my new Italian diet had had on my once slender frame.
Bulges of fat had appeared in places they never had before. My once twenty four inch waist was barely visible, having filled out to non-existence. I wrapped myself in a towel & snuck into the, thankfully, empty sauna. Feeling completely sorry for myself, I sat & sobbed & wondered where it had all gone wrong. It's such a pain to be traveling & want to fully experience everything, only to be quashed by feelings of guilt.
A few sessions of yoga, the banishment of bread & the reduction of pasta, soon started to ease my sorrow & self-loathing. Although, I did take to comforting myself with a slice of chocolato fondente every evening…Freshly made & still warm from the restaurant on site, it was hard to ignore the call of delicious sweetness, especially when I was so far away from a supermarket. In fact, all my meals came from the restaurant's kitchen, which, was really quite a treat, although it did make it harder for me to cut down my consumption, when so much good food was on offer to tempt me.
When the end of my time at Monterotondo came, a part of me was sad to say goodbye, but equally, I was looking forward to my next stop; a buddhist monastery, thirty minutes away. I was about to enter into a monastic life, that did not come with the luxury of WIFI or meals after midday. Perhaps two weeks break was needed after all.