The Inside Story from Italian Wine Merchants

Get Lost

Posted on | August 29, 2011 | Written by Janice Cable | No Comments

For those of us accustomed to modern cities with modern grids, Italy poses a challenge to our very essences. We New Yorkers have a sense of direction that’s nigh unto inherent. The Bronx is up; the Battery’s down; the trains run in a hole in the ground; New York, New York, it’s a mathematical town. As long as you’re not in the very old—and relatively small—portions of the city, everything runs on perpendicular angles. It makes life and navigation easy.

One thing about Italy: it’s not a grid. It’s insane troll logic. And the only thing you can do is to let go of your Gothamite grid and get good and lost. It’s a beautiful thing, really. I got lost in Genova, Milano, Venezia and Roma, and I cannot recommend it highly enough. I even gotten lost in Bolgheri, but that’s so small there’s hardly any thrill in it.

You see, when you’re walking around in cities that are older than old, you are walking around in a city that’s cooler than cool. Every time you turn a corner, you find something new and by “something new,” I mean something old. It’s a crazy, gorgeous, wacky beautiful world, this smashing of chronology, and it’s mind-blowing.

In Rome, I spent five hours walking around  with not much more to go on than a small map and a smaller Italian vocabulary. I saw the old city of Rome; I saw the Coliseum. I saw how Romans use Circo Massimo as a dog run. I saw graffiti old and new. I took pictures of Roman “centurions” smoking. I saw ruins and ruins and ruins. I saw many ruins, all of them wondrous. I saw stores upon stores filled with things that I would buy had I all the money in the world.

At some point, I walked out of a church and a girl selling tickets to the opera saw me. She sold me a ticket. Later that night, I saw La Traviata at the only Episcopalian church in Roma. I’ve no idea how I got to that piazza where this woman found me. I was lost.

I stumbled my way to the Trevi Fountain, and while I was there, I saw a tiny plaque advertising the Museum of Keats, Shelley and Byron. I saw the bed where John Keats died. I saw the view out of Keats’ window, and it was a very good view, indeed. I saw museums and churches I couldn’t begin to name, and I walked down tiny little alleys. I saw a pizza place (“non focaccia,” its sign said quite pointedly) filled with Italians. In my tiny vocabulary, I bought pizza. I stood outside with a bunch of hungry Italians, all of us clutching in our hands the best pizza, unassumingly wrapped in brown paper, eating almost silently. I’ve said it before: food is serious business in Italy.

I walked some more; I crossed a bridge. I sat down on the steps of something and read my tiny map, realized I was definitely on the wrong side of the river, and I crossed back. I got, in short, good and lost. And when I felt as if I could get no more lost, I bellied up to a coffee bar and asked where to find a taxi. I drank my espresso, thanked the barrista, wandered around the corner, saw some important gleaming white building thronged with people on one side, ruins on the other, and I hopped a cab.

As it turns out, I wasn’t that lost. I was only about seven minutes away from my hotel. Amazing, that.

I still maintain the best thing you can do is to go out and get lost. You find yourself when you’re lost. Everywhere you go, there you are.

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