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A few years back I wanted to travel to Italy as I was fascinated by its history and the beauty of its art. With the optimism of youth I just booked my flight on Alitalia directly with the airline, and thought to do all my hotels, internal trips and sightseeing once I got there. I was going to travel early October, so definitely winter there. Having an idea that Italian men tend to be over chivalrous where young, single women are concerned, I thought the best deterrent was to cut off my hair to as near a buzz cut as possible. It also made for zero hassle in taking care of my hair. I packed lightly, after all I would be gone just 10 days, and off I went.
All went well with the flight, except after we touched down, all the passengers erupted in applause! I was quite taken aback … didn’t they expect to land safely?? Anyway, after collecting my one piece of luggage I went to find transport to Rome. Standing next to me was an American woman, a few years older than I, who asked if I would like to share a taxi with her into Rome. I agreed and off we went. I wanted to be dropped off at the train station where I was told I would be able to book a hotel.
The station was bustling, people everywhere, noise, train whistles. It was so alive and colorful, I was walking on air. I finally found the office where I booked a room right smash in the centre of town. The idea was that I could walk around and get the feel of Rome through its streets and by rubbing elbows with the people. I got the address of the pension where I had booked my room, and because of the luggage, conceded and took a taxi there.
It was an old building that was probably turned into a pension just lately, because the landlady, on my arrival to register, asked me if I would prefer a room with a toilet, or one with a shower! I opted for the shower. At least if I had to go, I’d be fully clothed, going and coming, but with a shower .. Anyway, I was given a room at the top of the house. It wasn’t too bad, had a view of the tops of the rest of the houses around it, but I wasn’t going to spend any time there except to sleep.
After, putting down my luggage and unpacking my toiletries, I took a shower, changed, and was set to go. Coming down again to what was optimistically called the reception, I asked if there was a travel agency nearby that I could use for my projected internal trips. I was smilingly provided with a map of Rome, one of Italy, and the name, telephone numbers and address of the best agency. It was called C.I.T. But to my astonishment was pronounced “shit”! Despite the name, I thought I’d give it a try, for all I knew their shit might be good (pun intended). But that was for the next day. For the remainder of that first day I just took the map of Rome, marked where the hotel was, and wandered on foot, breathing in all the sights, sounds and smells of the city. I must have eaten something, but I cannot remember what or where. Just before it got really dark, I returned to the hotel, went up to my room and finally, tired but happy, prepared to sleep.
Suddenly there was this extremely bright white light that lit up my whole room, and for two seconds I could not understand what was going on, till a deafening clap of thunder followed. Relief, and fright in one breath. But then excitement took over. I had never witnessed such a ferocious storm before. The rain came down in torrents, the lightning was fascinating, lighting up the whole city beneath me, and the thunder sounded like God was moving some very heavy furniture up there.
To be continued …

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