The first couple of weeks here I would get up early to go for a run through the city. Since the temperature here has been nothing short of sweltering, I’ve found that a six a.m. run is essential in order for me to make it back before my face drips off and cooks on the sidewalk (I learned this the hard way; I witnessed a broken egg frying on the road on my first outing). Each night, I would find a place to run on Google Maps, which in itself is its own task. Should I run to the Pantheon or the Colosseum? Sometimes I would find myself so overwhelmed by the insane reality of running to such monuments that I would close my eyes and point to a place on the map. Saint Peter’s Basilica? Works for me.
I have found that I am terrible at retaining the map in my head when I am actually on my run, so I have gotten lost a few times. I can usually find the larger and more frequented monuments, however I am easily confused in the back streets of Rome when looking for lesser known sites. But even if I do get lost, I am still caught up in the fact that I can pick out a place that I have seen before in text books and lectures and run to it. I describe myself as running, but a giddy skipping motion is more accurate. I must look insane (another great benefit to running early), but what percentage of the current collegiate population can do this? I make it to my destination about fifty percent of the time, and if you can imagine my enthusiasm for simply running through the streets of Rome, then actually finding the place that I intend to see is similar to planning and then forgetting about my own surprise party. I usually stand on site with a glazed grin on my face, do a little dance, explore, and then head back home. It is the best way to start a day.
Everything changed this week when my roommate Lily showed me her running route. We live in Trastavere, which is about a twenty minute walk from the city center of Rome. In the opposite direction, a residential neighborhood continues up a steep grade. Lily proceeded to take me up this hill, winding past quiet local bars and grand overlooks on the city. About a mile away, she led me to the entrance of a park wedged between two lanes of traffic. We stepped through a rose colored arch and entered a runner’s Narnia. Everyone must come here when they stay in Rome. The sun filters through tall trees and highlights a Nike-trodden trail. Half a mile down the path, a beautiful villa emerges and marks the starting point for miles of trails through wooded fields. Italians, not tourists, are everywhere. Upon this sacred ground, millions of kilograms of pasta are being burnt off as we speak. The park has quickly become my favorite place to go after a full day of sketching facades in the city. Running amongst the other runners also saved my form; I am forced to keep the hopping, skipping, and jumping to a minimum in order to retain my Italian disguise. If, however, Chariots of Fire happens to appear on my playlist, I can’t make any promises.