I was alone, and yet I wasn’t.
Two of my friends had just walked past, their heads stuck in a map, oblivious to their surroundings, and I liked it. I liked it that they hadn’t noticed me at all.
It was swarming with people outside the Uffizi Gallery. School children were milling about near the entrance, shouting, laughing and for some strange reason, blowing whistles at each other.
For a split second, I almost called out to my friends then in the next split second I thought, You know what, don’t. Stuff that. I want to be alone.
On our second day in Florence, my friends and I split up while visiting the Uffizi Gallery. I was sitting near the outdoor exhibits when I saw them.
I watched as they walked, then stopped, then walked again, all the time looking at their map. Where on earth are they headed for? Florence isn’t a large city, I thought, and manageable without a map as long as you remember directions and street names.
I saw them walk a bit more and stop to discuss something. I felt like a voyeur, observing them from afar and not wanting to be seen. At that moment I truly wanted to be alone. I might have come to Italy with friends, but surely that didn’t mean I had to be with them all the time?
A few days later, we took the train to Rome.
I woke up early one morning and decided that I would go out by myself. It was March, the start of spring. Not cold, but chilly enough for someone to want to stay cocooned in bed, which is what the rest did while I showered, got dressed and snuck out.
I have a weakness for old, crumbling ruins, so I made my way to the Roman Forum, once the legislative centre of Rome, and the Palatine Hill, the site of the Flavian palace. In 69AD, the palace was the home of Vespasian, the emperor who ordered the construction of the world-famous Colosseum.
When I reached the top of the Palatine Hill, I looked for a spot where I could look at the Circus Maximus below.
I sat down on a rock and took out a bottle of acqua minerale and a sandwich. It was only when I was halfway through the sandwich that I realised I wasn’t alone.
A couple was lying on the grass some ten feet away. The man and woman were on their sides facing each other, whispering and laughing quietly and holding hands. It was a pretty sight- here and there in the grass they lay on were white daisies which swayed gently in the breeze.
I watched them for a few minutes. I couldn’t tell if they knew I was there; they seemed to be totally preoccupied with each other.
Like that day in Florence, I wasn’t exactly alone and neither were they but in a way this was solitude, and we were happy.
I looked at the Circus Maximus below. In the ancient stadium where chariots used to race thousands of years ago, a lone man was running with his dog.
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