The first thing that strikes me is the fresh morning air when I leave the plane. It's almost cold enough to get my fleece out, almost. The luggage takes a long time, but everything is there undamaged eventually. I buy my first cappuccino and make my way to the train. I drive past familiar old and rundown terra cotta multistory houses that make up most of the Roman dwellings. On the last chilly days before the summer heat hits, I'm lucky enough to see Rome at its best. We are old friends.
For the first couple of days, I visit a friend of mine, who has become a mum while I galavanted around the world. I indulge in my first gelato and enjoy an excellent mozzarella di buffola with delicious olive oil. Excellence is simple in Italy. That never fails to impress me. With my head in the clouds, I wander through the streets around the Colosseo and listen to conversations, amused by the American tourists who struggle without Italian knowledge. Rome can be terribly fatiguing if you want to get through all the must-sees in one day. Joy comes, especially when waiting and watching.
My friend takes me to the cemeterio acatolico where Shelley and Keats, as well as numerous other non-believers or people of different faiths, have found their final resting place. As I enter the walled cemetery, I enter a whole new climate, a new world of smells. The lavender flowers stand in purple splendour. The walls hold the cold air and shield us from the smells and sounds of the traffic axis on the other side of the wall. It's a timeless place. Forever one of my favourites.
Soon after, I get on the train that brings me out of the city. My destination is a volcanic lake where my family is waiting for me. I'm looking forward to seeing them again. It's quiet in Bolsena, a dreamy and touristic village on the outskirts of the Lazio region, where Lazio and Tuscany touch. The house is big enough for us all, and thus the reunion is quiet and relaxed. We are munching away on peaches and drink red wine. Everyone makes an effort, nobody argues or fights. It's rare in my family. We have all grown up a little bit.
What impresses me most is how alien the familiar faces are at the beginning. Each lost or gained kilo lies like a mask on the familiar features. That surprises me. I quickly forget how pretty my siblings are when I'm not looking at them. Absence is good. After a few hours, I get used to the changed faces, and it only takes days before I roll my eyes for the first time. It's family after all.
It's nice to bob along with my nephews and go on adventures in the water. The lake is mostly smooth and reflects everything the sky has to offer. My older nephew learns to swim. The little one overcomes his fear of fish. We, six adults, seem to be just enough to catch the energies of the two boys. From time to time, we drag them into the car and go on a discovery hunt. With a lot of patience, they allow us to visit the Castello Ruspoli. It's a jewel of a fortress with a renaissance garden and a tour through the castle by the landlord. Less crowded than the papal contemporaries (Villa Farnese) and firmly anchored in a small village surrounded by hazel plantations. That's how Italy makes sense to me.
At the end of the two weeks, my friend H. comes over for a spontaneous visit with her five-month-old baby. I have decided not to go to Germany. It's too much mental stress, and I'm fine as long as I'm not confronted with home. I'm looking forward to seeing my friend. I'm so lucky that people visit me on my whimsical journey. The last time she came, I was in Helsinki. As is the case with best friends, she comes with hands full of Haribo and makes me eternally happy. Okay, within thirty minutes the smurf pack is empty, but the glow of that pack still lingers weeks after it disappeared in my stomach...
When I wander around Rome with her four days later (her first time), before she flys back to Cologne and I back to Bangkok, and while my family finds their way home to Germany in an eighteen-hour car ride, I'm full to the brim with familiarity. It's incredibly important to check-in from time to time what is going on at home, but in the end, everyone lives their lives. A child is born here and another there, one buys a dog, the other a house or a car, but the important things don't change. Everyone does their thing, just like me.
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