Rome, before the crowds

Rome

Rome is still asleep. The morning air smells different, untainted as yet by pizza and tourists. A few workmen amble along the fountain, sharing a cigarette and a joke. Their laughter bounces against the old discolored stones before fading away. In the background Neptune stands tall, his muscles perfect, held in tension and plaster. His entourage hangs around him, playing it up in the fresh morning light. I follow their every curve, dent and detail in quick greedy movements.

In an hour everything will change: floating sunflowers, umbrellas and backpacks will flood these streets. Tacky souvenirs will push the fountain in a corner. Vendors will set up their knock offs under the eye of a concerned Madonna. Somewhere in the crowd a wallet will be misplaced; and Rome will be lost in a swirl of clichés.