I remember myself on the train, destined for another hastily chosen town outside of Rome. Three of us gather our things and squash into seats. The glass reflects our eyes dancing over the expanding countryside. Someone is turning a crank to move the scenery forward. It chugs and whirls. We leave behind dusty buildings, sagging with ’70s construction dreams; cloudy poufs of bushes; the nay-saying sheep that lounge about.

Luke is water-coloring the world–the blushing sky, the wet earth. I fall asleep and dream of oceans swimming by. The unintelligible announcer speaks out. We mumble and shake our heads awake. The station is deserted, empty of chattering Italians.

Funicular fun! We ride it to the top. We are rising up, we are there. We cross the street and arrive at the city wall. Look over the edge, smiles all around. Big sighs. A castle and wispy roads evaporating into the hills–hills! rolling like thick laughs over the land. Time to explore.

Down the wrong road, but it’s never wrong, just different. Private flowers, chipped metal gates, zippy cars, tucked houses all on the tip of the mountain. The edge reveals a burst of valley, vibrant and alive.

Town arrives and with it people, shops, signs, cameras, hotels, alleys. The carpenter’s workshop, filled with amber cutting smells. Rounded wooden cups, fitting so well in my hand. Stained glass and leather. Pottery and lace. Cured boar meat and the towering woman butcher. Gelato, gelato.

Lunch on the duomo steps. The cathedral is high, straight backed, and striped–like a zebra, like the fat on bacon. Like the prosciutto in my panino, made by a skinny Italian grandmother. Two beers, two panini, six euro. Grand.

Time to tour the underground caves. Up steps, down steps, down down. The ghost echo of homing pigeons, the hundreds of carved nests. Eerie fake light. A crack in the wall reveals our perch–halfway down a cliff, a cliff that hosts a thousand neon flowers.

Down, down the mountain we go into the setting rays. Empty station, empty train. We fall asleep, head upon shoulder. Back to the dirty twinkle of Rome.