Naked and Afraid: Going map-less in Rome

When we asked our brazen and flirtatious waiter what activity was Rome’s best kept secret, he suggested “oh, of course to run through the streets naked!” While I won’t be following his suggestions any time soon, walking the streets I have felt naked in a different way: not having a map in hand. Whether it was because I forgot my map (a frequent occurrence) or because I was feeling bold and challenged myself not to open it, I find myself frequently trying to get from place to place map-less. Translation: I find myself frequently lost.

Yes, this has resulted in frequent thirty minute detours, blisters, and feet sore from navigating the cobblestone. But it has also paid off, allowing me to learn my way around the city faster than I thought possibly for a directionally-challenged human like myself. There have been some embarrassments, such as yesterday, when while walking in circles I passed the same seated couple four times in fifteen minutes, them staring at me like a mad woman. But such mishaps have acquainted me with neighborhoods I would have never learned otherwise.

Moreover, asking strangers for directions has forced me to try a word of Italian and rely on the kindness of strangers. Rome has a way of welcoming you, and many locals take the job into their own hands. When staring, puzzled, at streets signs yesterday, a middle-aged couple noticed my confusion. Without my even asking they offered in broken Italian, “Can we help?” Their hospitality made the city feel less like a jungle and more like a community.

Perhaps best of all, being lost had led me to countless sights I never would have found otherwise. Rather than using guidebooks and maps to find them, in all my aimless ambling they found me. Travel and lifestyle blogger Eleanora Baldwin’s advice for discovering Rome was to “get lost often,” and each new day proves that she was right.

Turns out that walking the streets sans map is not, in fact, all that much like feeling ‘naked and afraid’. There is something simple, peaceful, and gratifying about wandering and seeing what I find, taking the city as it comes.

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One find we happened upon while wandering in desperate search of any cafe where we could attain some water: the beautiful artwork of church and concert hall Chiesa di Santa Caterina dei Funari.

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Rather than seeking the most direct route and following main roads, this quaint side street makes for an unexpected find.

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