The scent of ylang ylang filled the air, knocking me over with its sweetness.
I looked up from the map I was following to stop and smell the flowers, then to see the columns, and to smile at the bright blue sky.
A few blocks later, I found my hotel, dropped my backpack and crossed the street to breathe in that sea air.
Hello Bella Italia.
Big sighs of relief.
A couple of hours earlier I had landed in Rome, alone on Mother’s Day and wandering around the taxi line trying to figure out how to get fifteen minutes away for less than the standard 48 euro airport taxi rate.
“Are you sure there’s not another way to Ostia?” I asked the man at the taxi line again.
He shrugged his shoulders.
After a few seconds of awkward dead air between us, he said,
“I mean, I guess maybe you can take this blue bus, but probably it’s already gone.”
He waved his hand in a suspiciously unspecific direction.
“Ok thank you.”
I turned around and wandered along the buses, showing the drivers the point on the map I was trying to reach.
Soon, the driver of a bus that was in fact blue, indicated that yes, this bus would go to Ostia. But I needed to go back inside the airport to the Tobacco Shop to buy a ticket.
“Ok, please don’t leave me,” I pleaded.
Five minutes and 1,30 euro later I was boarding the bus, sweaty and grateful that the taxi man had spared me from spending 48 euros to go about five miles.
I was meeting my sister in Italy to go on a retreat together in Tuscany. I was attending as the photographer, so I was dragging her along for some sister time and her first visit to one of the loveliest countries on earth…Italia.
But only one direct flight from Stuttgart meant I had missed a shuttle and a train to the area I needed to reach. Since Anna was flying in the next morning, I booked a room by the sea near the airport and planned to embrace an evening to myself until she showed up in the rental car the next day.
An evening all to myself. A minute to walk, to write, to enjoy my own company.
Happy Mother’s Day to me.
I walked up and down the beach, stopping to pick up shells and bits of sea glass.
I bought a box of breaded seafood and sat on a bench eating as the sun went down.
I watched swing dancers in the square.
I watched sunburned families pack up after a weekend on the beach.
I watched life guards fold down umbrellas and rake the sand back into flat rows.
After the sun went down, I went back to my room and wrote in my journal.
I sat on a terrace with a strand of beads in my hand and slowly repeated phrases I’m trying to memorize.
I enjoyed just being.
When I woke up the next morning, I read these words in Jesus Calling, a devotional I read often, for I love the way it is written like a love letter from Jesus to me:
Spending time alone with Me is essential for your well-being. It is not a luxury or an option; it is a necessity. Therefore, do not feel guilty about taking time to be with Me.
I smiled as I ate my breakfast. Praying and writing and not feeling guilty for taking a minute to be alone by the sea on Mother’s Day.
Then I hurried out for one more galavant up and down the beach before my sister pulled up in the Fiat she rented for the week.
Soon enough the adventures of our time together in Italy would begin, but first a moment to myself.
If you ever find yourself flying in or out of Rome, I can highly recommend Ostia as a (literal) breath of fresh air before the deep dive of driving through Tuscany or sightseeing in Italy’s great cities.