My mother visited Italy a few years back as a part of a 6 week European adventure with two of her best friends to celebrate finishing college. One of the places they visited was the Villa d-Este in a small town called Tivoli, 30 miles outside of Rome. Her pictures looked beautiful, so we added it to our itinerary. Unfortunately, a few days of rain meant that we had to squeeze it in to a half day. We followed the complicated directions and found the right place to meet the bus, but the bus was late (and later, and later). Undeterred, we boarded and prepared for a condensed walk through the gardens. The gardens and fountains were stunning and breathtaking and surreal. A wonderful diversion. We left the gardens with enough time to catch a return bus with some extra time to spare in case the bus was as flexible on their time tables as they had been in the morning. But, we had not taken into account that the return bus would likely pick us up on the opposite side of the street. As we are just opening our lunch of fruit and bread, our bus arrives. We sprint across four lanes of traffic and eye the already full bus that a dozen more people are cramming onto.
We are the end of the line at the doors in the middle of the bus. Dad gets on. Laura and I step onto the bus and make it as far as the second and third stair leading up to the aisle which is already packed full, let alone the seats. Mom eyes the space incredulously. With her half-eaten apple in one hand, she pulls herself into the bus with her other, on the bottom step. As the sardine-packed, standing room only bus jolts forward, the doors close behind her, with my mother still clinging to her apple and trying not to topple into the locals as the bus winds down switchbacks back to Rome. Her eyes are wide opened and all she can do is laugh.