Meet me at the fountain in front of the Pantheon

Often, when I travel overseas, I try to catch up with old friends. Schedules can be difficult to coordinate but there is usually time for a late dinner, especially in Italy. A few weeks ago I had such a chance. My friend is a priest studying Cannon Law at Gregorian University, and I am embarrassed to say I had not seen him in over five years. In fact, we had lost touch to the degree that I emailed him to have dinner in New York not realizing he had long departed for Rome. But sometimes luck shines down upon me: I would be in Rome the following week!

Father asked if I would meet him at 7 at the fountain in front of the Pantheon—easy enough to do (though I jokingly emailed to ask if he ever imagined using that sentence with me!). I try never to be late. In fact, over time I have developed the habit of arriving early. I like that this affords me a few minutes to people watch or explore surrounding areas. Sometimes this habit gets a little exaggerated, though. I took a leisurely walk from my hotel down streets I have often passed and still arrived at the meeting spot a half hour early. It is on those occasions, when I am “wasting time,” that I have discovered some absolute gems.

I picked a cobblestone street leading away from the fountain and made note of a pharmacy that might be useful for forgotten items. There was a coffee shop and a few restaurants. After a while I came to a restaurant with a name I recognized and soon realized it was a place that I had often been urged to try. I stopped to read the menu—it looked particularly good. Now that I knew where it was, I vowed to eat there on my next trip.

Time slipped away and I realized that I was now nearly late! Back I went past the shops and restaurants, up the cobblestoned street. I arrived at the Piazza della Rotonda with seconds to spare. Father was standing exactly where he said he would be—at the fountain in front of the Pantheon.  Knowing to defer to a local on where to eat—and after a few laughs and some brief catching up—I asked him to lead the way. I followed him back past the pharmacy, by the coffee shop where I gave a friendly nod to the barista on break, and up that cobblestone street to the now familiar restaurant that, not so long ago, I had made a vow to try.