How agreeable it is not to be touring Italy this summer,

wandering her cities and ascending her torrid hilltowns.

How much better to cruise these local, familiar streets,

fully grasping the meaning of every roadsign and billboard

and all the sudden hand gestures of my compatriots.

There are no abbeys here, no crumbling frescoes of famous

domes and there is no need to memorize a succession

of kings or tour the dripping corners of a dungeon.

No need to stand around a sarcophagus, see Napoleon’s

little bed on Elba, or view the bones of a saint under glass.

How much better to command the simple precinct of home

than be dwarfed by pillar, arch, and basilica.

Why hide my head in phrase books and wrinkled maps?

Why feed scenery into a hungry, one-eyes camera

eager to eat the world one monument at a time?

Instead of slouching in a café ignorant of the word for ice,

I will head down to the coffee shop and the waitress

known as Dot. I will slide into the flow of the morning

paper, all language barriers down,

rivers of idiom running freely, eggs over easy on the way.

And after breakfast, I will not have to find someone

willing to photograph me with my arm around the owner.

I will not puzzle over the bill or record in a journal

what I had to eat and how the sun came in the window.

It is enough to climb back into the car

as if it were the great car of English itself

and sounding my loud vernacular horn, speed off

down a road that will never lead to Rome, not even Bologna.

–Billy Collins

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