We walk past prostitutes smoking in doorways, and rough-looking men whispering in secluded alleys. Their eyes follow us as we pass.
My boyfriend has his phone in his hand for directions. I’m on edge. Perhaps he should put it away. It’s drawing too much attention to us.
We continue walking. The twists and turns of the narrow streets disorient us. My backpack feels heavier by the minute.
The small, faded street signs are no help. Every alley is labelled “Vico della-something,” and the Italian names, when legible, are frustratingly similar and confusing.
How are we supposed to find our way in this maze?
We’ve definitely been going in circles. We keep retracing our steps and rereading the directions our host sent us.
Finally, we call him.
We explain where we are and he gives us the name of a street that leads to his apartment. We turn to ask a prostitute standing nearby where the street is and she points us down a narrow alleyway.
My boyfriend is still on the phone.
Just as I’m beginning to think this is a setup to rob the two backpackers of their iPhones and valuables, we hear loud music coming from the square ahead. We move quickly to investigate.
As we turn into the square, we follow the source of the sound to the highest windows on the opposite side. Opera music is blaring from the open windows, bouncing off the buildings around the little square and down the alleyways.
A slim, middle-aged man appears in the window, beaming. His right hand is holding a phone to his ear, his left is waving down at us energetically.
“CIAO!” he yells for the whole square to hear.
We’ve found our Airbnb.