I’m awake. It’s dark outside—almost dawn. My roommates are still sleeping in their beds. But I can’t let this opportunity pass me by. I quietly tie on my running shoes and tiptoe toward the door.

Slowly I descend the stairs to the front entrance of my hotel. Palo, the doorman, sits sleeping at his post. I wonder for a moment if I should wake him and request that he unlock the door. But I choose not to for fear he will label me as one of those inconsiderate tourists he rants about during the continental breakfasts. Luckily, the door is unlocked. I -quietly step outside.

Immediately the scents of cigarette butts, exhaust, and burnt asphalt strike my senses. Taking a hesitant and deep breath, I look at the narrow, winding streets ahead of me and start to run.

To my left I can see a small gelato shop with a large array of flavors reflecting off the shop’s glass windows. To my right I see African immigrants preparing their markets for the morning rush. What treasures will they sell today, I wonder. Silk ties, a nice pair of shoes, a bracelet?

Farther and farther I run, leaving a trail of mental bread crumbs that will lead me back to my hotel. A clock tower is to the east, a bakery shop is to the west, and just north is my destination. The sun is beginning to peak from behind the buildings. As I run down the narrow sidewalks, I notice hopeful shop owners opening their windows, sweeping their doorsteps, and setting tables. A man with a shaved head and a missing tooth waves at me. His white bakery apron is tainted with red sauce and flour. I am touched by his friendly gesture and continue moving forward.

The sun continues to rise, and in the distance I can see where I’m headed. Looming arches begin to grow with each step I take. Ancient stone becomes more defined as my feet guide me forward. And suddenly I arrive: the Roman Colosseum. It stands tall and supreme. As I cautiously jog my way around the circular base, I notice that a gate is open on the far side. I’ve already made it this far, I say to myself, so why not run a full lap? Around and around I go, one lap after another. Before I know it, I’ve run a whole mile around the exterior of the Colosseum. As I continue moving, I begin imagining ancient stories. That’s the column with the chipped foliage on top and cracked base . . . That must be the place where Romans forced the gladiators to enter, all armored and set for battle . . .

The sun has officially risen, and the streets of Rome are slowly filling with businessmen and women and school children. It’s time for me to head back and start my day like all the other students: books in hand, backpack in place, and ready to focus on the day’s lectures.

—Katie Nelson