(Phone-less) Roman Holiday

• Finding the beauty in a lost iPhone •

It was the perfect trip: 10 days in France and Italy with one of my best friends from college. I’d just gotten an iPhone 6 before leaving. Life was good: when we got lost, Apple Maps put us on the right path; Snapchats and Instagrams could be posted instantly; Google could answer any question about a landmark we had.

Then disaster struck.

On an early morning bus to the airport in Paris, I left my new phone behind. After frantically going back through security to see if I had left it at the check-in counter, I resigned to my fate and boarded the plane to Italy, phone-less.

Since my phone was also my camera, on our first morning in Florence, I bought a disposable camera. I now had 25 pictures to take in the next five days. Twenty-five pictures with no guarantee that they would turn out. Twenty-five pictures to capture the memories I wanted to save. I had to actually think carefully about what I wanted a picture of and spend a little extra time composing them. There would be no deleting bad pictures or unlimited storage. There would be no uploading to Instagram, either.

More and more, when we go on holiday, we’re more concerned with getting the most Instagram-worthy snap than enjoying the sights in real time. More people died from using their selfie sticks this year than from shark attacks. These selfie-related deaths were so prevalent that the Russian government released a campaign in hopes of preventing anymore and the European Union considered criminalizing selfies at famous landmarks. While losing my phone was a hassle, it allowed me to be present with the sights of Rome and Florence. I engaged with everything; there was no distraction, no constant need to pull out my phone and take a picture, no texting friends back home and missing sights as I walked along. In the end, I may not have 500 pictures from my five days in Italy, but I do have 25 thoughtful pictures. Twenty-five pictures that I took for me to remember, not to share with everyone else. Here are some of the best.

A view from the way up Giotto’s Bell Tower. One of the hardest parts of transitioning to the disposable was getting used to the viewfinder. A sliver of the grate protecting the window snuck into the picture here, but otherwise, this picture captured the view of Il Duomo and the mountains in the background as we climbed to the top.
It’s better to remember the details than to try to capture them on film. There are so many details on Il Duomo that should be appreciated without attempting to take them home with you.
Piazzale Michelangelo has one of the best views of Florence. Not knowing how it would turn out, I knew I wanted to try to capture this space, not for any social media platform, but for my own memories. Getting the print back, I was pleasantly surprised to be able to see Il Duomo, Ponte Vecchio, and Palazzo Vecchio, along with the beautiful Tuscan landscape in the background.
Fact: Rome is really old. This picture, with the graininess from being on film, could have been taken by any tourist for the past half a century. Rome is humbling in its history, and no symbol of this is more powerful than the Coliseum.
There’s something about the way the disposable camera captured the layers of architecture in this picture that wouldn’t have been done so beautifully on a digital camera. The Roman ruins blend in with the (relatively) modern buildings, while the monument to Victor Emanuel II sticks out in the background. You can just barely see the people on the ground and even on the monument, displaying the magnitude of Roman architecture.
We happened to be on the Spanish Steps at sunset, completely by accident. Life is about these happy coincidences, and that’s why we love our cameras: we try to capture these fortuitous moments. Sometimes it works, many times it doesn’t. The colours changed as the sun continued to set, but instead of trying to get a picture of every minute change, I was able to appreciate it as it happened, and not through a lens (after taking this beauty).
We took the train to a sleepy seaside town on the Mediterranean. No one had phones out, the town was on siesta when we arrived, and it was a nice break from the city. Phones aren’t necessary to enjoy the warmth of the sun on your shoulders or the taste of gelato as you sit with your toes in the sand.
The light in this image shows how peaceful this quiet Mediterranean beach is. The tranquility can be felt through that man fishing on a rock with the light hitting him perfectly.
This is the only image I took at Villa Medici, and I was sad when I realized this after getting the photos back – the pitfall of rationing images. Villa Medici was unparalleled in its beauty, and while this image screams “Rome,” I wish I had pictures of the other parts of the villa, as well.
This is Piazza Navona on our last night before heading back to London. Because I took these on a disposable camera, I wasn’t able to look back through my pictures every night. When I got the developed prints back, I was reminded of things I may have otherwise forgotten. One such instance was stumbling upon this square before we searched for our last meal in Rome. When you’re taking pictures to be printed, rather than a way to show off to friends, the images are a means to reminding yourself of the things you did. While losing my phone was not ideal, in the end, I have pictures that I will look back on that will trigger actual memories of each place rather than a memory of it through a screen. And that almost made losing my iPhone worth it.


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