Both pics were taken in Roma, the top one in 1996, and the second almost exactly 11 years later. That’s me, the blonde with the haircut copied straight from Kelly off Beverly Hills 90210, and the enormously unflattering high-waisted Levis 501’s (why the hell were they so popular?). The glam brunette who doesn’t appear to have aged a day in a decade, is my best friend, and cousin Bronny.
At the time of the first trip we’d been cruelly parted by the Tasman Sea – she’d moved to Sydney while I still lived in Wellington, New Zealand. We were 22, and 23 respectively, and this was our first big overseas trip. We went through Kenya, Zimbabwe, Johannesburg, and Egypt, before landing in Rome, where we both instantly fell in love with the Italian capital.
What made it even more special was that two other great friends, my other cousin Leon, and my bestest Kiwi buddy Tania, also just happened to be in Europe at the same time, and we all managed to meet up for one Sambucca-drenched, menthol cigarette-filled night in the Piazza Navona.
At some indistinguishable point in the night we nabbed these three passing Carabinieri for a pic. Two things strike me about this shot today. The first is that I’ve got my arm casually looped just inches from what I’m pretty sure is an M12 submachine gun.
The second is that I’m still clutching the Coruba rum and coke I’d snuck out from the previous bar. (Sneaking drinks out used to be my party trick – I’d mastered the art of tucking it under my armpit, so I didn’t waste a single moment of drinking time by walking between the bars without a beverage.)
The night, perhaps unsurprisingly, ended with me being tipped backwards into a fountain by Leon, and dragged out by the police. But that’s another story.
Bronny and I swore to go back to Rome again, and in 2007, we did. By now we lived half a world away from each other – her still in Sydney, and me now in London. This was to be our last ‘hurrah’ before settling down to the grown-up reality of mortgages, and relationships, and children.
To our delight Rome was just as magical as we remembered. So we decided to recreate that iconic photo from our youth. (Bizarrely the fellow on the top left, actually looks remarkably like the guy on the right in the second pic… but it couldn’t be… could it??)
That night happened to coincide with ‘Notte di Bianco’ when the whole city stays up all night partying and dancing. We managed to last until 5am (which I’m still quite impressed about) before staggering back to our hotel.
I still clearly remember the words of a young traveller we got chatting too earlier in the night, who was about the same age as we’d been on our first trip.
‘I think it’s great that you guys are still travelling at your age,’ he told us enthusiastically.
Three years later, I’m still trying to work out if that’s a compliment, or not!!