In the early hours of morning before the sun peaks out from the horizon, the aroma of fresh bread baking wafts up to the third floor and into my room at the Palace Hotel in Senigallia, Italy.  I check my watch, and discover it’s nearly three hours before the alarm will begin its incessant chirping.  

I layer myself up in running paraphernalia and tiptoe out of the small room, trying my best to not wake my roommate.  As I creep down the carpet-lined stairs, avoiding the small, shaky elevator, the scent of an older furnace pumping, fresh flowers, and dust alerts my senses and reminds me of my grandma’s home in Nebraska.  It’s a sent of love and comfort, and for a second I consider returning to my warm bed and enjoying the feeling of home a bit longer.  But the sounds of plates clinking together and muffled chatter from the lobby peek my interest, and I continue down the stairs.  At the front desk Malo, the night porter, greets me. 

“Bounjourno, Megan,” he says as I approach the desk.  He offers me a cup of coffee, and above the gurgling pops of the coffee percolating, he tells me about Senigallian history. The town was briefly famous for being the home of a famous pope in the eighteenth century, Malo tells me. 

He says I should come back and visit in the summertime, because in his opinion Senigallia is the most beautiful then.  This is the first winter the hotel has been open because usually there is not enough business to operate the hotel in the winter.  Malo pours me a thimble-sized cup of dark, rich coffee, and the robust smell opens my eyes a bit wider, as I sip my morning treat. 

As the sky begins to lighten ever so slightly, I anxiously ask Malo for a key to one of the several bikes the hotel has for guest rental, wanting to pedal along the coast as the sunrises.  As I pick up speed along the narrow stretch of sidewalk that lines the sand, leaves of red, gold, and brown rustle in the wake of my bicycle wheels and churn up a fragrance of fresh, crisp fall reminding me of autumn back home in Michigan when trips to the cider mill for spiced doughnuts and cider are a must. 

I pedal along the lapping seacoast, while the rising sun transforms grey blues to brilliant pinks and yellows, until the beauty is so intense that I park my bike and wander onto the beach for a few photos.  The scent of fresh salt water and the repetitive sound of the water crashing on the shore refresh my sleepy mind. 

My watch reminds me to return to the hotel for breakfast and to get ready for rehearsal in the local theatre in the town center.  On the walk into work, I pass a small fruit stand owned by a couple I’ve seen in a local restaurant the night before.  I stop and inhale the scent of fresh clementines and crisp apples, before buying a few for rehearsal snacks. 

The cracks between the cobblestones lining the street leading to the theatre are filled last nights rain, and splash slightly with each step I take.  I climb the stairs to the backstage door, and hear beautiful sounds of the backstage piano reverberating through the theatre as I wipe my feet on a patch of carpet just inside the door.  The theatre owner sometimes practices in the morning, and before rehearsals begin I sit out in one of the red plush cushioned theatre chairs and enjoy a private piano concert. 

The aroma of paint and glue from the carpenters’ work the night before combined with the scent of the wooden stage and dusty curtains will forever remind me of the quiet time before the theatre opens for the day, when the stage is silent and the seats are empty, peacefully awaiting the arrival of the story.

The wait is certainly not long, as performers, crewmembers and staff file in with damp boots and pink cheeks.  Soon the rehearsal is in full swing, and the theatre fills with a scent of sweat and sawdust as further work is done to the set.  During lunch I pass through the crowd of smokers congealed in the smoking area near the door, inhaling the intoxicating fragrance of clove cigarettes. 

A small coalition of our company gather at a small café around the corner from the theatre owned by a dark haired and dark eyed bohemian woman named Laura, who wears stiletto heels each day to work, and, in an attempt to help us adapt to the Italian lifestyle, insists we speak only in Italian while we are in her restaurant.  Her gigantic hamburgers and scrumptious caprese salads have become mainstays in our days here in Senigallia.  And over a brimming cup of hot chocolate with the consistency of pudding, we discuss our plans for the evening. 

We decide to convene at our now regular watering hole, which we have lovingly nicknamed “fire tubes” because of the ornate heating lanterns the restaurant has on the screened in porch.  Kristen loves it for its free appetizers (mainly the salty popcorn), Melissa and Rachel love it for its karaoke, to which they can scream their metal-loving hearts out, and others are big fans of the nearly overflowing cups of chocolate and cream gelato.  Above the strong aroma of mingling colognes, the scent of the coco syrup mingling with the tangy yogurt makes my mouth water.  After an evening of getting “chocolate wasted” we bundle up and make our way back to the palace hotel with slight stomach aches. 

With the door to our balcony ajar so we can fall asleep to the sounds of lapping waves, I lie in bed and think about how quickly this sleepy little town has become home, with all of its familiar scents and friendly faces.  I think I’ll take Malo up on his advice to return in the summer.