I can’t adequately put into words why I love Rome the way I do. The city is a series of contradictions. It doesn’t mesh with the things I usually am in life; rational, pragmatic, largely drama-free, and often in a hurry. Rome is none of those things. This city is messy, loud, and dirty. It is history piled on top of more history, and it tries to account for it in different ways, or sometimes, not at all. No one is in a hurry (except every Roman driver!), Italian time is a real phenomenon, and from the traffic to stores closing in the afternoons, very little makes sense to those of us who appreciate the orderliness and practicality of daily life elsewhere in the world.
However, the infuriating and wonderful thing about Rome is that for every event, person, or thing that frustrates me to no end, there’s another that makes me wish we could all be a little more Italian. Italians truly believe in living ‘la dolce vita’. The sweet life is one that most Italians strive for on the daily. They speak, love, gesture, eat, drink, and live with passion. There are so many words and phrases in Italian that focus on enjoying life; passeggiata (a leisurely evening stroll), meriggiare (to escape the heat of the midday sun by resting in the shade), abbiocco (the drowsiness that follows eating a big meal), il dolce far niente (the sweetness of doing nothing) just to list a few…
A three hour meal is a regular occurrence, and you can enjoy the city by doing everything you’re supposed to as a temporary Roman, or by doing nothing at all. Just being in this city is an experience in itself. You’re always walking through some record of human history whether you realize it or not; imperial history, republican history, art history, literature, modern history, and current events. You’re drinking water straight from the Italian Alps carried by millennia-old aqueducts, and some of the best wine in the world produced only kilometers away. Coffee becomes an art form and the best pasta is made lovingly by someone’s grandma from a family recipe that is older than the United States. The tomatoes just taste better in Rome, and the gelato, obviously, can’t be beat.
Where else in the world can you accidentally happen upon the Pope addressing the people of the world, walk past art and through buildings produced by the masters of the Renaissance, see one of the modern wonders of the world, or see none of the above, and still feel the weight, import, chaos, and passion of a city?
So, if you’re fortunate enough to find yourself in Rome, indulge in an overpriced Aperol spritz of a café all’aperto at a restaurant in one of Rome’s many piazzas where people watching is more than a hobby, enjoy some cacio e pepe, and revel in la dolce vita.
On Its 2770th birthday, this is my love letter to Rome. It’s one I think I’ll be adding to for quite a while. Rome keeps pulling me back in a way no other city can.
After all, non basta una vita: one lifetime is not enough.