With less than two weeks left in Rome, it’s time to reflect on my last month and a half or so in this city. It took me awhile, but it’s official: I have fallen in love with Rome. It wasn’t a whirlwind romance, and it certainly wasn’t love at first sight, it was more like a gradual appreciation, which led to a comfortable friendship, which one day, unexpectedly, blossomed into love.
I remember when it happened. My friend from Switzerland was visiting me, it was a Sunday night, we had walked around Rome all day and were exhausted. Night had fallen and we were wandering the streets until we came to Piazza Navona. With heavy feet, we sat down on a bench and listened to a wonderful mix of the fountains and street musicians. Looking up at the sky, listening to the music, and feeling the warm October breeze, it hit me, I love this city.
Just a couple weeks ago I wrote about how I had mixed feelings about leaving Rome, but now those feelings have totally changed, I want to stay in Rome. The thought of leaving makes my heart ache (not to mention my taste buds which have grown quite accustomed to pasta, pizza, nutella crepes, and all manner of gelato). It took me awhile, but I finally feel like I have a routine down, I know the city, and the city knows me, we’ve shared some amazing memories, and I’m just not ready for this relationship to be over. There is still so much I want to do! I have not even learned Italian yet! It just cannot be over. The only thought that comforts me is that I will see my family when I get home, whom I have missed dearly these last three months, but other than that I am not ready to leave.
I know that I have to go home. Visa regulations require it, and my bank account requires it, but right now, all I can think about is Rome, and not wanting to leave. So, let me share with you how I fell in love with this city. Maybe by looking back at all the good, I can feel better about letting go.
Rome and I first met back in the summer of 2008. And I quite liked the city. It was my first time traveling in Europe, and I was in a huge group of high schoolers. We saw the Colosseum, and the Spanish steps, ate the customary pizza and gelato, and bought way too many touristy trinkets. I left Rome in 2008 supremely happy. Now, looking back, I didn’t even know Rome. A bus spit my fellow travelers and me out into sporadic locations around the city. I was like a hamster, confined to a small cage, with a limited view. Yes, I was in Rome in 2008, but I wasn’t in Rome, at least not how I know it today.
And then in 2014 I was back. Thanks in part (I believe) to taking my left hand over my left shoulder and throwing some coins into the Trevi Fountain in 2008 (doing so guarantees your return to Rome and good luck).
Right now I live in the garden district of Rome, which is halfway between the center of the city and the sea. This is one reason why I believe it took me so long to fall in love with Rome. When I travel, my favorite thing to do is just wander around a city, taking long walks, stopping and sitting in a cafe, wandering into shops, sampling food in some hidden hole in the wall. The garden district is beautiful, but it is not in the city center, think of the garden district as a suburb. I have to drive 20 minutes to the furthest metro from the center of the city, and then spend another 20 minutes on the metro getting to where I want to go. This is annoying.
Another reason it took me awhile to love Rome, was the fact that I work, which means I have a schedule, and responsibilities. Yuck. I could not spend all day in the city during the week because I had to make it home to take care of two adorable Italian boys, and drive them around to all of their activities. Trips to the city were reserved for weekends. My days were pretty boring, I worked out sometimes, went to the mall, laid out by the pool, or went to the beach, sometimes just read. It was boring, I felt like I was missing out.
When I did go into the city it was so much fun. I hung out with my friends, saw the sites, and made wonderful memories. But the days were always long, and I never really got a chance to sit back and really appreciate Rome. And I feel like slowing down is an area that I have to work on when it comes to traveling. My mother is someone who is always on the go, and whenever we visited a new place we went from 6am to 9pm, all day, every day. We saw everything. And I feel like I inherited that traveling style from her, I pack as much as humanly possible into seeing a place because I do not know when or if I will ever be there again and I don’t want to miss anything. I realize, especially now, that running around like a chicken with your head cut off is not going to allow you to really experience the feel of a place. You have to take time to slow down, and really appreciate all there is around you.
That was my key to falling in love with Rome: slowing down. Sure I loved the Colosseum, and the Roman forum. It was cool putting my hand in the mouth of truth, and seeing the Tomb of the Unknown soldier, I loved going to the Vatican and touring different churches.
It was great, it really was. I have amazing memories from those days that I will cherish forever.
And it was great hanging out with my friends.
But you know when I fell in love with Rome? When the guy at my favorite gelato place started remembering my order, when I took a walk with my friend from Denmark by the river and saw all of those amazing trees leaning towards the bank; I fell in love with Rome when I sat on the Spanish steps, basking in the sunshine, and when I sat in Piazza Navona watching the lights in the fountains and listening to the music and the water. Walking around Trastevere one night it hit me, I love this city.
Falling in love is funny. I used to hate Italian men, thinking they are all players (which a lot of them are), but now I enjoy when they call me bella, I like the way they dress, the way they talk, and those hand gestures that they use. The Italian language used to be a reminder of how far from home I was, and now it’s like music. I only know a few words in Italian, but I can nail the singsong cadence of the language. Trastevere used to confuse me with all the narrow streets, but now all I want to do is get lost in that beautiful little square of Rome, my absolute favorite part of the city.
It seems cruel that as soon as I fall in love with Rome I have to leave. My Mom asked me the other day, couldn’t you leave for three months and then return to Rome for another three? Yes, yes I could do that, and I haven’t ruled it out. But there are more places that I want to see. Europe has taken quite a bit of my attention, and I feel like the rest of the world needs some attention from me as well. I also have the desire to help people, doing some kind of volunteer work. I have been so blessed these past three months or so with all of the traveling I have done, I want to give back to the world for taking such good care of me.
So for now Rome, it is goodbye. I still have a week and a half in the city where I want to tour St. Peters Basilica and see a Roma futbol game, plus celebrate my 25th birthday! But when I return home I feel like I will be heading in a different direction. Will return to Rome someday? I certainly hope so. I can’t imagine not seeing this city ever again. But if it is the last time I am in Rome, I will always think of Rome fondly, and be greatful for the time I spent there.