Monday, December 3, 2012
My Love Affair with Roma
I have long dreamed of visiting Rome. When I decided to study Latin in high school and continue my classical studies into college, my desire to visit the city became a top priority on my travel checklist. When I came to London for the semester, I knew I just had to visit the Eternal City; and luckily, I was able to make that dream come true. While I expected to love the city and have a wonderful time, I did not expect to fall as deeply in love with it as I did. Only being there for three days, I figured I would see the sights, enjoy my time and then move merrily along back to London. I figured nothing would ever compare to my current home city and I would leave Rome satisfied, but ready to return to London. How wrong I was indeed.
My experience in Rome is not one that can easily be put into words. In order to truly understand the magnificence of the city, one must be able to see the breathtaking architecture and landscape, smell the aroma of fresh bread that welcomes you as you pass the pizzerias, hear the beautiful Italian language echoing down the narrow streets, and taste the Mediterranean flavors that you never even knew existed in such capacity. Every second of my time in Rome was better than anything I've ever experienced. From the moment I walked off the plane I could not wipe the smile off my face nor shake the excitement hidden in my bones. The city was far beyond what I imagined, and here are some of the aspects that I loved most about this glorious city:
1. Food: In London, food is merely a way to fuel yourself on the run. At lunch time, grab a sandwich to go and finish it on the tube; at dinnertime, the takeaway fish and chips is a cheaper option anyway, so grab and eat on your way home from work! This is terribly, terrible wrong, and this I learned from the Italians. In a city made famous by it's food, it is a sin to treat any meal like another chore. In Roma, meals are more than just fuel; they're an experience. At every restaurant, the spaghetti comes in a heaping mound with perfect al dente pasta, an aroma that perfectly illuminates the flavor, and the freshest ingredients around. The pizza understands the perfect balance of sweet marinara sauce, milky mozarella, and fresh herbs, that pay the perfect compliment to the thin, melt-in-your-mouth crust. The food is so good that every bite must be memorized, every flavor must me mentioned. As you eat, you feel like you owe it to everyone around you to close your eyes and live every moment of that bite, trying to savor every bit of the experience with the hopes that you will be able to remember it for the rest of your life. Yes, the food is so good that it demands a stream of consciousness narrative throughout the meal. It is an experience unlike any other. And I certainly cannot go without mentioning the the best thing I ate all weekend: Bruscetta (pronounced with a hard "c" in the Italian language). Imagine this: A thick loaf of french bread, toasted to perfection so the crust has a perfect crunch to contrast the chewy, warm center. A slight drizzle of olive oil and Italian seasonings. Perfectly melted mozzarella cheese covering the top of the thick bread, topped with a salty, savory olive spread that could bring a grown man to tears. Oh Roma, you did it again.
2. Gelato: I'm sure you all know the love affair that I have with ice cream. I eat way to much of it and have really struggled living with London's lack of it throughout my semester abroad. I had heard amazing stories about Rome's gelato but never imagined it would sweep me off my feet. Well, it did. Like the pizza, pasta, bruscetta, and everything else that's glorious about the Eternal City, the gelato was one of the most amazing things I've EVER eaten! Thick, creamy, precise in flavor and taste, absolutely nothing in the world holds a candle to it. For 2 euro, you could get a giant ice cream cone with 2 flavors and an impressive slab of whipped cream - and boy did I! My favorite flavors were Nutella, banana, and pistacio. I can hardly even stand to be writing this right now...
3.. Wine: I came into the trip with many recommendations from friends, and this really helped to make the experience wonderful. One strong recommendation I received concerned wine. The advise was: always order wine, and always get the jug. At Miscellanea near the Pantheon (Friday's dinner), we were greeted by a bottle of their "Sexy Wine," which was a bubbly, fruity delight that is not comparable to anything I've had before. Had I been able to drink 10 bottles and still make it home I would have. At our second night's dinner, we paid a fair 9 euros for the biggest jug of "house wine" I've ever seen - and boy was it good!
4. The people: I was not sure what to expect from the culture of Rome. Would the Italians be annoyed that I barely spoke any of their language? Would they look upon me as a "dumb American" as so many cultures do? I was incredibly surprised at the openness of the people of Rome. For one reason or another, they could always tell we were American before we even opened our mouths (is it something I'm wearing??), and they would always speak English to us, no problem. They were not only nice about speaking English, they were happy to do it. This was a nice change! Along with this, the culture of Rome was just so fun and laid back! While walking down the street, I would hear the eloquent and beautiful Italian language get caught up in the Mediterranean breeze, I would catch echoes of men serenading the city streets, and if I was lucky, I would walk by a musician playing traditional Italian music right there on the very cobblestone streets. I felt like I was in a movie all weekend. I kept thinking, "this can't be real, surely I'm in Disney World or something." But it was real, and it was grandioso!
Of course, there's also the grand architecture that has impressed world travelers for centuries. There's the statues by Bernini, paintings by Michelangelo, fountains on every corner, and those terribly charming narrow streets. There's the sound of Vespas weaving throughout the cars on the busy streets. And let's not forget about the ancient ruins that remind even the most narrow-minded chap of the great history of this city. There's nothing to dislike about Rome. I have not one single complaint from my entire weekend. Everything was absolutely perfect in every way, and I will never, ever forget my very first trip to Rome.
Here's to many more trips to Italia, the memories of that divine gelato, and to leaving my heart in Roma. Ciao, Rome. A presto.