Rome by night from the terrace of Barbara’s lovely home, the Palazzo Pozzi center, top left and bottom middle; bottom left Piazza Navona; bottom right, proof Rome is Paradise
Rome. La dolce vita. History, culture, food, art. Every time I go to Rome, I am enchanted. From my first visit in 2007, every time I am in Rome I am swept away, consumed by the energy, the spirit and passion of the place and its people.
I nearly lived in Rome. In 2007 I lived for nearly a year in Italy, hopping for several weeks at a time between Florence, Venice, the Dolomites, and Rome ostensibly to choose a place to live. In 2008 I rented an apartment there and was back in the Dolomites to pack up my things from the house I was sitting and head off to my new life in Rome, then I met Claudio. Twelve days later I was in Lugano and I had given up my flat in Rome. Now Rome is among my top three favorite cities to visit in the world.
On my most recent visit, I went thinking I would park myself in a café and write. Naïve I am. Instead I was swept away for nearly 36 hours by one of the reasons I love Rome; the capacity of people in this city to connect and communicate, to effortlessly share their stories. Sometimes with such passion that they don’t even hear you when you speak and talk over each other at every turn, reminding me of my best memories from my own childhood. Minutes after my arrival I found myself in a dress shop and only exited 90 minutes later with a lovely dress reminiscent of the 1940’s and my first reminder of the magic of this city.
The dress, pictured, was the star of a series of headshots taken soon after my visit to Rome
On my first full day, I awoke full of a kind of fear and dread associated with a deep doubt for my past and my future. To relieve my fears and reconnect to my heart, I set my sites on the Pantheon, personally, my favorite place to visit in Rome. On the way, I stopped for a coffee, just outside my door at Caffe Peru, and 10 minutes there had already cheered me up considerably.
Located on Via Monserrato, where we are inexplicably fortunate to have a friend with a palazzo in which she generously maintains a flat for friends and relatives who may be visiting Rome, this local place brings me joy in its simplicity and ability to maintain its authenticity despite the grinds of Roman tourism. A particularly unusual feature, its bathroom is tiled with color and humor. Here I sipped coffee and observed life, reminded of the natural rhythms that bring us all up and down. Like the tides of the sea, I was reassured to ride the waves.
Caffe Peru’s colorful sense of humor, in one of Rome’s more creative (and clean) bathrooms
Bolstered by an excellent cup of coffee and the reminder of the tides, I headed for the Pantheon. The universe had other plans, and directed me to the gallery of a local photographer, Roberto Petitti, and listening to his story I received the gift of memory, the reminder that the universe is great and abundant and beautiful. He shared a story with me how after 32 years of doing something different, being an x-ray technician, he came back to his true love, photography. He called this a coincidence. I call this the universe speaking, and it was speaking to me through him reminding me to connect to love and see the possibilities under any fear.
From Roberto’s gallery I went directly to the Pantheon for the xhundreth time and was, as always, brought to tears by the beauty of this ancient wonder. Bunny & I entered the main door with full sun shining directly upon us from the infamous hole in its dome. For a moment I paused, and we felt the warmth of this blessing. Gratitude is an amazing guide.
Bunny at the Pantheon in Rome, light shining upon us as we entered
Rome gives many opportunities to experience gratitude, and in my opinion, wandering its streets makes it clear that Rome is one of the greatest cities in Europe to visit, a total open-air museum. You cannot enter a single place and still have a great time, the streets are filled with art, culture, music, passion, and adventure even for the most jaded traveler. Yes, it is true that the market at Campo fiori is nearly void of a single Italian vendor and one may see more foreign faces in cafes and restaurants than local, and still this city is magical.
Top right Bunny having red pizza at Rosciolo, suggested by a dear Italian friend, I arrived to discover it is part of a family place which Claudio and I have enjoyed on several occasions on our various visits; bottom right with my hostess Madame Pozzi at her favorite place Pierluigi, some of Rome’s finest dining; top right a piece of Rome’s charm off the beaten path; bottom right the campo dei fiori, even full at night.
Finally sitting in one of my favorite cafes, bar del fico where the food is surprisingly delicious and the coffee always good;
at long last I set to my task of sharing my India trip. Yes, one of the reasons I took this trip to Rome, to write. To be inspired by one travel to write about another
Top right Bunny with our lunch, fresh pasta with anchovies and a glass of local white; center Bunny people watching while I work; bottom left Bunny with a seasonal shakeratto
Another, the main reason, for this trip to Rome was in fact a job interview. In a series of ‘coincidences’ I found myself in Rome to interview for a job as a tour leader for one of the leading American tour operators in Italy. This in part explains the angst previously mentioned, the idea of being a tour leader was an unexpected twist of fate and I maximized my time enjoying Rome while I digested this possibility. The interview process was like speed dating and the 3 days of training as a selected candidate were a bit like living in an episode of the twilight zone, in particular as professional trainer is among my job titles. The women who accompanied me on this short journey were lovely, each spirited in their own way. One of our tasks was to create a unique experience and provide it for the trainers who would be posing as a tour group. We discovered a branch of the Roscioli bakery just near the training site and there for lunch we learned that all of the Roscioli’s around Rome are owned by the same family, two brothers and their families. Next thing we were on a tour of the kitchens and bakery with the son where we met his parents and a man who had been with them nearly 30 years making focaccia, successfully sharing something new with our Roman colleagues and exceeding the expectations of our training task.
My favorite, was a sort of team building exercise. We were tasked with going out into the streets of Rome to do something we had never done before and would not usually do. Over dinner we lamented our fate/brainstormed and with much ado we set ourselves up to give free hugs in Trastevere at around 11 pm. Our experience surprised us all positively for different reasons in different ways, we were successful in our task, and we had a great time.
Click the phototo see the video of our uproarious social experiment where humanity reminded us that life is beautiful, we only need to see
Rounding out this post actually being about Rome, I offer a few personal bits that have served me over the years on dozens of visits to Rome. As there are hundreds of guide books and tips these are my most personal pointers. Enjoy for now, to be updated whenever a new place enters the favorites.
A recap of my personal favorites:
Previously indicated, the Pantheon
is, despite millions of tourists, the most magical monument in Rome, for me. Every time I enter, I cry with joy and gratitude, even if I enter twice in one day as I did on the trip featured in this writing. Whether one knows the story or not, like all of Rome, feel this place. Gaze at the perfect circular opening in its ceiling and imagine yourself traveling through time, whisper your hearts-desire and see what happens.
The area around the pantheon is full of cafes and if you have the time, rent a chair for a 5 Euro cappuccino/glass of wine and bask in the glory of this spectacular place
is another free place to gaze at beauty and take in the atmosphere. Avoid the cafes here and sit on the side of a fountain, on the pavement, or just stand and gaze at the beauty of these fountains, any time of day or night, though I prefer them in the brilliance of their night time lights
The Vatican is amazing, and as overrated as it is, the Sistine chapel is a must see! All definitely worth the 1/2 day + to enjoy it. Absolutely buy tickets online
Wonderful books to read about this atmosphere
L ‘ arlu is the best (and only for me) restaurant to eat in in the Vatican City. Run by a family I have been back nearly a dozen times and always good, worth paying slightly more than the crappy places that surround it, tell them what you like and let them serve you, magic.
The coliseum is best viewed from the outside
Bar del fico as indicated earlier, great for coffee and breakfast in the morning where you can totally chill out and rocking for apertivo in the evening