Rome Rome Rome Rome

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

This was a working title, meaning "finally writing about Rome and this is the post about Rome and Rome is so great and DO NOT avoid it anymore but click this title and write!". But actually, I like the sound of it. It captures everything I feel. It's not just 'Rome'. It's so wonderful, beautiful, amazing, magnificent, that it's 'Rome Rome Rome Rome'.

I was 9 when I started learning English, and I'd say that was when I learned about London for the first time. We had drawings of Tower Bridge in our textbook, along with Buckingham Palace guards and Big Ben. My mom told me London was the capital of England, and told me stuff about it. Back then I couldn't really tell the difference between England and USA, but I figured I wanted to visit London. Really badly. As I was growing up and learning about the world, two more cities became my must-see's: Paris and Rome. I've been to London twice (and cannot wait to get there again); 2014. was really generous to me, because I visited Paris and Rome for the first time this year.

Maybe this was a strange introduction to a post about Rome.

Yep, it's kinda time I wrote about Rome, 103 days after I had seen it for the first time and 99 days and 20 hours after I had left it.

I'm good with dates when they're about something significant. Well, I promise you this: Rome is something so great, amazing and beautiful, it is definitely significant. Rome is my new love I will never forget - I know it now even though I spent only three days with it. Rome has taken my heart for life. And I cannot wait until we're reunited.

Rome greeted me and seduced me with summer. You know, when your long-term boyfriend - that is, Berlin - is cold and gloomy in August, then you can't help but jump into the arms of the one that offers you sun and warmth in September.

When you exit the subway somewhere in the centre, you'll get drunk in no time. Drunk in beauty. Drunk in love. That's at least what happened to me.

Rome tricked me into seeing almost all the sights in one day. I walked and walked and as a result my feet hurt for weeks after that - but I had no regrets. (By the way, you might want to have either Birkenstocks, like I did, or a comfy pair of walking/running shoes for that adventure. For the love of god, don't use Chuck Taylors. I am a huge fan and I've been wearing them for more than half of my life, but I just have to admit they're a death to the feet, especially during long walks.)

In fact, the more I walked and the more I saw, the more I thought I'd faint. Not because I was tired, but because I was absorbed in the beauty of the city. I just thought I couldn't handle it. How can a city be this beautiful?! Take me home, I thought, I need a break. (Yeah, it's what Italy does to a man.)

If you're an overachiever like me (at least when it comes to traveling), or you're spending just a few days in Rome, you might want to copy my itinerary. Otherwise - take your time! Breathe the city. Enjoy it step by step. Fall in love with it slowly.

(I tend to fall in love in a moment. But it doesn't make the love less intensive, trust me.)

My first step was the Spanish Steps. It's the English name though; in Italian it's just Piazza di Spagna (Square of Spain). I walked out of the subway and thought to myself: "We're not in Kansas anymore!". Rome. I was in Rome, and I had to get used to that feeling. Well, first I had to find a map. I must admit I was a bit lost trying to find a tourist information point - trying to find anything without a map, actually - you know me and my budget travel thing, I just refused to pay for a map I could find for free! Eventually I bumped into two Chinese girls who thought they might know what I was looking for, and they did. But then they ran after me because they figured they had an extra map, so they just gave it to me. How lovely of them!

Equipped with an appropriate weapon - that is, a map - I sat down to plan my itinerary for the day. The thing with the sights in Rome is that they're like 10-15 minutes from each other, but if you want to see it all, it's gonna take a lot more than just the sum of distances! Nevertheless, I was ready to immerse myself in the city.

My next step was Fontana di Trevi - Di Trevi Fountain. I'll just be honest - what a disappointment! But not in general - it was nothing like what I had expected, because it was being renovated at that moment. So basically, it was not a fountain, there was no water, only the scaffolding and people walking around. It was definitely not what I was hoping for. I know this sounds like a cliche, but I wanted to throw a coin in the fountain! Still, apparently the city authorities thought of the tourists (can you hear the sarcasm?).

Of course I didn't. But I'll do it the next time I go to Rome.

I proceeded to the Pantheon. The square where the Pantheon is situated is just a perfect cute thing - Piazza della Rotonda. I sat there by a fountain, looking around and getting serious goosebumps. I was standing in front of the building that was centuries, no, millenniums old! And so majestic.

After the Pantheon came the most magnificent square in the city, and probably in the world. It was where I was completely sure I was in the most beautiful city in the world - Piazza Navona. Its buildings, flowers on the balconies, charming restaurants and the waiters calling for me - yeah, I know they were just wanting to earn money, but still. I was seriously falling in love. It was where I sat to write down my thoughts, to make sure I remember how glorious it is. It was also where I sent text messages to my friends, saying how wonderful Rome is!

My next stop was Campo de' Fiori - a square with a market. I've had this thing for markets for the past few years, and it actually started back in my hometown. After visiting it more or less regularly for years, one day I came back from Belgrade, I was there with my mom and I just loved the fruits, the veggies, and most of all the people with the accent I was familiar with, and yet that was different from the one you could hear in Belgrade. (Well, not really different, but where I come from, people speak reeeeeally slowly; so did I, but then I lost it.) Anyway, in Campo de' Fiori I felt so bad for not going back home after Italy, because I wanted to buy everything!!! The real Italian pasta, the spices, the sauces, limoncello...

I walked some more, to Piazza Venezia, and there I had my first meal of the day - an ice-cream - and also an opportunity to climb up the Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio Emanuele II - the monument to the first Italian king. And then I saw the Forum, and the Colosseum. It felt... surreal.

Forum Romanum was just around the corner. I felt like jumping into one of my old Latin textbooks. Yeah, seeing the Eiffel Tower and Big Ben is brilliant, but this... this was just too much. At least in one day! I was so happy I was alone, so I could be quiet and appreciate the surroundings. The Forum was much bigger than I had expected. And then I felt a bit embarrassed. I mean, it was obviously a developed structure. A former city. A part of it. You kinda never get that feeling when you see the photos. And then it dawns on you: real people lived here, met here, did their work here. Just... wow.

My favorite moment was seeing a father and a kid walking around. The father was explaining the history of Rome to the son. I remembered a great book I'd read, Un Amico Italiano: Eat, Pray, Love in Rome. You surely know the book or the movie Eat, Pray, Love? Well, the guy that showed Elizabeth Gilbert around in Rome was Luca Spaghetti, and he actually wrote a book of his own, about his growing up in Rome, his big trip to the States when he graduated from high school, and his friendship with Gilbert. Few years ago I did a proofreading of a Serbian edition of the book, and I remember thinking I'd use the book as a tour guide once I go to Rome, because it was exactly that! It's also very warm and emotional, so I highly recommend it, look it up! Anyway, Spaghetti wrote that as he was growing up, his parents would sometimes take him somewhere in the city and tell him about it, which he at the time found very annoying and boring; only to discover, years later, that he actually remembered a lot of it, and he could tell about the city to those who would visit it for the first time. I thought how great it must feel: once you realize that you're from a city with such history. I smiled and hoped the kid appreciated it.

And then, there it was. The Colosseum. Life is just too good to me.

My next stop was the Aventino hill. It was from the book: Spaghetti said that there is a lovely garden up there, as well as three beautiful churches. He also wrote that it's a place he loved because not many tourists knew about it, and after a whole day of some of the most famous sights in the world, I needed something like that. And let me tell you: apart from being beautiful, the Aventino hill gave me a break from English, from tourists and from the rush and the crowds. Once I got to Il Giardino degli Aranci, I entered an oasis in the city. People were sitting on the grass, walking their dogs or just taking a break. They were speaking Italian. All of them. Finally - Rome, I thought. Don't get me wrong, everything I experienced earlier that day was beautiful. But apart from being Roman, it was also very tourist-oriented. And it was summer, so the city was full of people from all over the world. I just wanted something very honest - and I got it here, on the top of the Aventino hill.

After having seen the city from the top of the hill, I went to see the churches. I'm not really into them, but hey, Luca said they were lovely. It was good that I chose Saturday to do this - or did Saturday choose me? - because the lovely basilicas (Sant' Alessio being my very favorite, wonderful little church with a frontyard) were obviously popular for weddings. There were whole families, all fancy dressed and excited. My favorite was an old man in a suit, with a straw hat and red shoes. I hope he had fun!

Then I also did a touristy thing on the hill (but learned from the Luca Spaghetti book as well). There is a keyhole on the Piazza dei Cavalieri di Malta; and obviously it was known because I faced a line of people waiting to peep through it. It was also an excellent time of the day to do this; because it was dusk. So I peeped, and I saw a garden and the dome of St Peter's Basilica in the distance, bathing in the gentle golden light. Don't miss it!

And finally I was done with the sights for the day, so I headed to Trastevere. Well, it was a sight as well, but also a quarter known for amazing food where also the locals eat. Having that in mind, I sat in a random restaurant on the Santa Maria di Trastevere square and ordered rigatoni all'amatriciana. I knew (thanks, Luca Spaghetti!) it was a plate of pasta with bacon, cheese and tomatoes. What I didn't know is that it was made in heaven. Yes, I was hungry as I didn't have anything the whole day, but I don't think I'm exaggerating when I say it was one of the best meals I have had in my life! Like with pizza in Naples, I became instantly religious because everything I could think of while eating this masterpiece was "oh my god, oh my god". It was hot, it was delicious, it was... it was harmony made by angels, dropped directly onto my plate. Seriously.

I fell hard for Rome in less than 24 hours. Luckily, I wasn't done yet.

Have you ever been to Rome? Do you agree with me it's the most wonderful city in the world?

P.S. Rome Day 2, and Trastevere, the most beautiful (and tastiest!) neighborhood in the world

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