“When in Rome”

As you probably have been, or will be, told, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do.” Well, not always. But if you have spent many nights drinking beer and wine in Piazza San Lorenzo, having dinner in one of those fine restaurants in Trastevere; if you have been waiting for the tram at Piazzale Flaminio, staring at the obelisk in Piazza del Popolo through Porta del Popolo — the northern gate of the ancient Walls; if you have seen the skyline of the city from the platform (reportedly built by Napoleon) in Villa Borghese, a skyline composed by domes, pine trees, the big fountain (fontanone) on the small hill, and the ‘ugly’ wedding cake in Piazza Venezia; if you have been wandering around those broken fountains, unrepaired houses and (seemingly) deserted historical sites; if you have been moved by the smile of a stranger who asked you for directions; if you have been sitting at the bank, watching the Tevere river coloured by the sunset flowing silently, while ignoring the splendid view of St. Peter’s basilica lit up not far away. That’s enough. There’s no great happiness here, only trivial pleasure.

Then in an early morning you’ll walk through the cobble stone streets near Piazza Navona — you must not wear heels. You’ll have breakfast standing at the bar: an average cornetto and a nice cappucino. You’ll reach Lungotevere in a few minutes, and you’ll see the Castel S’angelo and other things being there, glowing in the morning sunshine and under the transparently blue sky. You’ll remember this morning, and many mornings like this. Nothing unusal, as if the city has been as chaotic, un-exquisite, yet astonishingly beautiful as this for hundreds, or thousands of years.

Once a friend said to me, ‘Rome will always be here when you get back’. And I replied, perhaps a bit too heavy-heartedly, ‘Rome will no longer be there for you once you have left’. But you don’t have to throw coins to the Trevi Fountain, because you don’t have to come back. It will always be with you. I know this is so cliché to say, but there’s some truth in it. The same holds true for another banal saying, which is repeated again and again because everyone wants to have a romance here: if you spell Roma the other way round, you get Amor. Believe it or not, in the end it will go as the ending of La meglio gioventù goes: Forse avevi ragione: tutto è veramente bello.


3 thoughts on ““When in Rome””

  1. “Roma will always be with you.”

    Indeed. Still recall the pleasant days there. It’s such a lovely place where you can find bevies of trial pleasures… and start to appreciate dolce far niente.

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