Summer in Rome

I have a Facebook friend who is in Rome this summer, and every time she updates her status, a little wave of nostalgia sweeps over me. All I can do is look at the bajillion pictures I took in Rome last summer and reminisce about my stay there. James McGregor in his book, Rome from Ground Up, says Rome is an agglomeration of historical cities. Freud and Goethe saw Rome as a palimpsest, erased and written over several times. Either way, Rome is a visual delight!

In the three months I was in Rome I played the tourist to the hilt. Yet, I had the luxury of pacing my schedule such that I didn’t feel overwhelmed!

  1. So I visited the Colosseum and gawked at the “Gladiators” flirting with women;
  2. Queued for two and a half hours to get inside the Vatican museum, all the while trying to prevent the Chinese tourists from shamelessly cutting through the line;
  3. Waited for another hour to climb up the dome to St Peter’s to be rewarded with the most spectacular view of Rome;
  4. Chatted with an Egyptian painter at Piazza Navona who treated me to a macchiato….err yes, I chatted, he flirted;
  5. Delighted in grabbing a Gelato almost everyday after work, trying out exotic flavours like ricotta with cointreau, chocolate with orange and ginger, amaretto to name a few;
  6. Gazed in rapturous wonder at the sculptural masterpieces by Bernini – Rape of Proserpina, Apollo and Daphne and David – in Galleria Borghese;
  7. Rediscovered Rome in the early morning light on my way to the Pantheon;
  8. Was greeted with “ciao bella” from numerous Italian men, realizing that being catcalled is actually fun and does not have to be sleazy;
  9. And imagined being serenaded by beautiful Italian songs that wafted through my apartment window late into the night.

Three months in a place gives you time to do things you would never have done otherwise – you’re not rushing to check things off in your list of to-dos focusing only on the most famous, and neither are you a jaded local putting off doing fun stuff! For instance, Rome commemorated Caravaggio, the famous Baroque painter’s fourth Death Centenary in 2010, by putting up an exhibition of his paintings from all over the world. The queue was again a couple of hours long, and if I were just a tourist I might not have bothered, especially since I didn’t consider myself an avid art enthusiast until then; but I am truly glad I did or I would have missed out on his beautiful chiaroscuro paintings. Another highlight was watching the Football World Cup Final between Spain and Netherlands in Villa Borghese. I am not a huge fan of football, but the experience of watching a major game on a giant screen with thousands of screaming fans is hard to beat! I was with IdV and was supporting the Dutch team (complete with an orange polo) to show my solidarity. Yet the chants of ‘Yo Soy Español’ even before the match began, had me doubting Netherland’s chances! Going to a Norah Jones concert and getting front and centre seats courtesy of my well-connected landlord was just the cherry on the cake!

However, one thing I didn’t do that I’m sure ALL tourists do is to throw a coin into the Trevi Fountain so one can return to Rome. Throwing a coin just doesn’t seem like fun when you’re alone. Or maybe that’s just me. Either way, I’ll take that as an excuse to go back and complete my tourist itinerary!