Chronicles of our trip to Rome, which was really special because it was the first time that we went as a family in 13 years. Considering I was born there and grew up there for the first eight years of my life, it was a momentous trip for us.
Driving into the city from the airport, you slowly get farther away from the countryside – little pastures with sheep along the highway (not very romantic or charming as I imagine Ireland to be, but still cute!) – and slowly get closer to the center of Rome. Of course, it depends where into the city you’re going, but we were going to our hotel, Santa Chiara, which is very close to the Pantheon. As we drove to the hotel, we went by important monuments, like the Palatine Hill (the ancient palace of Domitian), Circus Maximus (the stadium for chariot races that held about 150,000 people), and the Vittorio Emanuele monument in Piazza Venezia. Upon our arrival to the hotel, we were greeted by the sweetest doorman who embodied Italian hospitality and kindness (my mom actually cried saying goodbye to him when we left). He proceeded to tell us the story behind the statue in the lobby, full of pride for his beautiful, ancient city.
We spent a lot of our time in Rome simply walking around from place to place, which is really the best way to experience the city because it’s how you encounter Roman life. Rome is…pockets of life everywhere you look – a different perspective from every angle and Italians talking, laughing, bickering everywhere. Italians really know how to enjoy life in a way that Americans simply don’t. The importance that is placed on taking time out of your day to get a coffee (usually with a friend or colleague and rarely by yourself), working at a more leisurely pace, taking a siesta in the afternoon, stopping in the middle of the street to have a conversation, etc. It’s things like this that remind me how communal and laid back Italians are. Rome is not without its hectic moments with the traffic and the chaos, I’ll admit that, but Italians have a relaxed, take in the moment, take in life attitude that I love so much.
It’s been surreal for me, walking around Rome, knowing that this used to be my life. Just the usual, everyday routine – going to school, going to ballet lessons, going to a friend’s house, enjoying a delicious meal in a beautiful piazza, and simply living in the center of Rome. It’s hard to believe that I had such a glorious childhood, and I only wish that it was still my life.
Italians appreciate beauty for beauty’s sake. This is something that not every culture in the world does, especially not the U.S. The buildings, the monuments, the streets…everything screams beauty (to me anyway) and there is no escaping it. It begs you to appreciate it, if not for any purpose, simply for its aesthetic quality. I think this, in itself, is a beautiful thing and I think everyone would be much happier if they sought to see the beauty in things.
Italians have an elegance about them, that again, Americans simply don’t. From their clothing, to their shoes (perhaps the best indicator of elegance), to the presentation in restaurants (waiters meticulously preparing fish in front of you at the table), to the apartments, the storefronts, the cafes, etc. Elegance and beauty are intertwined and inherently part of every Italian (I think). Italians are also very cultured, which comes naturally when you live in a place like Rome. You are so inspired by your surroundings that you can’t help but be interested in great literature, music, and art. Not only are you surrounded by it physically in Rome, but you also encounter it personally in those around you.
For us, the trip was like returning home. Although it’s been such a long time since we had been back together, going to our favorite restaurant for lunch as soon as we got there felt as natural as it did when we lived there. The waiters remembered us and made our favorite dish, even though it’s no longer on the menu. Walking to my old school on the same route that I did when I was little felt just like I was actually going to school. Walking past our old apartment, however, felt a bit far removed because the street has changed so much since we lived there. Meeting old friends also felt a bit strange because it’s hard to know what to talk about when it’s been 13 years since you have seen someone – not to mention the language barrier, which as much as I wish that it wasn’t present, it was for me. But overall, being back in Rome, back home, felt very comfortable and natural, just like home ought to feel.
Home sweet Rome