Thoughts on thoughts and images of beautiful things

Tag Archives: Rome

Rome back to the Romans


“It’s been Rome back to the Romans, which is the bright side of a terrible time. For once, you can meet your friends outside for cocktails in the Piazza Navona, and you remember why it’s so good to be alive.”

I am a Roman by birth but not by blood, so I suppose that makes me a bit of a tourist, even though I was born there and lived there until I was 8. My time there was quite a long time ago now, and as an innocent child unaware of my surroundings, I didn’t grasp the nuisance of tourists in my city. Now that I live a big city, living out my big girl life in Chicago, I do understand the annoyance of tourists taking in the city around me. I am not trying to compare Chicago to Rome, and I can only imagine the frustrations that Romans have with the constant onslaught of tourists. So I can appreciate that Romans may be loving this time sans tourists due to the worldwide pandemic, and regaining their city to enjoy it for themselves in a way that perhaps they have never been able to experience it. There is something magical about walking around Rome early in the morning before the crowds get up and come out. I imagine that it may feel a bit like that now. Rome back to the Romans.

Present vs. Past


Ok one more shout out to The New York Times Style Magazine Letter to the Editor…for now at least! “Present Tense” by Hanya Yanagihara spoke to me because in it she discusses how different the sense of history is in the U.S. versus other parts of the world. She mentions Rome specifically and its deep history that is literally alive all around you. Growing up in Rome I had the unbelievable fortune of experiencing this everyday, without realizing the magnitude of it at the time.

Any first-time (or hundredth-time, for that matter) traveler to Rome can’t help but marvel at how lightly, and with what matter-of-factness, the Italians live among antiquities: A walk down the street is a stroll across thousands of years; the 2,000-plus-year-old Largo di Torre Argentina, excavated in the late 1920s, was where Caesar died, but it is also where the city’s cats congregate for a sun-drunk loll. Other cities would have placed such a monument in a museum, behind walls and off-limits — here, though, there is so much history that such an approach is impossible. Instead, the Italians have learned that every building, every structure, is a palimpsest, and that their lives within it, superannuated or brief, contribute another layer to its long narrative.

It’s true that Romans walk around their city with ease  and a nonchalantness about their surroundings. I mean how lucky are they to have been plopped there by birth and can call that parcel of this world their home. How lucky was I?? And as Yanagihara points out, Romans contribute to their long, ancient history, in whatever finite way possible.

The oldness of a place like Rome, and the newness of the U.S. is apparent in the way that we, as Americans, approach our daily life, versus the Romans. The impatience and instant gratification of American culture is a testament to this. We don’t have a long history to look back on, and therefore looking forward, with a sense of restlessness, is the only way we know. Romans, on the other hand, take life as a stroll, literally and figuratively. They have such an extensive history to look back on and to reflect on how they got to where they are  now, that they are not in a hurry to go anywhere. I think this is true in the larger scheme of things, but it is also apparent to anyone who visits Rome and has to slow down their pace to match that of the Romans. While this may be frustrating for Americans, I think slowing down is only a positive practice.

“But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”



“I looked around at the stately villa, the murmuring fountains and, yes, even at the overgrown grass. Rome had its issues. The degradation was real. But the thing about a great beauty is that no matter its age or condition, it could still turn and give you that look and send the heart aflutter.”

I have to remind myself to admire the beauty in my surroundings, even if it’s not always initially apparent to me. I also have to be reminded to allow myself to be pleasantly surprised by the beauty that I might encounter unexpectedly. This New York Times article about Rome by Jason Horowitz resonates with me since I was born in Rome and lived there for the first eight years of my life. But I have to say, in disagreement with the author, I always found it beautiful and never wanted to leave. Rome was the best playground a child could ask for. But I will say, now that I live in Chicago, IL, I resonate with the author’s notion that we must seek to see the beauty even in the chaos or dilapidation that’s around us. I love Chicago as a city for all that it has to offer, but at the same time, the city just gets me down on a daily basis. Relying on public transportation for your commute isn’t easy, especially in the dead of winter. The hustle bustle lifestyle with everyone scurrying around in a hurry and forgetting to be nice to one another just isn’t for me. I find myself craving a much more laid-back kind of life. The architecture downtown juxtaposed next to Lake Michigan is beautiful, but other parts of the city that tourists don’t see where the average Chicagoean actually lives can be dirty and graffiti-stricken. So, faced with all this unpleasantness of city life, I often struggle to find the beauty that I once so admired about Chicago.

Horowitz’s evaluation of various neighborhoods in Rome as he searched for an apartment all over the city reminded me to try to appreciate the little intricacies and charms that each neighborhood of Chicago holds, especially since I don’t get to see them everyday. I like how different each neighborhood is and how diverse the city is. So maybe what I need to do, taking a lesson from Horowitz, is take the time to visit different neighborhoods, as he explored Rome, and experience each one for the unique things it has to offer. And maybe I just need to take a harder look at the small things in my everyday encounters with the city to remind myself what makes Chicago the beloved city that it is by so many.



A Scandinavian Christmas


These are some of our Scandinavian Christmas decorations, many of them bought when we lived in Rome at a beautiful Scandinavian store on Via della Scrofa called Bottega Danese. On our most recent trip to Rome this past April, we were sad to find out that it is no longer there and is being replaced by a Chinese tourist shop. In light of this, we remember our trips there with even more fondness.






The two figurines with the tall hats are my favorite Swedish ornaments, purchased at the Christkindlmarket in Chicago, Illinois.



“My Roman Intimacies”


I just read a really genuine, authentic, intimate account by Barbara Grizzuti Harrison about her trip to Rome, and having traveled there recently myself, it was a delightful read that brought me back to my own trip. I thought I’d share some excerpts from it to give you some insight on what it’s like to fully experience Rome.




“Rome cannot be learned by rote. It is absorbed through the pores.”

Everybody watches everybody else and calls this minding their own business.

Perhaps you do not think these matters are worthy of discussion. But to enter into Roman life, you must do two things, one of which is to take coffee seriously (or take seriously the Romans’ love of coffee, which they regard as both invigorating and relaxing, and their desire to discourse thereupon). The other is to not exclude the Baroque from your affections – do not, that is, remain overly attached to simplicity. 

“…if you enter a courtyard in Rome, you are treated as if you have done something clever; trespassing is invariably rewarded.”

A city that anticipates all one’s needs and fulfills some needs one didn’t know one had.

“…ecclesiastical garments and undergarments are sold together with babies’ booties and women’s filmy lingerie. Perhaps this has a metaphysical meaning that I cannot grasp.”

My body, as is so often the case in Rome, has understood something before my mind has.

I dream incessantly, intensely, fruitfully when I am in Rome. My unconscious mind replicates the topography of the Eternal City. It caresses anomalies: it reaches an intuitive understanding of the past (my past), only to see more levels, deeper levels, hidden pasts, leering like a satyr smiling like a becalmed saint; it meanders sinuously among artifacts lost and found, unknown but known; it plays hide and seek; it travels many ways to arrive at the same place.

“There is no color in the world that is not represented here, no texture, no flesh.”

It occurs to me that Romans are taught to see things from all sides, and not entirely to trust the face of things. 

Everybody I know in Rome wants to live on Via Giulia. I do too.

“You may never have this kind of Roman holiday…But if you are radically and transparently open to experience, you will stumble on something equally wonderful. One always does. Rome is generous.”

…that a child’s mind might have conceived but that only a genius could have executed.

It is marvelous to climb lower and lower into the ancient world. 

There are times, in my love affair with Rome, when I wish to be nothing but passive. Rome will always be there – that is my hope and conviction. There is no need to rush here and there. It is enough to know that delight is all around me. When I feel this way, I spend the better part of my day sitting in a cafe facing the Pantheon, eating ices and contemplating the changing scene. Perhaps that, after all, is why I love Rome. In a city suffused in history and teeming with the most operatic people on earth, it is possible to be absolutely still.

Pictures from the Eternal City


I thought I’d share some more pictures from my recent trip to Rome!



La Dolce Vita


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 



rome-italySouth Bendimages

It’s interesting how your familial connections can take you to different physical places. For me, par example, I was born in Rome, Italy and lived there for the first eight years of my life because my dad worked there, then we moved to South Bend, Indiana, again because of my dad’s job, and now I’m living in a small town in Massachusetts because my grandparents lived here. It’s just interesting that the place where you are born is certainly out of your control, as is the place where you grow up while you are under your family’s care, and then even when you go out on your own you sometimes end up somewhere because of your family’s influence, as I did. Of course, some people choose to go somewhere completely unrelated to where they have familial connection, but not all. Those that are very close to their families tend to stay close to home or move someplace else where they have family (like myself). But I suppose that those who are not so close to their families, or those who place their career above all else, may move far away from family. These observations may seem rather obvious, but I have recently been struck by the influence that one’s family can have on where one lives throughout one’s lifetime.




Establishing a place and identity has been difficult for me since I was born in Italy, lived there for 8 years, and then moved to the United States where I have spent last 14 years of my life. Wow, that’s a long time. I don’t like counting how long it’s been since we left Italy, so I often lose track of how long it’s actually been. But I’ve always had this conflict within me of not really knowing where I belonged. It hash’t been overwhelming to the point where I feel completely lost, but rather just indifferent to both Italy and the U.S. Despite being an American citizen and living in the U.S. for most of my life, I do not feel very American and certainly don’t feel patriotic in the least. At the same time, I can’t say that I feel very Italian either. I was born there and spent those early formative years of my life there, but I am not ethnically Italian, and therefore, was more like an outsider living in Italy. Of course, the Italian people are very warm and embracing, so we didn’t feel like intruders or out of place. I am extremely grateful for my childhood in Italy, as I realize this is an opportunity that not many American children have. I have the fondest of memories of my birthplace and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.



That being said, my love for Europe and desire to go back exceeds my interest, or lack thereof, to remain in the U.S. and build a life here. But then again, my family is here in the U.S. and going to Europe on business seems challenging for non-EU citizens. So I suppose it will continue to be a conflict, but will hopefully be resolved at some point in my life, if I’m lucky.

In search of a more beautiful place


I am searching for a more beautiful place than here. Here, is Indiana. More beautiful places, for me, are many places in Europe. Last winter, I went to the Czech Republic and spent most of the time in Prague – the most magical city in the world (I think!) Prague is so beautiful and charming; it’s like a dream. So full of history, like many places in Europe, and you can really see it and feel it everywhere around you. You can tell that the people there lead, and have led, a hard life. The beautiful city they live in seems to be of no avail to them because it is simply where they live, much to their detriment perhaps (because of what they have been through with the Nazis and then the communists). But to a visitor, even aware of its history, it seems so magnificent and just beautiful.

Another beautiful place I have had the pleasure of enjoying is Rome, Italy. I was born there and lived there for the first eight years of my life. Rome, of course, is very historic and its history can certainly be seen and felt there as well. It is home to many attractions that people flock there to see, like the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, the Vatican, Campo di Fiori, Piazza Navona, etc. Places that I experienced everyday as a young child and could not possibly understand their significance at the time. Even now, I suppose I do not view the city as other tourists do because to me it was simply home for 8 years…home, 5 minutes from the Pantheon and Piazza Navona…what sounds like a dream now looking back on it.

Places like these, that are so much more beautiful than the United States, to me, are places I would like to try to get back to in the near future.