la dolce vita

I wanted to begin at the beginning. I wanted to keep some semblance of order. Cannes came first, then Nice and Eze and Monaco and a whole host of French Riviera hotspots threading their way smoothly around a sapphire sea. Pisa and Florence followed, and though we flew through them, stopping only long enough to blink blink blink in awe at the toppling tower and the magnificent David, I have more than a few gigabytes of photos begging to be posted. But the romance of Rome is too much to contain – and there’s a serous danger of my forgetting all the incredibly random things I’ve loved about this city by the time I actually get around to writing about it.

So I’ll begin at now. 🙂

After a Campo de Fiori/Trastevere night a bohemian dreamer and a frat boy would be equally proud of, replete with charming alleyways, glittering fountains, hopeful Latin lovers, and a fiery little gift from Mejico that really made me appreciate how fresh limes are in Italy, I woke up this morning to banana pancakes and a fantastic view of the Palatine ruins. I love Jenna’s apartment 🙂 I left with the intention of taking the bus straight home, but got a little sidetracked by the maze of side streets that is the Jewish Ghetto.
Every turn was punctuated by an accidental discovery – an impressive outlook over the Forum ruins, the Michelangelo-designed Capitoline museums, the majestic Vittoriano.

I love stumbling onto awesome. It’s the best way to see it – when you don’t and you don’t and you don’t and then suddenly you do.

I was lost in a jungle of bougainvillea- and jasmine-laced gates when suddenly, under one window, I heard the twanging of a guitar. The melody picked up, a voice joined in, and I was hooked – I leaned against the wall opposite and couldn’t help but stay and creep awhile. I was priding myself on my suaveness when a tiny sunshine-blond head poked past the forest green shutters and said loudly, “There’s a girl out there watching!” Eff. Her head was joined by that of not one, but two American musicians who likely wanted to know what the hell kind of inconspicuous I thought leaning against a blank wall was. But instead, they smiled and laughed and asked me for a request. I had nothing, so they asked me for my name instead. Then, from the window down to my stucco hangout, they improv-ed an incredible duet that I still hear ringing in my ears. I never knew “Mieeeeeeeeeeel, Miel….she has a yellow dress on” could be so melodically executed. I really wish I could have taped it. Then, as quickly as the heads had appeared, they vanished – so so did I. I strolled along to a flower cart at the corner of Via Baccina, bought three yellow lilies, and walked back to find the entire group down on the street. One had discovered my wondrous wall. 😛 I handed them the flowers I had bought for them, and one of their friends took a picture….hopefully I’ll see it in my inbox soon, and then you’ll see it here 🙂

I kept walking. I knew only vaguely where I was, but guessed that I was somewhere in the southeast district of Monti. I knew it was true when I suddenly, wonderfully, delightfully chanced upon this . I had read about it in my guidebook – it’s a mural of the soccer hero Frencesco Totti, captain of AS Roma and local god. It was painted here, in a tiny, unassuming dead end, after Roma won the championship in 2001. Just another one of those pinch-me moments…I’m going to be covered in figurative bruises by the time I leave.

When I finally got the bus home, on a meandering route from the bus stop to the apartment, I noticed two women coming out of what seemed like a little nook behind a newspaper stand. Oddly, they were heavily laden with shopping bags. Like the stupid girls in horror films, I wandered in – to find a HUGE garage-type building bursting with fruit stalls, vegetable vendors, booths selling little plastic toys and jewelry. It was like a fantasy land tucked away into the corners of Testaccio, where there’s no such thing as Little Debbie and everything is “organic”. I have never seen tomatoes more plump and red and ripe and juicy. It actually made me consider liking tomatoes. Seriously, even the prunes looked delicious.

Side note on food here – Italy is mouthwatering, and surprisingly nice to vegetarians. The pizza I had at the gas station on our first day trampled and stomped and spit on 97% of the pizza I have ever tasted in America. The basil in the gas station sandwich did not taste like tagboard, as the leaves in the USA are wont to do, and actually made bread and cheese taste incredible. Actually, the bread and cheese tasted amazing in and of themselves, another thing that is quite quite rare in America, and pretty much laughable to hope for at a gas station. Again, in case you missed it, this was at a gas station. Since then, I have actually been excited to buy and eat fruits and vegetables (at my market!!!), and eating out has opened my eyes to before unheard of little tidbits, like chicory and zucchini flowers. It’s quite refreshing to have more than two choices out of an  entire menu. Actually, its a little overwhelming. 😛

One last thing…the other day I was in the Piazza del Popolo area (wandering again. It’s a habit.) when I took a random turn into a flood of floral bliss and an alleyway of artists’ galleries that truly took my breath away. It wasn’t really that much more beautiful than any other street I’d seen. It was sunny, but no brighter than the rest of the city. It wasn’t fairy-tale charming or subtly swanky or village rustic or in any way special. But for some reason, this was the instant at which “I need to be here forever” really and truly crossed my mind. I literally thought, “I’ll do anything, work like crazy for 5 or 10 years and blow my savings on living on this exact patch of cobblestone. I will be a starving artist. I will live in Rome.”

But apparently I’m not the only one – here I quote from Frommer’s Rome – Day by Day: 27 Smart Ways to See the City, with foldout map (which I very much recommend, by the way): “Via Margutta: This impossibly gorgeous lane, nestled between the Pincio and Via del Babuino and lined with artists’ ateliers, has sparked many a visitor’s fantasy about dropping everything and moving to Rome.”

Let’s do this.

Also, I lied when I said that it couldn’t get any better than this. I can only imagine how ridiculous Roma is going to be in a few short days – I can’t freaking wait for the World Cup to start. 🙂


3 Responses to “la dolce vita”

  1. 1 karthik
    June 3, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    i kinda hate you. (really being envious of you)

    but italy’s more of a girl thing.

    also that pizza sounded delish.

  2. 2 amanda
    June 5, 2010 at 4:04 pm

    your posts about this magical place are magical in themselves…and im a little sad to think of your return and the limiting of food options youll have…also what america will look like to you after this amazing wandering adventure…and that alleyway sounds glorious =).

  3. June 9, 2010 at 12:55 pm

    Hello, I love your blog. This is a cool site and I wanted to post a note to let you know, great job! Thanks Meme

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