Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Rome: Part 2

The most striking part about Rome is the way it houses two very different time periods: ancient monuments that are thousands of years old sit right in front of your eyes, pasted against the sky casually while cars zoom back and forth. And it is hard to fathom the grandeur and significance of things right when you are in them, such as standing in the enormous Colosseum or inside the walls of the Pantheon. 

There is also, of course, the food. The stereotype about pasta, pizza, and gelato being ubiquitous and delicious—well, it's true. It's everywhere, and it is all good. I still think about the linguine I had with cooked artichoke and ricotta cheese. Ugh, pasta here in America seems so lackluster now. Not to mention the scoops of Nutella and fresh cherry gelato that brought together a rich, chocolatey sweetness with a puckering tartness, rounded off with a soft white cream slathered on top...Rome really was a paradise for food.

And despite the fact that Rome is unavoidably a very touristy place—there are flocks of men trying to sell you toys and roses and weird lasers—there are gems to be found throughout the city that make you feel a little less like a tourist. One night, my friends and I decided to have a late meal at any restaurant that was open. We were tired, and so we chose an outdoor restaurant right on the street where we were staying during our trip. The weather in Rome is fantastically mild, especially in the evening. The restaurant was family-owned and though we did not know a lick of Italian, the woman serving us explained—in Italian, mostly—what each dish contained. Meanwhile, her small toddler son would run around doing half-cart-wheels on the sidewalk for us, his spectators, just so he could hear our oohs and wows as he demonstrated his athletic prowess. After we had dessert—we could not decide between 2 kinds of cake, and so the restaurant owner gave us a slice of each—we realized we were the only customers still there. The family who owned the establishment began bringing inside the other tables and chairs, but did not rush us at all or show any sense of hurried impatience. Instead, the toddler continued his feats of athleticism by helping his relatives bring in chairs that were bigger than he was. He craved attention from us newcomers while simultaneously smiling and acting embarrassed when he was conscious that he was being watched. His grandfather would laugh occasionally as he smoked a cigarette that he held with nothing but his lips. At one point, the little boy came up to us and gave us a key—presumably a really important one, because after I returned the key to his mother and thus exposed her son's benevolence with us strangers, she scolded him heartily. But the reprimand ended with a laugh as she looked at us, and we began to laugh too. We did not know Italian, and they did not know English, but it didn't matter. Language barriers didn't matter here. We shared a love of food but more importantly, a love of laughter, of happiness.

It sounds silly—cliché, perhaps. But I just don't know how else to express it. Even though we stayed in Rome for just 3 days, and despite the heavy tourism that guarantees you will hear countless conversations in American English from passersby on the street, there is a spellbinding charm that makes Rome glow with the warmth, authenticity, and richness that lies beneath its surface, an atmosphere that makes you feel at home almost instantly. Even on a late Tuesday evening, the city continues its liveliness with a youthful vigor that courses through its timeless antiquity like a paradox. A beautiful paradox, of course. If I can say anything about Rome, it sure is beautiful.

Here's the next batch of photos, taken between May 6th and 9th. I have one more post coming, and it will be solely dedicated to our trip to Vatican City.

A cat somehow made its way behind gates blocking off ancient ruins 

The photos below are film.