Home Again in Rome
It’s still night in Denver, but I have that adrenaline rush I get every time I arrive in Italy. It’s morning here, and I breeze through customs and passport control, on my way to perhaps my favorite spot in the world: Rome.I usually get euros out of the ATM at the airport, but it’s not functioning. It seems like there is always a 50/50 chance in Italy, so I always arrive in Rome with cash now.The taxi driver doesn’t seem to speak English, but thankfully understands my Italian without a problem. We don’t speak for the half hour drive into the city – I’m just too tired to try to pull out the words after 19 hours traveling here.The seat belts in the car don’t work so I wrap the belt around myself under my arm and hope I don’t die in a car crash. Highway driving in Italy feels more like like a racetrack – cars straddling two lanes, high speed merging as lanes end, swearing and hand gestures, today, all under a hazy sky with a slightly humid breeze. As we round the corners the guard rails are mangled as if many cars before us didn’t make the turn quite so smoothly.We near the city and I begin to see more of the iconic umbrella pine trees – my heart beat picks up just slightly in anticipation.I scan the sights outside my window: a section of an old aqueduct, tiny cars parked haphazardly in the median, red poppies sprouting signifying spring has already arrived here, laundry hanging from balconies in the suburbs, graffiti, women bravely strolling across the street as the cars approach, confident they wont be hit, adnd all the while Italian words are dancing across my tongue in silence as my brain prepares.Modern buildings from the suburbs give way to the golden and burnt orange stone buildings typical in the centro storico and I know we are getting close.Trattoria, bar, pizzeria, gelatteria, ristorante – my jet lagged belly begins to grumble in anticipation with every sign I pass -will I start with a caffe macchiato or go straight to a heaping platter of spaghetti carbonara?Cars and motorcycles jockey on the small winding streets as we arrive at the Palatine Hill – massive rose bushes are in bloom and perfume the air, the scent sweeping through the hot taxi.The Race for the Cure will be held here at Circus Massimo this weekend and it strikes me as odd to see such an iconic American thing here.Here in the centro storico, 2000 year old buildings meld seamlessly into modern day businesses, while tourists (dressed too casually for Rome) stroll down the streets next to smartly dressed businessmen and women. Fare bella figura, I think to myself.Piazza Venezia is as crowded as always, huge tourist busses and tourists everywhere, while a police car with that classic siren wails down Corso Vittorio Emanuele.When I arrive at my hotel I am welcomed with smiles all around from the guys who remember me from my previous visits, making me feel as though I am coming home rather than checking into a hotel.Quickly I unpack, anxious to leave the room as fast as I can because I can’t wait to get out into the city.I begin at Cafe Sant Eustacchio for a quick macchiato but I notice that the women next to me get a lungo instead, and I think to myself I might have to change my order in the future.I make my way to Campo dei Fiori and it is as busy as ever at noon, but filled with so much crap. It’s clearly not the old market of wonderful produce it once was.After two laps around the stalls I settle for a nice table with a view of the Market intending to have pizza, but then I see carbonara on the menu. It’s my very favorite dish in Rome and I can’t resist.
Come la carbonara?
Buonissimo! Anche cacio e pepe!Carbonara con un bicchiere di franciacorta ed un bottiglia del’acqua naturale, per favore. I stumble on the words, the italian coming out slowly and stilted despite the past three months of practicing.Another waiter hears me and says…
e americana, no?
Si, parlo un po’ Italiano, ma non molto bene.
But at least you are trying he says and he smiles at me and walks away.After a plate of pasta and wine I need to move – out of the market area, across the Piazza Navona, and down Via dei Coronari which I notice is filled with lots of new boutiques and cafes.At the end I pop out into the mayhem by Castle Sant Angelo. It seems every African hawking fake prada bags is dressed in a fake burberry plaid shirt. Some of the bags look cute, but I remind myself of my recent trips to the Goodwill store and refrain.It’s hot now, and I’m worried if I go too much further I won’t be able to stagger back to the hotel, so I retrace, back around the north end of Piazza Navona, around the corner, and turn right.My heart skips a little beat as I face the Pantheon for the first time on this my twelfth visit to Rome. Cutting through the Piazza della Rotunda, I want to linger, but the jet lag takes hold and the hotel around the corner is calling me for a nap.I lay down on the bed with the window open, but the shutters closed, and am lulled for quite some time by the room full of Italians next to me who are conversing as only Italians can – very quickly and very loudly. I’m almost sorry when they disband and their conversation is replaced with the faint background sounds of traffic, schoolchildren, and tourists in the distance. As I drift into a much needed nap, I cant help but smile. At home again in Rome!
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