Legend has it that if you throw a coin in the Trevi Fountain, one day you will return to Rome – in my case at least, that came true. 5 years ago I came to Rome for a few days with a friend on my first holiday without my parents – it was an eventful trip full of sunburn, awe, and bus fines.
With every alleyway corner you turn in Rome you always find something worth pausing over
My stay in the “Eternal City” started a few months ago when I arrived to begin my Italian soggiorno as part of my Year Abroad. In the space of a few months, I’ve learnt a lot about la vita romana – that is, about food, football and the distinct Roman attitude to life which could be summed up by the phrase I’ve heard so often: “in un modo o nell’altro ci si può fare (in one way or another it can be done.)”
I’ve started to explore the city gradually, day by day, fitting in walks around the historic centre and visits to its many history-filled monuments. With every alleyway corner you turn in Rome you always find something worth pausing over – it seems to be a truly inexhaustible city of beautiful artefacts, buildings or simply quintessentially Italian Vespas parked next to rustic doorways.
On one of my walks, I was trekking up a hill to reach the sprawling greenery of Rome’s biggest park, the Villa Borghese. Head down, I was focused on simply making it up there, but when I looked up I came face to face with Matt Hancock, the infamous former British Health Secretary. He was casually strolling hand in hand with his former aide. My face must have been one of pure bewilderment – seeing a man whom the entirety of the UK saw everyday on TV during the pandemic engaging in romantic Roman activities was very strange.
I read somewhere that part of the charm of Rome is the mismatch of “elegance and chaos” which I do believe holds some truth. Rome is certainly chaotic – the city is loud, bustling and there is a fiery driving culture. When I arrived in Rome car-less and entirely reliant on public transport I was definitely disappointed with the measly two metro lines. A family member of mine’s favourite Roman anecdote to explain the less than sufficient public transport system is that “whenever they dig into the ground to lay down some new tracks, they stumble across some ancient ruin and the works have to stop!”
Another notable element of la vita romana is Roman pride – which is strong in almost every sense from pride in their food to pride for their football team. (I’ve managed to find myself on the metro post-AS Roma victory many a time – I’ve practically learnt the victory chants off by heart now.) The pride in their local cuisine is something which I must admit is very justified.
From pizza romana al taglio to porchetta, I’ve been on a delicious culinary journey. The price of said food was also a happy surprise given my student budget. I was recently in a supermarket looking for wine to bring to a dinner when I saw my friend reach for what looked like a carton of juice. “€1.50, perfect, grab two,” she said. I went along with it, slightly apprehensive and expecting the wine to taste more like acid, but this was my first reminder that somehow everything tastes good in Italy – even freakishly cheap wine…
When it came to choosing a location for my Italian soggiorno, I have to admit Rome wasn’t the first place that came to mind. I felt more drawn to Florence or Siena but one thing led to another and circumstances put me in Rome. But I’m glad I ended up in this city – its liveliness, history and soul have kept me highly entertained and I feel like I’ve still only scraped the surface of what it has to offer…