Rome, the Eternal City. My Fellini-loving, La Dolce Vita-admiring, Cacio e Pepe-eating self couldn’t wait to see this gorgeous city. I’ve traveled to Italy a few times before, but had never gone to Rome. It sounds like an egregious oversight, but Rome always seemed like the sort of place that deserved more than a few measly hours eked out of a hectic train trip.
We stayed outside of the city center, near the Parco degli Acquedotti. The park shown in the very beginning of La Dolce Vita, as Marcello flies towards the city with the statue of Christ suspended from the helicopter. It was gorgeous to look out the window every morning to see this ancient aqueduct still standing, watching time pass, as it has been for thousands of years.
Day one was dedicated to a Vespa tour of the city with the amazing people at Scooteroma. I’ve never been on a Vespa and I didn’t realize that I was actually terrified until I got on the bike. But Annie and Giovanni, our fearless tour guides, were so knowledgeable and fantastic. Doing a scooter tour on the very first day may not have been very jet lag-friendly, but was the absolute highlight of the trip.
After seeing all of Rome from the back of a scooter, it became much easier to figure out what sights to head back to. The Colosseum, of course. The Borghese Galleries, a must. The Trevi Fountain, the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona. Check, check, check. Sistine Chapel? Hello. But for me, a claustrophobic kid from Jersey, any place that requires waiting in a massive line of people pressed shoulder-to-shoulder makes me a little queasy, even if the end result is well worth it.
That’s why the food (we nearly became regulars at Arancia Blu, a vegetarian restaurant, and Ba”Ghetto provided me with my artichoke fix) and the street art and the daily ritual of a caffè and cornetto are what make me smile when I think back on my trip. And being able to order a Spritz! Why don’t we have those stateside?
Cinecittà was my favorite museum. It’s an active film studio where many classic Italian films were shot, including Satyricon and La Dolce Vita, and has served as the backdrop for more contemporary productions, like Gangs of New York. I didn’t realize how much of a film buff I actually am until I started recognizing movies from each picture on display while walking through the museum. Cinecittà’s tagline — La Fabbrica dei Sogni, or The Dream Factory — seemed so apropos. Walking through the exhibition, I felt that magic that comes only from watching films.
Le Freccie, high-speed trains that run from Northern Italy down to Naples, entered my radar thanks to the folks at Scooteroma. With Florence an hour and a half away, and Naples just one hour away, it was impossible not to take a side trip. I got to see the great love of my life, Michelangelo’s David, once more, leisurely taking in the magnificent sculpture for a good hour. I will never forget the gasp that escaped from me the first time I rounded the corner and saw Michelangelo’s masterpiece.
Most of my family’s ancestry is from Campania, so visiting Naples, the capital of the Campania region, carries a lot of emotional importance. Naples gets a bad rap. But then again, so does New Jersey. Each time I’ve visited Naples, I expected to be overwhelmed; and each time, I was surprised at how much it reminds me of my family. People arguing in a familiar dialect, the sight, smell, and taste of mozzarella di bufala, house dresses and slippers, Sunday ragu, and more. I half expect to turn the corner to find my grandparents arguing over the tomatoes bought at the supermarket. Of course, instead, turning the corner often means a quick glimpse of Mount Vesuvius, which is probably the most beautiful sight I’ve ever seen.
With Italy, it’s so easy to fall into the routine of standing at the bar to drink espresso, of walking a little bit slower after dinner, of savoring a gelato as a car/scooter/bike whips by uncomfortably close.
Can I go back yet?