Last week I had to go to Rome for the day to visit the South African consulate to inquire about my student visa for study in Cape Town next semester. Now the process of getting that visa [or not getting the visa as it turns out to be] is not something I want to go into here [due to the sheer ridiculousness of that situation], but I did want to talk a bit about my obsession with one of the most beautiful cities in the world: ROMA.
Now those of you who know me well know that I'm not one of those girls that just falls in love easily. But this only holds true for people. Places, on the other hand, have the power to sweep me off my feet. Cities steal my heart in a second. I find myself dreaming about places I love like a 13 year old girl dreams about her middle school crush. And Rome, OH ROME, how I swoon for Rome!
Just as Istanbul is the culmination of Turkey, Los Angeles is California and Cusco is Peru, ROME is Italy. Rome is the Italian stereotypes; the beautiful, the dirty, the men on the streets whispering "ciao bella" as you walk by, the smiling square-sliced-pizza vendors, the friendly directionally-challenged police men, Roman ruins at every turn...Rome is Italy and I love it. Whereas other tourist spots in Italy such as Florence and Venice are overrun with tourists, especially the particularly loud American tourists, tramping on the culture and stealing tastes of the "bella vita" in disgusting mouthfuls of bad pasta, Rome is surprising REAL. I mean of course the Vatican has hoards of tourists pushing their way through the giant cathedral doors and the forum is crawling with gawking foreigners, but wander down streets, even streets in the dead center of the old city, and there are Italians everywhere living their lives. Winding down side streets and sitting in piazzas, you can feel as though you're truly in Italy and truly in the former capital of the Romans, a population that dominated Europe for a thousand years.
This trip, I decided to go to a museum that somehow I had missed during my time in the city: I Musei Capitolini. It is a museum all about the Roman empire, especially its' elite and its' emperors. I'm usually not very interested in Roman statues, but these were definitely the best
Roman statues that exist. There were
giant heads of Constantine that used to sit on bodies and thrones in the old city, a giant horse mounted by Marcus Aurelias, and the official busts of all the emperors. I walked among these faces of old Rome seeing in their facial features images of modern Italians, big noses and curly hair. Beautiful greek statues that adorned rich gardens of senators and tombs of people that lived 2000 years ago. To top it off, the museum has a fantastic view of the forum spread out in front of the hill just as it was all those generationsago, minus a few pillars and roofs here and there.
One thing that struck me this trip to Rome as I was looking around at all the tourists taking pictures and enjoying the sights, was my complete bafflement on how these people are probably in Rome for the only time in their lives. So many of these people come to Rome for a day or 2 or maybe 3, see the sights, and then leave, never to come back again. I can't do that. Every time I come to Rome, it just makes me want to come back again and again. It's like a drink of the most delicious nectar that I find myself craving more and more of. The idea of never being able to come back to Roma makes me sick. The city gives me this feeling of comfort and wonder at the same time. Despite my troubles at the consulate in the morning, the day in Rome made me feel so good, so refreshed. These past few months back in Italy have made me a little dissillusioned about life here, with lots of frustrations and a general homesickness for my fully-functioning California, but with one day in Rome was enough to reignite that flame of love in my heart and make me dread that day in 2 weeks that I leave Italy, most likely never to live here again.
So here I pledge my undying love for the eternal city, and I promise you, Roma, that I will return to visit you again.