I once dreamed of living in Rome.
Over time, that dream became a goal. It was one of the main reasons why I became an English language teacher. It gave me something – somewhere! – to work towards. It quietened my self-limiting beliefs. It helped me stay the course.
I had visited Rome three times before moving there; once with family, once with my partner and once to visit a friend who was studying there. However, as we all know, there is a massive difference between going somewhere on holiday and living there as a resident. I had to spend quality time there in order to learn. The characteristics and charms of the different neighbourhoods. The great places to eat and drink. Where to relax… or socialise with friends until the early hours of the morning. Why the locals do this or that (if an explanation can be found!). I was constantly learning and discovering hidden gems. Taking thousands of photos of the city. It didn’t matter if I was standing beneath a magnificent monument or simply standing at a bus stop. I found beauty everywhere…or more accurately, it found me.
There are many things I love about Rome. It is a city of traditions, of history, of reluctant modernisation, of habits and customs. I adore the stunning architecture, the colours of the walls and street art. The juxtaposition of grandeur on one side of the road and crumbling shabbiness on the other. Getting lost in the labyrinths with just a camera in hand. How you can casually pass 2000-year-old ruins on your way to work. The monuments and statues with their intricate details. The broccoli-shaped trees. The frequent strikes (usually on a Friday, conveniently giving the bus and train drivers a long weekend!). The market vendors who often round down the cost of your groceries because they don’t like handling fiddly little coins. When it’s hot and sunny outside but because it’s not the defined ‘summer months’, locals still wear boots, scarves and bomber jackets. When it rains and no one wants to leave their houses.
The strong, bitter, brilliant coffee – costing less than a euro and sipped whilst standing, in noisy bars surrounded by madly gesticulating Italians. The constant buzz of telephone calls on buses and trains, “Pronto? Pronto? Ah ciao carina! Sul metro!”. The food – oh the food! Mouth-watering recipes, made with ingredients of exceptional quality. How the concept of a queue is obsolete – when the bus arrives, do all you can to ensure you get on, elbows at the ready! The market stalls bursting with fresh produce, every colour of the rainbow. The accordion players busking on the metro, each only knowing three or four tracks. The scooters snaking their way along cobbled streets. Actually hearing people say “Mamma Mia!” in real life….
I am grateful for the friends I made in Rome. During my time there, the turnover of ‘expats’ was very high; people flowed in and out of the city, some staying for a month, some a season, some a year. I met people who had decided to live there indefinitely. Some were dating or married to Romans….whilst others were in a long-term relationship with gelato. Our time together felt transient and I just wanted to enjoy it. Enjoy the moments we had, while we had them. Now that I no longer live there, there are some people who I only speak to occasionally, and others less frequent than that. Some friendships have remained strong despite the distance. Some friends I chat to on a regular – almost weekly – basis whilst others I only speak to in person, when I am back for a visit. Regardless of how close or distant we may be now, I am grateful for each and every one of them.
Grazie mille a tutti…. and grazie Roma.
Ciao for now
The Curious Sparrow