Rome does it again to me. It’s my seventh time to this town, in one year. I have now seen it in all four seasons, and still can’t get enough of it. Never mind trying to absorb it, the city in indigestible. It instead chews and swallows me bare. And when it doesn’t, it tickles and teases. In Rome, I am always left helpless and overwhelmed by its grandness, yet relaxed and contented by its warmth.
Rome has everything for everyone. For “disoriented” people like myself, it’s paradise. The city’s interesting layout (especially in the centre), combined with my being very bad with directions, constantly make my trips a fun one. I keep getting myself lost, but luckily I can always afford it: time and some trivial foot ache are never a problem for aimless tourists like myself. Not when the pay-offs are so gorgeous. I would never have discovered the charming little Giardino degli Aranci otherwise. After having put my hand in the adorable Bocca della Verità, I was heading south along Circo Massimo admiring the magnificent Palatino under the clear blue sky on my left, when I realized I was walking uphill to a tranquil, intriguing neighbourhood… I took right and there it was: a humble park hidden behind the wall. Curiosity killed the cat, so I entered and found myself welcomed by cheerful orange trees. I strolled to the balcony and gasped! A stunning panoramic view of Rome, no less, came right under my nose.
A treat for the eyes indeed. And for the mind none the less. When the evening came, my mouth and stomach were craving for their share. Rome did not let me down – it never would. At one of the restaurants at the Ghetto, called Il Giardino Romano in Via del Portico d’Ottavia 19, carciofi alla giudia was exotic as it looked, exquisite as it tasted. Crisp deep-fried artichoke. Take it one layer at a time, let it dissolve in your mouth, then take a little sip of water: hold your breath and sense the sweetness sliding down your throat… The fried courgette flowers stuffed with (melting!) mozzarella were also delicious. And of course, the classic roman-style cod fritter filetti di baccalà. The house white wine, was in good company. In my case, it was the ever laid-back, friendly, good-humoured Romans…
As the night was still young (and it does not seem to ever get old in Rome), why not play a little in the city that’s full of surprises? My Roman ragazzo shared this secret with me. We drove, crossing the Tiber river, passing the Vatican, to a quiet street called via Nicolo Piccolomini. And here’s the game. From the end of the street, take a good look at the St.Peter’s shining, elegant Dome. Drive forward, at a normal – by Roman standard – speed. Never, ever, take your eyes off the Dome. Now.. how is it possible, that as you move toward it, the Dome looks smaller and smaller? There must be a very good, scientific explanation for that. But why bother, when you are amazed and amused at the same time?
As we drove back to the city centre, June’s giant moon, hanging upon the bridge, smiled, wishing us sweet dreams. I could not but run to Fontana di Trevi. Those five cent coins thrown over the shoulder had always worked for me. Hopefully, it would work this time too. Because Rome, is like an old love I keep wanting to come back to. In fact, it is exactly what it offers: some good old loving for the light-hearted longing.