Rome is like opening your grandmother’s attic only to discover that she had squirrelled away some amazing treasures and just when you think there couldn’t be anything else to surprise and delight, something else amazing jumps out to surprise you. The heart of Rome is not that big and in four days of wandering I covered a great deal of ground. Wandering is different from touring in that you don’t go to the sights but rather you let the sights come to you, emerging in your path, sometimes dictating the direction of your wander but never setting the agenda. This is my favourite way of traveling now that I can take the time to savour the treasures that spring from grandmother’s attic in no particular order and Rome did not disappoint.
If you’ve been to Rome and you’ve already done the “tour thing”, including the Vatican then you will appreciate my desire to just wander and let each turn of a corner bring back memories of my first visit and fuel new interests and ideas.
As luck would have it a friend was in Milan and came down on the train to meet me in Rome so I had some company to enjoy what Rome offers in the way of sights, sounds, food, aromas and people.
One of the best things to do in Rome is people watch and of course listen. Romans tend to dress well and rarely do you see anyone slopping around in baggy pants and runners. Conversations tend to be loud, boisterous and accompanied by energetic gesticulations, as incomprehensible to me as the Italian language. It’s hard to imagine living your life in Rome but the people who are do it with style and ease.
Of course the ancient ruins of the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and Palantine Hill, the Vatican, Sistine Chapel and St. Paul’s Basilica are good reasons to go to Rome the first time. The grand piazzas, like Piazza Navona with its entertainers, street sellers and palaces, the views from the seven hills and making a wish in the Trevi Fountain are all traditional fair.
But when you make a return visit you should go prepared to savour and to experience Rome the city, greater than the sum of its parts. Seeing Rome as a living, breathing entity is seeing and appreciating its personality. Because Rome is a beautiful old thing and a self restoring treasure chest it transcends the normal experience of a city. Rome the “Eternal City” has earned its title for it truly is a place where the present lives alongside the past and the past enjoys a place in the sun out of the shadows of grandmother’s attic.