“One sidewalk cafe coming right up!” and off they go, bumping over the cobblestone streets of Rome. Imagine them: she chooses to abandon her responsibilities to experience a life she has, up to now, only dreamed of, while he plays the role of modern-day knight, on a Vespa.
She sits in front, laughing. the wind in her face, as he points out ancient monuments and tourist attractions. He takes her to the Colosseum and then Rocca’s, a cafe near the Pantheon, the first stop in fulfilling her fantasy adventure.
Cliche? Of course. Wishful thinking? Obviously. And we all know how that film goes.
But I’ve done it. It happened.
Well, sort of.
The first time I went to Rome, a lovely Italian man I’d met arranged for a friend of his to show me around on his scooter. “Penny, I hope you don’t mind, I have arranged a surprise for you. I’d like to take you myself, but this is wrong. I can not!” Why didn’t the Roman take me around you ask? The Roman guy was married. Anyway, that’s another story. I had my Roman Holiday, minus the romance.
That was ok with me, I fell in love with Rome instead.
I’ve often wondered if I lived in Rome would I feel the same? Or am I a hopeless romantic hypnotized by a Hollywood version of Rome? Would I move to Rome and discover I’d made a huge mistake?
On that first visit I called a friend in the States and said, “I am absolutely overwhelmed, but I love it here.” I didn’t expect to love Rome.
There is something about Rome that is hard to define. It’s evocative, demanding, friendly, graceful, inspiring, ageless, gritty, chaotic, energetic, crowded, loud, frustrating, unexpected, exhausting, modern, ancient, generous and greedy. A city of striking contrasts.
Trying to define Rome is like asking, “What is beauty?” Ask ten people and you’ll get ten different answers. I suppose what I like most about Rome is that it is never ever apathetic, ambivalent, or boring.
And yes, Rome is beautiful, blessed with a warm Mediterranean light, ancient ruins, and gorgeous people. The larger than life monuments: the Colosseum, the Spanish Steps, The Trevi Fountain, the Pantheon, all seem to appear out of nowhere, stopping you in your tracks.
I thought that I would find Rome cold and unfriendly, like many large cities. Interesting for its amazing art and history but dirty, crowded, and noisy. Instead I found that Rome felt like a good friend, one who knows you inside and out and still loves you.
As I watched Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday zipping in and out of traffic on the back of a scooter, eating gelato at the Spanish Steps, flirting and dancing with a handsome man, I relived those same experiences. But the film didn’t end on the back of a scooter for me. On my internal screen I saw myself living in Rome. Enjoying new experiences. Creating new memories in that crazy, beautiful, and exasperating city. No, moving to Rome would not be a mistake at all.