This morning, the faint smell of last night’s pizza lingers on my fingertips as I make my way to an internet cafe in true Eat Pray Love style to write about my travels across Italy, specifically Rome. This beautiful city has kept me as it’s prisoner, it’s extraordinary gelato and heatwave weather has kept me for much longer than I ever intended. Not that this is a bad thing of course, but today it is 38 degrees and the thought of another day with no aircon and overpriced coke zero leaves me with the sour taste of homesickness and a hunger for writing.
This said, Rome is one of those places where your senses are overpowered with freshly baked bread, the sound of the sea breeze as you take in thousands of years of history. How do you put those emotions into words when generations before you have tried and failed? Can you describe the feeling of stumbling through the Sistine Chapel and the moment you see works of art that you thought would only ever be referenced in textbooks? How can you talk about Michelangelo and the Romans and the tombs of the Popes without being cheesy? Clearly Elizabeth Gilbert was better at this than me.
Day One: A Sharp Awakening
The sharp alarm and sunlight of 5am awakes that Christmas Morning feeling within me as I head to the airport. The plane is cold and so are the coffees served. I sleep. Aeroplane fumes and the thick heat of Italian mornings hit me, jolting me out of a bleary eyed state. It gives me a migraine. I sleep for the rest of the day.
Day Two: Watching, Listening, Seeing
Having wasted my first day trapped in an AirBnB with the lights off, I am determined to make more of today. Pasta and pizza and coffee fill my stomach whilst the city smog fills my lungs. A classic game of people watching leads to an afternoon of soaking up Italian life: the con artists, the locals, the tourists all with their determined faces, sure of ticking off their to do list before the midday heat hits the city.
Day Three: Life Goes On
The Colleseum at dawn brings and overwhelming sense of possibility: this truly is an eternal city. Buildings go up and are torn down. People are born and people die. Life continues but monuments like this remain. For all to see. For my great great great grandparents and for my children. There is something about this continuity in a rapidly deteriorating country that is comforting. As long as the moon rises at night and the sun chases it away in the mornings, foundations of this two thousand year old building remain on show for all to see.
Day Four: The Heatwave
Three people died in France because of the heat today, and I am stood in thirty five degree heat looking at Roman Ruins. Beautiful and interesting for their historical value, but the heat is too much to handle. The $8 for a coke zero in the cafe nearby leaves me cool but irritated. Great marketing ploy, terrible for my bank balance.
Day Five: Deadly Sins
Breakfast here is like nothing I have ever imagined. Pastries and chocolate and coffee and sugar and ice tea and croissants and custard and welcoming staff. Having been on a strict diet six months leading up to this trip, it is difficult to find the want to devour all these calorific items, but not too hard. When in Rome and all that. No regrets, the diet can be on pause until I return home to a student budget of salads and noodles.
Day Six: Ignorance of the Unknown
Thirty seven degrees and even the fan in the AirBnB cannot save me. I head to Anzio on the train. A small seaside village used to tourists, but a world away from the tacky merchandise and con artists ‘giving out’ bracelets. The sea breeze seems to give people a purpose here, even if it just to soak up the sun rays. Everything is relaxed and calm. The waves ripple out to sea and my awful Italian improves with the help of the bilingual locals, I stick to these few gems and attempt to learn more of the language under the sun, dictionary in one hand, YouTube in the other.
Day Seven: Craving the Sea
I return to Anzio, specifically to eat some fish. The carb frenzy of Italy is getting too much- freshly caught prawns and salmon seems much more appropriate in this weather. I want to stay here. Free from responsibilities, only opening my phone in the mornings to answer work emails and take siestas on the beach. The seasides of England can’t match this simplicity, our fishing towns have nightclubs now and all I want is the sea and nothing more.
Keep an eye out for my thoughts on my next week in Rome, should you be inclined to ever visit, it might help you decide if it’s the right city for you x