Three-year anniversary produces all new list of reasons I love living in Rome

The Forum of Augustus. Photo by Marina Pascucci

The Forum of Augustus. Photo by Marina Pascucci

Three years is a long time in one place for a lot of people. Three years in a foreign country is an eternity. In Rome, however, at least for me, it’s just the beginning. Three years ago today I landed in Rome with a roller bag, a duffel bag, a computer bag and a backpack. Six days earlier I had retired after 40 years in the newspaper business and resettled in the town I fell in love with 16 years ago.

The honeymoon has not worn off. I’m still in the rockets-and-red-glare stage, like meeting the woman of your dreams and that tingling never goes away. Rome does that to you. It is so much like a woman. It can be infuriating, unpredictable and expensive. But it’s always beautiful, charming and enlightening. I’ll never leave.

Below you’ll see why. Here is my annual Jan. 11 list of all the reasons I love Rome. I hope it all inspires you to visit and reminds my fellow Rome residents to appreciate all that we have here. It’s a magical place, and it’s nearly 3,000 years old. It’s not going away.

Neither am I:

The Colosseum

The Colosseum

I love the view of the Colosseum at night from Caffe Oppio, the bar across the street where you can have an aperitivo for 12 euros and watch the lights shine through the 2,000-year-old porticos. Have two extra glasses of wine and you can almost hear the roar of the crowd — and the screams of the fallen gladiators.

I love walking through my Piazza Testaccio watching a father kick a soccer ball with his little boy, showing the same zeal and love our fathers did when they played catch with us in the front yard.

I love how my Marina’s exquisite photos of Rome show the city’s beauty better than my written words ever can. (See photo of the Forum of Augustus above.)

I love a glass of Pinot Grigio from the Lazio countryside while sitting on my terrace on a warm July night, seeing the lights from L’Antico Tevere restaurant across the street dance on the Tiber River. For some reason, it makes my prosciutto and melon taste so much better.

I love petting stray cats resting on ancient marble, their bellies full and their spirits high from all the priceless cat ladies, the gattare, who feed them around the city.

St. Peter's at night

St. Peter’s at night

I love the view from atop the Atlante Star Hotel, situated in perfect proximity to see St. Peter’s on one side and Vittoriano, the massive 19th century monument called The Birthday Cake, on the other. Rome may not have a more romantic place to begin a date.

I love how everyone in Rome has no respect for Donald Trump.

I love the smell of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese after it’s poured into a little plastic bag by Antonella and Francesca in my Mercato Testaccio. I can then be found on the street outside, with the bag up to my face, sniffing it like glue.

I love seeing what pair of Italian shoes Marina wears every night.

I love the fagottino, a flaky, rectangular pastry filled with warm chocolate. With a frothy cappuccino, it is the new star in my morning routine at Linari, my neighborhood cafe.

I love the Romanaccio dialect. Only Rome could have a dialect devoted entirely to profanity.

I love the stack of business cards piling up next to my laptop. They represent all the restaurants, cafes and pizzerias I’ve walked past, immediately fell in love with and asked for a business card.

I love how Roma beat evil Lazio last month, 2-1.

I love being in love with Marina in the most romantic city in the world.

I love how the speedy staff at Linari see me at the counter and immediately set out a fagottino and a cappuccino bencaldo (extra hot) for me.

I love how that staff calls it cappucc (prounounced cah-POOCH) in the Roman dialect.

Via Giulia

Via Giulia

I love walking down Via Giulia, past its 17th century fountain and Michelangelo’s ivy-covered Arco Farnese, which was designed to connect beautiful Palazzo Farnese with Villa Farnesina on the opposite side of the Tiber but was never completed. Tourists walk down it to say they walked down perhaps Rome’s beautiful street. I walk down it to reach my sports pub.


I love the saldi, the twice annual sales every July and January when top Italian name-brand clothes are up to 50 percent off.

I love how the sun reflects off the orange trees on Aventino Hill, up the hill from my apartment and home to one of the best views in Rome.

I love watching Lazio lose.

La Gazzetta dello Sport

La Gazzetta dello Sport

I love how La Gazzetta dello Sport has 26 pages on soccer every day — in the off season.

I love walking into St. Peter’s and seeing Bernini’s bronze canopy over St. Peter’s tomb he had to make 30 meters high just to fill the massive space in the basilica.

I love looking down from my seat at a makeshift bar during the hot summer nights on Isola Tiberina, the longest continually inhabited island in the world (3rd century B.C.) and seeing the Tiber River’s whitewater rush past me.

Roman Forum

Roman Forum

I love the night view from behind Vittoriano, looking out at the illuminated temples sticking up from the Roman Forum. No spot in Rome may better illustrate the glory of Ancient Rome.

I love the traditional feasts on Christmas and the day after Easter, called Pasquino, where food takes precedent over religion, as it always should.

I love how drivers always stop and wave you by when you take one step into a crosswalk. I know it’s the law but how many in the U.S. do it and how many do it with a smile?

The Diavalo pizza at 72 Ore.

The Diavalo pizza at 72 Ore.

I love the pizza at 72 Ore, named for the 72 hours it takes to levitate the dough to the most scrumptious level. Topped with the usual fresh ingredients you find all over Rome, it’s my favorite pizzeria in the city.

I love the drop in humidity from 60 percent to under 40 at night during the steaming summer, turning Rome from a steambath into the most comfortable city in Europe.

Marina Pascucci

Marina Pascucci

I love La Bella Figura, the Italian concept of a healthy mind and body, the drive that sends women like Marina to the gym four times a week.

I love the view of St. Peter’s Basilica, back-lit like a giant fortress, when I walk through the massive piazza late at night, long after the tourists have left, and only the security guards and gushing fountains accompanying me.

I love sitting outside Linari, with my La Gazzetta dello Sport, cappuccino and fagottino, and watch my Testaccio neighborhood go by.

I love the Italian word tranquillo.

The Last Judgment

The Last Judgment

I love the deep color blue in the sky of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo spent two years looking for the perfect ingredients to make that color shine for nearly 500 years and counting.

I love hearing Marina talk to her friends in Roman, the local dialect that sounds like they’re all eating their words.

I love how Romans laugh with you and not at you when you make a funny mistake with the language, such as when I recently complained to my bank about why my 30-euro contribution to a cat sanctuary in Greece cost 34.50 euros to send, according to my bank statement. The banker explained that the bonifico sull’estero means “‘bank transfer,” not “transfer fee.” The transfer fee was 4.50. Duh!

I love the frosty taste of a cold Tipopils, Italy’s most popular artisan beer, on the cobblestone alley of Via Benedetta after a leisurely stroll through Trastevere on a hot summer day.

I love getting a sack full of fresh cornettos filled with dark and white chocolate, even if it’s midnight, at Sweet Paradise, the great pasticceria near Marina’s place.

The Lazio eagle

The Lazio eagle

I love how the laziali at the cafe near the Vatican forms the Lazio eagle in the form of my cappuccino even if he knows I hate Lazio.


I love how the luscious, melted mozzarella stretches from my mouth all the way to the suppli, no matter how far I pull back Rome’s signature fried rice and cheese ball.

I love how every time I travel and come home, I come home to Rome.

18 thoughts on “Three-year anniversary produces all new list of reasons I love living in Rome

  1. Grazier for this wonderful essence of Rome!! We love Rome – live in England and wish constantly we lived in Rome! !
    Thanks again! Looking forward to visiting Rome in the new year.

      • We have been to Rome several times. Once in July and we melted! I lived in Texas as a child for 6 years and 120 F in the shade was not unusual. However we had a small above ground pool and of course air conditioning :) ! I prefer off season anyway as photographing is much less fraught when you aren’t dodging masses of tourists.
        Looking forward to your next post John! As an expat American -29 years in England – I appreciate the touches of Americana and the revulsion of the orange one!!

    • Thanks for the thumbs up, Doria. I’m getting ripped by some Trump backers. Every one of their emails is rife with grammatical and spelling errors. Then again, Trump won with the uneducated white man vote.

  2. I look everywhere for those pastries with one half filled with chocolate cream and the other half filled with vanilla cream! When I find them, that’s my Bar.

      • Yes, i found this pastry at a Bar across the street from my convent lodging at 174 Via Merulana, 00185 Roma, intersecting street Via Ruggero Bonghi. I couldn’t look at the Rosetta bun the convent served every morning, so this Bar always stocked this pastry when they realized I liked it, would have it ready for me every morning, it was great Fun!

  3. Beautifully said! I have to ask though, as a single woman about to move there, did you meet your gorgeous Marina in Rome? If so, how (your answer will give me hope of finding someone :)

    • Ciao, Charlene. Thanks for the note. I met Marina the old-fashioned Italian way: through friends. Rome doesn’t have much of a bar scene. It’s a restaurant town, not a bar town. Romans don’t go bar hopping. There are no divorcee bars, even in the suburbs. If you went out for a glass of wine with a friend you won’t have to worry about getting hit on all night. Internet dating is still a foreign concept here. What happens is you go out with a group. People in the group invite friends. You go out to dinner, go out for wine, coffee, whatever. You meet people that way.

      Marina was in my circle of friends for a year. We finally broke off from the group for a casual aperitivo one night near the Vatican and hit it off. It went from there. I think she liked me because I became her friend first. Warning: Italian men can’t get their mind around that concept: friendship. They aren’t nearly as aggressive as they were before Mussolini’s granddaughter got into Parliament and changed some of the sexual harassment laws. But they’re pretty much interested in one thing first. They’re also very interested in American women because they think they ALL want to come to Italy for a fling with an Italian. As one of my Italian male friends said, “The problem with Italian women is they just don’t drink enough.”

      A lot of women in Rome, both expats and Italians, are tired of Italian men. A bunch of Marina’s friends want to meet Americans. I’d like to think I had something to do with that. If you have any other questions, feel free to ask.

  4. Ciao John,

    I’ve read several of your articles on The and I always enjoy them. Thanks for sharing the lovelier points of what makes Rome so special. It’s really an endless list. And seriously, I’ve always wondered how La Gazzetta can manage to fill so many pages, day after day.


  5. Ciao John,

    I’m a relatively new follower and thoroughly enjoy your posts. Like you, I am a huge soccer fan, serie a and premiere league, and love the Eternal City. I currently live in Washington DC where I recently retired. With the inauguration less than a week away, I may be looking for a place to land. Not sure I can survive the impending stream of crap from the trumplethinskin… In the meantime I look forward to next piece. Grazie!

    • Thanks for the note, Dale. The Blooms, with whom I crashed when I arrived here three years ago, moved to Washington late in 2015 and are saying the same thing about 2017. Come to Rome. It’s much calmer. The Italians don’t like Trump. They’re just not angry about it as I am. They keep me calm.

    • Another new follower and Trump refugee here. I have a couple of years to go until retirement and John, sites like yours sustain me. I know my love for Rome is not misplaced when you affirm how Romans feel about Trump. Not quite getting the soccer thing yet but am studying….

      • Thanks for the thumbs up, Cynthia. Yeah, Rome is a safe haven for the rift that has gripped the U.S. I just have to stay off the Internet: Twitter and Facebook. I’m getting in warsof words with people I’ve never met nor ever want to meet. When I walk out onto the streets, my smile returns. Don’t worry about soccer. There are plenty of other fields of interest here.

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