Shortly after I moved to Rome five years ago today, a fellow expat scoffed at the rockets and red glare that swirled around me as I talked about my love for this city. She said, “The honeymoon wears off after about five years.”
Today is my five-year anniversary since I arrived from Denver with a duffel bag, a roller bag, a computer bag and lots of dreams and fears. Well, guess what?
She was right.
Rome’s problems are beginning to mount. So are my headaches. Topping the list are public services that are right out of the Pony Express era. It took my Internet provider 48 days to switch over to my new apartment. I switched services recently and got my Internet knocked out for another week. I ordered a new debit card on Dec. 26, after a cash machine ate my other one, and it’s still gathering dust in Milan’s airport.
However, still, there is no place I’d rather live. After all, every city has its civic embarrassments. Rome’s public services are the worst in the western world, the city is the filthiest capital in Europe and the local government has been rife with corruption scandals.
And Denver has the Broncos. So it all evens out.
Besides, making up for a city’s flaws is a glorious new apartment, good health, better friends and a bright future with a beautiful, talented girlfriend who loves to travel as much as I do.
Tonight Marina and I will return to Taverna dei Fori Imperiali, a wonderful trattoria near the Colosseum where I dined the first night of my arrival with my kind expat mentors from across the alley, Gretchen and Peter Bloom. It’s a Jan. 11 ritual, one I plan on continuing the rest of my life.
But it would help if my debit card arrived.
Another Jan. 11 ritual is my blog listing all the reasons I love living in Rome. No honeymoon is perfect. No marriage is perfect. Any life in Rome is better than life right now in the United States. The U.S. has bigger problems than a lousy post office.
So, once again, here is all the things I love about this city. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of items to list:
I love how my barista at Romagnani Caffe across the street greets me with “Cappuccino bencaldo e cornetto cioccolato?” before I even give him my regular order of an extra hot cappuccino and a chocolate croissant.
I love how Romagnani Caffe’s cappuccino bencaldo is better than mine and always worth the extra 1.10 euro and the effort to get out the door.
I love Trevi Fountain before dawn, when all you hear is the splashing water.
I love never having a car with so few places in Rome and Italy you can’t go by tram, train, plane, bus or boat.
I love paying only 250 euros for a year public transportation pass, meaning my transportation in Rome costs less than $25 a month.
I love the slightly burnt outer crust on a wood-fire pizza.
I love how pizzeria waiters will always let you make up your own pizza off menu. My regular: gorgonzola and sausage.
I love strolling at night behind Il Vittoriano, the giant 1885 monument known as Mussolini’s Typewriter, and seeing the empty Ancient Forum glowing in perfect light and eerily quiet.
I love having coffee bars on opposite corners on my block, a cozy enoteca around the corner and a beer bar around the next corner.
I love how few bars have bouncers.
I love how the sun reflects off the lake 10 months a year up the street from me in Doria Pamphilj, Rome’s biggest and most underrated park.
I love the gorgonzola in pear sauce at Renato e Luisa, my favorite restaurant in Rome.
I love Lazio wines.
I love finding great wine bargains for under 10 euros in any enoteca.
I love the sexy terrace at the Radisson Blu hotel, the perfect place to see Rome’s most beautiful people from around the world at an Internations event.
I love how the nut lady at my Mercato Gianicolense pulls out her special stash of salted almonds from under her counter when she sees me approach.
I love how Birroteca Stappo, my new local bar, has my name on a card and I get a free beer when I reach a certain number of beers.
I love how Birroteca Stappo carries Italy’s growing list of delicious craft beers.
I love how Max, my fishmonger, knows to cut a smaller tuna fillet for Marina on the days I cook for her.
I love how AS Roma’s ultras fill Olympic Stadium’s Curva Sud every game, regardless if Roma is winning or losing, if they’re cheering or whistling.
I love watching Lazio lose.
I love Roma 3, Lazio 1, Sept. 29.
I love the white chocolate cornetto and pistachio cream cornetto at Sweet Paradise, the pasticceria near Marina’s.
I love the handmade Italian leather shoes Marina bought me for Christmas.
I love writing on my penthouse balcony on a Sunday morning, with a cappuccino at my side, with the birds chirping and church bells ringing up the street.
I love the No. 8 tram: Two blocks from my door and direct to Centro Storico in 10 minutes.
I love wine tastings every month without ever having to visit a winery.
I love my elevator. (Yes, elevators are near novelties in Rome. It’s a 3,000-year-old city. My previous three buildings had no elevator. It was sometimes a pain but no resident was fat.)
I love watching couples while away an entire afternoon with a cup of coffee at an outdoor cafe.
I love how outdoor cafes let couples while away an entire afternoon with a cup of coffee.
I love how the buildings along Via della Conciliazione perfectly frame St. Peter’s when I pass the long boulevard leading to the church on the No. 23 bus.
I love the white chocolate that goes over my black cherry gelato then solidifies at Brivido, my favorite gelateria, in my old Testaccio neighborhood.
I love fettuccine al salmone affumicato (smoked salmon fettuccine) anywhere, especially the way Marina makes it, with a glass of crisp white Frascati wine.
I love 3.50-euro beers in San Lorenzo, the university neighborhood.
I love free laser surgery.
I love the view from the Atlante Star Hotel in Prati near the Vatican with St. Peter’s to my right and Castel Sant’Angelo, Hadrian’s giant mausoleum, to my left.
I love the beautifully illuminated wall of beers at Open Baladin, which remains one of the top birrerias for Italian craft beer. The wall makes it look more like a museum than a beer bar.
I love red and yellow.
I love she-wolves nursing.
I love the ruins of the Ancient Roman warehouse around the corner from my old apartment and walking by it every day thinking Julius Caesar may have walked these same steps to check supplies.
I love 100-euro Italian suits during the twice-annual saldis (sales) at King Boutique.
I love the ivy strung all along Via Margutta, a narrow cobblestone street lined with antique and art galleries near Piazza del Popolo.
I love the pizza amatriciana at 72 Ore, my favorite pizzeria in Rome.
I love Sunday passeggiatas (strolls) down and around Centro Storico’s narrow, twisty alleys through the piazzas and past the shops, the pizzerias, the trattorias and the enotecas with nowhere to go and nothing to do.
I love the word francobollo (stamp). It’s the one word that makes me sound more Italian when I pronounce it.
I love Sensi di Vini, my local enoteca and maybe the coziest wine bar in Rome with only two tables.
I love photo exhibits with black and white photos of old Rome when the war was over and Italians were falling in love again.
I love Marina, the most beautiful woman in a city full of them.