Nine years in Rome: Another anniversary, another list why

Me and Marina at Terrazza Caffarelli adjacent to Rome's Capitoline Museums.
Me and Marina at Terrazza Caffarelli adjacent to Rome’s Capitoline Museums.

I remember when I first arrived in Rome and changed my life forever. It was Day 3 and I’d just moved into my first apartment. It was a two-room hovel, a near windowless cave. I didn’t care. I found myself in one of those blissful states, a higher level of consciousness, as if my entire life meant little until that moment.

I sat in Caffe Peru’, which I’d staked out as my corner bar. I stared down the narrow cobblestone street at beautiful Piazza Farnese. I chatted with the friendly barista and other regulars who made me feel like one of them. 

I took a bite of my luscious chocolate cornetto. I took a sip of my creamy cappuccino. I’ll never forget the sensation.

I started welling up. 

I hadn’t cried in 11 years. Not ironically, that previous time was the night before I moved from Rome after a 16-month stint from 2001-03.

I’m not religious but it was the most blessed I’d ever felt. I still feel that way. I don’t weep over cappuccino anymore. But I truly feel grateful to live in this crazy, beautiful, captivating city.

Especially today.

It marks my nine-year anniversary of my arrival in Rome. Every Jan. 11 I list all the reasons I love living here. This is my 10th edition and I haven’t run out of sensations to list yet.

Don’t plan on it, either. Henceforth are more reasons why I love living in Rome:

Davide Desideri, my barista at Romagnani Caffe. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love sitting at my corner Romagnani Caffe’s outside table drinking a fantastic cappuccino in 60-degree weather in January and reading how two-thirds of the U.S. resembles one giant frozen margarita.

I love a warm chocolate fagotino (one “g” smart ass), my favorite Italian pastry, right out of the oven at Romagnani.

I love Rome-London round trip for $50.

I love getting hand surgery this year – and not paying one centesimo.

I love the torta di nonna cake at Sora Pia, a cozy, down-home restaurant in the Cornelia neighborhood that feels like your Italian grandmother’s kitchen.

I love the word tranquillo. It means what it sounds: tranquil. No Italian word describes my life better in Rome.

I love My Antonia, the Italian craft beer I drink every time I come to my Abbey Theatre Irish Pub.

I love the bartenders at Abbey Theatre Irish Pub immediately handing me a curved bottle of My Antonia as soon as I take a seat.

I love watching Lorenzo Pellegrini, A.S. Roma’s home-grown captain, staring down the goalkeeper before a penalty kick like a cobra eyeing a hamster.

Marina’s farfalle al salmone. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love Marina’s farfalle al salmone, butterfly-shaped pasta with smoked salmon and cream.

I love C’Era Una Volta’s four cheese pizza around the corner from my apartment and its prompt home delivery before soccer matches.

I love when Marina swears in Romanaccio, the dialect within the Roman dialect dedicated to profanity. Even swear words in Italian sound sexy.

I love the patio at VinAllegro, the tiny enoteca so beautiful in its coziness tucked away from the raucous noise of the Trastevere neighborhood.

I love reading Corriere dello Sport and its 30 pages of Italian soccer every morning.

I love the lingering smell of roasted garlic in my apartment after I make my pasta amatriciana.

I love romantic books about Italy such as my latest, “The Mafia: The First 100 Years.” Ha! Seriously, I do love books about the Italian mafia.

I love the walk from my No. 8 tram stop in Centro Storico, walking up Via di St. Anna past all the boutique shops and gourmet food stores, through the outdoor diners in Campo de’Fiori then down cozy Via del Pellegrino past the line trying to get into Da Fortunata and across the buzzing Corso Vittorio Emanuele to my Abbey Theatre. 

Marina’s palline al parmigiano (parmesan balls covered in honey.) Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love Marina’s palline di parmigiano (parmesan balls) which she serves warm and covered in honey.

I love living in Rome nine years and never seeing an Italian drunk in public.

I love the cornetto pistacchio, an Italian croissant filled with pistachio cream, at Sweet Paradise, the cornetteria up the street from Marina’s.

I love a bottle of Cesanese, Lazio’s signature red wine, while sitting in a 300-year-old tasting room outside Frascati, only 20 miles south of Rome.

I love the saldi, the twice-annual clothes sales of top Italian brands that lasts a month.

I love the lean slabs of manzo steak my macellaio (butcher) down the street cuts for me in his tiny shop when I want to eat like an American.

I love the covered patio that Carlo built at Il Stappo, my local birrificio, during the pandemic then kept it just because it’s so damn friendly out there.

I love Rome-Cagliari, Sardinia, round trip for $60.

I love coco (coconut) and stracciatella (chocolate chip) gelato with extra panna (whipped cream).

MAXXI’s exhibit of photos from the Amazon.

I love looking at the world’s greatest photographers’ work at MAXXI, Rome’s modern art museum and the occasional respite from the city’s Renaissance riches.

I love women who wear stilettos to my gym.

I love Italian feasts at Marina’s mom’s place where the pasta, sausage and wine keep flowing all afternoon.

I love the sound of gurgling water in Rome’s 300 monumental fountains.

I love drinking beer with priests venturing from the Vatican to Abbey Theatre.

Mercato Campagna Amica. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love the long string of designer cheeses farmers from Rome’s Lazio region bring to Mercato Campagna Amica near Circo Massimo.

I love jogging around Circo Massimo’s new jogging path to work off the designer cheeses.

I love strolling the pathways ringing Isola Tiburina, the world’s oldest continuously inhabited island and smack dab in the middle of Rome in the Tiber River.

I love Vicolo del Divino Amore, the alley where Caravaggio lived in 1606 and around the corner from where he knifed Ranuccio Tomassoni to death, sending him on the lam for the rest of his life. Caravaggio’s portrait adorns his old wall.

I love eating outdoors 10 months a year.

I love living in a city of such style, I never feel overdressed.

I love seeing old Italian movies on TV, not for their cinematic quality but to see Rome’s timeless charm and beauty through the decades.

I love Rome-Barcelona round trip for $50.

I love writing on my balcony as the summer sun rises, before people are up as the bells at Chiesa di San Damasus up the street begin to peal.

I love petting cats at Torre Argentina Cat Sanctuary, where they hop on your lap and fall asleep before you can alert authorities.

I love Marina’s idea of TraveLazio, my new twice-monthly blog focusing on all the great day trips from Rome.

Marina Pascucci and Coco.

I love Marina (and her cat Coco).