Why I love Rome: My 6th annual list why la dolce vita is as sweet as black cherry gelato

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Piazza Navona. Photo by Marina Pascucci

Six years ago this Saturday I retired to Rome saying I wanted to live the last third of my life in the most beautiful city in the world. Of course, I could’ve been leaping into a chasm of living hell. I had few friends, no girlfriend, a tiny cave of a flat and terrible Italian. Today I have many friends, an apartment nearly as beautiful as my girlfriend and Italian that can get me out of trouble with all of the above.

Yes, the honeymoon wore off long ago. I now find myself at my local Romagnani Caffe bitching about the piles of garbage across the street instead of marveling at their spectacular chocolate cornettos and cappuccinos.

But as I’ve written  many times, every city has its problems. While so do I, one trait I’m proud of is I find positives in every culture. And Rome has so many they are hard to list. But I try. Every year I try. On or near the Jan. 11 anniversary of my arrival as a burned-out American sportswriter, I list all the reasons why I love Rome.

Actually, it’s the easiest blog I do all year. Nearly every day something hits me in a special way. It may be a dish in a new trattoria. It may be the feel of new Italian shoes. Or it may be something simple, like the way the sun shines off a church dome. Every day something reminds me that retiring to Rome was the best decision of my life.

So if you’ve ever been to Rome or wondered about coming, read my sixth annual list of reasons Why I Love Rome. Then see how fast it takes to pack your bags:

St. Peter’s Square. Wikiwand photo

I love the sounds of Bernini’s fountain in St. Peter’s Square after midnight when you’re the only soul in the piazza and the gushing water is the only sound you hear.

I love the Torta della Nonna at Sora Pia, where the vanilla pie with gobs of fresh whipped cream really does taste like it’s grandma’s pie (torta della nonna). That’s because the 150-year-old trattoria that used to serve AS Roma’s soccer players probably still has a grandmother in the kitchen.

I love how my laundry dries on my balcony in 20 minutes in the summer.

I love holding a glass of wine at an Internations aperitivo and be in the same conversation with a Ugandan, a Swede, an Egyptian and a Brit.

I love bringing home a plastic bag of freshly grated parmesan and taking a big whiff of it as if I’m sniffing glue. The high from fresh parmesan is higher than any drug.

I love an average of 29 homicides a year. Last year Chicago had 490. That’s down from 756 in 2016.

I love the bells pealing up my street at Chiesa di San Damaso on a sunny Sunday morning as I’m sipping cappuccino on my balcony.

VyTA

I love sipping a nice Cesenase at VyTA, the high-end enoteca that serves only Lazio wines, then walking across Via Del Corso to the Nuovo Olimpia English-language cinema then dining on smothered pasta amatricana next door at the tiny piazza cafe, Coso.

I love the goat cheese covered in honey and walnuts at Renato e Luisa, my favorite restaurant in Rome.

I love Rome-London round trip for 100 euros.

I love free laser surgery.

Max and me at my Mercato Gianicolense. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love how all the merchants in my outdoor public market round down the change for me.

I love giving Marina 200 euros to shop and tagging along to see how she looks in top Italian-designer clothes.

I love the 9-percent Calibro 38 Italian craft beer at Stappo, my local birrafficio around the corner.

The Tiber and St. Peter’s.

I love the night view of the Tiber River from Ponte Umberto II where the moon reflects off the water and St. Peter’s basilica can be seen in the background.

I love my red-and-yellow AS Roma espresso machine.

I love the huge stack of business cards from great restaurants, trattorias, osterias and enotecas I’ve passed and promised to try in the future.

I love how Marina touches herself with holy water every time we enter a church to look at the artwork.

I love red and yellow.

Gorgonzola and sausage pizza.

I love gorgonzola and sausage pizza.

I love being able to order gorgonzola and sausage pizza off menu.

I love Sunday mornings with Corriere dello Sport, a cappuccino bencaldo (extra hot) and a chocolate cornetto at an outdoor table at my corner Romagnani Caffe.

I love eating seafood pasta at a white table-clothed table in the sand at Il Capanno dei Pescatori in Fregene, a lovely beach town just 25 miles from Rome.

I love watching Aleksandar Kolarov’s free kicks graze the hair of a defender as it rockets into the upper left-hand corner of the net, like a homing pigeon settling into his nest.

I love 50 percent off at Eredi Pisano during January and July sales.

I love white chocolate cornettos.

I love half liters of house red wine for 3.50 euros.

I love kisses hello, kisses goodbye.

I love fascist architecture.

I love how Romans stop on the street to pet the many stray cats scattered around the city but are fat and happy because Romans stop to pet them.

I love the gattare, the cat ladies who roam the city looking for stray cats to feed.

I love Coco, Marina’s cat who, after nearly five years, is finally putting away his jealousy and sleeping with us.

Doria Pamphilj

I love reading on the bench next to the lake in Doria Pamphilj, the huge park up the street from me, with my only company the occasional floating goose.

I love quiet, nearly enclosed Piazza delle Coppelle, just two blocks from the bustling Pantheon. It’s where you can still find a mail slot on the 12th century San Salvatore delle Cappelle where the pope ordered citizens to report in writing any sick foreigners.

I love the feel of bumps under my rented bicycle as I ride along tree-lined Ostia Antica, the same road where Spartacus’ fellow slaves were crucified (See Rome: Failed labor revolts).

I love a team logo featuring female breasts.

I love drinking rich Italian craft beer and talking Italian soccer outside Ma Che Siete Venuti a Fa, which in Roman dialect means “What the Fuck Are You Doing Here?” and is one of Rome’s first bars to dive into Italy’s recent beer boom.

I love how you can escape the rain in Piazza del Popolo and see three Caravaggio masterpieces for free in Basilica Santa Maria del Popolo.

I love hot white chocolate topping that freezes on my black cherry and chocolate chip gelato.

I love the sun setting on the sands of Ostia, a glass of white Frascati on a table overlooking the beach.

I love AS Roma manager Paulo Fonseca wearing Italian suits on the touchline.

I love the carbonara at Da Enzo even if I have to wait in line on the street as Via dei Vascellari is one of the prettiest streets in Trastevere.

I love the evening smell of curry from all the Bangladeshis’ apartments on the first floor of my building.

I love Marina’s photos of Rome showing showing natural light so beautiful it looks like Caravaggio painted it instead of my girlfriend shooting it. 

I love having a beer at my Abbey Theatre Irish Pub with a guy in a priest’s robe.

I love being able to say I’ve lived in Rome six years and have yet to meet an asshole.

I love being able to say I’ve lived in Rome six years and have yet to see a Roman drunk in public.

I love walking by Romagnani in an AS Roma shirt or sweatshirt and having all the barristas yell out the window at me, “FORZA ROMA!”

I love yelling back, “SEMPRE! (FOREVER!)”

Roman Forum

I love the view of the back-lit ancient temples of the Roman Forum at night, from behind Campidoglio, one of the seven hills of Rome and now home to city hall. It’s the most romantic view in Rome.

I love Marina’s farfalle al salmone (butterfly pasta in salmon sauce) with a glass of white wine from the case of Italian she buys me every Christmas.

I love shiny Italian suits for 100 euros at King Boutique.

Villa Borghese. Roma Weekend photo

I love picnics with cheeses and meats and grapes and wines in Villa Borghese then a two-hour stroll through the Borghese Museum, my favorite museum in Rome.

I love the view of the city from the panoramic terrace of Castel Sant’Angelo, once Hadrian’s mausoleum and later the escape for many harried popes.

I love Roman women who wear leather pants and stilettos to the gym.

I love ordering great, inexpensive wine off the chalkboard in Il Goccetto, my favorite wine bar in Rome and the place to meet Roman professionals working in Central Storico. 

Marina and me.

I love Marina Pascucci, the only thing in life I love more than Rome itself and another reason why I’ll never leave.


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