Why I love Rome: Eight-year anniversary inspires new list

Me on Gianicolo Hill with Rome and Il Vittoriano monument in the background. Photo by Marina Pascucci

Omicron is running roughshod through Italy like the Roman army through a sheep farm and it’s prudent to stay home. Tonight I’m making an exception. This marks my eight-year anniversary of my arrival in Rome. It’s time to make my annual Jan. 11 trip to Taverna Romana, the little trattoria where I had my first meal when I arrived in 2014.

It sits on tiny Via della Madonna dei Monti in the hip Monti neighborhood and serves some of the best Roman fare in the Centro Storico. It also reminds me of why I retired here, why this is the best decision I’ve ever made, why I’m the happiest I’ve ever been.

Yes, after eight years my love affair with Rome continues. It’s like any marriage. Rome drives me crazy at times. It’s temperamental. It’s unorganized. It’s maddening. But under all its problems and chaos, it’s still the most beautiful city in the world. It’s where La Dolce Vita isn’t a cliche. It’s a lifestyle, one I’ve embraced and will cherish until my last breath.

Besides Taverna Romana, every Jan. 11 I write a list of all the reasons I love living in Rome. Writing them also reminds me of why I’m here. Maybe it’ll remind you of a lovely Rome vacation or inspire you to visit, whenever this damn Omicron gets tired and leaves like a drunk uncle who overstays his welcome.

So while Covid forces me to hang up my passport for a while, I’m fortunate to live in my favorite city in the world. For the eighth straight year, here are more reasons why I love Rome:

Taverna Romana has been the site of my Jan. 11 celebration every year since my arrival in 2014. Zomato photo

I love how sizzling garlic on my stove makes my little apartment smell like … like … Italy every evening.

I love how the only two people I’ve seen not wear masks on public transport in the last year were immediately told to put one on and they did.

I love the fat, juicy meatballs in rich tomato sauce at Dar Bello de Nonna Osteria just down the street from me.

I love discovering great, little restaurants stumbling distance from my home.

I love how the Colosseum reflects off the rain puddles on Via del Fori Imperiali in November, Rome’s rainiest month with very few tourists.

I love how Eataly has entire sections twice the size of 7-Elevens filled with nothing but olive oil from every region in Italy.

I love fresh homemade Italian bread drenched in my favorite olive oil from Sabina, just an hour north of Rome.

I love Stazione Trastevere, a five-minute walk down the hill from me, and its twice-hourly trains that take only 35 minutes to reach Fiumicino Airport.

I love the sausage pizza by the slice at Pizzeria La Boccaccia, the best pizza takeaway in the Trastevere neighborhood.

I love a bottle of Barolo wine to celebrate … anything.

The Colosseum Underground where they kept the gladiators and animals before battle. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love prowling the Augustus Mausoleum and the Colosseum Underground and walking the same paths as emperors and gladiators did 2,000 years ago.

I love meeting Lazio fans and have good-natured kidding without it getting personal or violent.

I love Franz, my little hot plate eatery around the corner from me where I can get meaty lasagna, juicy meatballs and interesting pasta dishes, all for under 5 euros.

I love living in Rome for eight years and not meeting a single rude Italian.

I love Corriere dello Sport’s 1-10 rating scale of every player who appears in a soccer game. No one avoids the jousts of the anonymous reporters rating them.

I love Covid tests for only 15 euros.

I love “L’Eredita,” the Italian TV game show where I learn so much about Italian culture and pick up more of the Italian language.

Mornings in Rome. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love sipping my cappuccino in my bathrobe on my long fifth-floor balcony, before my neighborhood wakes and the sun comes up across the Tiber River down the hill.

I love the word “francobollo,” which means “stamp” in Italian, a word I don’t say much but is so easy to pronounce it makes me sound, for one word at least, like a local.

I love amarena (black cherry) gelato at Gusta, my all-natural gelateria around the corner, on a hot summer night.

I love wearing an expensive, tailored Italian suit to a family trattoria and not feeling overdressed.

I love St. Peter’s Basilica, peeking out above the neighborhood buildings, as my train stops at Stazione San Pietro on my way to Marina’s.

I love Tammy Abraham’s deadly headers on corner kicks.

I love the smell of pecorino cheese filling the air as the woman at my supermarket puts it into the grating machine.

I love grated pecorino on scrambled eggs. And pesto. And burritos. And Norcia sausage. And …

I love soft white confection Torrone covered in dark chocolate and filled with almonds, an absolute must during Christmas holidays.

I love the phrase “Non rompi miei cojoni!” Romanaccio for “Don’t bust my balls!”

I love Roman women in skintight black Italian leather pants and stilettos.

I love sipping a caffe macchiato in a dive coffee bar I’ve never been in and chatting with the barista as if we’ve known each other forever.

I love substituting my afternoon caffe macchiato for a crema di caffe, the creamy, ice-cold, coffee-tasting drink on a hot summer day at my Romagnani Caffe across the street.

The Roman Forum at night.

I love walking to the back end of Campidoglio during the pandemic and looking down at the Roman Forum, void of tourists and noise, giving a clearer image of what it was like as the pulse of life during the Roman Empire.

I love reading my “Leonardo da Vinci” biography while the bells peal at my Chiesa di San Damasus on the corner.

I love my red and yellow AS Roma clock, shaped like a giant wristwatch, hanging on my bathroom wall.

I love Caffe Olimpia, where I can get a cheap glass of good wine and sit at a covered outdoor table until my movie next door at Cinema Nuovo Olimpia begins.

I love the covered outdoor seating area my local birrificio, Stappo, built as a necessity when Covid forced the government to ban indoor seating.

I love Norcia sausage, available in Rome and so lean and juicy it tastes almost like health food.

I love the man hawking fresh fruits and vegetables via loudspeaker from his truck which he parks near my street.

I love a passeggiata (stroll) through the Parco degli Acquedotti and seeing 2,000-year-old aqueducts that supplied water to Ancient Rome and are still standing.

I love Roma 4, Atalanta 1

Marina’s farfalle alle salmone. Photo by Marina Pascucci

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

I love Juventus in fifth place.

I love Lazio in eighth place.

Tiber River at Rome’s Tiberina Island.

I love the 19th-century streetlights and moon reflecting off the Tiber River on a clear night, the one time the old river looks as romantic as the Seine in spring.

I love a chilled bottle of Frascati Superiore during a picnic at my Doria Pamphilj park.

I love photo exhibits all over town showing Rome in its black and white glory days when the war was over and Italians were falling in love again.

I love Jose Mourinho giving my AS Roma an international spotlight, however little it lasted.

I love my “111 Places in Rome That You Must Not Miss” book on my shelf, knowing I have nearly half the book left to see.

I love watching middle-aged fathers kicking the soccer ball with their sons in Doria Pamphilj and using the same fundamentals you see in Stadio Olimpico.

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

I love coming home from a trip and know I’m coming home to Rome.

I love sipping wine at an outdoor table at Bar del Fico, an earthy, bohemian bar on a quiet corner in Centro Storico and a three-minute walk from touristy Piazza Navona.

Marina Pascucci fotografia & grafica website. Photo by Marina Pascucci

I love Marina’s website, Marina Pascucci, and her ability to beautifully brand people’s lives and businesses. 

I love Marina Pascucci.