We began our journey in Rome.
Danny and Lucy and I have been lucky enough to visit Italy three times in the last 16 months, thanks to Carla and the good folks at Jovial Foods asking us to lead their culinary getaways. We adore our time in the villa in the hills outside of Lucca. (I’m writing at the large wooden table that sits in its kitchen right now.)
But the last two times we have taught there, we have all dragged through the first days, thanks to pernicious jet lag exhaustion. This year, we decided to walk half-awake through Rome for a couple of days instead, arriving at the villa refreshed this time.
This kind of food helps with jet lag.
Rome is easy on the eyes. It’s not hard to walk slowly, looking up, and wonder about the lives behind those striped red and white curtains.
Rome is full of light, blue sky, spires, and feeds the desire to see it all.
Rome is the kind of place where you stumble off the street to avoid the heat wave and walk into this.
But honestly, this was not the visit for big sites and tourist places we could check off the list. Instead, we stayed part of the day inside this apartment, moving slowly, eating dinner on the balcony while looking at all the neighbors’ laundry hanging on the line.
This time, we decided to simply live in Rome for a couple of days.
We walked the streets around the apartment slowly, stopping in every shop that looked interesting, buying food. This was dinner the first night.
I loved these two men at the end of our street. They sat there all day, every day, talking. One day, they were sitting in this position. The next day they switched. That’s it. That was their day, sitting there, talking. (Maybe they sold some flowers too.)
Lucy adored this water fountain. When she and I first walked up to it, on a little walk, she watched a man climb up and dunk his entire head in the water to quell the heat on the back of his neck. She wanted to do the same. I talked her out of it.
Every moment of the day, there was life in this piazza. All day and all night. As expected, the jet lag kicked our butts. We three fell asleep at 6 pm the first evening, woke up at 10, had a picnic in the kitchen and read books together until nearly 1, and then fell back asleep until the morning. All that time, I heard talking and shouting in the piazza.
From my unscientific research, I’d say that Rome is only quiet between 4:30 and 6 am.
One of my favorite scenes in Italy, including Rome, is the older men and women sitting on benches, talking all afternoon. No one seems to move too quickly here.
Of course, we did have to go to one big site on our leisurely, sleepy trip. After all, the Colosseum was only three blocks away.
Standing there, Danny and I felt awe at the space. Also, we were creeped out. Goodness, thinking of the thousands of people sitting near where we were standing, cheering and screaming as human beings were torn apart by lions, was not exactly restful.
I’ll refrain from making any modern comparisons.
Lu didn’t know any of this, of course. We decided to not tell her the full story of the place we were visiting. She was far more interested in the new camera we bought her for this trip. She has an eye, this one, and she is always begging for our phones to capture the light in a moment. So we gave her the first camera of her life.
Here, she’s gesturing to her favorite imaginary friend, Grape. “Move that way, Grape. You’re in the shadows.”
Afterward, we had possibly the best experience of the Roman trip: the taste of this fennel honey licorice gelato at Fanta Morgana, the best gelato place I’ve encountered in Italy. Oh, and by the way, all the gelato is gluten-free, as is that cone.
Rome, gluten-free. So easy.
Or maybe my favorite meal was this breakfast in bed Danny and I shared together the first full morning in Rome, as Lucy slept off her jet lag.
If only life could always be this relaxed and good.
We owe almost all of the experiences of this visit, the milk and honey goodness of two slow days in Rome, to this wonderful woman, Elizabeth Minchilli. (You see her up there in the window? We were taking dueling photos of each other for Instagram.) She’s warm-hearted, full of spiky humor, and knows more about good food in Rome than anyone I’ve ever met. Her app, Eat Rome, is essential if you are visiting that wonderful, imperfect city. Thanks to her and that app, we found the Calabrian store that sold us the best fresh mozzarella cheese we have ever eaten. We stayed in her wonderful Monti apartment and I don’t think I’ll ever stay anywhere else in Rome. Our last night there, Elizabeth and her husband Domenico took us to a taverna with red and white checked tablecloth, melting candles in bottles of Chianti, and some of the best food I’ve ever eaten in Italy. If you are headed to Rome, do yourself a favor and book one of her day-long food tours in Rome. You really can’t go wrong.
We only stayed two days in Rome, then rode Italian trains all day to reach the villa. I’ll share some of those stories and images tomorrow. Rome is loud and gritty, alive and full of people. It’s hot and bellicose, gentle and lovely. And it’s really just a series of small towns disguised as neighborhoods, with all the charm and scandalous stories told behind hands of a small town. Sometimes, there’s a break in the constant gnat sound of scooters racing down the street and we could walk down our street, right in the middle of it all.
I’m not much of a city person for full-time living anymore, but I am certainly in love with Rome.
We’ll be back, Roma. We can’t stay away too long.