Roma

Roman table scene

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.

Roman street

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.

Roman church and blue sky

Rome is full of light, blue sky, spires, and feeds the desire to see it all.

Roman church

Rome is the kind of place where you stumble off the street to avoid the heat wave and walk into this.

Roman apartment

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.

dinner the first night

We walked the streets around the apartment slowly, stopping in every shop that looked interesting, buying food. This was dinner the first night.

Lucy and the flower men_

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.)

piazza life

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.

Roman men on a bench

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.

Coloseum sun flare

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.

Coloseum_

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 directing Grape

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.”

fennel honey licorice

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.

breakfast in bed

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.

Elizabeth

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.

Danny and Lucy in the street

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.

17 comments on “Roma

  1. Elizabeth

    What a wonderful story of your time in my neighborhood. Such lovely words and images to describe the place I love. I was so happy to share it with all three of you. The only down side is that you stayed such a short time. But I know you’ll be back. And the next time, for longer! xxoo

  2. laurie kalb

    would love to know more about “gluten free girl” and how she and her gluten-free name relate to Rome. From one gluten-free Roman girl to another, please tell me more!

  3. Julie

    Just paused my work (ironically, a post about you!) for a bit to read this and sigh at each photo.. I’m officially putting Rome on my must-do list! Priorities.

  4. Renee @ Nourish The Roots

    These photos brought me right back to my honeymoon in Italy. I love Rome with all my heart…and seeing these photos makes me feel homesick in a way (but in a good way). I always say that I left part of my heart in Italy. I can’t wait to go back.

  5. Julie

    That last picture of Danny and Lu made my heart melt! What a gift you are giving that little girl of a life well lived. I am so glad you had a great time and keep making melt your heart memories. Thank you for sharing with those of us out here in cyber land you are a dear friend even if we never meet.

  6. Christa Reynolds

    Thanks for sharing this with us :) Your site is a little piece of deliciousness in my (more often than not) hetic days. It makes me feel sane to know that food is a love affair and not just to satisfy hunger to someone other than myself. Stay hungry & keep sharing!

  7. molly

    i have never been to rome, or italy at all, but am beaming, absolutely BEAMING, that you three are there, lapping it all up. i cannot imagine anyone drinking it in more fully. have a ball, you three :)

    xo,
    m

  8. stephanie carter

    Hi Shauna,
    We met briefly at the fountain in Monti last week. Normally, as a ‘sophisticated’ New Yorker, I would have let you have your peace. But it was so odd to see someone familiar in Italy (and I think blogging creates a different kind of intimacy), that I was compelled to introduce myself before I could think about it. I hope you, Danny and Lucy had a wonderful time there–your pictures are certainly wonderful. I spent my time simply wandering the streets, looking up and wondering at the golden light that seems unique to Italy. And then spent the weekend in Sorrento, on the Amalfi Coast, which is equally wonderful, in a very different way from Rome.
    And I ended up having dinner at L’Asino D’Oro my last night in Italy only to see later on Instagram you had visited there as well. Small world. And a gem of a restaurant. Anyway, just a quick note after reading about your time in Rome as our paths crossed there… Looking out my kitchen window in Brooklyn while fixing breakfast this morning, I realized I missed the sound of scooters whizzing past.
    Thanks for sharing and safe travels.

    1. shauna

      Stephanie, meeting you by the fountain at Monti was actually one of the moments that made us feel like we were in a real neighborhood, instead of a foreign city. What a wonderful unexpected meeting. Thank you for coming up to us. I’m so glad you enjoyed Rome too.

  9. Alexa

    I have been a reader of your blog for years, but your words about Rome have made me comment. Rome is the most special place I have visited and you describe it very well. My heritage is Italian Canadian, and yet all I’ve wanted since I first saw Rome in 1997 was to be there and just, you know, LIVE, like those guys at the flower shop in your photo. My husband and I are going to spend six days there at the end of the month and my focus right now is making it through the next two weeks so I can be in my supenda misera citta — Roma. I really should have an SPQR tattoo on my butt, because in my ideal world, that’s where I am a citizen. Thank you again for the post and I hope you are having a tremendous time.

  10. Malisams

    I love Rome so much. My husband and I honeymooned in Italy a few years ago and it was nothing short of otherworldly…the food, the sights, the sounds, the light, the history, the brutality and romance all mixed up in everything. It’s magic, all of it. But what stood out most to me in your story here? That Lu has an imaginary friend named Grape. That’s just goddamn adorable; that little girl of yours is as magical as Rome. Our son is only almost a year old, but when I read about your Lucy it makes me smile, as I see signs already that he might have the same sort of charming disposition and sweet imagination. Anyway, thanks for always sharing. Loved this post.

  11. Jason

    Wonderful post and fantastic pictures. The gelato reminds me of my absolute favorite Italian ritual, La Passeggiata. Every evening as the sun went down, the people of the towns come out and slowly walk around, talking animatedly with everyone they see. And of course for many, gelato is a part of this ritual. It’s something I’ve never seen anywhere else, and will always remember. A truly remarkable place.