Musings on Rome

by Courtney on October 13, 2010

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The city of Rome has always fascinated me. I remember my mother coming back from her honeymoon with my stepfather with fabulous clothes, clothes, cosmetics, and magazines she had purchased there. One day I would get there, I vowed. In my teens I was captivated by Princess Luciana Pignatelli’s vintage The Beautiful Peoples Beauty Book, full of musings on growing up and life in Rome, beauty secrets of La Dolce Vita, and diet advice ( from an glamorous Italian perspective). Even today the book is a good fun read, as I thumb through my well worn copy, picked up in garage sale long ago. The book provided even more fuel for my desire to go to Rome one day to see the Beautiful People. When I looked up my late great uncle Bob Curtis, after my mother’s death, I had found he longer lived in Rome, but in Vienna. I put visiting Rome on a back burner. Certain Someone had also had had a longstanding desire to go to Rome as well. When Bobs good friend Renate , informed the family of a memorial/ommagio for Bob in September, we knew we had to go.

What can I say that hasn’t been said about Rome? It’s amazing, fabulous, and really makes a person feel small and mortal. Like an ancient woman, people still flock to her and find beauty, wisdom. Naturally with any tourist destination there is a side of cheesiness that can be avoided. You walk and realize the thousands of years that have passed, and those who stood in the very spot. For a lover of history and art it’s a dream come true, but overwhelming at times. One would need many visits to get a handle of Rome.The old mixes with the modern way of life beautifully and amusingly. Its a common site to see a pack of “suits” on mopeds ,with cigarettes, at a traffic stop as they commute through the city for work. Luckily I had a full agenda with a little time for site seeing thrown in. I finally got to meet NYC Caribbean Raggaza for an upcoming interview, see old friends of my uncle Bob, meet new ones and family I hadn’t met before. I even got to meet the leading figures of Italian modern dance. The Ommagio was wonderful with students and colleagues of Bob, and their students giving outstanding performances in Afro dance, which my uncle brought to Rome decades before.

Certain Someone and I took full advantage of our time and made it count. Acting like unashamed tourists, we got on a 48 hour hop on , hop off bus tour to get acclimated to the city and really assess what we wanted to explore future. Rome is pretty compact and once we found our way, it was nothing to walk back to hotel while taking it all in.Who measures time and distance amongst such beauty? While not openly very religious, I loved seeing Certain Someone’s reaction and captivation in the Vatican. St. Peters leaves one breathless.

Unfortunately we didn’t get to the Vatican Museum and Sistine Chapel. I think our favorite church was an unassuming from the outside ,Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martiri, which we discovered in our final few hours in the city. It was one of the elderly Michelangelo’s last projects which incorporates modern day works of art within.

As this is food blog, I would be remiss not discuss the food. Oddly , while he food was good, we weren’t overwhelmed. Armed with suggestions from the high to low end, we just didn’t have that food revelation moment. The best bites were off the cuff while sampling salamis and other pork products in a shop , an odd pizza, and a few scoops of gelato here and there. One of the best, but overpriced dinners was on the Via Veneto at a place called the Café de Paris, ironically. I liked the place for the outstanding service (after dismal service at some other locations), excellent presentation, and the historical fact that La Dolce Vita was filmed on that very spot. It seems to had a notorious reputation until recently.Don’t let the fact that the menu was in Italian, English and Russian, and the cheesy guys racing their white Ferrari’s up and down the Via Veneto put you off. The food really stood up to my critical palate. I regret I didn’t get to dine on the famed Roman Jewish cuisine. We went to the traditional tratorria’s, to more high end restaurants, and a few tourist traps out of hunger and convenience in between. Feeling odd about my Rome dining experience, I asked friends why I was underwhelmed. The response was that while Roman food was good, it’s not the destination for great Italian food like Florence, or Tuscany. Having talked about my views with others, they voiced the same opinion. So I wasn’t to off in my views but I feel weird voicing it.

One question that baffled Certain and I was why most of the public toilets we encountered in Rome were seat less. I hadn’t seen this in any other place I traveled, and neither had he( we travel a lot). I found my answer here.

A week is Rome isn’t enough. I really need to come back and explore and eat more. Like a smart wise woman, Rome doesn’t reveal all she has on the first date.