Originally posted on another platform on February 2011
I just came back from Rome, a place I hadn’t been in for 13 years. Even I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to go back. The stay was very much part of a work trip, but as I had some free, I was able to make the most of some of the most beautiful places in the world.
I got there yesterday, in a terrible graveyard-shift-flight from London. I had to get up at 3:15 in the morning, got ready, and within minutes I was being collected by a taxi driver who was to take me to Clapham. I am saying “who was” because I ended up giving all the directions myself. We finally got to Gatwick (after an hour and a half of random driving) and even though it took us some time, we still had an hour and 20 minutes to kill. With porridge and coffee-filled tummies, we finally sat down in our (un)comfortable plane seats with destination: Fiumicino. My colleague was already snoring before we took off, while I chose to read a book, hoping that I would be able to fall asleep myself.
Once we got to Rome, we got to our hotel and to the office (it was a work trip, after all), where we stayed until 6 or so. By 7pm, we were picked up by a bus to take us all for dinner. The bus left us in the Piazza del Popolo… I am not sure if it was the mix of the night over the stone walls, illuminated by the amber streetlights, but for me that one single moment was my reunion with my Mediterranean, of orange nights and blue and white days… Magic….
Walking through the Via del Corso, among winding lanes and backlights, we reached the restaurant, where we were greeted by a wonderful Italian dinner, making me ditch my very strict diet for the one night. Why did I do that? Very simple: while the tapas like appetizers were arriving (thank you beloved Mediterranean!), my eyes started coming out of their sockets. Bruschettas (with the reddest, biggest, better-tasting tomatoes I have ever seen), cold meats, cheese, focaccia, artichokes, aubergines… And olive oil, all swimming in olive oil! Simple, no fuss dishes that let the ingredients speak for themselves… I almost got into the kitchen to kidnap “la mamma” so that she would tell me where she had found those wonderful tomatoes! After the starters, my colleagues started asking for pasta, pizza…. I honestly could not eat anymore. How? I hear you ask… Me not being hungry at any moment in time? The diet must be working! After dinner, I went back to the hotel whilst others went out. I had been awake for 22 hours and, frankly, I preferred to take it easy that night and recharge my energy to check Rome out today, as we had free time.
After breakfast, one of my colleagues and I went to the Coliseum. I must admit it’s not my favourite place in Rome, but it did not fail to impress me, doing so even more than the last time I saw it 13 years ago. Enormous. Majestic…. And surprisingly empty. Upon this realisation, I opened my bag to bring out my camera, only to realise that large HORDES of people were fastly approaching… If there was ever a way of explaining how can someone destroy the perfect picture, this was it. Oh well…
Later on and after lunch, when all my colleagues had already left for the airport (I cleverly booked my flight for 3 hours later), I started my little expedition. The first stop was the Vatican. Based on the amount of time I had, I didn’t go in, but I could not resist taking a couple of pictures and videos in Piazza San Marco. There’s no doubt that it is a beautiful place, but when it comes to inspiration…. I am really sorry to admit that for me it just didn’t do it. I would also guess that the youngsters that were re-enacting a scene from Angels and Demons were not particularly moved either. I am not sure why, maybe it’s just what the church has become for our generation (which does not mean that there’s no belief!)
Armed with a map and my camera, I walked to the other side of the river towards my second stop of the day: Piazza Novona and its huge hole. It really is incredible to see how Romans sit down so freely and non chalantly on fountains that are more than 500 years old. In the piazza I also found an unexpected gem: a little costume shop that reminded me of those that were still open when I was a kid. What a find!
As I was walking, I realised that Rome’s centre was not as big as I remembered, so I strolled to the Pantheon, my third stop. I am really not sure why but I have always identified Rome with this building. It was one of the few things I remembered from my last visit too – maybe that’s why. And as the Pantheon was “beside” the Fontana di Trevi, I figured I had time to go and see it too. On the way to my fourth stop, I suddenly remembered what it was like to walk around Rome. Those “snakey” streets that you would not go into in other countries are those that take you to the historical pearls of this city. That’s precisely the case of the Fontana. If I am to be frank, the last time I was there I was definitely not impressed with it. When I saw it today, it was like someone had given me amazing HD 20-20 vision to fully appreciate how truly beautiful it is. I was upset that I did not have more time to savour the view, but I did take a couple of pictures (that of course will not do the place any justice) before I had to go.
The truth is that I had to: I had planned a trip down memory lane that I did not want to skip. My fifth and sadly last stop took me back to my 1998 school trip, back when I as a 16 year old I sat down on the steps of the Piazza de Espagna, tired after a walking tour of Rome in Doc Martens… I sat down on the exact spot where I did back then, 13 years ago, while I was posing for a picture that I hope my Mam still has somewhere at home.
The time to leave Rome was fastly approaching so I went back to the hotel to collect my bag and I got a taxi (driven by an Iggy Pop doppelgänger) to take me to the station to catch the train to Fiumicino. It was there, in the airport that I started writing this blog post. I am currently flying over Brittany, while the hostesses (one a lookalike of a gymnast and the other of a famous actress) are going through the plane with the snack trolley.
Before I finish the post, I am going to share something that happened earlier on. People that know me well, know that I get very frustrated if I go somewhere and I am not recognised as a Spanish person (on appearance). Even at home, I get people replying to me in English when I go to the supermarket, which is embarrassing. In Rome, however, I was stopped 3 times by people who thought I was in fact Italian. The first time, it was just by Piazza Novona, where a journalist asked me to give my opinion on something to do with Berlusconi. I told him I was not Italian and he looked at me and said: “are you serious?”… Who knows, I might make the outtakes of an Italian humour programme.
The second time, I was stopped by an Italian tourist, who was interested in finding out where something was. I told him I was sorry and that I was not from there and his response was: “what? You are not from here?”
And the last time, it was when I got onto the taxi. The driver started talking super quickly… I said to him that my Italian comprehension was OK (well, ish!) but that I could maybe reply back in Spanish. He laughed and said that I looked Italian (and he looked like Iggy himself). I joined him in laughter and confessed that he was the third person on the day who thought I was Italian. Jokingly, I asked him whether that maybe because I may have a resemblance with Sophia Loren herself. He looked through the rear view mirror and said:
– “Your glance has character, like Loren’s”
So basically, I nowhere near her in “hotness” but I must look as pissed off as she does all the time, hahaha
Viva Roma and the she-wolf that “gave birth to it”.