Rome’s nickname is ‘The Eternal City.’ On a recent trip there with my husband, I had the chance to witness why this nickname is so well-suited. Rome’s beginning was so long ago that myth and legend are the primary means of explaining its genesis. It’s been the heart of a Republic and an Empire. It was an early foothold where a dangerous new trend called Christianity took root. Then Rome became the seat of the Vatican. A few centuries later, Rome served as the nexus of the region giving us the Renaissance in the arts and sciences. And now, Rome marches forward as one of the busiest, most diverse, most beloved cities on the globe.
Rome’s history is layer upon layer upon layer, quite literally. You can be standing on the ground in Rome, the same sidewalk that today’s Romans walk on their way to the Metro or the Bus station, and be looking down at the ancient ruins of a horse stadium or a patrician home.
Some of my favorite moments in Rome were the moments when you saw glimpses of today’s Romans brushing up against the eternal essence of their hometown. I couldn’t help but wonder: how does one live in Rome? How does one become acquainted to the sight of the Colosseum, the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the indelibility of the aqueducts or the Forum? How does one carry out all of the mundane, everyday-life stuff that is required when you live in a city, when that city happens to be Rome? Does it ever get old (no pun intended)?
Like the taxi drivers parked outside of St. Peter’s – are they used to their pit-stop view? Or the guys on their cigarette break right across from the Colosseum – are they still staggered by the ancient history facing them? Or, perhaps my favorite, the young Roman couple I saw, lounging on the Palatine Hill.
The Palatine Hill (top left) is quite possibly the oldest part of the entire city. It is on this hill that the legend tells of Romulus, the brother who drank the milk of a she-wolf, founding the ancient city. This is just feet from where Julius Ceasar was stabbed by Brutus. This place is, quite literally, the stuff of legend. And yet, there they were, this young couple, concerned primarily with sun-bathing and kissing. That’s not to say that I blame them. If there’s one thing that Romans through the centuries have demonstrated a consistent devotion to, it’s la dolce vita. The sweet life. Perhaps lounging on a sunny hill and kissing the person you love is as sweet as it gets. So, in that way, some things never change.
Romans certainly do seem to emanate pride in their city and love for its interminable history. And you really can’t blame them. Everything about the place – its balmy weather, its copious sunshine, its delectable food and wine, its rich architecture, its carefree populace – all of these factors seem to collide into this magical mixture of romance. No wonder people through the ages have stuck around. I only wish I could have stuck around longer. But I’m hoping to get back soon. After all, they do say that all roads lead to Rome.