Yesterday I rediscovered a city that I had once written off as just another old, dirty tourist trap. I always understood the cultural and historical significance of Rome, but I never saw past it.
I took my first trip to Rome when I was just 19 years old. I snapped pictures of the crumbling coliseum, wandered around the Vatican, and got drunk on the roof of some local hostel. I remember playing cards with my brother and some girl from New York, drinking Peroni beer and feeling like this was what travel was all about. In some ways I was right – a big part of the traveling experience has to do with meeting people. Making and breaking bonds as you pass from city to city, sharing experiences and posing with each other for pictures in front of monuments and skylines – this is all part of the journey. Still, during that first trip to in Rome I never took the time to really experience the city for what it was – I just thought it had some cool ruins.
Rome is a city of ruins, but not a city in ruin. It is a thriving, exciting, and beautiful place full of charming cafes, crowded pubs, careening motorbikes, cobble stoned alleyways, fancy shopping, great food, and yes, miles and miles of ruins.
Yesterday was one of the best days I’ve had in a long time. I wandered the Vatican, cruised through some ancient ruins, discovered an amazing park with children playing amongst orange trees just in front of an incredible view of the city, drank wine in a bookshop / bar built above Roman ruins (there is a big glass window in the floor – awesome), tossed two coins into the Trevi Fountain, and had dinner and more wine in a friendly little Italian restaurant. All this with a small group of people from the tour who I really like.
I’ve often said that sometimes it is the people, more than the place, that affect your experience in a city. Rome was perhaps a bit of both. Good times, good people, and one amazing, old, dirty, exciting, beautiful, and friendly city – with a lot of ruins.