Travelling through Italy has been the most beautiful experience and I choose that word purposefully. Everything is Rome is beautiful; everyone I have met in this ancient city is beautiful. And it is the people most of all that contribute to this beauty. Unlike, traditional western cultures, the Italians and particularly the Romans have no interest in what you do for work. They appear to care little about how busy your career is or how you met your key performance indicators for the month. This is a sweeping generalization of course and I am sure there would be those in business in Rome that would enjoy eliciting those conversations with you, but for those working and living in the ancient district of Rome. Those working with the tourism machine that perpetuates the hive of activity in the city, those individuals want to know about you, the person. It is a great relief to not be asked immediately, what you do for work, but instead asked about who your family is, where you are from and what you love. These seem to be the central three questions afforded to a new acquaintance in Rome and once these parameters or criteria are addressed a new friendship is formed. It really appears to be that easy.
It seems to me similar to primary or nursery school where friendships are formed instantly based on mutual love. Two young girls enjoy the same music and they are bonded. Young boys bond on the football field and become life long friends. The complexity of modern society is forgotten or rejected, whichever may be the case in this city of beauty. And once those parameters are determined and the friendship is formed, the two new acquaintances go about the business of enjoying the beauty together.
And for those of you, with an idea of what that means, yes, this beauty can absolutely be found in the desire of the flesh but this is one and only one avenue for the exploration of beauty. Beauty is found in every corner of this impressive city, it is found in every narrow alley and in every cobble stoned piazza. Beauty is present in every movement, sound, touch and feel that tantalizes the senses. Your new Roman friend will seek out with you beautiful food, music, wine or as the locals prefer limoncello, the Italian made lemon liquor they will so fondly serve you and insist you enjoy. In some cases the enjoyment of limoncello is a long and entertaining process that can last many hours, long into the night as if each new tasting will be miraculously different to the last.
It would appear to this wide-eyed traveller that exploring beauty in Rome is the city’s most treasured pastime. Well-known musicians take to the streets to play for the crowds asking nothing but the purity of enjoyment and appreciation of the romantic sounds being created. Dining out is a gastronomic feast with every pasta and pizza imaginable being offered up as fare for the hungry tourist and local alike. The most passionate of the foodies offering just a little chili or just a little special garlic sauce, fresh parmesan or locally made pure virgin olive oil to tantalize the senses even further. There is no point in declining the helpful suggestions; these artists know just what to add to turn the meal from food into an explosion of the taste buds.
Artwork, statues and ornate facades of buildings burst from every pore of the mighty ancient city. Influences from Egypt, massive pillars and obelisks create a sense of majesty and greatness. The beauty of the city itself challenges the traveller to try not to fall in love. The archeological lasagna as it is called is the result of centuries of building a city torn down time and time again by the ravages of war and years. The hidden treasures beneath old churches and museums, incomprehensible from the outside supply miles of ancient ruins that will take your breath away. The imaginations of city life centuries before, forces the witness to testify to the rich history of this glorious city.
Beauty is not forced but adored in this busy place. A city never too rushed to stop and appreciate its uniqueness. For a traveller, a willing participant on the search you will see, taste, hear, touch and feel beauty in every form. You will be appreciated yourself for the beauty of your soul. A lovely and very professional taxi driver showed me some of the local highlights, including a real life gladiator as he toured me across Rome one night. He waited until I had stepped from the vehicle to tell me I was beautiful. “I had to wait until you were out of the taxi to tell you how beautiful you are. You are very, very beautiful.” He had obviously not wanted me to feel uncomfortable or threatened in any way. I swear the tears welled in my eyes. The strong independent woman in me wanted to roar at herself for needing to have a complete stranger make her feel beautiful again. But this man, this Roman born taxi driver wanted to appreciate and announce the beauty he saw. I could feel nothing by honoured by his compliment.
I will travel through Europe, meeting beautiful people and visiting beautiful places but for the challenge to seek beauty in everything I will never find anywhere like Rome.
A little bit of me, of my interaction with people will hopefully stay with those I meet along my journey, but for ever and always a little bit of my heart will have been lost to Rome.