Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Quintessential Rome

I just got back from a weekend trip to Rome with a friend. ...Sounds so indulgently European, doesn't it?!

It was my first time back to Rome since 2004, when I went for a week with friends during my exchange year. Since we only had three full days in Rome this time, and since we'd seen the major attractions last time, we wanted our short time in the Eternal City to be leisurely and enjoyable.

We recently read Eat Pray Love by Elizabeth Gilbert for our book club in Graz. In the first section of the book, the author spends several months in Rome pursuing pleasure, which -- for her -- means immersing herself in the indulgent Italian cuisine and the rich Italian language. This seemed reasonable enough to us, so we decided to put this Roman philosophy into effect for our short stay. As other tourists were rushing about in their cargo shorts and sneakers to see the Colosseum and the Vatican before closing, we snaked our way through cobblestone streets and picturesque back alleys in our cute summer dresses, ordering the occassional cappuccino freddo, neutralizing the intense Mediterranean sun with gelato at regular intervals, and pausing for pasta and wine as necessary.

With only a couple hours left in Rome before taking the night train back to Austria, we found a corner table at a trattoria on the edge of a sleepy piazza between the Trevi Fountain and the Pantheon and sat there watching the world go by over a bottle of wine. The two elderly Roman gentlemen with espresso and a newspaper at the neighboring table ackowledged us with a smile as we sat down, and later, when we attempted to ask them in broken Italian if they could take our picture, they answered, ", bella!" More pseudo-Italian and warm smiles were exchanged as we tried to thank them. A while later when the gentlemen got up to leave, they offered us their hands with a "Ciao!" as they passed by our table. My companion offered up her own hand first to shake, and as the man took her hand in his own, he shook it twice, then gave it a squeeze, dropping it to give her a gentle rub on the shoulder. Far from being sleazy, when he took my own hand in his and gently squeezed it and rubbed it with a "Ciao!" it was as if the communication barrier had melted and he was communicating so clearly by touch: "We acknowledge that you are here with your wine and your piazza, and we approve. You are enjoying the essence of a Roman afternoon, and as old Italian men who value pleasure and beauty and a Mediterranean enjoyment of life, we salute you."

I wanted to share this quintessential Roman afternoon with you...it's much too wonderful an experience to keep to ourselves.

The first video focuses on the pleasure and lets the world go by. The second video watches the world go by without forgetting the pleasure. In their own way, each are distinctly their own experience, yet the same experience...so I decided to give you both. Indulge. Enjoy.

Quintessential Rome, Take 1

Quintessential Rome, Take 2


ploafmaster said...

Wonderful. Would that all of my European vacations could be like that.

I believe there's merit to visiting the attractions, but when I'm in a foreign city, I want the city itself, the people, the sounds, the language!

I want so badly to return to Italy to do just what you and your friend have done, particularly as illustrated by those excellent videos - to do what I would have done in the first place had it been completely up to me :-)

Food Blog for New Cooks said...

Hm, life through a wine glass, rather than from the bottom of a wine glass... novel idea.

Rome is most definitely on my list. Now, grad school (I hope) is closer in the horizon than my trips abroad, but they're still there. I better live to be OLD and RICH!

I loved the video clips. It seems so... far away from my life.

I am sitting in a cafe in Seattle, bundled in a water-resistant jacket, enjoyinh the fine earthy sweetness of Northern Italian-style roasted espresso beans -which is a darker, more robust roast in this cafe's interpretation - and "studying."

But I digress...

The question I have is about the foods of the region. What "American" items appear in Rome (or elsewhere) and what are they like there? And what "ethnic" items here are only ghosts of their European originals (I was thinking of pizza, actually)?

Caitlin said...

Elizabeth Gilbert would be proud.