“Americans. You work too hard, you get burned out. You come home and spend the whole weekend in your pajamas in front of the T.V. But you don’t know pleasure. You have to be told you’ve earned it. You see a commercial that says: ‘It’s Miller Time!’ And you say, ‘That’s right, now I’m going to buy a six pack.’ And then drink the whole thing and wake up the next morning and you feel terrible. But an Italian doesn’t need to be told. He walks by a sign that says: ‘You deserve a break today.’ And he says, ‘Yes, I know. That’s why I’m planning on taking a break at noon to go over to your house and sleep…with your wife!'”
– Luca Spaghetti, Eat Pray Love
This past Sunday I found myself sprawled out on my bed in oversized sweats, furiously trying to finish a press release for work, breaking only for bites of left over pad thai (for breakfast at 3 pm..) and sips of gatorade in an attempt to recover from a weekend of birthday celebrations. I submitted my work, took a deep breath and surveyed the state of my life in that moment. Luca Spaghetti had it right. We Americans sometimes forget that life is meant to be enjoyed. Our culture teaches us to work ourselves to the bone, to gorge ourselves on oversized portions and binge on television during our precious free time. There’s something wrong with this picture. Sunday is a time for rest, but I was exhausted after a busy month at work and school, and sick from a weekend of overindulgence. My stomach sank as I thought: last year I spent Palm Sunday wandering around Rome, eating, drinking and sighing my way through the eternal city. Look at what this American life has done to me.
I was lucky enough to experience Rome for a week last spring when my mom came to visit me during my semester abroad. One of the best parts of living abroad is having visitors, especially a visitor that offers to foot the bill! I lived in the lap of luxury that week, and I want to share it with you in a little guide for the senses of la vita romana.
Rome has its very own soundtrack. The pop of a cork as it is freed from an aged bottle of wine. The whirl of linguini being twirled around a hungry patron’s fork. The passionate undulation of a Roman conversation. The satisfied sigh after a first bite of gelato. This is a city where you not only indulge yourself, but also become party to the indulgence and pleasure of everyone around you. The best way to experience the eternal city is to vacate yourself for a moment or two and take stock of what’s going on around you, absorbing the passion, excitement and culture.
Allow yourself to eat without abandon. Savor the fresh ingredients, the love and tradition poured into each dish. You have one life, you’ve got to eat pasta in Rome. Order cacio e pepe for lunch and linguini alle vongole for dinner, and wash down each meal with a glass (or three..) of wine. Indulge in a different flavor of gelato each afternoon (and evening … 😉 ). Sample brilliantly colored produce at the Campo di Fiori. Mop up olive oil with freshly baked focaccia. Order to share. Try everything. Eat slowly and savor.
Make sure you find yourself a rooftop spot to enjoy a bellini and aperitivo with friends as you take in the glorious roman sunset. There are few sights as breathtaking as the orange cast on the tiled roofs and ancient ruins as the swollen sun falls over the city.
During the hours between your fantastic meals, give your belly a break and feast your eyes on the wonders of Rome. All the carbs, wine and gelato will surely be burned off as you walk all over the city. From the Trevi Fountain to Vatican City to the Coliseum, there is no shortage of sights to take in. You should set aside at least five days to truly appreciate all of the incredible museums, churches and shopping Roma has to offer.
Be sure to dress modestly at St. Peter’s, or they’ll make you cover up like a nun! I wasn’t prepared, and learned the hard way…
And, of course, you must afford some time to get lost on side streets and find hidden gems yourself.
No matter where you find yourself in Rome, you will undoubtedly be overwhelmed by delicious scents. There are freshly cut flowers in all of the markets, peeking over window boxes, and lining each street. The strong scents of garlic and simmering sauces waft out of restaurant kitchens, causing your mouth to water and your full belly to start rumbling again. Take a few seconds to breath deeply and try to pin point the source of each scrumptious smell.
Above all, Rome is a place to touch and be touched. A culture of strong family ties, Romans like to show their affection through contact. Follow suit by offering kisses to greet and say goodbye, linking arms with a friend during a stroll, and allowing yourself to be led by the hand to a vendor’s stall as you shop for homemade pasta.
Although American cities may not offer nearly as many pleasures as Rome does, the Roman way of life teaches us to appreciate all that surrounds us in each moment. Find a beautiful spot or a fantastic book for your lunch break to vacate the monotony of everyday life and stimulate your mind. Don’t buy that Lean Cuisine!! Make food you love with fresh ingredients and savor each bite to nourish your body and excite your taste buds. Splurge on a perfume you love or freshly cut flowers at your desk to make yourself feel special. Finally, make time for the people you love, no matter how tired you are. There’s nothing like an evening of laughter with your friends, affection with your lover, or conversation with your family to make you appreciate how lucky you are.