Saturday, 7 January 2012

Roman holiday

Typical, you wait for a year in the rain, and then three come along at once.

I think I've realised where I'm meant to be.

I spent a few days in Rome between Christmas and the new year.

Rome is a city of mixed memories for me. There was the first encounter; the whole place was cold and windy and rainy! Not whatI had hoped for. Everything since has been better, from romantic getaways to simple family returns to my favourite not-London city. It's a couple of years since I've been back, so I was excited.

It hit me as soon as I was there - I've never felt anything so powerful for a place. I knew I loved the city but I had never felt any city pull me away from London before. I dreaded going home. I didn't particularly revisit places I knew, other than the cat sanctuary I always visit. I explored Trastevere properly, and sought out vintage shops in Via del Governor Vecchio (success - the suede lace-up black ankle boots to eclipse all other boots, 80 Euros - secondhand Gucci!), and sipped Aperol alone at sunset behind Piazza Navona, and plunged into the huge Saturday fruit & vegetable / spices market in Campo del Fiori. I walked along the river for the first time for a few hours - what a beautiful, desolate, lovely, lonely walk it is. I fell in love with every single bridge. I took eight hundred photos on three cameras.


- The colour of the city. Everything is sand and sunset coloured. Even the grey buildings are warm looking. Everything is lit at night. The cobbles reflect everything. It's not a city for heels but I did admirably nonetheless.

- It's a city you can get lost in, after a hundred twisting streets explored, and think yourself miles from anywhere you know, only to find yourself thrown out onto Vittorio Emmanuele - recognisable bus numbers, and that shop you walked past two hours ago! A compass will not help you in Rome. Optimism will.

- Everyone in Rome wears puffa jackets. Everyone. Some of the men wear discreet navy options, and some wear terrifying PVC abominations with shiny jeans. Some of the girls wear short casual versions, and others wear snow-bunny style knee-length fitted puffa coats. Inflation is alive and well in Roma. If I lived in Rome, I would not succumb to this trend. I will never clad myself in balloons.

- The girls do not seem to wear high heels! It is in my nature to make an effort (to be taller), and while I thought I looked perfectly December-practical in skinny jeans, soft jumpers, a warm fluffy hat, my aunt's old plum boucle jacket and a big wrappy scarf, my stilettos seemed to attract attention. A man followed me across a piazza in Trastevere to tell me I was 'the best tourist' he had ever seen. Damning me with faint praise perhaps? They were nothing flashy - warm brown leather ankle boots, albeit mounted on lethal weapons holding me aloft. I looked at the other girls' shoes, and to a woman they were all either trainers or flat boots. I guess the cobbles partly account for that, but they really aren't that difficult to negotiate if your shoes are comfortable, heels or no. Heels are perhaps just not the culture.

Going home was awful. I didn't think I could bear to get in the taxi to the airport. A week later I am still not used to London. It feels cold and unreflective. This has never happened - I LOVE London. I think Rome is the place for me. I know no-one there but it deters me not. Time to sell some paintings and learn Italian.

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