Rome is one of those places that you can't get out of your head. Its history and buildings constructed in warm tones are pleasing for the wanderer, foreign as it may be, it is physically welcoming. Its grandeur is in its weathered nature, in battered buildings that have stood for centuries, and in the intricacy of its marble fountains and wild traffic patterns alike.
I first saw Rome in tourist awe a year and a half ago with my dad. We stopped in every church, went to the Pantheon, the Spanish Steps, Trevi and so on. In Rome, this list is long. I came back to Rome just four months later, exactly a year ago, as a stopover, because I had made friends there, who in turn had helped me make ties to the city. I was less a tourist, but one nonetheless.
I've always prided myself on appearance that is ethnically ambiguous. A guy selling something asked about fifteen countries before I finally told him California. I felt that exemplified this trip to Rome. I only went to see my friends, gracious hosts and Italian teachers incidentally, Matteo and Ivan. I had come during a time of crucial study for their exams, so they took the days studying while I explored, and we shared the nights.
Rome this time was mine to explore. No Tripadvisor top one hundred list. I've found that when traveling you often feel obligated to see the famous things in a place, fortunately, those were already out of the way. I spent my time in small neighborhood, pursuing great gelato, and most of all, with Rome's surprisingly rich collection of modern art. It can't be thought that just because Rome has such a deep history that it ceases to exist in the present. For the last century and a half, Italian artists have painted and sculpted and innovated just as have artists from the rest of the world. The museums are rich in content, from the Macro Museo d'arte contemporanea's diversity of interactive, multi-sensory exhibits to the Galleria Nazionale d'arte moderna's beautifully and thoughtfully curated display of Italian painting and sculpture over the last century and a half.
When not in parks, there is little better way to enjoy Rome than with a gelato and a book in one of the giant parks. Villa Borghese stood out to me, but that could be just because it was convenient.
Italian beer sucks, but it doesn't matter when the context it is drank it rocks. I'd drink a hundred Peroni or Moretti for more nights with good friends. In Rome, you drink outside in the Piazza, on the street outside of the bar, wherever your friends are. The beer is just there to keep your hands occupied and fill the rare silence in Italian conversation.
I know that I probably won't ever live in Rome, but I'll be back soon.