La dolce vita
A lazy, late summer afternoon in
Piazza Navona. Hard to imagine the same scene in Macclesfield
Were finally going to use the
phrase La Dolce Vita here at Romebuddy. Weve
used it sparingly because it is such a lovely expression, and
should not be blatantly overused or cheapened. But Rome is the
home of La Dolce Vita, and while the city is a shadow of what
it was in the fifties and early sixties, it still lives up well
to its decadently romantic reputation.
Well connected dog enjoying the
sweet life outside restaurant on Via delle Muratte, a stone's
throw from the Trevi Fountain.
Young lovers by the fountain in
Piazza Navona in typically un-self-conscious pose
Rome is the place to fall in love. To stand
on one of its bridges on a warm summer night, gazing at the floodlit
city vista and listening to the crickets singing, one can easily
lapse into spouting some Shakespeare sonnet on the joys of Mediterranean
romance. But what will probably strike the English visitor most
is the tremendous outward display of love and affection by the
Romans. Were not just talking about romantic love here,
but also friendship and family ties. Quite apart from the mandatory
social kissing at every hello and goodbye, there are so many
more gestures of amore on show in Rome, both platonic and romantic.
Young teenage girls will rest their heads on each others
shoulders, and even girlfriends in their twenties will hold hands
or go even arm in arm in the street. Brother and sister will
embrace, young men will flirt with baby girls, mothers will shower
their grown up sons with hugs and kisses, and all this in the
street, in the bar, in the shops, anytime, anywhere in fact.
Lovers kiss and exchange gifts on the train.
British romance tends to be claustrophobically dull and physical
by comparison, for Englands foul, wet, chilly weather drives
lovers indoors on most evenings of the year, with nothing but
the TV and the bed to cement the relationship. British lovers
embrace each other under the covers simply to try and keep warm
than for any other reason! In contrast, Italys golden warm
weather and easy-come easy-go life of bars and scooters allows
Romes lovers to spend countless evenings drifting happily
through its winding streets and piazzas, sharing discoveries
and adventures together or in groups of friends and family. Romances
are thus more relaxed and fuelled by more platonic pursuits than
in England, allowing serious relationships more time to develop
into something deeper and more meaningful. Whilst it is true
that Italian society is highly sexually charged, with much macho
posturing from young hetero studs congregating outside the bars,
and beautiful pouting girls with perfect figures poured into
skin-tight dresses drifting like sirens among the fountains,
all casting provocative glances back and forth between each other
, it is all somehow peculiarly mixed up with traditional if now
hypocritical family values - girls love their boyfriends only
slightly more than they love their brothers, and boys love their
girlfriends slightly less than they love their mothers. As in
all great cities, there is of course an exciting singles scene
for short-term visitors who enjoy action and variety, but long
term visitors to Rome searching for true love will find it the
most delightful setting in the world for the gentle flowering
of a deep and dream-like romance.
TO LOVE ROME
is the old residential area of Rome,
until recently the habitation of working class families who had
lived there for centuries.
Typical Roman street complete with
cat and the ubiquitous scooter. Rome's enormous stray cat population
is legendary. Nobody in Rome actually owns a cat. There's no
need! Put a couple of fish-heads outside your front-door every
couple of days and you'll make plenty of feline friends.
However, since the war, Trastevere has come further
and further up-market until it is now almost exclusively the
neighbourhood of successful artists, intellectuals and professional
trendies. In a move comparable to the development of the London
Docklands in the eighties, the last few old locals whose leases
had expired were forcibly evicted from these million dollar properties
in Trastevere five years ago, though just a handful of retired
shoe-menders and washer-women still survive in their old damp
basements underneath the dentists and record company executives.
Thats enough politics for now - Lets switch to the
aesthetic review of Trastevere - Its absolutely charming!
Cross the river on foot on any bridge
near the equally haunting and mysterious island, Isola
Tiberna, and youll be in Trastevere - step into the
cool shade of the nearest street and youll step back three
or four hundred years. Anybody whos ever visited The Shambles
in York and was bitterly dissappointed to discover that it was
only one street of plebby nouveau-riche tea-cosy shops will not
be similarly disappointed by Trastevere. Trastevere is the real
thing! Endless winding cobbled streets, tiny little bars of exquisite
intimacy, and washing hanging out between the shuttered windows
high overhead. Red ochre and burnt sienna wash paint peeling
from ivy infested stone walls, trickling drinking fountains set
back into dark carved crevices, while the smells of rich espresso
coffee, freshly baked ciabatta and sun-ripened dog turds waft
through the air. There is also an enticing collection of little
antique shops and jewellers sprinkled throughout these magical
streets, together with the occasional artist or sculptors
studio. If youre gonna get lost anywhere in Rome, then
get lost in Trastevere. Youll never want to find your way
TO LOVE ROME
The architecture of Rome is stunning, more
so because of the variety of architectural periods in evidence
there. Theres more than two thousand years of buildings,
all built on top of each other, as Romes empires and civilisations
have risen and fallen. Unlike most of the worlds cities
which have been bombed to pieces during at least one war this
century and completely rebuilt in the modern style within the
last fifty years, Rome has escaped such destruction, so its
all still there to see.
Interior of the fabulous Pantheon
- This has to be seen to be believed. No, you are not mistaken
- that really is a big hole in the ceiling - Don't ask
me what they do when it rains...
Obviously theres the Roman stuff
such as the Coliseum and the fabulous ruins of the Forum, fifty
foot high columns amazingly still standing after twenty centuries.
Then theres the medieval stuff,
pretty little arches and terracotta tiling, followed by grandiose
rococo edifices of the eighteenth century, and much later the
severe but perfectly executed public buildings of the fascist
Yer' own personal Mary - rooftop
shrine on the left of the picture shows what a little imagination
and a big dose of Catholic piety can do to brighten up any dull
Rome is packed with curious little niches of exquisitely juxtaposed
architectural beauty like this. But blink and you could miss
them. Get into the habit of looking up as you walk through the
city, and explore all those nooks, crannies and alleys.
On the outskirts of town modern apartment
blocks built since the 1960s predominate which are nothing to
write home about, but Romes city centre consists of a good
thirty square miles in which hardly a single modern building
stands at all. And its all beautiful stuff, designed and
crafted by some of the worlds most gifted and adventurous
architects and artisans.
TO LOVE ROME
The art galleries
Like all major cities, Rome has its
share of excellent art galleries, and this being Italy, there
are plenty of fine and famous works by all the major Italian
artists. In addition, most other principal European artists are
represented, many of whose works are rarely seen in British galleries.
Works by Klimt for example, (an artist much in vogue now but
almost never shown in London) are on view, and also some of the
swagger portraits of Giovanni Boldini, the dashing belle époque
TO LOVE ROME
...is the stroll taken through town
every Saturday night or Sunday afternoon by countless Romans.
It translates as promenade, or stroll,
and is a practice carried on throughout most of Italy, and a
number of other southern European countries. The Romans however
are particularly good at it. La passeggiata is the Roman family
strutting its stuff in front of other Roman families, but
couples and individuals also take part. There is nothing like
it in England anymore; One must dress up a little for the passeggiata,
something largely unheard of in England today. Children and suitably
domesticated and groomed dogs may also partake. On Sunday afternoons,
the shops will be closed and only a few bars will open, so the
passeggiata is strictly an occasion on which to see and be seen.
Nothing more and nothing less.
Not-so-young lovers take a breather
during the passegiata. But just check out that stylish hat and
the three inch heels the dame's wearing... In Rome, age is not
an excuse to start dressing down.
In Rome the main passeggiata is held on the Via
Condotti, from Via Corso to Piazza di Spagna. This area is always
a pedestrian-only zone but on Sundays half of Via Corso is closed
to traffic as well. Sometimes on a particularly pleasant evening
weatherwise, a spontaneous passeggiata can occur midweek, anywhere,
without warning. Its difficult to describe it any further
- Just dress up and join in - Youll soon get the idea.
TO LOVE ROME
Romes best kept secret is that its
only half an hour from the beach. Hot sandy beaches and warm
blue Mediterranean sea. Take the train from Termini to Ostia
Lido, or drive down the Ostiense or the Via Cristoforo Colombo
to Ostia Lido or Castel Fusano. Its easy, and makes a refreshing
break from the hot streets of Rome city-centre. Ostia Lido is
a cross between Miami Beach and Skegness. A bit seedy. Run down
stucco-fronted pink yellow and peppermint green art-deco and
Spanish-style apartment houses lining the sea front, and lots
of tacky gift shops. Two cinemas though, at least one decent
pizza joint, a good shopping area and even McDonalds. What more
could anyone ask?
REASONS TO LOVE ROME
Rome is just a slightly unhinged place
- thats all there is to it.
The Odd Couple visit the Vatican
Whether its the heat or the wine
or the olive oil, or something genetic, we dont know, but
the Mediterranean temperament reaches its metropolitan
boiling point in Rome. As a city, at this time in our civilisations
history, its a tremendous gamut of religiously and politically
opposing social conventions and fashions.
Post-punk hippies whip out their
guitar for a spontaneous begging-bowl jam in the porch of The
Pantheon, practically Rome's oldest church building, converted
from a pagan temple rebuilt by Emporor Hadrian after a fire in
Amid this crazy ancient patchwork of
different architectural styles on the skyline, two thousand year
old Roman monoliths battle for pole position with sixty foot
high billboards and 18th century rococo fronted churches.
Because she's worth it? Laeticia
Casta gains monolithic supermodel status as L'Oreal's gigantic
billboard in Piazza Navona dominates the historic landmark during
refurbishment of the fountains. Although the slogan is translated
to Italian, the product is French and the model is French-Corsican,
but Italy has never barred true beauty from its borders, nor
is the subtlety of Casta's virginal aura subliminally lost on
the populace of this city which has built its reputation on the
iconic worship of the Madonna.
Everyone is beautiful, everyone is stylish,
everyone is occupied in their own fiercely hedonistic search
for a beautiful and meaningful lifestyle - A Romelifestyle