It appears I have the tendency to turn every short evening stroll, most often down to the nearby gelateria, into a six-hour amble through town. This is easy because most places in Rome seem to stay open throughout the night or at least way past my bedtime. And there is an endless supply of refreshment in Rome, on the house – over 2,000 fountains called “nasoni”, literally meaning “large nose”, scattered throughout the city. They quench my first frequently, though I have never learnt to use them as gracefully and proficiently as the Italians do, and, almost always, I wind up looking like I take a bath with my clothes on.
When Mark Twain first visited Rome, he called it “a vast museum of magnificence and misery.” He later forgot all about the “misery” part and just fell in love with the city. As I walk aimlessly and endlessly, I begin to remember how the Eternal City seduced and enchanted me too all those years ago – charming narrow cobbled streets lined with small souvenir shops, busy trattorias and ice cream parlours. And everywhere you look there is something that makes you stop and gasp, and perhaps remind you of the history of this city that for hundreds of years put its money into the building of a vast array of wonderful antiquities, church edifices and monumental fountains, and, sadly starving half its citizens to accomplish it. Ancient Romans believed that no matter what happened to the world, or how many empires rose or fell, their city would go on forever. If Rome were a person, it would most definitely be a very old and incredibly stylish woman, possibly Iris Apfel, the American fashion icon and the undeniable epitome of style and elegance who turned 100 last year!
I find myself at the small junction of three roads that marks the terminal point of one of the aqueducts that supplied water to ancient Rome. Piazza di Trevi is one of the busiest, noisiest, and, therefore, somewhat disappointing places in the city. The most famous fountain in the world symbolises the changing tides of the sea, and, to me, the inevitable passage of time. It occurs to me that Rome indeed has changed, either because I have learnt more about its history or have grown weary of the hordes of tourists. Quite possibly, it is too hot, and I have eaten far too much ice cream and pizza and walked the labyrinth of bustling streets far too many times. I was overwhelmed by the grandiosity and opulence of it all once – love at first sight. Today, as it often happens after years of marriage, I sometimes find it a little overbearing. But it isn’t to say I don’t love Roma or that she doesn’t love me back. This city has taught me that it is okay to live a life of indolence and self-indulgence, a life full of beauty and small pleasures – la dolce vita. It has also taught me that growth is the only evidence of life and that, as the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus once said, “Everything changes but change itself. Everything flows and nothing remains the same … You cannot step twice into the same river, for other waters and yet others go flowing ever on.”