Wednesday, 3 June 2009

Rome Alone

The following was scrawled sweatily into a damp notebook last Friday in transit....

So I’m in Italy for two reasons. One is that an old friend is getting married in Sicily. More on that later. The other is that I was invited to a city called Faenza by a reader of this here blog. So I thought I’d kill two birds with one stone. Then two birds turned into a third bird as my new friend in Faenza passed me on to a friend of his in Rome. So, armed with a letter of introduction – much like a character in a Victorian novel – I made my way South to what is almost definitely the most beautiful urban setting I’ve ever experienced.

My host in Rome was a charming Italian chap called Paride, which as far as I can work out is the Italian for Paris, as in ancient Greece, rather than France or Texas. Paride has a friend who owns a B&B on the outskirts of Rome and this is where I stayed. Unfortunately Paride has a very busy life and a baby with a fever so I ended up spending more time alone in the city than would have been ideal. But for the most part this was no chore and I managed to have myself a good time.

However, I have to say, I don’t think Rome is a great city in which to be alone. But then what city is? I suppose then, what I mean is, it would be a wonderful city in which to be in love. But then what city wouldn’t?

OK, let’s start again.

Rome is a very romantic city. So much to see and do; so much space in which to prance around; old men playing accordion all over the place; bridges and hills and restaurants and roses, and although I was thrilled to be there, I also felt lonely. And besides that, I felt a little apart from everything, locked out of what was really going on. I guess I felt like a foreigner. At one point I found myself wandering around the Jewish quarter, and I felt more locked out still. Not only could I not speak Italian, but also, I had a big floppy godless foreskin and my skull, but for slowly thinning hair and hot and cold running elbows, was bare.

Also, it was there in the Jewish quarter that I happened to glance up at an open window in an ancient building above me. Inside was a high-ceilinged apartment with a book-lined wall and warm copper light seeping out into the balmy night. I craned my neck and stared, thinking, 'I want to live there'. And I felt sad.

I definitely want to live in another country. I still fancy the idea of Amsterdam but I suppose there is more to life than getting wrecked and staring at prostitutes with an unsettling combination of longing and self-loathing. So maybe I should try and move to Italy. The language is wonderful – it's often described as a sing-song language but for me it dances – and I'm beginning to feel that it would be a terrible sin to go through life without being able to communicate in something apart from English. It feels like it's almost a responsibility to master another tongue and in doing, to carve out another personality, another life.

Indeed, so far, if this trip has done anything, it's made me feel, very strongly, that my life is nowhere near large enough. It's an enormous world and I really need to experience a lot more of it before I die....

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SugarCain said...

I hate to think of you wandering around Rome alone.

Anonymous said...

I know what you mean.

I went to Rome (for work) about eighteen months ago, while I was in the throes of splitting up with someone. And I kept thinking, I wish he were here, we couldn't fail to sort things out here. I remember stomping around the Jewish quarter and feeling much the same as you (although minus the big floppy godless foreskin –– good grief that's a horrible description).

I'd thoroughly recommend living abroad for a bit. I worked in Washington DC for a while a few years ago, and it was, as I am frequently told, the making of me. It was the best thing I ever did.

Do it.

Panda said...

Aaah, I did the very same thing - well, not in Rome, but in Tuscany - and it is captivating and it had an identical effect on me. I wanted to move there and live it.

I rushed home and bought an entire Linguaphone course with the intention of learning Italian. Then I got about halfway through Disc One, met someone and got married instead (yes, the marriage I am currently disengaging from). If I can find the course, you can have it!!!

One day you'll be back there and you'll know just where to take someone special. And that will look cool!!!


White Rabbit said...

So sad - You should move to Italy if only for the food.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you're on your own! Rome is gorgeous but I suppose any city is more fun when shared.
PS Finished the book today (in less than 24 hours) Bloody brilliant! Good luck with it :o)

Anonymous said...

i've been solo in Rome, Paris, London... and countless cities in the US. But Rome and Paris were the ones that left me feeling unloveable.

living abroad, becoming truly a citizen of the world, is a beautiful aspiration...

Beleaguered Squirrel said...

Your life not large enough. What a good way of expressing it. I'd love to have a large life but having children makes your life very small, whilst simultaneously filling it to the brim with crap, turning it into a kind of overstuffed handbag.

I want my life to stop being an overstuffed handbag and start being a wide empty space, but it'll never happen. I'm just not that kind of person.

Sorry, this was supposed to be about you. I think not everyone is capable of having a bigger life. For a big life you need a giant heart and a fair-sized brain, but you have both of those things, so go for it. If anyone can get there, you can.

Non Je Ne Regrette Rien said...

I agree, beasty. Everyone should try their own version of living large. The pseudo-comfort of the known is not a security blanket but, in the end, more akin to a prison.

Break out young man, break out!