1. The food — I’m pretty obsessed with food, cooking shows, and chefs in general—so for me, Rome was off the charts in terms of a true culinary adventure. The handmade pasta, fresh olive oils, amazing bread and superb cheeses were like a party on my palate. I’m still thinking about the squash blossom ravioli I had at Ristorante Maccheroni, and sadly realizing I will never be able to recreate it. To me, Italian food is like figure skating, it looks so simple, but deep down you know it’s not.
2. The people — Pretty much every Italian we spoke with (or attempted to speak with, as our Italian was pretty weak) was kind, welcoming, patient, and more than willing to point us in the right direction. Grazie!
3. The buildings & streets — Walking through the narrow cobblestone (and often unmarked) streets of Rome made me realize how rich its history is, and how young the US really is. The old buildings, the balconies covered in plants with laundry hanging from them, the narrow entryways and tiny bathrooms—I loved it all.
4. Jovanotti — My Italian musical discovery. I think I could listen to his voice all day long.
5. Pizzaria Alice — Yes, back to the food. The potato, mozzarella, and rosemary pizza at this place is off the hook. We went back so many times that by the end of the week we felt like regulars. Thank you, awesome Pizzaria Alice employees, for putting up with my hand gestures and pretty busted Italian when ordering.
6. Saying Buonasera — Buonasera means good evening in Italian and you hear it everywhere you go as soon as the sun goes down. I came home saying it, and have no immediate plans to stop. Being that I live in Austin, TX, I may need to adapt it to “Buonasera, y’all!”
7. Aperitivo hour — The Italian version of happy hour, aperitivo hour is the perfect time to unwind and also enjoy some free eats. Literally, for the cost of one drink (wine, beer, or cocktail) it’s an all-you-can-eat extravaganza. This can be a great thing if you’re traveling on a budget.
8. The fashion — More than once I commented to my husband on how I felt way underdressed. The women—and men—dress flawlessly. While riding the Metro, I saw an elderly woman wearing skin-tight black leggings and some amazing boots—and she looked awesome! It was then I realized my jeans and Converse just did not cut it in Rome. I needed to step it up, a lot, if I was ever going to fit in.
9. The lack of gigantic billboard advertising — In Rome, the ads were there, but understated. The US could learn a lesson or two from Italy on how to spread a message and not be obnoxious about it.
10. Gelato — Of course, I end on a food note—and I saved the best for last. Hot diggity, the gelato is good here! The place I loved the most had to be Giolitti. I will go back to Rome someday just to taste their banana gelato again. Note to future visitors: when they ask you if you want your gelato “con panna” (with whipped cream), do it. You are on vacation, and you only live once. Oh, and it’s some of the best whipped cream you’ll ever taste.