Most people get homesick when they travel. I get ‘Romesick’ when I’m home.
I think I was always meant to live in Rome, but just never knew it. It would certainly explain the fascination I had with all those Swords and Sandals blockbusters from the 50s that I couldn’t get enough of as a kid. The Ben-Hur-Demetrius-Victor-Mature kind of epics where all the gladiators ended up shirtless at one point or another in the film, and all the women looked like goddesses. I had no trouble imagining myself living it up on the Palatine Hill, to the point where I convinced myself that if reincarnation was in fact possible, I had definitely lived a previous life in the Roman Empire. As a patrician, naturally.
So it probably was no coincidence that the first significant trip I decided to take (spring break in Fort Lauderdale really doesn’t count), was to Italy and Greece for two months, thinking that a month touring around each country would be more than enough to get a good feel for the place.
I remember my mother’s take on the idea when I announced what I was doing: she said, “Good, you go and get that travel bug out of your system”, or something to that effect.
That trip was a terrible tease, as it turned out, leaving me only wanting more. More travel, more time to explore, more adventure, and mostly, more Rome. I was smitten, ‘innamorata folle‘, crazy in love with Rome. Pretty much from the moment I first set eyes on the city, in fact. (Wouldn’t say the same for the ears, though. That was a much ruder awakening, literally. Here’s one tip – don’t book a hotel room close to the Train Station’s traffic circles and then try to sleep after an overnight flight! But I digress.)
After returning home from that first trip, I knew what I had to do, and spent the better part of a year mercilessly harassing the Italian Consulate in Toronto until I finally received my Italian passport, packed up a bag’s worth of clothing, and set off to find a job in Rome. Don’t let the Italian passport fool you, though – the only words I knew in Italian – “hooker”, “soother”, “ass” and “fart” – weren’t going to get me very far up the corporate ladder.
In spite of that, I managed to find a job, several in fact, and for the next two years I lived life as a ‘Romana’. Even the true-blue Roman friends I made there told me I had the soul of a true Roman.
Which is why, even after living in Canada all these years since, I’ve never quite been able to let go of my second home. And why every few years or so, I give in to my Romesickness and pay the Eternal City a visit. I guess for me, all roads will always lead me back to Rome.
TIP: The best advice I can offer when visiting Rome (or any other country for that matter), is to learn a few basic words of the language. “Hello”, “Thank you” and “Good Morning” go a long way towards making your interaction with people personal, and not just a transaction. And, there are terrific apps for your phone that can help. (I use Google Translate on my iphone and it’s great – it correctly translated the 4 words I mentioned above and a few other colourful colloquial terms, so I know it works!)