I suppose I could write an ode to your tie-dyed skies and warm July nights and the smell of bread and cheese that walks me home daily. I could write about the emperors that slipped on the same stones as me and the writers before that sat in these taverns, swirling their drinks with their little pinky. I could write a novel on my love for you, the eternal city, but could I really do it better than Goethe, Keats, and Shelley? Haven’t all the greats already wrapped up your beauty in neat verses and polished words in the previous centuries?
So perhaps I’ll settle for a love letter. A declaration of my admiration, kissed with bittersweet goodbyes and scattered with tales better than fiction. Tales of slipping off my heels and running barefoot on the cobbled streets. Using a twenty euro note to hold my weed as we smoked by the river and warmed ourselves up with whiskey. Strolling into large marble galleries, staining our teeth with coffee, and recreating scenes from childhood movies. Standing in candlelit bars reading my poetry, getting distracted on my way to class by performers on the street, sinking my teeth into stringy cheese, or indulging in scoops and scoops of velvety ice cream.
Tales of falling over on these uneven streets and being a victim to traffic rules that have become obsolete. Random strikes and too many siestas that make most errands impossible to complete. Cramped, poorly lit alleys where anyone can slip their hands into your pockets shamelessly. The absence of any rules so all transport has always been free. Pink and orange and yellow buildings strung together with colorful clotheslines and covered in graffiti. The fluttering kaleidoscope of migrating birds every November, blanketing the streets in their feces. Rome, the undeniably beautiful canvas that makes sure your routine is never mundane, that your lifestyle is never too easy.
So it’s not a shock that everyone falls in love with you, for don’t we all love the chase? To go after something that isn’t easy to attain, but there’s nowhere else you’d rather be at the end of the day. You’re magnificent and unique, and yet outdated and gritty. You’re somehow warm and loud and sunny but also at times isolating and lonely. You taught me the difference between isolation and solitude. You made me obsessed with getting lost in this city. You’ve pushed me down and broken my bones, shoved me deep into alleys, and had an asshole punch my nose – but you also introduced me to my family. You’ve picked me up at every turn, dusted me off, and reminded me never to retreat. You were confusing and harsh and stunning and cold and lovely, and somehow I’ve already reached the end of my journey.
But I don’t want to remember you in a golden-dusted light because you taught me to find the gold within the ugly. You taught me that if enough flaws come together, their beauty lies in their honesty. I embraced myself, messy curls and large glasses and clothes too big and baggy, because you taught me how to be me unapologetically. If you can be such a mess and be dubbed the eternal city, then perhaps I too can walk out feeling wholesome and complete. And you will stay put, with your subtly ever-changing tapestry, waiting in this corner of the world for me.