Cappucc, cats and the Colosseum: The reasons I love living in Rome

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Cappucc, cats and the Colosseum: The reasons I love living in Rome
Rome: What's not to love? Photo: Luca Sartoni/Flickr

When you first arrive in a new city, it's easy to either fall in love with everything, or feel out of place. So what happens once the honeymoon or adjustment period ends? Expat John Henderson, who blogs about life in Rome at Dog Eared Passport, talks about the things he still loves, or has learnt to love, three years down the line.


Three years is a long time in one place for a lot of people. Three years in a foreign country is an eternity. In Rome, however, at least for me, it’s just the beginning.Three years ago today I landed in Rome with a roller bag, a duffel bag, a computer bag and a backpack. Six days earlier I had retired after 40 years in the newspaper business and resettled in the town I fell in love with 16 years ago.

The honeymoon has not worn off. I’m still in the rockets-and-red-glare stage, like when you meet the woman of your dreams and that tingling never goes away. Rome does that to you. It is so much like a woman. It can be infuriating, unpredictable and expensive. But it’s always beautiful, charming and enlightening. I’ll never leave.

Below you’ll see why. Here is my list of all the reasons I love Rome. I hope it all inspires you to visit and reminds my fellow Rome residents to appreciate all that we have here.

It’s a magical place, and it’s nearly 3,000 years old. It’s not going away.

Neither am I.

Photo: Bert Kauffmann/Flickr

I love the view of the Colosseum at night from Caffe Oppio, the bar across the street where you can have an aperitivo for 12 euros and watch the lights shine through the 2,000-year-old porticos. Have two extra glasses of wine and you can almost hear the roar of the crowd — and the screams of the fallen gladiators.

I love walking through my Piazza Testaccio watching a father kick a soccer ball with his little boy, showing the same zeal and love our fathers did when they played catch with us in the front yard.

I love how my Marina’s exquisite photos of Rome show the city’s beauty better than my written words ever can. 

The River Tiber at night. Photo: Ross Moffat/AFP

I love petting stray cats resting on ancient marble, their bellies full and their spirits high from all the priceless cat ladies, the gattare, who feed them around the city.

I love a glass of Pinot Grigio from the Lazio countryside while sitting on my terrace on a warm July night, seeing the lights from L’Antico Tevere restaurant across the street dance on the Tiber River. For some reason, it makes my prosciutto and melon taste so much better.

I love the view from atop the Atlante Star Hotel, situated in perfect proximity to see St. Peter’s on one side and Vittoriano, the massive 19th century monument called The Birthday Cake, on the other. Rome may not have a more romantic place to begin a date.

Photo: Timothy A Clary/AFP

I love how everyone in Rome has no respect for Donald Trump.

I love the smell of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese after it’s poured into a little plastic bag by Antonella and Francesca in my Mercato Testaccio. I can then be found on the street outside, with the bag up to my face, sniffing it like glue.

I love seeing which pair of Italian shoes Marina wears every night.

I love the fagottino, a flaky, rectangular pastry filled with warm chocolate. With a frothy cappuccino, it is the new star in my morning routine at Linari, my neighborhood cafe.

I love the Romanaccio dialect. Only Rome could have a dialect devoted entirely to profanity.

I love the stack of business cards piling up next to my laptop. They represent all the restaurants, cafes and pizzerias I’ve walked past, immediately fell in love with and asked for a business card.

Roma celebrating victory. Photo: Filippo Monteforte/AFP

I love how Roma beat evil Lazio last month, 2-1.

I love being in love with Marina in the most romantic city in the world.

I love how the speedy staff at Linari see me at the counter and immediately set out a fagottino and a cappuccino bencaldo (extra hot) for me.

I love how that staff calls it cappucc (prounounced cah-POOCH) in the Roman dialect.

I love walking down Via Giulia, past its 17th century fountain and Michelangelo’s ivy-covered Arco Farnese, which was designed to connect beautiful Palazzo Farnese with Villa Farnesina on the opposite side of the Tiber but was never completed. Tourists walk down it to say they walked down perhaps Rome’s beautiful street. I walk down it to reach my sports pub.

I love the saldi, the twice annual sales every July and January when top Italian name-brand clothes are up to 50 percent off.

The view from the Aventino Hill. Photo: Marufish/Flickr

I love how the sun reflects off the orange trees on Aventino Hill, up the hill from my apartment and home to one of the best views in Rome.

I love watching Lazio lose.

I love how La Gazzetta dello Sport has 26 pages on soccer every day — in the off season.

I love walking into St. Peter’s and seeing Bernini’s bronze canopy over St. Peter’s tomb he had to make 30 meters high just to fill the massive space in the basilica.

Inside St Peter's. Photo: mrsjpvan2/Flickr

I love looking down from my seat at a makeshift bar during the hot summer nights on Isola Tiberina, the longest continually inhabited island in the world (3rd century B.C.) and seeing the Tiber River’s whitewater rush past me.

I love the night view from behind Vittoriano, looking out at the illuminated temples sticking up from the Roman Forum. No spot in Rome may better illustrate the glory of Ancient Rome.

I love the traditional feasts on Christmas and the day after Easter, called Pasquino, where food takes precedent over religion, as it always should.

Photo: Austin Kelmore/Flickr

I love how drivers always stop and wave you by when you take one step into a crosswalk. I know it’s the law but how many in the U.S. do it and how many do it with a smile?

I love the pizza at 72 Ore, named for the 72 hours it takes to levitate the dough to the most scrumptious level. Topped with the usual fresh ingredients you find all over Rome, it’s my favorite pizzeria in the city.

I love the drop in humidity from 60 percent to under 40 at night during the steaming summer, turning Rome from a steam bath into the most comfortable city in Europe.

I love La Bella Figura, the Italian concept of a healthy mind and body, the drive that sends women like Marina to the gym four times a week.

Photo: tudor-rose/Flickr

I love the view of St. Peter’s Basilica, back-lit like a giant fortress, when I walk through the massive piazza late at night, long after the tourists have left, and only the security guards and gushing fountains accompanying me.

I love sitting outside Linari, with my La Gazzetta dello Sport, cappuccino and fagottino, and watch my Testaccio neighborhood go by.

I love the Italian word tranquillo.

I love the deep color blue in the sky of Michelangelo’s “The Last Judgment” in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo spent two years looking for the perfect ingredients to make that color shine for nearly 500 years and counting.

The Last Judgment. Photo: Dennis Jarvis/Flickr

I love hearing Marina talk to her friends in Roman, the local dialect that sounds like they’re all eating their words.

I love how Romans laugh with you and not at you when you make a funny mistake with the language, such as when I recently complained to my bank about why my 30-euro contribution to a cat sanctuary in Greece cost 34.50 euros to send, according to my bank statement. The banker explained that the bonifico sull’estero means “‘bank transfer,” not “transfer fee.” The transfer fee was 4.50. Duh!

I love the frosty taste of a cold Tipopils, Italy’s most popular artisan beer, on the cobblestone alley of Via Benedetta after a leisurely stroll through Trastevere on a hot summer day.

I love getting a sack full of fresh cornettos filled with dark and white chocolate, even if it’s midnight, at Sweet Paradise, the great pasticceria near Marina’s place.

I love how the laziali at the cafe near the Vatican forms the Lazio eagle in the form of my cappuccino even if he knows I hate Lazio.

I love how the luscious, melted mozzarella stretches from my mouth all the way to the suppli, no matter how far I pull back Rome’s signature fried rice and cheese ball.

I love how every time I travel and come home, I come home to Rome.

John Henderson is a writer and expat living in Rome. A longer version of this article was originally published on his blog, Dog-Eared Passport.

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