Dolce far Niente
A perpetual titan on the landscape of travel destinations, Rome has loomed large on the list of places everyone should see before they die for centuries. Aptly named the Eternal City, she casts a long and unbroken shadow over the winding roads of history.
For two and a half millennia, Rome has inspired artists, attracted merchants, been home to the most ambitious clergymen and politicians, and captured the imagination of the world. Why? Because she inspires her citizens to leave behind a legacy; to be Roman means not only to live within her ancient walls, but to live well, with honor and purpose—to build something of value that will withstand the corrosive breath of time. The many legacies of over two hundred and fifty generations still stand as an undeniable testament to this Roman credo. A walk through the Forum, the Pantheon or the Vatican City never fails to infuse the soul with a sublime, intoxicating elixir of inspiration and humility. Nothing is impossible, it whispers. This ancient spirit accompanies modern Romans as they go about their day, a palpable, visceral force that refuses to yield to traffic, graffiti or high rises. I am here to stay, it proclaims, and I’ll be here much longer than any of you. Good luck.
As you encounter the inevitable chaos that will greet you upon arrival at any of Rome’s airports or train stations, just remember that chaos is part of Rome’s charm—only the strong survive. To help you prevail, here is a Latin mantra from one of Rome’s most famous emperors, Julius Caesar: veni, vidi, vici—“I came, I saw, I conquered.” Repeat until you reach your hotel, and then get a good night’s sleep for tomorrow. You’ll need it—exploring Rome is like going on a date with Sophia Loren.
So, finally, it’s here. Day 1. I suggest you start your day the Italian way—with good, strong coffee, or nothing at all. Why such a modest start, you ask? It’s Rome, right? A culinary juggernaut on the global food scene? Exactly. Save your appetite for lunch, amici. You’ll thank me later.
The moment you step outside your hotel, unless it’s 5:00 a.m. (which in my opinion is the best time to explore the city) be prepared for Rome’s colossal presence to remind you of how insignificant you are. How do you begin to navigate such an intimidating city? Where do you start when faced with 2,500 years of stunning architecture, artwork, history and achievement? Add to that over a thousand restaurants and points of interest, 4.3 million residents engaging in over 2,000 hand gestures, and it’s enough to stun the most intrepid traveler into a catatonic state of anxiety.
Not to worry. You’ve been fortified by an Italian espresso or cappuccino, and you have your mantra. So, what should you do before your much-anticipated first lunch in Rome? St. Peter’s? The Trevi Fountain? Villa Borghese?
Nope. Nothing at all. That’s right, you heard me—nothing.
The Italians have a beautiful phrase for just such a thing: Dolce far niente, which means the beautiful act of doing nothing; sweet idleness, indulgent relaxation, blissful laziness. Day 1 is for just that. Open yourself up to Lady Roma and take a walk down her narrow streets with no particular destination in mind. As an act of faith, take nothing but your camera for capturing what makes you gasp, a journal for jotting down any creative ideas for that film or novel (or for looking busy at a café while you ogle the beautiful Roman passersby), your appetite (still intact), and your sense of wonder and adventure. I promise you, she won’t disappoint.
Still doubtful? Fear not. Surely you’ve heard the old saying, “When in Rome?” Of course you have. Well, you’re in Rome, aren’t you? Look around—what are the Romans doing? Where are they going, and when? Not sure how to pick them out? They are probably wearing one or more black articles of clothing stylishly set off by the seasons “in” colors, fashionable shoes built to withstand the cobblestone streets, and some kind of accessory to ignite the whole ensemble—scarf, hat, watch, etc. Follow them (at a respectful distance, of course) and they will inadvertently guide you to countless rich experiences that lie hidden in plain sight all over the city.
When lunchtime rolls around, your appetite will have grown with the exhilaration of all your discoveries. Throw yourself with abandon into a plate of homemade bucatini pasta with grated pecorino romano cheese, carciofi (stuffed artichokes), or abbacchio alla scottadito (lamb “finger-burning” style). Now, aren’t you glad you skipped breakfast? 😉
Resume your wandering after lunch. It will aid digestion, and create room for some gelato—an experience I suggest repeating daily. Or twice-daily. TIME magazine, among others, touts Giolitti as the top gelateria, for those who are looking for a premium confectionary experience:
Via Uffici del Vicario, 40 – Roma – Tel 06.6991243
This has been our historic home since the year 1900 – a stone’s throw from the Pantheon and next to the Chamber of Deputies of the Italian Parliament. We have a spacious interior, decorated in full Liberty style, and tables outside for customers who want to watch the world go by. Both are available for our customers 365 days a year from 7AM to 1.30 at night. Credit cards are welcome.
Get pleasurably lost a few more dozen times before limping home to your hotel to plant your face into your pillow, and that’s a wrap.
For Day 2 and beyond, there are a million guide books that list all of the “must-sees,” which I won’t list here. Once you’ve mastered the art of dolce far niente, they won’t really matter, but feel free to pepper your itinerary with those that strike your personal fancy.
Eccolo – and there you have it 😉 – Viva Roma!