Oh Roma, how much do I love you?
So very much.
I always tell people, with a sigh, that if I hadn't married a cursed Florentine I would live in my beloved Rome. I know, I know. There are worse things than having to live in Florence. But I am a city girl at heart, and Florence is not much of a city. I come alive in big cities, especially my favourite ones like Paris, Berlin and New York. Fortunately, I have a job that brings me to Rome every so often, though it's one I took a pause from to have Peanut. He and I are quite attached, so nights away from each other can be counted on one hand. And the marvelous job that takes me to Rome--leading field trips for U.S. college students--requires me to spend the night.
Happily, I have started doing the trips again. And since I'm currently buried in work with heartbreakingly little-to-no-time to post here, I'm just going to leave you with a quick-fire top five from my recent return:
1. Matisse in the Vatican
It's probably scandalous to admit this, but the Vatican is a bit of a snore for me. I've just been there so many times and with SO MANY OTHER PEOPLE. Feeling like cattle gets old quickly. The only thing that makes it bearable is seeing something beautiful that I've never seen there before. This Virgin and Child by Matisse, only unveiled in the modern gallery a year ago, stopped me in my tracks. How can so few lines say so much?
2. The Milk Bar
The last time I was in Rome I was about 5 months pregnant with Peanut and made a fateful first visit to the Milk Bar. Owner Kiersten Pilar Miller is from NYC and came here a few years ago when she was working on the set of the HBO's Rome. She fell in love with a Roman, got pregnant, and never left. In the meantime she opened this shop whose show-stoppers are these incredible nursing bras that are both sexy and practical, in addition to a host of other awesome American maternity, nursing and baby products. I constantly wore the two bras, top and dress I bought there and they're still in great condition. (The uniquely Italian paradox of such regrettable clothing for new and expectant mums in a country renowned for great fashion deserves its own post.)
Kiersten also introduced me to the world of natural birth, recommending both Ricky Lake's amazing documentary The Business of Being Born and La Leche League, both of which positively influenced my experience of birth and breastfeeding. So it was delightful to go back and chat to Kiersten again, especially since she understands the loneliness of extended nursing in Italy. Expect to see more about Kiersten and the Milk Bar here in the future! For now, here are a couple anecdotes to whet our appetites. These are from mums visiting her store on advice they got from Roman pediatricians. One was instructed not to nurse her child because she risked turning her baby into a lesbian. Another was told that blonds have a low milk supply. Um, double-you-tee-eff?!
3. Riccio Capriccio
I serendipitously had the wherewithal to ask Kiersten if she knew a good hairdresser nearby. Did she ever! As soon as she said the words "drag queens" and "reminds me of being back in New York" I could hardly believe my luck. The funky, cheerful oasis that is Riccio Capriccio was so much more than I could have dreamed of finding (and now they have a gorgeous new web site). I told the divine Alessandra, who seemed to be the owner, that I wanted a change. She proceeded to give me one of the best cuts and colours I've ever had, on top of blowing my mind by informing me I've been parting my hair on the wrong side my whole life. I also got the coolest manicure by the sassy half-Irish/half-Italian Susie.
My foodie friend Jessie turned me onto Ristorante Maccheroni a few years ago and it's been my favourite Roman restaurant ever since. Unpretentious yet hip (in the best way), with hands-down the best bucatini all'amatriciana I've ever had (ok, maybe besides that time I was at an amatriciana cook-off at a friend's place). They also have an impressive amount of seating, so I've never had to wait for a table, despite its obvious popularity. Yummertons!
5. Street colours
One of my favourite things about Rome has always been its colours, especially the salmon-painted buildings that contrast with various types of achingly charming Roman greenery: tree-lined boulevards, wall-hugging vines and envy-inducing rooftop gardens. Winding up on one of those roofs features prominently in my fantasies of the future.