Oh, the places we'll go: Rome
Traveling is, for obvious reasons, not really happening any time in the near future. So I've decided to venture back to a time where travel was indeed permitted and you could do such magical things like flying thousands of feet in the air, and end up in a completely different faraway land. I wrote this small piece for travel blog Voyage d'Etudes a few years back; a little feature about one of my absolute favorite cities in the world, Rome — a place of wonder, tangerine and fig trees, cold beer, olives, tiramisu and early morning runs along the Tiber river. I've been there several times with my family and we always go to my mom’s favorite place, Campo dei Fiori, the flower market. There’s a small bar there with old wooden chairs from a movie theatre or something. We've sat there many times when the market closes and watched the intricate logistics of the garbage men and their medieval looking broomstick. Very strange, but oddly rhythmical.
FROM VOYAGE D’ETUDES ABOUT ROME:
NAME: Thea Urdal
SPECIALISM: Design and journalism
LOCATION OF STUDY: Rome, Italy
PROJECT TITLE: Quest for the perfect detail (without bringing it home)
OVERVIEW: I am notoriously curious, continuosly searching for items that spark an interest or an idea. Then I take said item home with me. Nine times out of a ten this item will be a book or a magazine. Although I find random knick-knacks intriguing, I am mostly fascinated by the art of print and paper and have accumulated such a vast amount of publications and tomes over the years that my mom just shakes her head and mumbles “fire hazard” every time she’s at my apartment. I ignore her of course, but upon my arrival in Rome I wanted to see if there were more abstract details I could focus on in the Eternal City, than just physical objects. I am such an avid fan of tactility and touch, and I also love to eat, so I wanted to put my mind into the actual experience of being physically in a place, breathing in the smell of orange flowers, noticing structures, textures, colors, eating ripe figs and not just contemplating about which books to bring home (although I did bring a fair share home in the end, don’t worry).
1. Fried artichoke
I know people talk incessantly about small holes in the walls, and in fear of this sounding like something daft out of Eat Pray Love, we literally found a hole in the wall where I had one of the best food experiences of my life. Sora Margherita is a miniscule restaurant/social club in the old Jewish ghetto (the walls were littered with yellowing reviews) and we did like everyone else in the place (which seated about fifteen people) and ordered a wrinkly little thing that looked anything but appetizing, but it turned out to be delicious. Our biggest rookie mistake was obviously not eating the entire thing (why, I have no idea), because on our second visit we watched the man seated next to us gulp down the whole thing in two bites. There were only three menus in the place (obviously in Italian) that got passed around between guests.
2. The color yellow
After a few days on holiday I slowly realized that the color yellow is not just the color of succulent golden pasta vongole or the small citrus fruits that hang in low-branched trees, it’s literally a color that appears so frequent in Rome that it became the pure essence of Italy for me. Ochre, saffron, apricot and spotted vanilla, it was all a blur of sunshine.
The 2000-year-old original marble floor at the Pantheon completely stunned me. The dome of the Pantheon is still the largest dome construction in the world and has a hole in the middle, so water pours in during heavy rainshowers. How this floor is still intact and so geometrically astounding baffles me. Other amazing marble gems were found literally at every street corner, in every small hidden church, but the floor at Saint Peter’s Basilica was of course beautiful, although I found Pantheon ten times more riveting (not too fond of hordes of tourists).
4. Small gems in the Vatican
I’ve been strangely fascinated by the Vatican for years, and although the Sistine Chapel was astounding, I realized that it was the small weird things - like stacked grey chairs at Saint Peter’s Square, a small painted window shelf at the Vatican museum or the Vatican post office trailer (where I disappointingly enough didn’t get any nice stamps on my card) – that I preferred over ancient reliefs.
Guiseppe, the antiquarian at Il Museo del Louvre showed me the meaning of patience when I spent hours rummaging around his beautiful (and dusty) archives. I was strict with myself and in the end ended up with only three magazines, a Japanese/French exhibition folder and a small book in Italian, that I probably will never learn how to read, but the cover made me swoon. At a small market close to the Fontana di Trevi I finally found some old letters from the Vatican, complete with watermarks, stamps and graphics. So beautiful.
CONCLUSION: Rome smells the best of all cities I’ve been to and I have definitely discovered the subtle beauty that lie in things less tangible. Will venture back very soon, for the artichokes alone.