Madonna’s Namesake

Madonna was born to offend you, now wish her a Happy 54th Birthday.

Every single Italian I met when I lived in Rome had the same reaction to my last name: “Ciccone, like Madonna!” They know that Ciccone is Madonna’s last name, what they’re not buying, however, is the Madonna part.

“Carla, what is her real first name?” my friend Massimo asked me. “Madonna,” I said. He laughed and shook his hands the way Italians do when they want to say, “mamma mia! Whaddaya talkin’ about?!” without actually saying it.

While they wholly embrace Madonna as her stage name, it’s unthinkable blasphemy that Madonna’s real name is Madonna. In Italy, that name is reserved for the one and only Holy Virgin Mother of God.

“It has to be Maria, Mary, Marie,” said Massimo, and after a trip to the World Wide Web proved him wrong—as she is indeed Madonna Louise Ciccone—he was left shaking his head.

Madonna had offended him. Not with her singing or stage humping or cross burning or boob flashing, but with her name.

Etched on her birth certificate, the seven letters that make up her bold first name contain within them an inherent contradiction. It represents the antithesis of what she is. If faced with the choice of being the Madonna or the whore, Madonna is the whore every time, and proud of it.

I don’t have to tell you about the impact Madonna’s had on music and culture. She ushered in the seminal music video era of the early 80s with so much sass that she transcended the corniness of the decade and transformed a generation of tween and teen girls (and boys) into lace sporting, multiple cross wearing, messy haired, gum chewing, cheeky little queens.

She was a fearless, fun, envelope pushing badass who challenged the norms of her Midwestern, motor city Catholic upbringing with so much gumption that, though many people were put off by her, they still believed her.

I remember my grandfather smiling down at me in the basement of his house in Toronto as he held up a poster of Madonna in 1987. He told me that we had the same last name as her and were from the same part of Italy, and I was in awe of the beautiful blonde woman with the dark eyebrows, red lips and mean face who, thrillingly, could possibly (but probably not) be my fifth cousin.

The video for 1989’s “Like A Prayer” featured a mélange of scandalous taboos at the time: interracial making out in a church, bumping and grinding, also in a church, and cleavage bouncing in front of burning crosses next to… a church! So it was perfect for a bunch of 7-year-old Catholic school girls to imitate at school.

My friends and I did so over recess one day, happily dancing and acting out the words of the song on a grassy hill. Life is a mystery… Watching us from her pious corner was the hawk-eyed relic of our Catholic elementary school, my second grade home room teacher, Mrs. Van Kant. Everyone must stand alone…

Van Kant somehow found out that Madonna the hussy’s last name was also my own, and pulled me aside before class. “You have the same last name as Madonna,” she said, her stale coffee breath assaulting my nose as she hiss-whispered through her teeth. “She is defiling the church. You better pray for her soul.”

Mrs. Van Kant was terrifying. All tightly wound white curls and high-collared, starched blouses, she constantly rapped a long, yellow pencil against the palm of her hand while patrolling our desks. She’d whack kids on the head with it for chewing gum, looking sleepy, or not praying loud enough. Madonna would’ve despised her.

Had I been 12 at the time, I would’ve been like “screw you, you tight ass bitch and hell yes Madonna CICCONE!” but I was not 12. I was 7. I was scared to death of teachers, hell and the devil and wanted nothing more than to be a good Catholic girl. Madonna was really messing with my elementary school God game, so after praying for her, I viewed her with severe side-eyed skepticism and hated her very much for three years. Until, that is, she became Mae Mordabito.

“A League of their Own” was the zenith of Madonna’s film career. The 1992 movie had a talented ensemble cast and was about women stepping in to play big league baseball for the masses while the men were off killing Nazis during World War II. They faced ridicule and sexism, they had to play in skirts, and they kicked ass.

Not unlike Madonna herself, #5 Mae Mordabito was lippy, feisty, and wicked. At one point, she poisons her team’s female chaperon Mrs. Cuthburt so the girls can sneak out to go swing dancing. More than anything, Madonna, and the rest of the Rockford Peaches (Geena Davis, fist pump!) made awkward prepubescent girls like me want to be sporty and play baseball, which I did, for a little while.

My musical tastes have always run more rock ‘n roll gypsy than pop princess, and I’d be the first to agree if you told me that Madonna’s songs, voice, words, face, performances, antics, or life choices have offended you, but love her, hate her, hate to love her, or love to hate her, Madonna has been the pinnacle of female pop stardom for the better part of the past 30 years. She’s sold over 300 million albums, which makes her the world’s top selling female recording artist.

Two years ago, I took an Alitalia flight from Rome to Sicily. I gave them my passport, and upon seeing my name, the attendant looked at me and smiled wide. She then called a coworker and said, in Italian, “I have Madonna’s niece at my desk!” They bumped me to first class and didn’t charge me for my extra heavy bag. I didn’t correct them. Madonna wouldn’t have wanted me to.

She’s been condemned and rewarded in grand fashion throughout her career, and in much more insignificant ways, I too, have been condemned and rewarded for my name-association.

As she turns 54, my wish for Madonna is to keep on living unapologetically, to keep on pushing (which she will, because she’s Madonna).

Fairground stripper, beret wearing rapper, new-age yogi, whatever’s next for Madonna, it’ll be provocative, because Madonna Ciccone was born to be a controversial anomaly fighting against the majority. I haven’t always liked or agreed with her, but I have always admired her.

She might have the name of a saint, but she’s got the balls of a lion.

Reminiscing about Roma

I was thinking today about  how I’ve all but abandoned this blog since moving back from Rome. Sure, Rome was a profound and unique experience for me, but it can’t stop there, right? Life can be profound and interesting elsewhere and I’m going to try to bring you profound and interesting things and keep this blog up better. Maybe I’ve been hesitant to blog because I know that nowhere can compete with Italy, at least for me.

In Rome, the beauty was in the buildings, the people, the trees, the air. You’re spoiled by it and haunted by it and most of all, mesmerized by it. I sometimes joke with people that living in Italy ruined me for life. All jokes are half true, you know? The experience of living in a place where Disney princess fairy dust floats through the air is indeed mind altering. In my old apartment in Trastevere, which is one of Rome’s oldest and illest areas, I’d work sitting by an open window. Everyday, like clockwork, the smell of fresh baked bread and the most delicious candy you can imagine would waft in on a gentle breeze. I’d look up at the little angel statue carved into the building across the street and the groups of ivy crawling up the wall beside her, and then I’d look down at those charming, uneven cobblestone streets and shake my head. how is this real?

I’m fully aware that Italy has more problems than not. Especially now. What I’m referring to has nothing to do with national debt crisis, or the backwards politics, or the illogical bureaucracy or the bunga bunga bullshit. It’s more the fabric of a culture that was built around living for pleasure. Once you’ve experienced living in a place where they want to enjoy everything they see, taste, smell and touch, it’s hard to come back to concrete sidewalks and frothy, burnt cappuccinos. 

It’s also hard to compete with the pizza. Pizza is the best thing Italians ever invented, in my opinion, and I do enjoy it in all of its forms. But I’ve actually been thinking about Italian pizza all day. The thin crust, the simple punchy tomato sauce, the mozzarella. I’m officially salivating. I will return to Italy one day and the first thing I’m doing is getting myself a pizza. 

Pizza Margherita, love of my life

Speaking of beauty and enjoying life, I just witnessed two construction workers have an uncontrollable giggle fit in my back alley. It was pretty beautiful. 

From this Gutter, we see the Stars

To say that the traffic in Rome is chaotic would be an understatement. It’s Vespas weaving in and out of messy lines of cars, riders scraping their knees on the sides of buses as they squeeze by; it’s old women not stopping at red lights—not because they couldn’t see the light—because they saw a chance to go; it’s honking, yelling, arm waving craziness.

And so, Roman or not, Italian or not, if you come to Rome, you must acquire certain survival skills, if only to successfully cross the road.

A little puppy named Blackie knows this all too well. At two months old, she comes when she’s called, sits when she’s instructed to, and she waits patiently (and with aching cuteness) when her owner steps inside a bar to punch back an espresso.

Following her owner, and with no leash on, Blackie cautiously navigates through pedestrians and traffic. She looks up at her red pants wearing guide as they cross the street, her clumsy little puppy paws swiftly hitting the pavement behind him. She waits patiently by his side when he stops to chat with someone on the street.

He’s stern with her, but loving, bending down for a cuddle as they wait to cross the road again, and as he does, she becomes the 2-month-old puppy she is, jumping onto his lap, licking his face and getting his red pants all muddy while he laughs. Blackie knows that she’s lucky to have such a great Roman tour guide.

For the rest of us, though, Rome is an ancient urban jungle without a kind navigator leading the way. The city will open her loving arms to you, but you’re not safe to rest there for long. It’s transient. If you don’t move with it, you’ll be swallowed up by it.

You can be amidst the most mind-boggling chaos, noise and confusion on the street, only to walk up a hill for ten minutes and find a serene rose garden surrounded by an enchanted city view that’ll make you thank God, even if you don’t believe in one. This dichotomy is nothing new. It’s everywhere in Italy. In the landscapes and the people.

They are both saints and sinners.

Rome will kiss you as she kicks you.

As it is in Rome, so in life. We have to walk the gritty streets, eventually climbing out of them to gaze upon a lovely vista. And there’s good and bad both above and below.

Some people are born into easy, or seemingly easy, lives. They walk through the great big building that is life and doors open for them as if by magic. People smile at them. They go to school, they get good jobs, they find love. They make it all look so effortless.

Other people are born into lives that seem stacked against them from the start. They fight for breath on the day they’re born and they scrape their way through: banging on locked doors, clawing at walls, screaming and spitting and struggling for a chance to prove themselves. Prove themselves great in whatever form of great they dream of.

But whether we’re blessed or cursed or, like most humans, somewhere in between, nobody goes it alone.

Even the most successful, self-made people would not be so if it weren’t for the help of others. Be it the teacher that tells his student that she’s good at math, or a soccer coach who recognizes and nurtures a young athlete’s potential, or a manager who takes a chance on an inexperienced employee who has the drive, but nothing to show for it yet. No matter how hard we work and how ready we are – we succeed or fail based largely on the support of a few.

Seneca, that wise old Roman, said: “luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” We learn, train, and get ready for battle, and when one comes, we go for it – con la forza (with force) – and hope for the best.

I find it hard to explain, but being surrounded by Rome and her vibrant Romans has lead me to think about personality and where it comes from. How everything we do and see shapes who we are and who we are becoming. Ultimately, it’s what we do and how we do it when the cards are stacked against us, when we’re staring into a loaded gun, when we’re trying to cross the street and cars are honking and nearly hitting us and people are yelling, when we’ve fallen down so many times we’re not sure it’s worth it to get back up again. It’s how we handle these moments, not those moments when the sun is shining and roses scent the air, that gives us integrity and character.

You can be the most beautiful person in the world. You can have the best job and the most money and the nicest clothes and the perfect family. You can have houses in France and Hawaii. You can know the difference between Chateau Rothschild and Domaine Leflaive – but if you don’t have much character, you don’t have much.

Lately, this city has been kicking my ass. Nearly a year of being away from friends and family, order, politeness and consistency, and living among the madness, rudeness, and illogical entertainment that is Rome has begun to transition from fun, new, and touristy to real, draining, and unstable.

I’m not giving up, on myself or on Rome, but when I saw Blackie, the little puppy following her owner with the undivided attention of a much older dog, it reminded me how much we – dogs, people, beings – need each other. Need to be loved, hugged, cared for. We need kindness – from strangers, from friends, from family, from lovers. We need to draw love out of wherever we are, and whomever we’re with. Italians go for this love thing with reckless abandon. They love their lifestyle, they love their food, they love their cities, regions, and country, they love themselves, and they love each other.

Someone once told me that if you love Rome, she will love you right back – and this is true.

It’s in the way the sun always makes her buildings twinkle as though they’ve been bathed in fairy dust. The way even her most ruined of ruins beam with haunting, ancient beauty. It’s in the way, right now, the soft sound of a classical piano music slices through the abrasive street noise—motorinos, booming voices of arguing Italians, sirens, the hum of water running from an outdoor fountain—like a silk scarf falling slowly over a sharp sword. Watching it happen was so beautiful and so peaceful, that you hardly care that your scarf is now on the floor in two pieces.

It’s in these moments that I don’t want to ever leave Italy. When I hear that piano played so delicately, so masterfully, producing sounds so cutting and so sweet that they leap into my stomach and writhe it until my eyes are watering and my heart is aching. I picture the pianist weeping, tear drops spilling onto the keys as his fingers bounce delicately over them – long and lithe. Like Rome, he makes me smile and cry at the same time. I can’t see where this beautiful sound is coming from, but I can feel it all around me, inside me. It’s always there. Just like Rome.

“We’re all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” ~ Oscar Wilde

Eat, Pray – Basta!

Eat, Pray, Love. You think of it and see Julia Roberts sitting cutely on a bench in a gorgeous Roman piazza (Navona) eating gelato from a cup with a guilty look on her face like it’s a sin to eat gelato (from a cup, maybe).

The book was fine, a bit self-indulgent and narcissistic, and even though I didn’t make it past the Eat (Italy) section, I could see why people loved it. It was escapism meets a rich-white woman’s reality and it gave people hope, something to dream about – I get it. An author is entitled to write about whatever he or she wants to, and if I don’t like it, I don’t read it. No harm no foul. I’m also a fan of anything that gets people reading and thinking and discussing – because these are sadly dying practices in mainstream culture. So there’s me giving Eat, Pray, Love credit where it’s due.

However, a book like that is somehow turned into a cultural phenomenon, getting the Oprah crowd all hot and bothered, and then sparks a Julia Roberts led movie that is now being shoved into my face everywhere I turn – this is too much for me. Not every book turned movie bothers me – I have nothing against Harry Potter. There’s just something about Eat, Pray, Love that has been, well, eating at me, for lack of a better word.

Maybe it’s because of the comparisons I’ve gotten to the author, which go something like this: “oh I just read Eat, Pray, Love and it reminded me of you because you’re a writer too and you moved to Rome just like she does in the book!” Ya ok. Except I didn’t come to Rome to find myself. At 27, I had a pretty good idea of who I was. I moved to Rome because it’s something I had put on hold for years, and if I didn’t do it now it would have gone from dream to regret, and that’s not cool, baby.

The other similarity is, a couple of years ago, like Elizabeth Gilbert at the beginning of her novel, I did find myself lying on the floor of a bathroom crying in agony, but it was not because I had suddenly come to the realization that I was married to someone I didn’t want to be married to and there was surely more out there for me. No. I had actually just been locked out of my house by my now ex-boyfriend, who also took all of my money and my dog, so my friend’s bathroom floor was where I ended up after a long night of quelling the pain with too much alcohol. I digress…

Eat, Pray, Love, from what I gather, is a positive book and I agree with some of its message. I think everyone should strive to find what makes them happiest in life and try to carve out a path for themselves to follow that dream. It’s great that Liz Gilbert had the money and time to take a comfortable year-long soul-searching journey. What she failed to mention in the damn book was that finding yourself comes a bit quicker when you’re getting paid big bucks to write a book about it.

What I realized after moving to Italy was: you can run as far as you like, you can change your clothes, your friends, your hair, you can change your language, your job, your food, your church, whatever. You can change everything. At the end of the day, it’s still your own goddamn eyes you see when you look in the mirror. You’ve got to be ok with yourself, and find answers within yourself, wherever you are, because your location won’t make your problems go away.

Although I know it’s a true story, another thing that bothers me about Eat, Pray, Love is that she goes on this adventure to find herself as an independent single woman, and what!? look at that, she also finds the perfect man along the way.

I’m all for love. Really, I am. Love’s good stuff. But couldn’t the book have ended where she found herself? Because it just reinforces the damn stereotype that even if you’re on a soul-searching quest for self-discovery because you’ve spent your life going from one relationship to the next, your life still isn’t really complete until you’ve found the “perfect” man.

So go see Eat, Pray, Love, because I know you will anyway. Enjoy Julia Robert’s horn laugh and megawatt smile, enjoy the beauty of Roma, India and Bali. Let it lift your spirits or move you or whatever. Just please don’t tell me I’m missing out if I don’t see it. I’d rather try to live it in my own way. And you should too. Vai!

The Lady in the Sun

On the sidewalk between a bus stop and a bakery, a slice of sunlight escapes from the shadows of the buildings that surround it.

There she sits, illuminated.

The top half of her face strains upward and inward, emphasizing the deep lines on her forehead and in between her eyebrows. Her lips curl down as her large brown eyes look up at the people passing by.

Her shirt, probably once white, is yellowed from too much wear, too much perspiration, and not enough washing. Ring shaped stains have dyed the underarm part of her sleeves a grayish colour. Hard earned sweat stains.

In her left hand is a dish with a few coins in it, which she shakes at tourists as they pass her. With her right hand she holds up a brown tattered pant leg, exposing her mangled right limb. It looks as though it was crushed into a million pieces years ago and never fixed.

The leg is flat in some places and curves oddly in others. It’s scarred and its colour is deeper and more pronounced than the rest of her skin.

There she sits, exposing her wound – her cross to bear. Which has now become  her living. Her life.

This is a pretty common sight in Rome. Many people with maimed body parts beg for money in tourist-heavy areas of the city. It’s heartbreaking. It’s not something you get used to seeing.

I’ve been thinking about the lady in the slice of sun, and others like her, since I moved here. When I see them, I know I am in the presence of a bravery that I will likely never know for myself. I could never be that fearless. That honest. That naked.

What would it be like to expose your wounds to the world? The deepest, most painful parts of your being put on display for anyone to see. Is it demeaning? Is it cathartic? Is it liberating? Or is it simply a means to make a living?

While we don’t all have physical scars, nearly everybody carries some form of hurt on the inside, and most of us are petrified at the thought of anyone ever seeing it.

In Italy, they have a word that represents the facade, the image, the pretty faces we show the world, and the ugliness we hide from it – la figura.

The lady in the sun, displaying her pain in broad daylight, has surrendered her ego and her “figura,” but has retained her pride despite the hoards of people gawking at her daily. This is a nearly unfathomable vocation for most people.

Humans are fragile creatures. We come unglued easily. We hide our perceived physical unattractiveness with makeup, with workout regimes, with plastic surgery, with clothes. We also hide our emotional pain from ourselves and from those closest to us. Not because we don’t love them, but because we are afraid that if we share too much and don’t keep up this “bella figura,” we might expose that we are breakable. We might get hurt.

Ironically, this act of hiding pain away often turns the pain into frustration, sadness and hate. Eventually we become shadows of the people we were, or move farther and farther away from what we wanted to be.

The lady in the sun makes me want to cry, but she doesn’t need my tears. She’s braver than I’ll ever be.

I don’t stand on street corners saying: “Don’t look away – look at my wound. Look good and hard. It’s all mine, and now it’s yours too.”

But she does. With the grace of a ballerina and the strength of the ocean.

Maybe when someone surrenders to their own fragility, they become unbreakable.

Italian Kids and Soccer

I recently spent two weeks in Tuscany teaching at a summer camp. It was like a dream. Italian children are like mini versions of their adult counterparts. Emotional, beautiful, joyful.

We all watched Italy play their last game of World Cup 2010 together. It was amazing to see the kids glued to the screen. They live for soccer here. But Italian soccer needs to start living for her fans too.

I’ve heard many complaints from Italians lately about how the country is stuck in the past in many ways. It’s a double-edged sword – as the past of Italy is probably one of the most interesting, diverse and beautiful of any country in the world. But that sentiment carries into other areas too. Names are important here. They lack the work hard and you’ll go far spirit of America. Once you have a name in Italy, it will carry for generations.

They are wary of youth and change. Hence the aging World Cup national soccer team. They had the big names, but those names no longer have the speed or endurance, and most importantly, the passion, of the younger players that could have been chosen – and who might have taken the team much farther.

The kids were angry and sad when Italy lost their final World Cup game. They had every right to be. Maybe it’s time for Italy to start letting go of their old school mentality when it comes to soccer. Do it for your country. Do it for the kids.

In Silhouette

I just paid 6 euros for a cappuccino and a muffin. I received a cappuccino and a brownie, and thought ‘why not?’ The brownie tastes like paper and cocoa. It’s not very good – for Italy standards anyway. The cappuccino tastes like cappuccino.

Columns surround me in this ancient structure. There is a building in the near distance that is very old and very stunning, and the more I look at it, the more it speaks of the past – as many of the buildings here do. Like the era it was born out of, it is close enough to be seen clearly, but far enough away to be out of reach. A memory, kept alive by bricks and cement, by columns and earth, by good fortune and hope. Sitting in between two columns, I am surrounded, but not fenced in. Safe but free. Tranquil but alive. Immagine in cornice. A picture in a frame.

I’m here. I’m present and alive, but also a silhouette. Shadows transform me as the sun moves through the sky and changes the light. I’m here. And here, my thoughts are new and different. I’m here. And here my eyes see things with wonder. I’m here. And here, my face looks a bit different but also more like me. My feet are planted on this ground, but my mind forms new paths to walk down. It’s open. I’m open.

I think it was Bob Dylan who wrote “I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now.” This is a new phenomenon for me. The heart, even if it has been ravaged and worn and broken and bruised, can recover. Scars can fade. It can turn from black to red. Time can tick backwards, if only in the heart.

This place I am in is everything I wanted, and everything opposite what I left behind.

Except the men. Because, as was the case back home, they have been generally disappointing. Boys, (and they must be called boys because only boys play the games that these men do), try your best. Best is an overstatement. Although my heart might be young and my eyes wide and naive looking, please don’t be fooled. They have seen more than they show.

My mind, after a long leave of absence, now works fulltime for my heart. She works overtime for her. Like a seamstress sewing, repairing and caring for a delicate lace dress. Every time the heart starts to come undone, the mind will sew her back up again. It’s not that the wise seamstress doesn’t want that pretty lace dress to ever go anywhere or do anything. She does. But she just finished re-stitching the entire goddamn garment, so she can’t let it get all torn up again yet. In time, I suppose, that lace must again get torn. Because the thing about hearts is that if they aren’t torn apart, they can never be repaired, and if they are never attended to, they might just stop working altogether.

So here I sit, between two pillars. One is the future and one is the past. I don’t know where I’m going and I’m scared I might lean too far to one side and a lose my balance, or lean to far to the other side and get stuck. I just cut myself down from a web of my own confusion that I had spent years spinning. I cut myself down and here I am.

Between two pillars. One is my heart and one is my mind. And there I am in silhouette between them. I’m not a shadow, I’m not a ghost. I might have been before, but the light is changing. Just as the sun seems to always light up this great city from the inside, it’s beginning to light me up in the same way. I’m starting to let it.

“Excuse me we are closing,” says the very quiet waiter. This place is so peaceful, the waiters must speak in a whisper.

I’m snapped out of my dusk-kissed reverie. Back to reality, but at the same time, not really. Reality is still a dream right now. That’s the enchantment of Italy.

Talking Soaps from my Soap Box

I spent my evening watching the Italian soap opera Vivere, because my 87-year-old grandma loves it. She watches it more than she watches church on TV, and she watches church a lot. Anyway, soap operas somehow make more sense in Italian, just like real operas do. Maybe it’s because Italians are so naturally over-the-top dramatic and easily excitable, but the long stares into each other’s eyes, the gut wrenching passion and the extended make out sessions they show on Vivere are sort of par for the course in Italy. And they do it with such intensity, such sincerity, that you really do believe it. In real life too. Even my jaded ass fell for more than one Italian heartthrob’s lustful gazes, passionate come-ons, and romantic promises when I was there nearly nine years ago. That might have been because I was 18 though. We’ll see.

But I digress… back to Italians and their cheesy soap operas. They seem to eat corny second-rate TV up like it’s warm Nutella on a cold day. In any language, soap operas are the TV equivalent to really bad romance novels. Escapism… everyone indulges in it in some way.

Enjoy this exquisite clip from Vivere. Collars up!


All Roads Lead to Rome

Dear Rome,

The last time I wandered your streets, I was an 18-year-old, obsessed and overcome with you. Ancient buildings, girls in Prada dresses who looked like supermodels riding Vespas in their 4-inch stilettos, golden God-like men walking with a swagger and whistling at women, people smoking like it would never go out of style, people drinking wine, people drinking art, people drunk on life. Cars honking. EVERYWHERE. People in cars yelling at each other. Cars bumping into other cars, into buildings, into people. Pedestrians-narrowly-avoiding-death-by-car. It’s a hustle to cross your streets. A hustle I thought I might not survive. But alas, ancient, eternal city, you protected me then. Your people are fiery and passionate, with confident style. Your language, with its boisterous inflections, enthusiasm and romance – your language sings.

Oh Rome. Your streets which have been walked on by emperors and kings, peasants and prostitutes. The gypsies in the subways and on the sidewalks with their screaming babies trying to earn their daily bread. Gross men who slapped my ass as I walked to get a gelato. Me not minding so much once I was eating the gelato. The gelato was worth it. Your food, Rome, your food. Your food could be my last meal and I would die happy.  Food lives up to its hype in Italy. Never again (for a long while, at least) will I have to argue with a Starbucks “barista” about how to make a proper cappuccino, because you already know, Rome, you know better than I do.

Rome, I plan on soaking you up and savoring every moment, every pizza, every museum, every warm night, and every sight. I may no longer be a naïve neophyte,  but I’m still a dreamer. And Rome, you’re the eternal city. The eternal dream.