Bella Roma
January 31, 2024

Years ago, just weeks before I met my wife Emilie, and after 10 years of living in Florence, Italy, I came very close to moving to my favorite city in the world – Rome. Rome is the starting point of southern Italy, and as a terrone, as rural “earthy” southern Italians are derogatorily called, I felt much more at home with the dialect, temperate climate and animated demeanor of the “Eternal City”. Moreover, Rome is a real city. With a population of nearly 4 million people, the energy, size and chaos of the nation’s capital was a far cry from the “medieval Disneyland” of Florence where, not only is the population one-tenth that of Rome, but also where, much to the relief of tourists visiting the city after Rome and on-route to Venice, everything is within walking distance. I love the hectic pulse of Rome – the head-spinning traffic, the incessant honking, the almost daily political protests, the visit of some significant head of state, the movie premier, the opera, the non la puoi perdere (“you can’t miss”) art exhibit. Every time I went to Rome, which was almost weekly, there was always something big going on.


Roman ruins in Rome, Roman Forum

And then there is the food… my God! Fettucini “Alfredo”, spaghetti all carbonara, tonnarelli cacio e pepe, and the one dish I make sure to eat every time I am in Rome, bucatini all’amatriciana. I also believe that only two places in the world really know how to cook lamb are the Greece and Rome. The Romans call it abbacchio (not agnello as Italians do). Rome is also the place to explore the wonderful world of artichokes! Either alla Romana (sautéed in olive oil, garlic, chili pepper and mint leaves) or alla giudia (“Jewish style”), which means deep-fried and as scrumptious as they are pretty. And being so close to the sea, fresh fish is always readily available. Sometimes a simple plate of spaghetti alle vongole (“with clams”) with a glass of local Frascati wine will do…

But then I wondered… if I lived in Rome, would all the craziness tarnish the magic? Believing it would, I decided to stay in Florence. I would keep Rome as my mistress (my wife loves that metaphor!). I would visit her frequently, but would always return home to Florence; thus maintaining the mystery and excitement. Ten years later our relationship is still perfect!


Rocky Ruggiero has been a professor of Art and Architectural History since 1999. He received his BA from the College of the Holy Cross and a Master of Arts degree from Syracuse University, where he was awarded a prestigious Florence Fellowship in 1996. He furthered his art historical studies at the University of Exeter, UK, where he received a Ph.D. in Art History and Visual Culture. In addition to lecturing for various American universities in Florence, Italy, including Syracuse, Kent State, Vanderbilt, and Boston College, Rocky has starred in various TV documentaries concerning the Italian Renaissance. He has appeared as an expert witness in the History Channel’s “Engineering an Empire: Da Vinci’s World” and “Museum Secrets: the Uffizi Gallery”, as well as the recent NatGeo/NOVA PBS program on Brunelleschi’s dome entitled “Great Cathedral Mystery.”
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