In my head, the Eternal City’s name is always announced by Sophia Loren, exactly the way she emphatically exclaimed, “ROBERTO!” when “Life Is Beautiful” was named Best Foreign Language Film at the Academy Awards in 1999.

Her announcement and Roberto Benigni’s reaction — so excited that he climbed onto the backs of the theater chairs and almost on top of Steven Spielberg’s head on his way to the stage — revealed an Italian character that we have come to regard as cliché: passionate, excitable, impulsive and perhaps just a little bit crazy.

Whilst this description certainly does not fit every Italian, Rome is a direct reflection of that character — sprawling, open-armed, slightly shabby, slightly chaotic, emphatic, unapologetic. From the grandeur of St. Peter’s to the rugby scrum of Termini Station and everything in between, Rome hits all of your senses full on. Rome doesn’t have the slick marketing of Paris or New York or the focused purpose of Milan or London. Rome simply is. You can love the city or not — Rome is sure enough of itself to know it is not for everyone and that’s just fine.

My last visit was short — barely an afternoon before I had to leave early the next morning. It was hot and crowded, but we were blessed with that pure, bright white Italian summer sunshine that shot down the city’s ancient streets and alleyways like a tremendous spotlight. What follows are my impressions of that afternoon. Light and stone; Tourists and travelers; Natives and newcomers — the pageant that is Rome does not disappoint.
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