There are ten things you will know about Rome:

  1. You will look up the weather in Rome before you pack, you will note that it is projected to be 85 degrees, and you will pack shorts. Do not pack shorts; you can wear them, but you will be the only one wearing shorts. It will be immediately obvious that you are a tourist (even more so than without the shorts, as you’ve revealed your hand from the moment you pronounce grazie with two syllables instead of three.)
  2. Your AirBNB host, Fabio, will describe Rome as “the greatest open air museum in the world”. This sounds like something you’d read in a cheesy guide book, but Fabio is 100% correct. The city is gorgeous; all of the streets and buildings and facades and temples are too beautiful for you to retain in one trip. (How do people live here, and stop themselves from spending their days staring slackjawed at it all?)
  3. All of the elevators are small. This is one of those things that is quietly noteworthy. You would never imagine it or read about it or care about it, but it’s interesting nonetheless — another way your life has always been different.
  4. Coffee is a ritual with more consideration than your typical method of drinking a 32oz drip on your walk downtown to work. There are rules: no coffee before food (it’s a digestif, not an aperitif); no cappuccino after noon. Your waiter will softly scowl as you disregard these rules because sometimes it’s nine in the morning and you just need a doppio with your sandwich. Still, the first time you order an espresso (only costs a euro!) and sip it at the bar, hastily but not wolfishly, you will feel as though you have slightly ascended: there is no turning back.
  5. Negronis are meant to be served on rocks. Campari is a blessing.
  6. You will wander across the streets of Rome; you will traipse across the Villa Borghese and find your way to the Coliseum and throw a coin (behind your back, of course) into the Trevi Fountain. You will go to the Forum and the Vatican and the Spanish Steps and too many arches to name. These are all good places, and give you some sense of accomplishment — as if you have marked something off of your to-do list or fulfilled a long-standing promise. But it is the smaller monuments that form a lasting impression: the basilica at the end of the side-street you happen upon because you are lost; the centuries-old hotel converted into an outdoor bar where you have aperitivo and listen to a tropical house remix of Free Fallin’; the Tiber at dusk. In those places reside the memories that you will happen upon, weeks later, greeting you with a smile and a small shiver.
  7. Still, though, the Coliseum is really cool.
  8. Everything you consume — food, drink, atmosphere, weather, architecture and history — is delicious and inexpensive. Your first carbonara will cost six euros; prosecco — and, like, good prosecco, not the stuff you get in Seattle — is a fraction of what you’re used to paying. You will idly sit on a bench on the Via Sacra, the ancient road from the Forum to the Coliseum, to listen to a busker quietly pluck at his guitar, and to imagine the millions of footsteps before you — it will cost you absolutely nothing.
  9. You will end up at the airport at 5am on a Sunday, having fallen asleep on the way there. You will be a little confused about how you ended up here; you are desperate to come back.
  10. The world is so much bigger and so much better than you could have ever imagined.
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