I've been in Rome for awhile now and I've noticed something.
The tourists all hang out in the city center. It's as if the Romans decided to corral the tourists in one place and say, "Here are some ruins! Here is some art! Take your photos. Leave your money. Ciao!"
Once the tourists are gone or are nestled snug in their hotel beds, the Romans go back to their regularly scheduled Roman lives.
You know why it's brilliant?
Because it's tough putting up with tourists all the time. Now I know that I am, in fact, technically a tourist. I'm corralled in just like all the other camera-toting, running-shoes-wearing, map-holding tourists.
My Roman friends, because they are kind, tell me that I am not a tourist at all. They say tourists know when they leave and when they return. They say I am on a journey and a person on a journey knows only when she leaves.
The city center of Rome is like Disney: Created for optimal dollars spent, except that here, everything is real and at Disney everything is fake. And Italy likes those tourist bucks, so the plan plays out. I suspect it is odd to be one of the cities chosen by the word as a top tourist destination. Sure, Romans are proud. It's fun to win. But the result is that their city is heaving mad with tourists.
Though Romans are grateful for the tourist bucks, I suspect they are a little resentful, too. I can tell this because when I'm with my Roman friends, the waiters are friendly and attentive. With my English friends, we wave, we call, we sit and we stew until the waiter feels like stopping by. (Incidentally, when I dine alone, waiters are attentive, but I think it's for other reasons.)
Still, I love Rome and the only thing I want to change about Rome is that I become more Roman like I vowed last year when I first met this luscious city of art, ruins and hotties.
I feel like the real Rome is just beyond my grasp. It could be just outside the Aurelian Wall that corrals all the tourists.
But I'll get there. I'll make it to the real Rome.
One Italian word, gelato and plate of pasta at a time.