At Home Abroad

The Eternal City is home to many eternal things—or, rather, their representatives, among them St. Peter’s, the Castel Sant’Angelo, the Capitoline Hill, and the Forum.  Nevertheless, on recent travels to Rome, my wife’s and my first visit has been to none of these things, but, instead, to our good friends Asha and Bellamy, who reside on the north side of the Villa Borghese gardens two streets over from Il Ristorante The Meeting—an establishment which, though heavily patronized by Americans and Britons on account of its proximity to the U.S. Embassy on Via Veneto, offers a superb Italian menu and wine list.  Our friends are hardly Roman notables or intellectuals, and this estimable restaurant in an upper-middle-class residential neighborhood is not listed in any guidebook I know of.  Rather, they belong to the quotidian society of the great city they inhabit, away from the worn track beaten by the paparazzi and the guidebooks, in which the foreign and the familiar merge invitingly.  In such company, we experience Rome as living Romans experience it—as a vital modern metropolis, not a dead historical one.  The Eternal City can wait 24 hours.  Our first day in Rome, we are more than content with the contemporary one.

My fundamental inability to regard a foreign capital as either a gigantic museum or a superuniversity is related no doubt to my having grown up in a great...

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