What can I tell you about Rome that you don’t already know? It is a well-toured destination with gobs of guides and information on the city. It is home to many top-toured sites including the Coliseum, the Forum, the Vatican, the Pantheon and so much more.
Tom and I spent five days in Rome and one blog post would not be enough to tell you about everything that we saw, did, ate and drank, so I decided to take a different approach to this post. I’m going to tell you what we learned from Rome.
Lesson 1: Do One Thing and Do It Really Well
In Rome, Tom and I found an awesome pizza joint called Pizzeria Ai Marmi in Trastevere, the neighborhood in which we were staying. We knew we were in for a treat when we saw the place packed with locals.
Their menu was simple. They sold pizzas…lots of them…and really good ones at that.
We sat in amazement as we watched them make batches of about 35 pizzas at a time. And they made a new batch about every 10-15 minutes.
The kitchen was simple and everything was cooked in a wood-burning pizza oven. They clearly knew what they did best and they focused on it. We were pleased as their customer and I’m pretty sure they benefited economically from the efficiencies as well.
This restaurant had something in common with several others of our favorite places to eat on this trip. It did one thing and it did it really well. We saw the same recipe for success in Venice at Alfredo’s Fresh Pasta To Go and Bacareto Da Lele, and in Florence at All’Antico Vinaio and La Prosciutteria.
Lesson 2: Everything is better with family and friends
A few days ago, I asked Tom what he thought of Rome. I was fishing for ideas for my blog post. He immediately exclaimed, “I loved Rome! It was my favorite city so far.”
I proceeded to probe for his reasons, but he couldn’t quite put his finger on any particular reason why he loved Rome. There was nothing about the city itself that stood out to him as his favorite. The food was good, but so it was everywhere else in Italy as well. After talking it over, we realized that what we really loved about being in Rome was the company.
Tom’s aunt, uncle, mom and dad were all in Rome the same days as us. We met up several times for dinners, walks, gelato and a shared private tour of the Vatican. And even in a city as large as Rome, we still crossed paths by accident as well.
In addition to family, we also met up with our new Canadian friends, Jaime and Kim. We met them on the train from Cinque Terre to Rome. A few nights later we enjoyed a nightcap (or two or three) and we realized that in Rome, as in life, everything is better with friends and family.
Lesson 3: Life Is Short; Build A Legacy.
Tom and I have inscriptions on our wedding rings that read “Let Us Build A Legacy. Deuteronomy 6:1-9.” When we got married seven years ago, we decided that we wanted the life we would build together to have an impact that outlives ourselves.
Of course, we can go days, even months, without reading the inscription on our rings, and it can become quite easy to focus our efforts on the day before us, making choices and decisions that bring us comfort in the here and now. But to make decisions and form habits that lead to a life with impact beyond our selves requires a different kind of effort. It requires discipline and often the sacrifice of more immediate pleasures. At times we want to give up our effort altogether and just enjoy the present.
But Rome inspired us and encouraged us to continue with our goal. We visited the Capuchin Crypt at the Santa Maria della Concezione dei Cappuccini in Rome. It contained six unusual chapels decorated with real human bones of deceased Capuchin monks. The bones were arranged decoratively in beautiful, symmetrical patterns. There were even chandeliers made of bones.
They don't allow pictures, so I didn't take any. However, you can see some images here:
Capuchin Crypt on Trip Advisor
As I walked through the six chapels and I considered the human remains, I thought to myself, this will be me someday.
It’s sobering to imagine myself as a pile of nameless bones, without the fancy dressings with which I work so hard to adorn and identify myself. At that time, my clothes won’t matter; my weight won’t matter; my bones will be indistinguishable from everyone else’s. And at that point, what will it have mattered that those bones were once a living, breathing, feeling organism named Jaime? The crypt was a stark reminder to live for something larger than myself.
Following our visit to the crypt, we continued touring Rome. We walked the Coliseum, the Forum, the Pantheon and the plethora of other remains sprinkled throughout the city. We have now seen Roman remains all the way in England and Wales, the far reaches of the Roman Empire, and also here at its heart. What a legacy the Romans left in their wake!
Parts of my modern day life are still directly impacted by the Romans 2,000 years later. They made lasting progressions in technology, medicine, philosophy, politics, and more. And yet, as I look around, I see how even the great Roman Empire eventually crumbled.
The ruins in The Forum mirror the bones of the crypt, and I see how societies, although they have longer life spans than individuals, also eventually decay. While contributing to my culture and society is a noble legacy, I hope for something even more.
One afternoon, while in Rome, Tom and I settled down to watch a movie. Before you judge us for watching a movie with all of Rome just outside our door, know that we at least chose to watch Gladiator. We figured this would get us in the mood for our Coliseum tour scheduled the next day.
In the beginning of the movie, the main character, Maximus says, “What we do in life, echoes in eternity.” I hope our echo will be loud and clear.
I'm Jaime. My husband is Tom. Suburbanites, backpackers, and expats...we've been them all!