(For Daniela, Elena and Francesca.) 

I wrote this piece for ‘No D Day’ back in 2012 when Aaron and I were holidaying in Rome. Of course, the aim of No D Day was to capture something that is totally unrelated to diabetes. I was caught up in the beauty, excitement and frenzy of Rome, and simply couldn’t think of a better topic to focus my writing efforts. 

Rome – 2018

We visited Rome again in 2018, this time taking the kid with us. She’d been to Italy before, but not its capital. I wondered if she would fall in love with it the way that we had; if she would get swept up in the buzz and the people and the wonderful madness of it all. She did, in spades. We arrived late in the evening, and as soon as we dropped off our bags at our apartment, we took straight to the streets for pizza. She was in love with the city before her first slice.

I am reading everything I can about how Italians are banding together to get through this impossible time, and thinking so much about my Italian friends. I had no idea when I saw Daniela, Elena and Francesca at ATTD that we may not see each other for some time, or what they had ahead of them when they went back home. These women are like family to me, taking me under their wing and allowing me to pretend that I am part of the Italian crew at diabetes meetings, and half as graceful and smart and stylish as they are. I’m not, but they are sweet to play along. 

I know that we will visit Italy again. As soon as this is all over, we will go back, and fall in love with it all over again. Until then, I’m sending so much love to friends and family over there.

Jet lag is a bitch, but it does have its benefits. On our first full day in Rome we were out the door before 7am and watched the city wake up. Our apartment was a short stroll from the Spanish Steps. The afternoon before when we’d arrived, our driver had to battle his way throught the crowds to our tiny via. There were people everywhere – tourists with huge cameras, kids with gelati the size of their heads, locals pushing their way through the crowds and annoying men shoving roses into the faces of unsuspecting women and then demanding their partners hand over a few euro. It was chaos; it was loud; it is Italy and I love it.

But at first light, the area around the Spanish Steps was empty apart from a council worker hosing down the area, getting it ready for the onslaught. We saw a few nuns walking together, possibly on their way to an early morning service. The coffee bar owners were just starting to open their doors and set out the morning pastries.

We walked into the first open cafe we saw, stood at the bar and drank our perfect morning coffees and munched on crunchy cornetti filled with creamy custard.

Fuelled by caffeine and sugar, we walked. We started with the Trevi Fountain and were the only two people standing there. We snapped photos, read the signs and listened to the water flow. Together, we threw in coins – the legend promises we will now return to Rome.

We sat at the fountain, the spray from the water hitting our faces in the cool morning air. Slowly, other people started arriving, so we up and left and continued our walk. We wandered down little streets, stopped in different campi and watched as Rome woke up. We pointed out signs, statues and looked in closed shop windows.

And then, we turned a corner and before our eyes was the Colosseum.

It was after 9am by this time and the steets were starting to fill up again. The tables outside cafes were full. There was noise, laughter, talking.

I feel at home in Italy, which is ridiculous considering that I was born and raised in Australia by parents who moved here when they were tiny children. But it makes sense to me. The craziness of it and what looks like complete and utter disorganisation is actually ordered chaos. It works for the people who live there. Yes, it may take an hour to buy stamps at the post office (this did really happen – Aaron returned home to our apartment defeated, but at least our postcards home were mailed), and yes, it may take the woman at the gelati bar ten minutes to hand you your gelati because she’s talking to someone about her boyfriend and keeps walking away from the counter to tell her story, and yes, it is possible that you will get hit by a motorino scooting on the footpath.

But this is Italy. It’s beautiful. It’s crazy. It’s loud. And when I am there I feel my senses on fire and I am more alive than anywhere else. I just love being there. Love.

Empty Spanish Steps bright and early on a Sunday morning – 2012