Rediscovering Rome with My Mother — On the Back of a Vespa!
My mother and I whizzed around, suddenly comfortable on the back of the motorized scooter. Tourists slowly climbed hills on their bikes, and we laughed as we zoomed past them, seeing sights around the city, including both the Colosseum, as well as the cool Roman neighborhoods where no other tourists make it.
This was my second trip to Rome, and Rome was the first foreign city I ever traveled to. As a part of a month-long study abroad course in Italy, I stayed in Rome for 10 days, and that’s all it took for the city to steal my heart. Florence and Venice couldn’t compare. The following year, when I traveled to France and Germany, there was no contest.
She was like a little kid on a Saturday morning, all excitement and anticipation.
Rome is full of history that you can reach out to and touch with your hands. I remember walking down the street with my class as my professor pointed out an ancient apartment building, an ancient temple, and the Colosseum. And I remember reaching out and feeling the wall of the Colosseum, completely in awe of this museum where nothing was behind glass and you wouldn’t set off an alarm by leaning too far in.
I decided that I was made to be in Rome. Following that trip, I talked about moving to Rome so much that my mother, in her distressed state at the idea of me leaving the country, offered to take me to Rome and a few other cities in Europe for a month last summer. My mom and I have been more like friends than mother and daughter for years now, but since I was living in New York while she wintered in Arizona at the time, the trip would be both an amazing bonding opportunity and a lot of togetherness.
I planned the entire trip, including hotels and activities, and used her credit card to pay for it (with her permission, of course). Even though I sent along updated itineraries multiple times, each morning, she asked, “What are we doing today!?” She was like a little kid on a Saturday morning, all excitement and anticipation.
On our second day in Rome, the answer was a Vespa tour. My mom was a alarmed and anxious. But once she realized she wouldn’t be driving the Vespa, she calmed down a bit.
At around 9 AM, we found two handsome Italian men in leather jackets standing outside of our hotel. They handed us helmets and told us to hold on by wrapping our arms around their chests while they drove.
When an Italian man hands you a helmet, you do not question it. You get on the Vespa.
My mother said booking the Vespa tour was the best thing I’d ever done. This was about a week after I graduated with my first master’s degree so I was mildly offended. But she may have been right. It was certainly one of the best things I’ve ever done.
Not because I personally enjoyed it (although of course I did) but because I got to see a city I’m absolutely smitten with through my mother’s eyes. She was smiling from ear to ear on the back of a Vespa. It was her first time in Europe in 20 years, and it was her first time ever in Rome.
This whole trip was entirely different from my first trip to Rome. Instead of eating pizza from a little stand because it cost two euros per slice, we ate real, lengthy meals in nice restaurants. Instead of focusing on studying, we wandered and shopped and blazed through museums quickly to get on with the wandering and shopping.
As much as I showed Rome to my mother, she showed it to me through a new pair of eyes.
Rome is full of history that you can reach out to and touch with your hands.
She expanded my affection for the city of history, showing me a city of glamour and especially food. Even at restaurants that weren’t particularly fancy, we ate spectacular food. Rome has a familial feeling. I really experienced that during meal time, when our waiters were more like goofy uncles telling us which dishes were particularly good that day and making little jokes, half-understood across a language barrier, but inducing so much laughter nonetheless.
This new Rome, with fewer museums and more wandering, only deepened my affection for the city. And while the threats to move to Italy have stopped for the time being, my love for the place and desire to return soon have only increased.
In the next few years, I plan to take my boyfriend to the eternal city. I can’t wait to see the city through his eyes, too.
Photo credit: Aris Gionis