In the past three months there were fleeting great moments that I will look back on, immortalised on a polaroid or remembered through the stories of people I have shared my life with here. I was ill for most of January and February, making it hard to write on here or really do anything creative. There were days where I felt like I was getting better before quickly regressing again.
Last Sunday I traveled to Orvieto with a close friend from home; it is beautiful little village set on a rock cliff looking out over the stretching planes of Umbria. There's a long circular path in the countryside surrounding the village. Walking along this path provided a rare moment of peace that I'm not able to get in the meandering mayhem of Rome. It reminded me of the Camino and I'm thinking of returning to Spain around Easter in a few weeks.
One of the people I meet for Italian tandem said that there is an atmosphere in Rome that is unlike any city in the world and I'd have to agree. It's not been an easy time here but Rome can surprise you with its intrigue and hidden places of beauty. Galleria Colonna is one of the most spectacular palazzos I've seen. Green spaces are rarely found in the centre but the ones that do exist are worth visiting, in particular the gardens of Villa Medici and the open panoramic view from Giardino degli Aranci.
Having friends visit is a welcome prod to find new places as well as show off the collection of hidden regulars that I go to every week. My list, all within 4 minutes of my flat/pantheon include: 'ciao checca' for a tasty, simple Italian lunch in a vibrant modern setting, 'Fandango Incontro' - a quiet cafe hidden in a little piazza accessed through an innocuous bookshop, Lindt for gelato - guiltily commercial but genuinely the best, 'Caffe Doria' - for a solid afternoon cake choice and 'Alice' - the best Pizza al taglio in Rome.
I watched the lengthy documentary of the National Gallery yesterday and it was a spectacular insight into a place of incredible inspiration and beauty. It was interesting to see how they remove the barriers to entry to their work, whether that be providing interactive seminars for blind people or engaging storytelling for the younger audience. Empathy was encouraged and this allows a subjective appreciation or emotional impact for everybody whether you have a scholastic background in art or not.
After 6 months of living here I'm starting to appreciate and enjoy the Italian way of cinema which is very different to most of the UK. I have been to 7 of the small cinemas dotted around the centro storico. Most are independently owned and usually have only one or two screens. My current favourite is the Alcazar in Trastevere, its one screen is draped top to bottom in a deep rouge. I watched Whiplash there, brilliant film, brilliant setting.
It's strange how a few little things added together can have a big impact on how you view the world and how you feel. I spent a few days in Hamburg in February and there's this viewpoint that looks like a vast, smokey Isengard alla Lord of the Rings. Just sitting there with a couple of friends from Edinburgh was simply quite life affirming. Spending time with good friends in a strange, interesting place reminiscing on tales from the previous years. Similarly, a few of my friends and I cycled down the Appian Way a couple of weeks ago. The combination of good company, beautiful scenery and great weather made everything seem a little more vibrant and alive.