Rome Alone: Sex and the Italian City
By Melanie Nayer
It started with my first cup of coffee. The foam on my latte was perfectly placed on top of the steaming brown cup of brewed beans. The barista finished off my much-needed caffeine fix with a heart in the center of the cup and asked me for me 2 euros. I wasn’t in Rome for one hour and already love was being thrown in my face, and it was in my coffee – the only thing I needed to turn me from sleepless psycho woman to life of the party.
The trip to the Rome wasn’t exactly planned, but we had the miles and the money and off we went. My travel friend had last been to Rome with her husband – on their honeymoon. I had heard about Rome – its the city in Italy filled with tall, dark and gorgeous men who waltz down sultry streets with perfectly toned women draped in Valentino and Versace. Standing 5’3” and hardly the fashion icon, I wasn’t all too eager to experience the romantic spots and candle-lit corners that would taunt me all the way back to my hotel room. Alone. In my single bed. Where I slept in Rome. Alone. Single.
But surprisingly, Rome took a turn for the interesting…
A tip for those women traveling alone who dare to visit the Eternal City: be careful because before you know it, you’ll be strutting down the Via Conditti with all the confidence of a supermodel in stilettos.
Before my first day in Rome came to an end, I was suddenly swept away by the friendly faces, warm smiles and kind gestures of just about everyone you meet. I ordered my first glass of Barolo at the lobby cafe in the Hotel Homs and settled into the night. People of all types walked down the cobblestone street that circled the hotel and most of them nodded, smiled or offered a “buongiorno” as they passed by.
Upstairs on the Spanish Steps we sipped bellinis and watched the tourists crowd the popular attraction. Our waiter, Antonio, was of the tall, dark and handsome persuasion. He attended to our every beverage requirement and did so with a wink and smile – just enough to make a woman blush, but not so far to make her feel uncomfortable. Romantic? It could be. But not the type of romance that makes you weep. The kind of romance that makes you believe in romance.
No, I wasn’t kissed on the Spanish Steps, I wasn’t whisked away on a Vespa, and I didn’t buy a villa or start harvesting olives for my own brand of olive oil. But, while in Rome, I did discover something: my sexy side. Not that kind of sexy – the kind of sexy that exudes self-confidence and self-assurance.
Single and in my mid-30s, you would think by now I would have discovered ‘me.’ Still, the typical adjectives followed my name: Not-married, childless, career-focused, gypsy. While they are descriptive, I’ve never had a strong association to any of them. True, I have no children and I’m not married or in a serious relationship. I’ve spent the past decade focused solely on my career, and yes, I’m a bit of a gypsy (but in a modern day sense). I take the road less traveled and will pick up and go at an instant, but I know my home and I’m faithful to my roots.
And then came Rome. In this little Italian epicenter, I finally found me: and I felt great.
A few must-do’s while you’re here that are sure to bring out the sexy side of you:
• Everything starts a little later in Europe. The fashionable dine at 10 p.m. so cocktails start around 8. Don’t worry about drinking too much before dinner – the cafes serve antipastos and appetizers free of charge with your drinks. Mix and mingle with the locals and you might find yourself at one of Rome’s best-kept secret restaurants.
• Pledge to buy yourself something truly fabulous. Nothing makes a single woman feel glamorous like a new Italian leather handbag or a pair of soft leather gloves. I left Rome with a silk scarf and every time I wear it, I get an added burst of confidence in my step.
• To really connect with Rome, ask one of the artist’s in the Piazza Navona to paint you a picture. They’ll happily oblige (for a small fee) and you’ll have a one-of-a-kind piece of art to take home.
• Spend one day touring all the must-see sites including the Pantheon, the Colosseum, the art museums and Vatican City. Then, spend an entire day relaxing at an outdoor café. You’ll experience the best of both worlds and learn more about the culture, people and history with a little time spent in the past and present.
• When the beautiful man in the black suit and silk tie tips his hat and says, “Ciao Bella”, smile back and offer up a “Ciao.” You’ll know who he is when you see him, and trust me: it’s the sexiest “Ciao Bella” you’ll ever get.
My ‘me’ moment came around 3 p.m. on June 10, 2008. The spa was nestled somewhere between the Pantheon and one of the millions of cafes, tucked away in a hidden street you can only find on foot. Lying naked on a massage table in Rome, I realized the inhibitions that plagued me had magically been erased.
Rome is full of romance, but not the kind that makes you feel single and alone – it’s the kind of romance that envelops you, and that beckons you to love back.
Melanie Nayer is a travel enthusiast and expert. Her articles have been published in leading newspapers, magazines and online publications including the Boston Globe, Fortune Magazine, Boston.com, NYT.com, and various in-flight airline magazines.