If Paris is the City of Lights, Rome is the City of Sights. As in its ancient and medieval heydays, the city once again operates on an epic scale: Monuments, churches, palaces, and other mammoth structures populate a city of endless streets snaking its famed seven hills and bustling with up to ten million annual tourists. There are more churches hosting priceless art, more fountains in frenetic piazzas, and more fashionable citizens than can be witnessed in a lifetime. It’s a city where one must choose from an epic menu of sights and flavors too long to read, let alone conquer.
From impossibly imposing buildings and an exhausting array of art in labyrinthine museums (the Vatican’s alone are so jam-packed you’ll eventually have to give up), to mouthwatering meals and people of all ages who always dress to impress, the city of La Dolce Vita will occupy your senses to a point of overload. Finding a comfortable base to rest and digest between outings is essential in the Eternal City, so take some extra care when choosing an accommodation. And don’t hesitate to grab a bottle of wine and a gelato, and park yourself on a bench to listen to a random accordionist while you recharge.
My host in Rome was Enrico Argentini, 40, who’s lived in or near the city his entire life. Here, Enrico explains the paradox of Rome’s religious yet liberal residents, and tells us where to grab a real Roman meal without breaking the bank.
Out Traveler: How long have you lived in Rome?
Enrico Argentini: Since 2004, but before that I lived just outside the city since I was born, so I’ve always been here.
How long have you been out?
With most of my friends I’ve been out since 2005, so I was 30. It was late. I haven’t told my family, but I’m sure they know. I don’t feel the need to tell them because I know they don’t care. If I got in a serious relationship I would introduce him to them, but there hasn’t been a reason to bring it up yet.
How is it for a gay person to get along in this city?
They’re generally accepted. In Italy, it’s not dangerous, but you could have some problems at work. You can’t be fired for it, but they can make your life harder. And we don’t have gay marriage; we have the Vatican. There’s a large gay community in Rome, though, and it’s a comfortable place for a gay person to live. Everyone is publicly religious, but privately open. The religion is just for show.
Two places a visitor should go with just one day here?
The Pantheon, because it’s amazing. It’s not that it’s huge, but you feel something when you enter. And the Colosseum, of course. It’s the symbol of the city!
Your favorite restaurant in Rome?
It’s really good: La Carbonara, near the Colosseum. It’s typical roman cuisine, it’s very good, and it’s quite inexpensive.
One thing every visitor needs to know about your city before coming here?
You will walk a lot, because most of the interesting places are quite near each other in the city center, but there are many of them so you’ll walk a lot! And Rome is not a flat city—there are lots of hills and uneven streets. Wear comfortable shoes.