The great thing about Rome is you don't have to go to the five-star restaurants to get a great meal. You can just stumble upon any kind of little restaurant. Basically, we found that when we were hungry, we would stumble into some place, and it would turn out to be fabulous. I love Italian food, and I love wine. I don't like it when it is too heavy. Every place was different, but with me, you can't go wrong with a great glass of wine and a nice bowl of pasta. I'm pretty easy to satisfy like that. I found myself eating a lot because I found so many great little mom-and-pop places that were so charming. For dessert, how can you go wrong with gelato? The tiramisu gelato was one of the most amazing things I have ever encountered. You can get it anywhere, and that's the beauty of it. Here, you would have to go to some kind of special shop. Over there, you get that on every street corner, which is fantastic.
Did you keep roaming at night?
I did not check out the club scene. I figured there was so much to see [during the day], I didn't want to waste my evening and then wake up the next day and be hungover, or take any time away from walking around the streets of Rome. The nightlife there is fabulous, I'm sure, but I'll leave that for my third visit. I felt like I just wanted to take advantage of my day as much as possible. The second time, I went because of the friends I made. That was really nice. I got to enjoy some really great dinner parties and be very social and try to learn a little Italian, which is one of my goals.
When did you go back for your second visit?
I went back about six months later. I kept trying to find a reason and an excuse to go back. I didn't have one, so I made one up. I actually met some really amazing people on my first trip. My first trip to Rome was really more about walking the city, hanging out, and shopping. My second trip was spent more at dinner parties and just hanging out at the houses of people who lived there. I visited my newfound friend Andrea at his home. He was kind enough to throw a welcome-back dinner party for me. That's a great way to really get to know a culture and to find out how people live. We were in his apartment, which was jammed with books and great art, kind of like one of those places where every square inch is used up for some kind of art. I loved being in there. We were eating, and all these sculptures and books and paintings were around. I love when you are surrounded by art; it's so inspiring to me.
You're working on your Italian. What have you learned from your visits to Rome?
I think that what sets Romans apart is their eagerness to share their culture and their history with you. It's so beautiful, because not only are they warm and welcoming - that would be great enough - but they also want to tell you about their history. They want to tell you about what it's like to live there, and they are just so gregarious. I really, really appreciate that. When you have people who are eager to talk to you and teach you about it, that makes it so enjoyable, rather than having people who are a little snooty and want to hold on and not share their history. The Italians are not like that, and certainly the Romans aren't.
You mentioned history. Were any of the historic churches particularly inspiring to you?
The Basilica di San Pietro is at the top of this kind of hill. You get this unbelievable view of the entire city, a view of the chaos, all the cars and everything. It's really peaceful and stunning. The Vatican to me, of course, is unbelievably beautiful, but I tend to respond to things that are smaller, that I can absorb more. I get overwhelmed when the museums are too big. I don't know how to articulate this. I just respond to things that are more boutique in nature and in size. It allows me to make more connections. Otherwise, with too much, I become overwhelmed.
Did you go to the Vatican?
I did go to the Vatican. There were tons of people going through the Vatican, and it was really kind of an intense experience. I felt a little bit bombarded with so many people around. But what was really neat is that they let certain groups into the Sistine Chapel at different times so it does not get too crazy. So somebody who was working for the museum recognized me, and he actually snuck me into the Sistine Chapel when one group was leaving. He had the other group wait about five minutes, so I had another one of the most amazing experiences of my life. It was just me, lying on the floor of the Sistine Chapel, looking up and staring at one of the most popular images of our time, which is Michelangelo's Creation of Adam. I'm lying there on the ground, looking up in tears. I just wanted to absorb it as much as I could in the few minutes alone with nobody else in that room with me, besides the tour guide who brought me in. I just wanted to absorb it, and I decided to lie on the ground and just take it all in. I grew up seeing the Creation of Adam; you see that image everywhere. When you see it in person, you realize why it is such a spectacular piece of art. That was kind of the highlight for me. I was like, "Okay, I can go home now."