Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Romance in Rome?

Rome. Roma. Romance.

Place is often labeled as being romantic. Or not. There are lists every year of the most romantic cities. They are predictable for the most part. Major European cities, plus San Fransisco and/or New York, usually grace such lists. But what makes a city romantic?

Last year on Valentine's day, a great article by Kaid Benfield at the NRDC identified common elements found in the top four romantic cities - Rome, Paris, Venice, and Prague.

What are some of the features they have in common?

A connection to the past through strong historical preservation,

walkable centres,  


well-developed public transport,

public spaces designed to actually serve social interaction,  

green spaces,
strong community in neighborhoods,


This year, journalists have upped the ante - screw romance, we want sex. Huffpost tried to make a case for Detroit's sexiness by laying out sexy city parameters. So what are they?

Energetic vitality, density (the bumping elbows, or other parts, with strangers type of density), wide range of choice, anonymity, and of course, beauty.

So Rome, how does it stack up? Sex or Romance?

Before answering, let's talk about Prague. Also a so-called romantic city. When meeting Roman locals and mentioning I recently moved down from the Czech Republic, there is a common reaction of a head-nod, and a murmured, "Ah, yes, Prague. Such a romantic city." At first, this threw me a bit, as Prague certainly has a romantic vibe, but still many people abroad often complain of the time they were ripped off in a taxi, or the authentic reenactment of socialism they got at the supermarket with the clerks. But the Romans, for the most part, focus on the romance.

The reason? By comparison, Prague has got the romance covered, and Rome the sex.

Rome is a sexy, sexy city. Perfect for sexing. It's hot most of the year, crowded, energetic, and breathtaking. Even the food is sexy. Light small portions sprinkled throughout the day leave one prepped for a good romp at any moment.

I suspect the locals know it. They know romance is in the back seat. That's why I get this "Ah, Prague, very romantic" comment at every introduction.

The thing that makes Rome the sexiest, is that it covers it up well with a romantic veneer. Every woman is called beautiful by a handful of men she comes into contact with daily, whether it be the young lads working reception at work, or the man tending the coffee bar. Roses are regularly spotted on the windshields of cars. And heart confetti adorned the pavement along the river one a cold January day.

By all appearances, romance exists in Rome in abundance. Don't be fooled. It simply covers up a much more primal dynamic effectively well.

Enjoy it, sway along with it, learn from it, mimic it, just don't fall for the romance of Roma. When you find yourself starting to fall (and despite warnings, you will), think of Cupid - from the Latin cupido, or desire. Remember, Cupid's arrows were sharp.

Happy Valentine's day from sexy-pants Rome!
- Jo

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