Mum's 55th birthday and I had to miss it. Work trip to Venice I'm sorry mum, but instead I can come over for dinner before I fly. Dinner turns into four pints at the pub and who am I to say no? We're having fun and it's her birthday and sure sounds great. Bad move. Early night turns in to waking up at 1am and being unable to get back to sleep because tired because thirsty because hungover because aching all over and worrying about the press trip and all the things that could go wrong. Three hours later I get up from laying down staring at the ceiling and get a taxi from Ken to the airport. Italians instantly taking the piss because I'm not Italian, fixing taxi fees and generally being rude. The Guardian journalist Tshepo is nice and we get on well and I already know Menace Beach are sound so I'm happy that we'll all get along.
The venue is mad, the show is mad, Italians are mad they all love Franz Ferdinand and the first Arctic Monkeys record and party likes its Indie heyday 2005 in a room with an aquarium. But pizza is good spritz is good and we get given toast with freshly made olive oil in a weird bar where everything is €2 and you think yeah Italy I could get used to this because the food and the wine is just unbelievable. We drive in to Venice the next day, bright and sunny but brisk and we do the interview on the move abandon the band to the photographer and strike out on our own. Food is scarce on the ground with draconian eating hours but we have a laugh I see some Titian and we find food in the only place that's open, an 'Italian' cafe owned by Vietnamese people with the worst Italian food we've had all weekend but it's funny so we're aight. Flight back that night and I've had no sleep for two days and no vegetables (the hardest thing to find in Italy??) so when I'm home I'm so tired and eating as much veg as I can so as to not get ill before returning to Italy two days later to watch the sky Blues play Juve in the UCL. ***
Right now I'm flying back from Rome to Frankfurt. Sipping on a tea, listening to Frank Ocean, feeling like my heart has been pumped full of twice the amount of blood and can't handle everything I feel right now. It's like I've been living a different life these past three days. But let's start from the beginning. Turin. Well, not the most beautiful city in the world but that's not why we're here. The two flights go smoothly and I catch the coach to Porta Nuova station and walk to our b&b. It's pretty as hell and I grab a quick nap while I wait for Agy to turn up. She arrives and we get on so well together it's like we've not been apart these few months since I last saw her. We chat and get dressed and head to meet Hanadi and Romain. They're both fantastic. She's gorgeous and stylish and looks typically Parisian and she's a total sweetheart. He's tall and handsome and very funny despite speaking rather a small amount of English. But I really don't begrudge them talking in French because let's face it, I'm the ignorant one here. We head out for some wine and snacks in a little cafe for some getting to know Leah talk. Right after that we decide to head to Juve's ground as we have VIP tickets for a sit down meal so we don't want to be late.
It's an absolute 'mare trying to find a cab. Romain flags one down eventually and we're late to Juve already. When we get there the steward sends us completely the wrong way around the stadium so we're late again. Three sets of security measures in the fucking minus 3 temperature makes us all pissed off and when we get inside after a full hour and a half in the cold to a beautiful posh sit down meal I have fifteen fucking minutes to drink as much water as possible and eat three mouthfuls of warm butternut squash smoothie before making my way out to the seats. They're fantastic. Halfway line, with a screen on the back of the seat in front for replays. We quickly go 1-0 down and struggle to recover. Typical City. Half time is dessert and coffee and more water and back out to support the boys. Im the only one of the four of us out there for half an hour but I don't care. This team are why I'm here and I can't not watch it. Back inside after the game and everyone's fucking left. City's hospitality is genuinely so much better. We stand around for a bit watching their idiot zebra mascot dancing to no music and feeling the pain of our loss. But we get a cab rather easily this time and head to the Huntsman pub for a nightcap and to meet Matthew and Paul Maxey to talk about the game. We head back to the b&b around 1am and get an OK nights sleep before breakfast and heading to the station to catch our train to Rome at 10am.
I take a nap and when I wake up, Agy and Hanadi return with lunch and I finally get to eat a salad in Italy! We talk about all sorts and get along great and the journey goes super quick through the bella Tuscan countryside. When we arrive in Rome we head to the hotel which is super near the station to check in and drop off our stuff. We've been sat on our asses for four hours on the train so we wanna get out and go for a walk. Agy takes us up one of Rome's seven hills and there's the first fantastic view of the city. From there it just got better and better. We walk all the way to Stadio Olympico for S.S Lazio vs Dynipro in the Europa league. We get there early and eat some delicious pizza and have a big bottle of Peroni each.
We spy some other Brits in the room and they're kids in the navy come for the same reason we have, to sit in the Curva Nord and see all the ultras. Tickets are super cheap, €14, we get triple security AGAIN but get in quickly this time and get seats in the empty stand. The game is pretty fun, Lazio win 2-1 and we join in with chants of "Vaffanculo" before heading back to get a cab to a bar near the hotel. It's a free buffet and we planned to only have a nightcap but end up having so much fun we get totally pissed on wine and Aperol and whiskey shots. I get to know Hanadi and Romain much better, she's the editor of an online magazine and he works for Adidas in Paris. He says he'll send me some football boots. Not sure he's remembered that... We stumble back to the hotel laughing all the way and finally lay down to sleep about 2.30 am.
Sore heads all round the next day but it was worth it. We have so much to see so we eat breakfast quickly and head out into the sunshine. We walk to the colosseum first before heading up a hill to an orange grove overlooking the city for the second amazing view of Rome. After that we get hungry and I feel dread hungover so Agy walks us to a suburb where the locals eat and takes us to a place (I think called Geese??) for the first most amazing meal in Rome. Cheeses and flatbreads and meats to start, with some delicious Chianti Classico. Main is gnocchi with tomato and cheese and basil and it is to die for. Romain and I share a tiramisu and it's the nicest I've ever eaten. All their food is homemade and you can tell. Homemade Italian food. I could die. Did I already say that?
After that was over we really need to walk the food off so we head back to the city and just see everything. Churches, basilicas, opera houses, the most beautiful palazzos and piazzas and I just knew Roma would be beautiful but THIS beautiful? I didn't think it was possible. Every street is more beautiful than the next and it's so much quieter than London or Paris or even Manchester. We end the day by running a mile at General Agathe's instructions across the city to see the sunset over ancient ruins next to the spot where Roma was founded and there's our third beautiful view of the city. It's been an unbelievable day and I am in love with Roma. We walk back to the hotel for a few hours rest. We had walked 17K that day.
So we worked off that cheese and bread and gnocchi, huh?
That evening we head to the student district for another amazing meal. We have more Chianti Classico and I have roasted squid and the most delicious artichoke I've ever tasted. It just melted on the tongue. A family owned restaurant I won't be forgetting in a hurry. We wash it down with more dessert and whiskey and head to one of the bars where everyone stands outside and we talk about fashion and culture and love and sex and everything under the moon and we constantly rib each other and I'm always laughing. I love Rome. Not only is it breathtakingly beautiful but it's chill and people there enjoy life. There's laughter and drinking and politeness and not too many tourists at the end of November which is a blessing. The trees are the most beautiful I've seen. The buildings... Don't get me started. Thousands of years of history and I need to go back again and again and again and learn all I can about what everything means and where it came from and why. We go back to the hotel and drink more wine and go on Romain's tinder. We all try on his glasses and try to walk down the steps in the room and it's totally impossible. I find that hilarious as do the others. I wonder how many English men I know could endure three days with three women all taking the piss out of him all the time?
Our last day in Roma and we head to the Trevi. We make wishes and take photos and head to Vatican City. Another fantastic walk over the river and past the castle and we take it leisurely this time. I wonder how this City can still have so much beauty to offer after the perfect day yesterday but somehow it keeps delivering again and again. We sit for coffee and cake and cigarettes in the sunshine and I feel how tired I am. But it's good tired. That's the only way to do Rome in three days. Agy leads us again to a beautiful park and it's the most beautiful park I've ever been to. I want to stay there forever in a loop and never leave. There's an old man playing a strange citar and I have to give him money because he just made the atmosphere so pleasant and I was in love. When have I been to a city where someone like that complimented the area? He needed to be shown appreciation for that. We walk around the park for hours slowly drinking in the views and the trees and the calm before heading to a rooftop restaurant for one last pizza and Aperol. It's a fantastic spot and the sun is so warm it's like summer, a really fitting final meal of the trip.
We head back to the hotel, pick up the bags and head to the airport. Separate terminals and I'm gutted to leave them but luckily we can meet up inside for one final coffee and a farewell. I am genuinely so sad to leave Rome and leave Agy and my two new friends. I walk to the terminal with a heavy heart and a heavy head (and a heavy bag of Aperol and Chianti Classico) listening to Sango and Sampha and not wanting to go home.
Roma, you got me, head and heart. I'll be seeing you again soon.