With a small editorial team, opportunities for non-work related travel have sadly been scant over the past four years at So It Goes towers. As semi-professional plate-spinners, there’s always the ever-present feeling that, if one is in absentia, more than one might drop.
April, however, is the ever-present light at the end of the tunnel. The reset. The birthing of a new issue, peppered by long nights at the printers is followed by a literal and metaphorical hand-off to the distribution midwives to place our new arrival on newsstands across the country.
In excess of a hundred pages longer, Issue 9 represented something of a watershed for the team, and to reward ourselves, we decided a break was overdue, and, well, necessary really.
Only a short-haul bucket-listed flight away, but as yet, completely unexplored, we picked Rome. Those familiar with the pages of our print magazine will surely be able to tell that whilst we like to think of our content as (hopefully!) forward-thinking and imaginative, we are, at heart, shameful romantics. Is there not, after all, still a sense that for all our wondrous interconnectivity, even the most populated and advanced Italian metropolises still conform to a rose-tinted stereotype of romanticism and unwillingness to globalise? As Paris holds-steady as the second highest consumer of McDonalds (anywhere in the world) the Italians seem to be as quietly rooted, for better or for worse, to some notion of Il Dolce Far Niente – the sweetness of doing nothing. Vito Corleone said, “Italy has changed, but Rome is Rome.”
Another famous (adoptive) Roman, Fellini noted that “A different language is a different vision of life.” Rome, and Italy in general, steeped in such vaunted historical, cultural, culinary (and on, and on) richness is vast, and truthfully, even the itchiest trigger-fingered photographer (more on that later) or vigilant scribe can really only scratch the surface in a long-weekend. And yet, our time in the city really only went to prove that Fellini’s words still rung true, and likely nowhere more so than his adoptive home. Our resolve, however misplaced, was to do it all. Or rather, as much of it as was possible to do in a weekend. Armed with suitable ambition, our first day swept a predictable check list: from Spanish Steps and the Trevi fountain, to the Pantheon, Piazza Navona…Wait…On second thought, here’s exactly what we did and when we did it.
Arrive: Dinner at Piperno
Crusty Roman pizza in Campo de Fiore
Ice cream at Giolitti
Drink somewhere on the Viale Gabriele D’Annunzio
Dinner at Dua Padroni
Hotel De Russie for lunch
Vatican City /St Peter’s Square in the afternoon.
Dinner at Pierluigi
Climb Palatine Hill
Eat in and wander around Trastavere
At this stage, a few pointers. We’re not exactly sure what precisely constitutes ‘high’ and ‘low’ season for one of the most visited cities in the world, but even the saintly wouldn’t forsake a bubbling rage at the hordes of selfie-stick extending tourists fixated on anything but the sights around them. We stayed very centrally, at the beautiful Palazzo Dama, but even if you do the same, if you do want to see the blockbusters listed above, choose your time wisely. There’s no sense in even hoping to get lucky and take in the majesty of the Trevi fountain if you’re not doing it at daybreak.
Furthermore, even if you’re not remotely interested in the history of the Papacy, the world’s smallest nation-state, the Vatican City, really is worth the scrum, and could easily devour your day on its own. Our suggestion, however, would be to hire a guide to side-step, or rather leap-frog the queues of tourists waiting to snake their necks to the heavens for a view of the Sistine Chapel.
Photography. The tool-kit for our hobby/stock-in-trade/passion was carefully thought about before our trip to one of the most photogenic cities in the world. Our weakness for film is again, probably somewhat familiar to those who read our magazine. Never ones for 21st century over-polish, we always find ourselves commissioning photographers who share our love of the (yawn) warmth, texture and indefinable life and atmosphere rendered by 35mm and medium format photography. That said, now more than ever, it’s a very expensive business, and for this trip, we decided to shoot digital. There’s a monstrous number of photos included in the below post, all of which were shot on our new toy, the Olympus PEN F. Apart from looking especially camera- of-yesteryear-handsome, part of the reason we went with the new Olympus was, perhaps shamefully, because they’ve spent years developing technology that emulates film very, very well. We’ve tried similar modes on comparable cameras, and they’ve felt gimmicky and cheap. The grain is overbearing and the high contrast unnatural and off-putting. Not so on the PEN. Our personal favourite is the black-and-white preset, which, if we had to guess, seems to be based on Kodak Tri-X 400. All the below B+W were shot on Mode 2 and largely on their very-good multi-purpose 17mm lens, though the 25 mm 1:1.2 lens is also an excellent option.
If we could leave with one parting piece of advice it would be a predictable one. For all of the laminated itinerary-making you want to do, be sure to take at least some time to just walk. So much of Rome’s beauty was (literally) imbibed just by sitting at a café or in a square and watching the world go by. Clichés but truisms. And needless to say, the food is of course fantastic, but as with anywhere, it’s worth saving the pennies for just one extra special dinner. We went for Pierluigi, and as with the rest of Rome, it has a little piece of our heart.
Photography and words by James Wright