Wanderlust: Why Megan Loves Rome
When it’s cold and gray in Maine in January, I can’t say I don’t think about what it would be like to live elsewhere. I have lots of friends all over the US and the rest of the world and thought it would be fun to have them tell us what is so great about the place they’ve chosen to live. First up – Megan McDonnell, a friend of Kate and mine who has been living in Rome since after we graduated college. She is a veritable expert ex-pat on Rome – two things she doesn’t share with you here in the following interview:
1 – She works for Gucci. GUCCI!
2 – She is from Brooklyn, where her dad owned a hip sneaker store when she was growing up. She always had cool kicks. One day, some bully of a girl stole her shoes right off her feet and she had to walk home barefoot! For some reason, I always remember that story when I think of Megan. She’s so sweet and kind, you just can’t picture who would do something like that to her.
Anyway…on with it. The pictures are mostly her own, with a couple thrown in for dramatic effect by yours truly:
How did you end up in Rome? How long have you lived there? Will you stay forever?
I found my way to Rome via a job in the fashion industry in 2005- previously I had been living in Pisa but the job market there was lacking, to say the least, so I had broadened my search to Rome and Milan. I actually preferred Milan as I find it more similar to my home town of New York City but I got a job that promised to be super cool so I packed up and came to Rome. That job lasted just under a year (and was definitely not super cool) but I’ve been in Rome ever since. I honestly do not think I will stay in Rome forever – I think one day I will end up in Milan or maybe even back in New York. But it’s been an interesting time thus far…
Describe Rome in 3 words.
Light (the sky of Rome is usually some unbelievable shade of blue culminating in a fiery red sunset)
cibo (food – never far from a Roman’s mind. The food culture of Rome is very unique and strong)
Aò! (a guttural exclamation, used for emphasis and the definitive marker of the Roman dialect).
If someone were to take you out to dinner anywhere you wanted, money is no object, where would you go?
Even if money was no object, I would probably not choose one of the upscale restaurants that are usually located in the city’s luxury hotels (the most famous of which is La Pergola at the Rome Cavalieri Hilton). Traditional Roman food has very humble origins – and has not changed much in the past 500 years. If someone were to take me out, I would actually propose a place I have not been yet -Da Danilo in the Esquilino area, which apparently has the best spaghetti carbonara (creamy egg, bacon and pecorino cheese sauce) in the city.
Where are you a regular?
Most Italians have their coffee bar where they are regulars most mornings and I am no exception – mine is Cafffè (their tag line is the coffee with three “F”s) Camerino. Great cappuccino and breakfast pastries – like the girella (a round flaky bun with chocolate chips).
What are Rome dudes like?
Very into tradition – their soccer team, lunch at Mom’s on Sunday, summer weekends always at the same beach town. I guess you could say this applies to Italian men in general but Romans have notoriously close ties to their 2,000 year old history – for example, I’ve stopped counting how many guys at my gym have tattoos of historical Roman figures (gladiators, Casesar, Romulus/Remus).
I have time to visit 3 stores – where would you send me?
Volpetti - in the Testaccio area for cheese, cured meats, olives, bread (basically anything yummy for a picnic in Villa Borghese or to stuff in your suitcase to bring home).
De Ritis -which sells religious vestments to the thousands of clergy men and women who live in Rome but many a Roman gentleman can’t live without their red socks (as worn by Pope Benedict)!
Delfina Delletrez -a member of the Fendi fashion dynasty, Delfina is a young Roman who makes gorgeous and whimsical jewlery.
Where can you visit for a weekend roadtrip departing from Rome?
Naples! By car is easy but the 1.5 hour train trip is even easier. Stay in the historical center and stuff yourself with pizza, visit the Archaeological Museum (one of the most extensive of its kind in the world), take the funicular shuttle up to the Vomero hill…if you time it right you might be able to fit in a quick jaunt to Capri with the hydrofoil.
What do you love most about your city?
I love being able to literally walk through history every day. Everywhere you look there is a layering and juxtaposition of the ancient, Medieval, Renaissance and contemporary. Sometime you do get desensitized to it but every time I pass the Colosseum on a normal crosstown bus trip, I do still get butterflies.
What is one thing you must pack in your suitcase if you’re visiting Rome?
Flat-soled shoes. The cobblestones (sampietrini) will wreck anything resembling a heel.
What was your favorite thing you did/event you attended in Rome in the last year?
This year I finally made it to the MAXXI contemporary art museum that opened a few years ago. The breathtaking building, designed by Zaha Hadid, almost outshines the art inside. I saw a great William Kentridge exhibit that was a lot of fun.