Rome, the Great?
There it is. Rome. The fifth best city in the world according to Travel +Leisure’s 2014 World’s Best Awards.
I’m not too sure how I feel about that. I mentioned before that I didn’t spend enough time in Rome to form a substantial opinion of the city. Still, perhaps because I didn’t fall head over heels for Rome, I’m kind of surprised that it ranks so high on Travel +Leisure’s list. Awards like this make me think about what factors go into making these kinds of decisions and who decides which cities make the final cut. So now I’m wondering, in general…
…what makes a city great?
Is it accessibility? If so, there’s no disputing that Rome, Italy’s capital, which was once at the heart of the Roman Empire, is one of the most accessible cities in the world. Sitting smack in the middle of Italy near the coast, whether you’re traveling to/from Rome by plane, train, or ship, transport in and out of the city is a breeze. And while we didn’t have the chance to test out Rome’s public transit, it’s definitely a viable way to get around, especially considering that Rome gets its fair share of traffic jams which actually had me feeling like I was back home in Los Angeles.
Is it its history? If history is the determining factor of a city’s greatness, then Rome checks that box too. Commonly referred to as “The Eternal City,” Rome’s been making history since 753 BC, establishing it as the oldest city in Europe that’s been continuously inhabited. I have to say that it was surreal to visit sites like the Colosseum where gladiators once battled and where Christians were thrown to the lions. And as we wandered through the ruins of the Roman Forum and past the former Temple of Caesar where Julius Caesar was buried, I was in awe. There’s no denying that Rome will forever have a significant place in the history books.
Maybe it’s the food? While the bread in Rome didn’t at all measure up to the bread in France, no one goes to Rome for the bread. It’s all about the pasta! I definitely ate my fair share of pasta and other Italian dishes for the short time we were there, and I didn’t have a single bad bite. Not one.
Perhaps it’s the people? Maybe we didn’t interact with enough locals while in Rome, but the ones we did meet seemed okay, I suppose. We didn’t find Romans to be particularly warm. Most of the Romans we encountered reminded me of locals in any other big city in that they seem to be in a hurry and somewhat standoffish – another reminder of home. In my opinion, if Rome is great, it’s not because of the warmth of its people.
Could it be the diversions on offer? With such a rich history, it’s no wonder that historical points of interest are the main draw to Rome. Walking through the streets of Rome, we were always aware that we were literally walking through history. But apart from the historical sites, like most other major cities, Rome offers a plethora of things to do that can satiate every interest whether it’s shopping, restaurants, music, theatre, and even outdoorsy activities.
Maybe it’s its beauty? There’s no doubt that Rome is a beautiful city. With its juxtaposition of ruins and modern structures; narrow roads; an architectural mix of classical, Romanesque, Renaissance, and Baroque styles; random fountains; and charming neighborhoods, Rome’s beauty can’t be denied.
Maybe what makes a city truly great is purely subjective. Despite everything that Rome has going in its favor that typically makes a city great, and despite its obvious popularity with world travelers and the writers and editors of publications like Travel + Leisure, when it comes to me forming a concrete opinion of Rome, the jury’s still out. To offer my fair opinion of whether Rome is a great city, I guess I’ll just have to prioritize a return trip.