The Veronica Lavil Movie (Roma)

“You will get to experience the delights of La Citta Eterna. Rome. Eternal city. Did no one read the info packets?”

The Lizzie McGuire Movie

For my 8th birthday party, I remember my parents took me and a few of my friends to the movie theatre to watch the Lizzie McGuire Movie, and that was probably the first time I fell in love with Italy and the Italian language. It took me surprisingly six years of living on the European continent before I actually set foot in the Italian capital. Why? It was just one of those trips that I kept putting off… something would always come up, either a last minute trip with friends, family or my partner at the time, or having to go back to the U.S. (those tickets aren’t cheap, especially on a student budget) and even having to go to Spain to be able to access the archives for my post-grad dissertation. It was just one of those dream trips that I kept saying “next break I have, when I am not so busy, when I have more money saved up.”

Then I broke off my long-term 5 year relationship.

I was sitting in Prêt à Manger in Place de la Sorbonne (I spent many hours there studying for exams and writing up papers), homeless, trying to figure out what was going on in my personal life, confused about how what I had believed my life was going to be would no longer be. I did what I know how to do best, I bought a ticket without thinking twice about it. Granted, I wasn’t in the best place financially but I knew that I needed to get out of Paris.

I remember having conversations with friends and how excited they were for me. They knew this had been a place I had dreamed of visiting since moving to France. I started brushing up on my Italian (it had been the language I had taken during my bachelors). I didn’t know on what couch I would be sleeping on the next week, how long my friends were going to accept me into their homes (I’m very grateful for the friends that opened their doors to me), but I knew that for one weekend, I would be able to try my best to disconnect from everything that was hurting.

It’s one of the quietest, loneliest places in Rome. The city has grown up around it over the centuries. It feels like a precious wound, a heartbreak you won’t let go of because it hurts too good. We all want things to stay the same. Settle for living in misery because we’re afraid of change, of things crumbling to ruins. Then I looked at around to this place, at the chaos it has endured – the way it has been adapted, burned, pillaged and found a way to build itself back up again. And I was reassured, maybe my life hasn’t been so chaotic, it’s just the world that is, and the real trap is getting attached to any of it. Ruin is a gift. Ruin is the road to transformation.

Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love
Talking about the Augusteum

I remember being on the plane and watching as we landed in Rome, seeing the colorful buildings and my heart skipping beats. It all felt like a dream. Once in the airport, I remember how proud I felt when I managed to speak to a woman in Italian and understand the bus system to get to the city center. Once in the city, I started walking those cobbled streets with my little suitcase, and attentively listening to my surroundings. One of my favorite things about traveling is being in a new country and hearing their native language. I love just listening to others speak in their foreign music.

I can clearly see myself getting to the hostel, and getting my key, walking into my room that I would share with another woman. I was happy to see that she was my age, and even better: she was Spanish/American like I am. It was fun to become friends with her in such a short period of time. We roamed the streets of Rome, people watched and gossiped about what we thought of others like Spanish grandmothers from the village with nothing better to do, she came with me to get my first tattoo, we rolled our eyes at Italian men and laughed so much over carbs and wine.

– Lizzie McGuire: Kate, you don’t eat carbs.
– Kate Sanders: I’d eat carbs if an Italian boy bought them for me!”

The Lizzie McGuire Movie
You always dress in yellow when you want to dress in gold.

I remember that trip so fondly, and sometimes wonder if it had all been a dream. There are images in my head that play over and over again, like if it were a movie. Walking out of restaurants, peeking down empty streets because they looked so picturesque, looking above and seeing the windows of apartments open and hearing Italian chatters and wondering about the lives those people were all leading. I remember wondering if the people I saw were happy and comfortable with their lives. If they were accomplishing their dreams or if they had settled for what had come first.

So why am I writing about my trip to Roma, la citta eterna, now? With Paris going into confinement again while I am sitting with loved ones in the Spanish Basque Country, I keep thinking about how I would have potentially felt if I hadn’t taken that trip. I’m already feeling quite stuck in my life in so many ways. I became single right before confinement, which I know was for the best, but I didn’t think I would be sitting indoors a year later without being able to meet new people or go on proper dates. A few weeks ago while I was sitting on le Champ de Mars, I watched as groups of friends were huddled and basking in the rare Parisian winter sun, and my friend and I both said that we missed going to drinks, picnics and soirées where we were introduced to new people. I’m also second guessing everything that I have worked so much for, because I’m 25 and wondering about what I want my career to be versus what I feel like I am supposed to be doing. What kind of career will make me happy? I’m wondering how I can use all my advantages to do something good. I’m writing about Rome because I’m glad I took that trip right before the first confinement. Right before the world turned upside down, because at least I know that it can’t be another thing I add to my list of “regrets or wishes”. I sometimes have a feeling that things really do happen for a reason, and timing can sometimes really be perfect.

This post isn’t about giving you a guide to the must-sees of Roma, though all of the tourist attractions are definitely something you should do if you’re ever in Rome. If I were to give you advice, I would say you should buy your tickets beforehand. The line at the Vatican was something I would have never wanted to wait in. I’m writing this post more with the intention, now with COVID rampaging this world, of sharing that there is no time to wait. As you can tell, I used to be the person that kept saying “when I do x, y and z, then I will do 1, 2, 3…” and that kind of thinking doesn’t work. Why should we limit ourselves? Why do we force ourselves to wait, and then a lot of the times realize that we’re now too late?

I hear it all the time now, “once COVID is over, I am going to…” and it makes me sad to think that there needed to be a global pandemic for people to start realizing what actually make them happy, or things that they wish they could do. We took our lives so much for granted, and it took taking it all away from us for us to finally understand how beautiful and entertaining life actually is.

On February 20th, 2019, with a broken heart and at one of the most difficult points in my life, this girl packed her bags and went to the second city (after Paris) she had always dreamed of visiting (and hopefully/maybe one day, live a few months to perfect my Italian). I can’t express how much that trip meant to me. Rome, with its multiple ruins and its wonderful history, reminded me that no matter what, beauty can be constructed from something broken and that life keeps going. Rome helped heal a part of my heart and bring back a side of myself that got lost.

You can follow more of Veronica


Instagram: @kikalavil

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