Wanderlust Wednesday: It All Began in Rome

Morning Walk near the Statzione Termini, Rome, 2007.

International travel was not a priority when I was a child. There were visits to battlefields in Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, trips to see family in Maine, and a bunch of back and forth drives when we moved to Wisconsin. The most exciting place I had been was Arizona, to visit my cattle rancher great uncle Mr. B when I was 10. We slipped ever so briefly into Nogales, Mexico, staying only long enough to buy strings of dried peppers and a cheap turquoise chip bracelet for me. At 32, I joined a motley bunch of alumnae, trustees, and students from my college on group trip to Rome, Pompeii, Sorrento, and Sicily.

Revelations from this trip were:

  • Do figure out where you are going to eat before you go (at least a few spots). I had been working like a dog, and I thought I would just surrender myself to this trip. That’s the wrong move in Rome – it is full of tourist restaurants with terrible food. When it comes to food, if you care what you eat, do some research. My only good food memories are from Sicily. I now do my homework.
  • Walk, look, and photograph. Also, know when an experience can’t be photographed or caught on video, and just stand there and enjoy it. It was on my trip to Rome that I started to photograph for the sake of the practice, not just to document that I had been to the Spanish steps. In fact, I don’t think I even took a picture of the Spanish Steps.
  • Group travel is not for me.
  • Eat gelato for breakfast – a Sicilian lesson, where they place a scoop inside brioche-like pastry.

    Flower Seller, Rome, 2007. RL Fifield photo.

I travel a fair amount for work to interesting places.  Since that trip to Rome, I have a hit list for every city I visit:

  • Visit the train station (s).  It’s partly an architecture thing, partly a transit thing. They are a civic symbols of adventure.
  • Visit the markets. If there is no old city market or street markets, go to the grocery store – they say a lot about the area. The first Italian grocery store I entered was in Sorrento off-season. Beautiful meats, cheeses, and produce, with a very, very small pre-packaged/processed section. The Dutch have wonderful grocery stores. Can we say stroopwafels?
  • Learn the transit system. Nothing makes me feel like a local than learning to take the subway or tram. Of course, the Rotterdam tram system was unfathomable. Strip tickets, validations….glad I didn’t get arrested. Not sure why that one was so difficult.
  • And of course, my profession compels me to visit a slew of museums – that’s unavoidable.

Rome, 2007. RL Fifield photo.

I’m ready to go back to Rome under my own steam.

About Becky Fifield

Becky Fifield is a cultural heritage professional with 25 years experience in institutions large and small. She is currently Head of Collection Management for the Special Collections of the New York Public Library. An advocate for preventive conservation, Ms. Fifield is a Professional Associate of the American Institute for Conservation, Chair of the AIC Collection Care Network, and former Chair of Alliance for Response NYC. She is also a scholar of 18th century female unfree labor and dress. There's a bit of pun in the title The Still Room, delineating a quiet space brimming with the ingredients of memory, where consideration, analysis, and wordcraft can take place. Ms. Fifield’s interests include museum practice, dress history, historic preservation, transit, social and women’s history, food, current events, geneaology, roadtrips, and considerations on general sense of place. Becky and her husband, Dr. V, live in the Hudson Valley.