Arrivederci Roma 2019 (from Melbourne)

Call me cheesy. A dreamer. Nostalgic. But when those John Lennon notes of War is Over start hitting the airwaves, a big lump develops in my throat. “And so this is Christmas and what have you done? Another year over, a new one just begun.”

Those loaded words – what have you done?

They strike a chord. Something so seemingly unimportant as a song lyric and yet here we are. The mind goes into overdrive.

It’s easy to get nostalgic at the end of the year and look back on what was. And this isn’t just any end of year but the end of a decade. Promises made, promises broken, dreams achieved, dreams on the shelf. What we each chose to do this last year was relative to us and where we are in life. I find the important thing is not to compare. But to measure against what you experienced and how it made you feel.

While I share much of my life on this blog and associated social media, there are many private aspects I choose to keep to myself. And as I continue to do so, I reveal that the year wasn’t perfect with a number of health fails. Nothing grave, but let’s just say, not a walk in the park either.

So for me, ‘what have I done?

I’ve learnt that I can’t control every minute or component of my life. Sometimes other forces take over. Sometimes it’s shit. Sometimes you don’t know what the reason is. Sometimes it doesn’t feel fair. Sometimes you just have to go through it. When you have a scare or experience a trauma (big or small), things quickly get put into perspective and today more than ever I am thankful to have a family who loves me and supports me unconditionally, friends and colleagues who sustain, enrich and respect me and a life I’ve chosen. A life that isn’t perfect, despite appearances – because that’s what life is: an imperfect collection of moments that make up the ones that guide and define you.

I am thankful for all your encouragement and support. Heart Rome has grown exponentially and celebrated its 8th year this year. It continues to have a readership in 100+ countries and a social media following that now exceeds 35,000.

This year, I grew my writing portfolio to proudly add five major publications to the list:

    Architectural Digest (a Condé Nast brand)
    Fortune Magazine
    Silk Air (Singapore Airlines inflight magazine)
    La Repubblica (Italian national news)
    World Travel Magazine (South East Asia, print)

All while I continued to write for USA Today, CNN and Fodor’s.

My PR business gained new clients in the luxury travel and hospitality sector and my book, I Heart Rome continues to be sold and sighted around the world (most recently, Eataly Chicago!) I met over 70 fans of the book in Rome and took them around my neighbourhood to eat and meet some of the unsung food heroes featured. I interviewed multiple personalities on HeartRome radio on Radio Food Live, attended countless press events and worked on a number of unique and fascinating projects.

This year, for above mentioned reasons I travelled a little less than usual, but nonetheless life and work took me to: Puglia (twice!), Porto, Lisbon, Procida, Gaeta, Capri, Florence, Chianti, Pisa and Dubai.

And my entire family came to Rome to celebrate my 40th birthday. I threw an epic party and I wish we could do it all over again! We then celebrated Easter in Abruzzo all together for the first time and wrapped up with a little family holiday in Puglia.

And I got to live another year in Rome. I never lose sight of that. Or not value the privilege of it all. I am enveloped every day in art, history, architecture. In a great city of the modern and ancient world. By God, she isn’t perfect and damn does she have some issues, but her beauty and place in the world is undeniable, unwavering.

Corny again yes, but I watched Eat, Pray, Love on the plane home to Australia last month. There is this most beautiful scene about ruin being a gift. Julia Roberta (well Liz Gilbert really) weaves this tale about the Mausoleum of Augustus and how regeneration and life rises from the ashes of devastation. She says we all want things to stay the same but life is about change and challenge. Life and even (or especially) ruins, can be beautiful.

“I look at the Augusteum, and I think that perhaps my life has not actually been so chaotic, after all. It is merely this world that is chaotic, bringing changes to us all that nobody could have anticipated. The Augusteum warns me to not get attached to any obsolete ideas about who I am, what I represent, whom I belong to, or what function I may once have intended to serve. Yesterday I might have been a glorious monument to somebody, true enough–but tomorrow I could be a fireworks depository. Even in the Eternal City, says the silent Augusteum, one must always be prepared for riotous and endless waves of transformation.” Elizabeth Gilbert (watch it here)

And so I pause – as many of us do – turn, and look back. I take a big breath in and let it out. In spite of a challenging year, I am happy that I can still find some positive milestones and moments that will be filed away under 2019. Because I have to believe that the good always outweighs the bad and at this turn of a decade I can safely say, I was present. I succeeded, I failed, I loved, I lost, I learnt, I gave, I received, I contemplated, I lived.

This journey called life is the only one we are on. Treasure it. Make it count. Feel the lows, cherish the highs, embrace it all. Take it all in. Change, happiness, challenge – you never know what is around the corner. And the stuff that counts (family, friends, love and support) is what helps you live all of it.

From the very depths of my heart: thank you. For reading me, watching me, listening to me, supporting me. And above all for encouraging me. I don’t get time to respond to all of the thousands of comments on social media. But I see them all. On great days they make me smile and on crap days, they truly make my heart sing. I will spend my lifetime thanking you.

With much love from my other native home, I wish you and your loved ones a safe and happy new year. I’m not too sad to say goodbye to 2019 and my wish for us all, is a 2020 that abounds in joy, good fortune, adventure, laughter, love and good health.

Now it’s time for beach with my family and friends, my brother and sisters, nephews and my parents. Moments created for me to cherish in the new year.

Signing off for the last time this year, this decade, here is a link to my 2019 video highlights!

Baci Maria

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