Traveling to Italy. Not too far or necessarily expensive and – most importantly – always worth it. People from Australia or America envy Europeans like me for being able to enjoy breakfast between the walls of my own kitchen and sip afternoon coffee facing the Pantheon in Rome.

But what exactly makes this city so special? Is it the sun beaming down on old cobblestones or the smell of freshly brewed espresso around every corner? Is it that little church resembling a peasant from the outside but symbolizing a king from the inside? Maybe it’s the thinnest slice of pizza or the glass of red wine numbing your thoughts as you blow out cigarette smoke, wondering why on earth you fell in love with this place so unexpectedly.

Walking inside the Colosseum (do not try to take a rock with you – it leads to a fine!), my inner eye sees Russel Crowe in a deathly battle in “Gladiator”, a movie we saw in history class about three times. I also remember our teacher telling us in her endless enthusiasm, how Rome was founded by Romulus in 753 BC. Roman legend says that Romulus had a twin brother called Remus. As babies they were abandoned in the area which later became Rome. A she-wolf found and raised them, but when they grew up Romulus fought and killed Remus and became the first ruler of Rome. Rome became the capital city of a unified Italy in 1870 after taking the title from Florence. I want to see everything in only three days but give up to quickly as I realize that modern Rome has around 280 fountains and more than 900 churches.

I have come to believe that the best thing about Rome is that it doesn’t try so hard to look significant and marvelous. One of those natural beauties. Comparable to a woman who avoids wearing make-up but still appears drop dead gorgeous. Similar to the city, she can even get away with a little dirt beneath her fingernails.

Rome is so many things; furious and loud or romantic and silent. But no matter which side it shows, Rome never wears a mask – Rome always stays real.