You could spend a lifetime and never know all there is to know about Rome. Although we missed seeing the Sistine Chapel, we were awed by the sun setting through the arches of the Colosseum and by the enormity, power and opulence of St. Peter’s Basilica. As we walked by the many statues, paintings and ancient relics, we felt like they whispered secret wisdom about human nature, history and cultural evolution. 

We experienced unparalleled warmth, kindness and a genuine desire from Italians to tell us their stories and share the best vino, food and hospitality in the world. Our friend Megs recommended a restaurant off the beaten path in Rome. Her efforts to search Google Earth for directions rewarded us with the most superb meal we have yet to savor! The seafood spaghetti arrived to our table in a swan shaped foil wrapping where homemade pasta simmered with clams, mussels and prawns. Our waiter was so impressed with our story he brought us limoncello and cookies to top off our buona cena.  

We interviewed an aristocrat, a psychotherapist and an environmental and social psychologist in Rome. Our B&B host Gina warned us that travelling in Rome is absolutely nuts and true to her word it took us 3 hours by foot, train and tram to meet our first interviewee. First, a fierce torrential Roman rainstorm thundered and lightning, and we were cooped up in a tiny neighborhood pizzeria run by one older Italian gent. Without an umbrella or rain gear for our equipment we had to ride out the storm, so we devoured very tasty ham and mushroom white pizza while we waited for the rain to relent. After 45 minutes we braved the sprinkles and had Italian cappuccino and pastries while we searched for directions to meet our interviewee. Ange called this interview the "inconvenient sample" because it took 3 plus hours to get, but we would never have interviewed a bonafide aristocrat without it!

Sapienza University Professor Marino Bonaiuto was instrumental to our amazing experience in Rome. He was generous with his time and contacts, which ensured our research was rich and textured. We also interviewed his sister Flavia and were moved by how honest and quintessential both of their responses were. Both interviews give us an important vantage point about peak experience, passion and love from the insider perspective of professional psychologists.

We left Rome too soon but for the justifiable reason of renting a car to drive through Tuscany. We spent our first night in Siena watching a full moon cross the Mangia Tower in the most beautiful square in Europe, Piazza del Campo. After cappuccinos the next morning on a terrace overlooking olive groves, Ange wrote the following heartfelt ode, “Italy, you have stolen my heart. Surpassing my childlike love for you at 17, my awe for you has returned 10 fold!”  

Our final Italian interviewee was Poggibonsi born Valeria, an archeologist by training but because of a lack of funding in her field, works seasonally for a Chianti winery that has been making wine for hundreds of years. Her interview highlights an interesting trend in the research that has begun to emerge from the demographic question of, “What is your ethnicity?” Consider that a census box forces a clear answer and ignores the nuance we are finding exists not only with people’s responses but with their body language and facial expressions as well. “We are all homosapiens,” she said.

We left the history and people of Italy wiser about the art of cultivating joy, positivity, love and connectedness.