We all have a hometown: the place of our birth, where we grew up, and/or the place in which we have spent the most time in our lives. My hometown is New York, but I’ve been fortunate enough to find a “second home,” a home outside of my home, and that place is Rome, Italy.

Rome has been my second home for the last six years. I was fifteen years old when I visited Rome for the first time. I had instantaneously fallen in love with the vibe and culture of the city. Being of Italian descent, I felt an immediate connection with the land and its people. The city provoked somewhat of an uninhibited feeling within me (something I still feel when I go there), meaning I felt at complete ease being myself, not overthinking anything and walking with confidence. This type of ease is generally not a common thing for most teenagers. I still clearly remember walking down Via Margutta and telling my father that I wanted to live there someday.

I may not presently live on Via Margutta, but I feel that I have found a way to bring Rome into my life and to bring my life to Rome. After years of being away from Rome due to changes in life: school, marriage, motherhood, and career, I finally returned with my family. Upon my return, I decided to never let that much time pass again and began to travel to Rome frequently and consistently. Life is too short not to try to be as happy as possible.

What began as a fun idea to travel to a place I loved turned into something more important in my life. Through my travels to Rome, I have learned and improved much about myself. To start, I’ve obtained fluency in Italian and am a better cook, but these things are somewhat obvious improvements from spending time in Italy. What’s not as obvious is the internal improvements the city has provided for me. Feeling a strong connection to the city has brought a new happiness into my life, which has provided me with a more positive outlook on situations. This has helped me to become a happier person in general.

One may wonder how exactly someone can feel so connected to a place, and my answer for them would be that a place contains people, and people can love. Besides appreciating the city for all it offers, the most important thing I have in Rome is love. This is the reason I consider it my “second home” rather than my “vacation home.” It’s not just a place where I take a vacation to relax.

Since my initial arrival in Rome, I have always been warmly greeted by people. I have friendships there that will last a lifetime. I’ve been in love in Rome and will forever cherish those beautiful memories and make more of them. The love I experienced in Rome remains an inspiration for my writing and other endeavors in life. I feel grateful to have a second home and for the love found therein.

No matter how many times I walk through the same streets, sit in a familiar piazza, or walk past a famous site, I never grow tired of it. In fact, I love the nostalgia that some of these places bring to me.

As I walk to work on any given day in busy Manhattan with many things on my mind, I take a moment to think of a serene day at Villa Borghese, and I calm down, smiling to myself because I know a piece of Rome remains within me.