Let's put Rome aside for a moment and talk about London and Paris.
We were in Paris a couple of years ago and are now in London where we've visited twice before.
While London specifically and Britain generally have become more European over the years, significant differences remain between these two capital cities.
London and Paris are both grand and sophisticated -- with vast boulevards, monuments, museums, arts, culture and top-notch shops and restaurants. And both cities boast spectacular river views and enviable parkland.
But Paris is far more ornamented and far more self-conscious. Paris is simply more decorated and more likely to call attention to itself at every turn. This is not necessarily a bad thing -- it's just the way it is. In Paris, it all seems to work.
In London, such an approach is a non-starter. The typical British gentlemen would be proper and appropriately attired for whatever occasion but he would not call a great amount of attention to himself.
Britain decorates with flora and fauna. It's a natural thing. France decorates with feur-de-lis and similar flourishes. It's an artistic thing in a city where art is paramount.
In London, history is cherished and (where necessary) historical edifices are restored. In Paris, they are more likely to simply be preserved.
The entire core of Paris is an architectural wonder but within the heart of the city you won't find any tall buildings or modern architecture. On the other hand, London is dotted with skyscrapers and modern architectural marvels -- some very attractive and some not so attractive.
London is cooly efficient. For the most part, things works as they're supposed to work and (since the British virtually invented punctuality) things run on time. In Paris, it's more, shall we say "casual"? The Metro may be delayed or shut down because of a strike and your 3 PM appointment may arrive at 3:10.
Courtesy is important in both cities. But, whereas in Paris a little bit of common courtesy may lead (in a hop, skip and jump) to romance, that's not as likely to happen in London. In London manners are the way to maintain structure and social order. In Paris, who knows where a kind word, an open door, a tap on the shoulder or a subtle smile may lead?
London is our mother country. So the link between the US and Britain is secure and as healthy as ever. London easily borrows from America and we regularly exalt British personalities and are enamored over their acting ability, among other things. While we find the French charming, we remain separated by more than a language barrier. Parisians in particular hold themselves apart. In this regard, and many others, London and Londoners are simply more accessible.
London is like an old friend with an admirable sense of civility -- someone you can trust and lean on, especially in a jam.
But Paris? Paris remains a beguiling, perfumed, ornamented seductress.
Somedays you need (or are in the mood for) one. Somedays, the other.