Passion Passport is partnering with individuals around the globe to showcase the beauty of their home cities through their unique perspectives. We’re kicking off the series in Rome, Italy, where Nicolee Drake (@cucinadigitale) gives us an insider view into some of her favorite spots.

Be sure to check back on the blog on Friday, October 10th for Part II of this Q&A, which will feature images from Nicolee’s Out to Dry series, and follow along with @PassionPassport on Instagram as we share more of her photos throughout the week!


How long have you lived in your city and what is your profession? 

I have been based in Rome since 2009. I am a designer and photographer.

If you could capture the essence of your city in one word, what would it be and why? 

Cinema. From Bernini’s Baroque statues to Rome’s magical light, every corner you turn reveals a magnificent stage set. Few European cities offer such an evocative backdrop to cinema as Rome. It is teeming with energy, with packs of cars and scooters zipping through its chaotic streets and abrupt intersections; where drivers treat traffic signs as vague suggestions. It is a place where ancient and contemporary, beauty, and a passion for life work together in beautiful harmony and I love it.



How would you describe the locals in your city? 

If Rome is cinema, Romans are the actors. They have a way of turning an ordinary task, such as hanging out their laundry, into the most extraordinary scene. They are charming, generous, friendly, and funny. They are also noisy and have an enormous sense of self. One stereotype of Romans is that they are hypochondriacs. It’s not unusual to find someone wearing a winter scarf around their neck in the middle of July to avoid the dreaded cervicale or colpo d’aria. They talk with their hands; true. Italians could have an entire conversation without opening their mouths but that would never happen – they are very expressive and love to smile and talk.



How do you think that the beat or style of the city has informed your style as a photographer?

I am constantly inspired by the nuances of everyday life. In Rome that means part character study, part timing, and part digging beneath the surface. By now, I’ve learned where to find the best light and the most charming scenes at any given point throughout the day. The flow of life and the city’s frenzied pace keep me on my toes waiting for the next situation or scene to present itself.



Describe the first place you’d bring an out-of-town guest. Why would you take them there?

The first place I’d bring an out-of-town guest would be the Gianicolo hill. It offers a sweeping view of Rome and shows the lay of the land. There are also a few gems on the hill not to be missed such as Villa Doria Pamphili, Tempietto del Bramante at San Pietro in Montorio, and the Fontana dell’Acqua Paola.



What’s the best season to visit?

I love Rome in autumn. The city comes alive again in harmonious chaos after the exodus in August for Ferragosto. And brocolli’s back in season.

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Is there a tourist attraction that even locals love?

Il Giardino degli Aranci on the Aventine Hill. It’s the perfect place to pull up a patch of grass and enjoy the best of a Rome summer day.



What’s a signature dish in your city and where’s the best spot to find it?

My favorite Roman dish is Carciofo alla Giudia. It’s a whole artichoke deep-fried to perfection. The best place to find this dish is just about anywhere in Rome’s Jewish Quarter.

If your city had a dress code what would it be? 

Adriana La Cerva chic. Black tie optional.



Where’s the best spot to see your city from above? 

On a clear day, the Terrazza delle Quadrighe located on top of Vittorio Emanuele offers a breathtaking panoramic view of Rome, including views of Piazza Venezia, the Forum, and the Colosseum. For a more intimate view of the city, I prefer the view from Castel Sant’Angelo, especially at sunset. It brings you up close and personal to the domes and to a few of the most picturesque bridges of Rome.


 Words and photos by Nicolee Drake.

Passion Passport’s community includes explorers, creators and storytellers from around the globe. Their travel experiences have challenged them, shaped their perspective of the world and given them a better sense of who they are. Both online and off, Passion Passport offers the opportunity to connect with one another, to share those pivotal moments, and to travel with purpose.
  • Addison

    Great concept for a new series! Can’t wait to see what other cities you profile.

  • Bethany

    Love the idea of Rome and “cinema”! Your words capture the color and nuances of city life in Rome just as beautifully as your photos. =)

  • Oh what a wonderful new series! Not only an inspiration for visitors from afar but a way for interviewees& locals to reflect on travel in their backyard. And in perfect time as we head to Roma tomorrow & a couple of things on here weren’t on my list. Grazie!

  • Jeff T.

    I very, very much enjoy following you on Instagram. Here, though, I feel like you’ve even gone a step further. Between your thoughtful words and your incredible photos, you’ve done something really beautiful and brought Rome to life in a new way, Nicolee. I love how you used the cinema metaphor for Rome and developed it throughout the piece. Would you say the same is true for Italians in general?

  • Jack

    Nicolee, thank you for these details of Roman life. You’ve captured the “city perspective” very well, and made me feel like a local as I followed along.

  • Rome is really a cinema. This is a perfect way to explain this city and I love your photographs. You have us longing for the years we spent living in Rome. The intimate moments you captured are quintessentially Roman.