Rituals and Restaurants in Rome

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“On the back of a motorcycle with my soon-to-be husband, who at the time was my secret Italian lover in New York,” is how Gabrielle Hamilton, chef of the New York restaurant Prune, said she discovered Rome.

Every summer for the next 11 years, her husband played the city’s ambassador to her and eventually to their two sons. “And that is beautiful,” she said, “but denies you certain self-discovery experiences.”

Three years ago, after their marriage had come to an end, Ms. Hamilton decided to go to Rome again, this time on her own.

“I was like, ‘Damn it, I’m going to take this city,’ ” she said. That meant renting a Vespa and making her way through Rome by asking directions in what she calls “hilarious, bad Italian.”

“There’s nothing like being part of that swarm of wasps,” said Ms. Hamilton of riding a Vespa. “It puts you on the inside.”

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Hamilton about the Rome she has come to know.

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