“Ma vatte’ a fa’ ‘na passeggiata, va’…”: Go have a walk, or the Italian answer to the famous Belgian humour


Many says that Rome’s only flaw are the Romans. I think that the Romans are actually Rome’s greatest asset. Without its cynical, proud, indifferent, wise inhabitants Rome would be just an open museum. Purebred Romans are an endangered species but if you happen to find one be prepared to sharp sentences, the distant look of someone who’s seen it all and doesn’t care anymore and vitriolic remarks.

The husband had his own Roman close encounter last Saturday, when we grabbed a taxi to go visit the Forum and the driver happened to be a 70 something Trasteverino, an authentic, purebred Roman. After a long series of curses addressed to the unaware pedestrians (curses that all involved the pedestrian’s dead relatives), we had a revealing moment:

(taxi driver): Look, Rome is so beautiful!

(me): Yes, and too crowded as well!

(td): But it’s normal, when something is beautiful everybody wants to see it! Rome is the most beautiful city in the world!

(The Husband): (taking his Belgian sheepish look) I come from Belgium, and that is the most beautiful country in the world! We even have an Italian prime minister!

(td): (turning his head slowly, looking down to my husband, without an inch of amusement) MA VATTE A’ FA’ ‘NA PASSEGGIATA, VA’; VATTE’ A VEDE’ DU’ COSE, POI ME DISSCI which sounds more or less like “Go have a walk, see a couple o’ things, then you’ll tell me”.

The Husband learnt that contrary to widespread opinion Italians do have a sense of humour. They just reserve it to other subjects. Never, ever try to tease a Roman about Rome. It ain’t funny.


Then we had coffee. And it was a perfect one. A black, vigorous, short expresso, accompanied by its regular glass of tap water. No milk foams, cocoa sprinkling, syrup pouring or odd doses (double, triple or whatever people take to get cardiac arrhythmia).

PS The greatest interpreter of the Roman soul was actor Alberto Sordi. His movies are a must to understand the city.


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