Rome

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

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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.

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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.

Dinner with an old flame: 5 days in Rome

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Have you ever bumped into an old love? Someone you spent nights talking to and dreaming with but that at some point you had to leave, because he wasn’t right for you? Do you remember the heartbreaking moment when you knew you had to move on and still it felt so good staying still? You picked up all the courage and braveness and strength you had, hidden somewhere between idealized early memories and everyday dullness and left. At first you were relieved, felt safe as you can only feel when you know you did the right thing. You actually moved on, saw people, went places. Then one day, years – centuries! – later you take the trash out and ta-daaaa he’s there. Staring at you. And you can’t remember anymore why he was wrong but just feel the sudden impulse to indulge a little bit longer in that wrongness. 

Well, I have been to Rome these past few days and felt exactly like that. For the first time in almost 20 years I missed it. I couldn’t remember anymore why I hated it or why I was so certain it was all wrong for me. I could only see the overwhelming beauty of every single corner, the utterly simple and delicious food, the yellowish light that warmed up everyone and everything in a couple of minutes. All I wanted was to stay there, indulge in the thousand little pleasures I thought I was immune to and lose myself into the Pantheon, looking at the magic hole in the ceiling, every single day. It was like going to dinner with an old love: time and distance sublimate everything, and you fall in love all over again. 

Had I to live there again, I know I would hate it. But it’s always nice to have an old boyfriend you think you could go back to.