Reflections From Roma #07
04 agosto 2018
Hello there, Rodger French here.
The first of our two Roman summers is upon us, so this seems a propitious moment to check in. As you may know, August is vacation season (“Ferragosto”) for Italians, when they hightail it to the seaside or mountain resorts. As a consequence, Embassy offices are eerily vacant and the hallways littered with tumbleweeds. The ”Eternal City” itself seems downright schizophrenic. If you’re in the vicinity of the ZOTA (ZOmbie Tourist Apocalypse™), the crush of ginormous tour buses and throngs of sun-bleached visitors is simply unbearable. Elsewhere, however, things are agreeably quiet, with less traffic as well as fewer people queuing up at the grocery - if, indeed, it is open - or for the bus. (Sadly, however, the trams are out of service until September.)
[Historical Recreation Sidebar - “Feriae Augusti” was introduced in 18 BC byemperor Augustus Caesar as a celebration of motherhood. The Catholic Church, ever amenable to co-opting popular pagan traditions, subsequently declared August 15 “Assumption Day,” the day when the Virgin (and ultimate mother) Mary ascended to heaven. But it was the Fascist dictator Benito Mussolini who really jumpstarted things when, in the 1920s, he organized mid-August vacation trips for the masses, available at discounted prices, utilizing the “People’s Trains of Ferragosto.” And thus the Italian tradition of skipping town in agosto was firmly established.]
August in Roma is hot, often beastly so. When we’re at home, A.J. and I hunker down, playing A/C roulette with our three “pinguinos” (portable air conditioners), attempting to keep cool without tripping the circuit breakers in our apartment. So far the Roman electrical grid has held. When we do have to walk somewhere (to work, to shop, to etc.), we are constantly on the lookout for l’ombra (the shade) and, of course, SPF 50 is a daily sacrament. We hope to luck out and not have to cope with the frighteningly extreme temperatures that are killing people elsewhere in Europe.
We’ll stay in Rome until the end of the month, and then it’s off to chill out for a week in Norway. (Of course, given that Sweden has been plagued by huge fires north of the Arctic Circle, who the hell knows what might happen.) This will be our first visit to Scandinavia and we expect to have a fine time riding the rails, cruising the coast, and “pining for the fjords.” And yes, this does mean joining the Norwegian ZOTA, a philosophically distressing but totally unavoidable eventuality. We’ll just have to muddle through somehow.
That’s the scoop for now. May your summer be tons of fun or, if that doesn’t work out, at least bearable. Keep cool and ci vediamo all'ombra.