Thursday, February 6, 2020

Reflections From Roma #21

Reflections From Roma #21
07 febbraio 2020

Hello there… Rodger French here.

Well, this is it. Our two-and-a-half years in Roma have passed with inevitable and ridiculous alacrity. So, it is time for the customary short, yet superficial summation of various day-to-day things we will - and will not - miss about this particular posting. Here we go.

Will miss…

The light of the morning sun on the Aurelian Wall and the dome of the Excelsior Hotel.

Fresh Italian bread.

Morning cappuccino. And a toasted sandwich – prosciutto cotto, formaggio e julienne di zucchine pizzetta (ham, cheese, and shredded zucchini on pizza bread) - served at the Elephant Bar, the Embassy cafĂ©.

Mozzarella di Bufala (fresh buffalo milk cheese) and Burrata (fresh cow milk cheese made with mozzarella and cream). I despair that finding anything remotely like these formaggi fantastici in Alabama will be impossible. At best.

Roma, seen from the roof of the Embassy. With the city to the south and the mountains to the north, on dramatic weather days the view is downright cinematic. The roof is also an ideal place to observe seagulls perched on the heads of defenseless statues.

Roman seagulls. They are big, they are beautiful, and they perch wherever they damn well please. Respect.

Will not miss…

Garbage. We live in Parioli, which is described as a “posh” neighborhood, although our building, “ La Fondiaria” (according to a weathered plaque by the entrance), is decidedly not swankish. Anyway, there are large garbage bins positioned all over the place and most of the time they are full to overflowing. This is a very serious problem for the entire city.

Traffic. As one sagacious taxi driver remarked: “Roma has had traffic jams for 2000 years and we’re still using the same roads.”

Roman buses. A sizeable number of which are evidently manufactured with no suspension systems whatsoever. I keep looking for one to rattle itself completely apart, like some raggedy-ass jalopy in a Buster Keaton movie.

Roman dust. There are only two domestic chores that I utterly detest: Trimming the yard and dusting. Fortunately, we have no yard. But the “dust” that settles in our apartment is pretty nasty stuff - grimy and relentless.

Roman water. There’s nothing, like, poisonous about it, but it is absolutely lousy with calcium that leaves a mineral residue on sinks and utensils. And one’s kidneys.

Noisy neighbors. Between the constant crying of an unfortunate child in the apartment below us and what-sounds-like the moving of furniture late at night by people wearing wooden clogs and stiletto heels in the apartment above… Basta! already.

The ZOTA™. The Zombie Tourist Apocalypse rages on, unstoppable, although gratefully avoidable. That said… fist fights over selfie rights at la fontana di Trevi? Molto divertente.

Will miss…

Trains! We took a bunch of train trips to a bunch of interesting places and, although we experienced a few frustrations (delays, breakdowns, wildcat strikes, etc.), the overall level of service was actually respectable.

Firenze. What a fascinating place. The knowledge that this unique city is a mere hour and a half away by train is somehow reassuring. And the bookstore at Le Gallerie degli Uffizi is fabu.
Winter outerwear. When the weather turns even slightly cool, Romans immediately break out their quilted puffy jackets and coats. Imagine the Michelin Man, but considerably more stylish. I find it strangely adorable.

Church bells. Italia is, of course, supremely fraught with churches and campanili, so bells are a regular and welcome accompaniment to the soundtrack of daily life. But the extravagant cacophony they create in celebration of major religious occasions is both surreal and exalting.

Our famiglia italiana. We’ve known and occasionally visited these wonderful people for many years, but living in their country and having frequent opportunities to see them has been a cherished gift. Such friendships are unyielding to the rigors of time and distance. Now, if we can just get them back to the States…

Next up: “Follow-up From Fairhope,” a multi-part evaluation of our DoS assignments: Six postings on five continents. Should be fun.

Arrivederci, Roma. Onward.