Our drive into Rome was breathtaking; for the first time, not due to a near death experience.
A short history lesson. In Ankara Karl and I became entangled in a 6 lane police escort for the president, who eventually drove us off the freeway. Then we made a wrong turn into a protest about abortion or education cuts; not knowing enough Turkish, it was challenging to know precisely the cause, but there were really, really angry young people storming the street/vehicles, and police battalion out in force.
In Madrid, we did three thousand blockies trying to get into our street. The primary risk of death was emanating from the hungry, thirsty mother in the front seat, of a screaming 8 month old in the backseat.
So. Expectations for the arrival into our next European capital were low. In fact, I even prepared the family with a 3 course lunch, toilet and coffee break one hour from the city, on the side of some picturesque lake that we happened to be driving past. With all that chill and indulgence, I was mentally prepared for the drive….. off the freeway, through a passage of incredible arched trees, over an ancient wall, through a stone arch with an angry lion perched on top, then right to the front door of our apartment. No word of a lie. Come to Rome and royalty bestows you.
Then. Unlike those moles in Venice, the public toilets attendants let the kids in for free. Restaurants give you complimentary food and don’t charge you for it on the bill. People hold doors open for you, show you how to use your tickets on the bus, or just walk around acting like legends. The novelty train in the park, full of people, did a u-turn to come back and ask if we wanted a lift. They everyone cheered and said ‘ciao’ when passengers got off. People stop to talk to you on every corner. OK, they mostly talk to the girls. But when they do, they are full of advice and love, and they aren’t even trying to sell you things. Note that the hustle in some of the piazzas is a different story. Rome is like another world. Matisse agrees. “Can we have gelato in this world too?” etc.
The city itself is incredible. Cobblestone streets. More than two trillion world class restaurants luring me with moody light, ancient decor, walls lined in red wine, wood fired ovens and the aroma of Italian cuisine. Exponentially more gelato shops beckoning me with claims like ‘the original’ ‘the best’ and other compelling words like ‘eggnog’ ‘salted caramel’ ‘vanilla bean’ ‘tiramisu’ ‘rum and raisin’ ‘cioccolato’ ‘cinnamon’ ‘peanut butter’ ‘straccietalla’ ‘cafe’ ‘bacio.’ Ok. Take a breathe.
Back to Rome.
Looming, ancient moments at every twist and turn. Which is brill, because with a 3 and 5 year old, there is no way you would actually fathom trying to visit them. So walking past with a gelato in hand, belly full of pizza and Matisse asking “Mum, is that breathtaking?” has been our quintessential Roma experience.
These are some of the actual best things about Rome. But. Some of my other favourite things are.....
In Rome, one needs to buy bottled water to boil the jug. The tap water is potable, but so rich is calcium it screws the kettle. I am partial to a cup of tea, so I have become friends with the guy in the mini market downtairs. He could pick the Aussie accent and told me he learnt English listening to the cricket. He bats for Australia - figuratively speaking - and he unleashed his passion about the golden era. What a wealth of knowledge about Ricky Ponting, the Waugh brothers, Michael Bevan and, as he calls him “The king, Shane Warne, the ultimate gentleman.” I recalled a tinder story that a friend of mine has about Shane Warne, but I held my tongue. Anyway. The mini market dude, A bigger legend than Shane Warne, with heaps more hair, and heaps less botox.
PS. The day that I wrote this, Karl conveniently “stumbled across” this article.
I rest my case.
The story of Rome. I didn’t proofread this before reading it out loud to the Children. Cue some great discussion. Not as intense as what derived from the Trenitalia on train magazine after our trip to Florence, or their newfound fascination with the crucifixion of Jesus. I’ll save the latter for a future post.
Next. The Italians never missing a chance to push their leather wares, even in the zoo beside the reptiles they are skinning alive. Look, I dont speak Italian, maybe they aren’t. But with the price tags in the other displays, I will hazard a guess.
This flesh eating lioness making bedroom eyes at me, trying to lure me into the enclosure. I don’t think so, mate.
Looks like Machiavelli had a proclivity for cocaine, which may explain the energy to underpin his outrageous successes as a diplomat, politician, historian, philosopher, humanist, writer, playwright and poet of the Renaissance period. And to think people are impressed by Da Vinci for his talents as a genius inventor and world famous artist. Only two disciplines. Yawn.
According to Encyclopaedia Britannia Machiavelli’s most famous work brought him a reputation as an atheist and an immoral cynic. In Italy, that gets you a statue in the local park.
PS. I really rate the dude.
And finally. Having to take a short cut through a totally different state to get back to our apartment at night. Not any old scabby state, the Vatican City state. Google maps tried to make us walk around, but we followed our own path. Sacrilegious? or the path to righteousness? Either way. Amen.