Saturday, June 25, 2011

Rome, Day 7

My favourite part of visiting a new big city is the day you wake up and leave your apartment feeling perfectly comfortable everywhere you go. You turn corners with assurance and enter buildings with as much confidence as if you were in your hometown. That day, you leave your maps in your bag and, no matter where you find yourself, you know your way around and your direction back to your apartment. That's when I start loving the city even more. In some cities, that never happens for me no matter how long I stay, but the last two days in Rome were just that.

The apartment we rented in Trastevere is located on Via dei Genovesi, on the third floor of this building, with green shutters that I would never close no matter how badly I wanted a good night sleep. The sounds are too priceless.

These are not the street noises that I am used to for the obvious reason that streets are too narrow for cars to speed by. They belong to pedestrians so what you hear, aside from the occasional church bell, is mostly people talking and lots of children screaming and laughing, chasing cars on the streets!

Where I come from, kids are not allowed to play in traffic but in Rome, they run outside until all hours of the night, sometimes keeping me up past one o'clock in the morning. I'm sure that many parents would frown upon this, but I love it. Children in Rome are not asked to be quiet at the dinner table in restaurants, nor are they kept silent like zombies in front of iPhones or portable video games. Rather, they sit at the table, chatting and eating anchovies and olives (not plain unseasoned chicken and french fries.)

There are also the few scooters roaring by but I did not stay in Rome long enough for that sound to be anything but endearing. Riding those scooters are perfectly polished men and women in business suits, suitcase between their feet, ladies old enough to be my grandmother riding twice as fast as I would ever have the guts to, and couples clinging on to each other. And they are all busy trying to avoid crashing into each other while zipping past cyclists and between speeding cars, nearly missing the curb, where dozens of pedestrians have reached the unofficial consensus that both street and sidewalk belong to them.

I love watching business men in suits, perched not atop a massive Ford Escalade but a scooter or bike, which they will later leave unlocked. Anywhere. The very concept of unlocked bicycles is so foreign to me to begin with, let alone the idea of business men in anything but big, comfortable, fancy SUVs.

Indeed, my best days happen when I stop looking around wide eyed and start subconsciously paying attention to the details at a more micro level, from the small differences in hand gestures to street signs and conversations in foreign languages.

A small tip if you ever visit Rome is to visit sites later in the day, when tour buses have left and there are no line ups. Then, the touristic sites don't feel as touristy and are almost exclusively yours.

Some of the best pizza in Rome comes from casual bakeries where they make a long, huge, thin crust with a few different choices of topping, all of which are very simple. You order by the weight and they fold it and wrap it up so you can eat it at one of their outdoor standing table or just walk around like everyone does. The pizza is reason enough to make me miss Rome already.

Italy Countdown, Day 7:

Pizza: 4
Pasta: 4
Gelato: 6

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