lunedì 10 gennaio 2011

o roma roma città tanto cara...

I'm back in Milan after a Christmas vacation spent running around the southeast of the U.S. and then around central Italy...

F and I decided to go to Rome for the befana, Italy's way of celebrating the Epiphany, during which an old shriveled witch brings presents for the boys and girls. I wanted to get in a couple of adventures before returning to work, and I really wanted to catch some warm weather and sunshine.

We wandered the city for four days and three nights, and I have to say, Rome made us milanesi both envious. Okay, so the public transport is totally incasinato and maybe, yes, it's full of tourists, and of course, other Italians do say that SPQR stands for "Sono pazzi questi romani! These Romans are crazy!" But nonostante tutto questo, Rome is truly a beautiful city. Some examples of why we were jealous:

First, there were trees lining the streets, orange trees. With oranges.
Then there was a library with many comfortable nooks to read and study and a courtyard filled with...more orange trees! Plus an exhibit on street culture and graffiti.
The libreriacafè: Rome seems to enjoy stopping for a coffee and a book, unlike Milan, where when I asked my friend if there was a book bar like La Citè in Florence he said "Hmm, yes, I think there was, but it closed because no one wanted to sit around."
The clouds. In Milan, a cloudy day is a drizzly, miserable commitment, you're in for the gray, long haul. In Rome, clouds were a morning affair, a pause in an afternoon of sunshine, and evening shower. And the shades of gray even varied.
Trastevere, a wonderful neighborhood on the other side of the Tiber with winding streets and a beautiful central piazza.
The food. We ate out at two different osterie where we slurped up delicious cacio e pepe and munched fried carciofi and gnocchi with wine and amari.
Street musicians! A Dixieland jazz band in the middle of Villa Borghese! A trio of middle-aged Italians playing la tarantella in Piazza Spagna with tamburri and accordion just for the hell of it!

Speaking of musicians and food, our last night we ate out at a restaurant in Trastevere called l'Antico Moro. The food, as I mentioned, was delicious and inexpensive, the waiters were friendly in their hurry and made delightful expressions of exasperation and playfulness. The menu said "gnocchi freschi fatti in casa ogni giovedì" so it being giovedì I ordered gnocchi. The waitress's eyes widened theatrically and she asked me to wait a moment. She trotted to the kitchen where we could hear her yell into the door, "Ehi! It's Thursday, eh! Did you make them?" She returned, exhaling, "Yes, we have the gnocchi."

Later a huge group of people ranging from teenaged to retired marched in and sat at four tables in our part of the restaurant. I thought they might be a big Roman family eating out for the befana, but we eventually found out that they were veneti and that they had arrived at the trattoria in a big tour bus. Turns out, their tour agency had also hired a typical Roman folk singer (in realtà from Abruzzo) to serenade them alla romana, and we got to benefit.

This guy entered teasing and playing with the veneti, choosing various members of the group to pick on. He quickly allied himself with a long-faced vecchietto Marco, who enthusiastically sung along to every other line (and later saluted me with an "Adios!"). He would start loud and determined and then trail off as he forgot the words and then riprendere il filo when he remembered again. The folk singer sang "Quanto sei bella Roma" and "Roma, nun fa' la stupida stasera" and even some stornelli. For each chorus of the the vulgar, playful stornelli he serenaded specific people, choosing F and I as the two innamorati and then telling F to explain the dialect and double entendres to me later. We concluded with a big singalong of "Arrivederci Roma":

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