ROME DIARY II Sunday July 26, 2015
Low Clouds, then Sunny 85°F/29°C in Rancho Santa Margarita
Not yet! But, soon! (4 Agosto)
|MikeBo's -Junior and Senior|
This trip, I’m catching an Alitalia flight, LA non-stop to Rome. I think I’ve voiced my unhappinessLufthansa when I read that Pope Francis flies Alitalia. I read that and recalled the super efficiency and service of the Vatican Post office. I mailed a handful of postcards at the gift shop in Piazza San Pietro, and they beat me back to the states by a month, not the other way around, as is normal. So, I thought to myself that if the same angels that carry air mail from Rome are handling Alitalia flights with The Holy Father across the Atlantic, I will be in very good hands. Of course, I remembered only after Laura booked my ticket and we paid for it, that Fiumicino Airport had been strike-bound when I landed in Rome the last time. I had to walk more than a mile from the terminal to meet Mike and Laura because the roads in and out of the airport were blocked by a picket line. No worries, though. The Rome newspapers always publish the local union strike schedules, and, Italians being Italians manage to coordinate their labor actions so that the public is not too terribly inconvenienced.at US carriers in other posts so I won’t dwell on the subject. But the European air carriers are still the symbols of a nation’s pride, not just a cash cow for corporate types. I was swayed away from my usual choice of
Italy is a very popular destination for Americans, who already have strong family ties to “the old country.” Not only that, but Italians have a great way of making a visitor feel welcome. Granted, their innate hospitality is stretched a bit these days by all those folks fleeing death and devastation in North Africa and the Middle East. But, I’ve always felt right at home – in Rome. Just like I feel at home in San Francisco or New York City. They are big towns with great neighborhoods.
|Metro Madonna - Bella Alba|
www.citywonders.com). They offer tours in just about every city in Europe. Their prices are competitive and you can avoid the long lines at the most popular attractions. As for getting around the city, when I’m not catching a ride with Mike or Laura, I head for the nearest bus stop or Metro station. Imagine my surprise when a friend sent me a picture from one of the subway stations, and Alba’s face was on one of the ad posters. She manages the gift shop at the Basilica San Clemente and the Capuchin ‘Bone Chapel’. I met her during one of Mike’s tours in Rome last time, and we’ve been sending messages back and forth on Facebook ever since. I’ll talk more about Alba in future postings of Rome Diary II.My handy travel hints include a phone call to your bank. There are a couple of reasons for that. For
|Don't Leave Home|
Right next to your passport, on the table where you are putting things to take on your trip, you will need two small books. The first is Rick Steves’ pocket Italian phrase book and dictionary. The other is Beppe Severgnini’s La Bella Figura – A Field Guide to the Italian Mind. You should study both of them before you head for the airport.
Buon Viaggio, Italian for Travelers. If you live in the Sacramento area, you should check it out. At the very least you should have a phrase book. I happen to be a fan of Rick Steves’, the guy on PBS. (No payola involved). Laura bought me La Bella Figura while I was living in Rome last year. It’s funny before you leave for Italy, and, after you’re there for a while – it’s flat-out hysterical. Italians, especially Romans, definitely have a unique approach to life.
|Read it on the Plane!|
Severgnini’s primer on the Italian mind covers a wide range of topics. But because Mike is now driving like a native Roman and not a Californian, I paid particular attention to Beppe’s thoughts on Italians behind the wheel. Mike and Laura had already explained that Italian drivers have their own interpretation of the rules of the road. A red light does not necessarily mean STOP. Rather, it means you should take your foot off the gas while you make up your mind whether or not to proceed through the intersection. A stop sign in Italy is like a YIELD sign in America, and a YIELD sign means GO, if there’s no one in your path! Then too, there is Roman highway design to consider. The city thoroughfares were laid out almost 2,000 years before traffic lights were invented, so just about every intersection is controlled by a round-about or traffic circle rather than a light. This leads to some very interesting merging techniques. And, as Severgnini points out in his epilogue – pedestrian crossings are there for decoration only. In a restaurant, you can have a glass of wine with lunch and no one will think you are an alcoholic. Oh yes, and this is important! It’s not in the book. It’s my own observation: the family dog is just that – a member of the family. People in Rome bring their dogs out to dinner with them. Americans go ballistic if they see someone else’s pooch off its leash, and bringing your poodle into a restaurant, “Fuggedahbouddit!” Finally, on this subject, Beppe observes that In Italy, motorists, small children, priests and good-looking women do whatever they want to! I’m certainly down with that.
©Mike Botula 2015