Sunday, July 21, 2019

“Honey, I’m Home!”

My Return to the City of Echoes!
Mio Ritorno alla Città degli Echi!
Sunday, July 21, 2019
Domenica, Iuglio 21, 2019
Mostly Sunny  91°F/ 33°C in Roma, Lazio, Italia


Happy Again: Lola and MikeBo
 When my daughter Dana and my grandson Jacob met me at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, it was nearly Midnight in Texas. Between Alitalia and Delta, the two airlines had delivered me back to Texas on the same day that we had left Rome. Fiumicino to Logan International in Boston and then on to Austin, following the sun on its journey westward. I was exhausted, and after a few minutes of conversation, I said Buona notte a mia figlia e mio nipoti, left my suitcase – still unopened in the middle of my living room floor and went to bed.  Just as I drifted off  to dreamland, I remembered that there was several  pounds of formaggio Parmigiano – Parmesan cheese - that Laura’s mom, AnnaMaria had given me to bring home with me still in the unopened suitcase. That realization brought me instantly back to consciousness, because both the TSA baggage inspectors and the U.S. Customs Service frown on contraband of any sort. But, the Parmesan was still in its refrigerator bag, all five pounds of it! I placed the contraband in my fridge and went back to bed!

A few hours later, I woke up again.  So THAT’S how it’s gonna be? I thought to myself. Different bouts of jet lag, or as I personally prefer to call it – circadian rhythm disfunction – affects me in different ways each time I cross several time zones. I had spent two weeks following my arrival in Rome recovering from an overnight flight of fifteen hours duration. Now, following the sun all the way across the Atlantic to Boston affects me differently with each flight. That is why I usually stay in Italy for at least two months. First because it takes at least that long to get over the long, cramped hours in the Economy Section of the jetliner. And secondly, to recover from jet lag. Then, get to do it all over again on the return trip. BUT, you might ask … is it worth it? My answer will always be a resounding YES!

This trip to Rome was, in effect my dress rehearsal for actually living in Italy. The thought of one   
more move in my retirement has been in the back of my mind at least since my divorce in 2013. That was the first time I had spent longer than a couple of weeks in Italy. I decided to go back to a neighborhood I was familiar with in EUR, where Michael and Laura had rented me my first apartment on Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico. Last year, after spending a month at that apartment, I decided to spend another month in Rome, but my landlady, a Moroccan lady named Amina, had already booked the apartment to another party. I wound up booking another apartment nearby on Viale Cesare Pavese from a retired Tunisian diplomat named Mohamed. Both Amina and Mohamed have become close friends. As luck would have it this time, both of their apartments had been booked, so Michael and Laura booked me through Airbnb at a third apartment on nearby Via Oscar Sinigaglia. All three apartments are within easy walking distance of the stores, restaurants and shops that I need to maintain my existence and be physically close to Michael and Laura. I still haven’t made my final decision yet, but I have done all the necessary research. Now, all I need to do is secure a long-term visa from the Italian government to replace the three month tourist visa that I visit with now.

The first week or so, it rained. But, I didn’t mind that too much, because of my jet lag; but then, the weather turned, and a heat wave descended, not just on Rome, but the entire southern region of Europe. Paris saw its high temperatures exceed 114° Fahrenheit (46° Celsius) day after day, with Roma not far behind, nipping at the 100° F, or 38° Celsius day after day. That’s when I said a hearty Thank You to my new landlady, Stefania, when she had the foresight to air condition her apartment when she installed all new appliances prior to listing her apartment with Airbnb. (Air conditioned apartments are at a premium in Rome. Italians apparently put air conditioners in the same category as clothes driers). So, my moving around the city usually was begun at dusk. The primary exception to that was my grocery shopping, which was done early in the morning. Fortunately, there were two Elite Supermercati  within several blocks of the apartment. Depending on the need to visit the BancoMat at Banco Popolare  or the  Tabacchiao for Biglietti  for the bus and Metro, I would choose the closest Elite Supermercato. Back in Texas, I would have to take Lola with me and drive for miles to run much the same errands. If Michael and Laura invited me for dinner, one or the other of them would pick me up. Otherwise, I could cook something up in my apartment, or walk down to the end of the block and grab a bite at the Nuri Bar. Or, I could head down in another direction to Ristorante Nuraghe and see what the specials were. Nuraghe has a garden dining area, which made it especially pleasant after dealing with the heat of the day.

Roman Moon
One evening, Amina invited me over for dinner, partly to apologize for her apartment being booked. On my short walk to her building, I stopped at the little negozio di Fiori and bought an orchid for her collection. Unlike my old apartment on the floor below, my hostess’ place boasts a terrace on the top floor of the building. I explained to her that all I had to do was look out my living room window to catch a glimpse of her building. We dined together on the terrace and were treated to the rise of the largest moon I had seen since Texas.  Amina is originally from Morocco and speaks four languages: Arabic, her first language; French, English and, of course, Italian. I related my studies of French in high school; my seemingly never-ending effort to learn Spanish in night school and college; along with my more recent efforts to master Italian. Why are you so frustrated that you don’t speak Italian better, she asked me? I have spent the past three years taking Patrizia’s classes, I told my hostess, and I practice every day on DuoLingo (on-line teaching tool) but, in everyday conversation, I am limited to just a few words. I guess I either didn’t learn the language when I was young, OR, I winked at her, maybe it’s because I don’t have an Italian girlfriend to practice with. (Did I detect the slightest hint of a blush under her tanned skin?)
No Funny Stuff! at AUR

One of my greatest joys has been band groupie to Michael’s band, No Funny Stuff! Back in Texas, we’d call the ensemble a Jug Band!  Definitely country and western, but with a pronounced Italian flavor. Michael and his buddy Beppe Cassa are tireless promoters. No Funny Stuff! has made countless TV and Radio appearances and have been featured in dozens of newspaper and magazine articles. They’ve performed in concerts from Scandinavia to Slovenia. On the first weekend I was in Rome, No Funny Stuff! was getting ready for a weekend of concerts in Switzerland. Their big ambition is to book a tour in the U.S. and perform at the big South By Southwest Festival in Austin, Texas. During my visit, No Funny Stuff! played gigs at Guidonia, just outside Rome, the Independence Day Festa at the American University of Rome and the Taba Café at Campo de Fiori in Rome. I invited Amina to the 4th of July celebration at A.U.R. and another friend of mine – Alba to the N.F.S. performance at the Taba Café. They both agreed that No Funny Stuff! is FUN!

There was also the usual sightseeing around Rome. Fortunately, the location of my Airbnb apartment played into my plans. I was able to walk twenty minutes to the Laurentina Metro Station, which whisked me to the Circus Maximus, the Coliseum and other Roman sight-seeing high points. Then, I managed to figure out the schedule of the buses that run along Laurentina and my travels became immensely easier. Near the end of my stay, Michael came to my apartment on his scooter, and we traveled together to the Coliseum, where we spent the next few hours walking through the Forum, the ancient Jewish Ghetto, and the Vittorio Emmanuelle Memorial, where Italy’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is enshrined. It was nearly dusk when Laura arrived to pick us up, and we were off to dinner.  Parking the car back at my apartment, the three of us, with Sofia tagging along, headed to Nuraghe and dinner.

This will probably not be my last Rome Diary in the current series. I’m certain to conjure up an additional memory or two. But, I would be woefully remiss if I didn’t thank Laura’s mom and dad for
Dinner by Starlight!
their hospitality. AnnaMaria and Sergio have welcomed me into their family’s life, and for that, I am eternally grateful. A trip to Rome, for me, would be incomplete without a weekend at their second home in Selci, in the neighboring region of Sabina. Michael could stay only for the first night. Since Selci was as hot as Rome, we waited until dusk to fire up the barbecue and work his magic on the grill. He and No Funny Stuff! were off to play at an evening wedding. Laura, Sergio, AnnaMaria and me headed off in the other direction to a neighboring village and a Festa sponsored by the hunting club that Sergio belongs to. Once there, we dined on Cingale, the wild boar that roams the hills around Selci.

Already, I’m thinking of other stories about this particular journey that are trying to escape past my fingers as they skip around my computer keyboard. But, I’ll save them for another time. In terms of word count, I have already exceeded my self-imposed limit of 1,500, so I’ll simply sign off with my signature…

[Mike Botula, the author of LST 920: Charlie Botula’s Long, Slow Target! is a retired broadcast journalist, government agency spokesperson and media consultant.   Mike’s book is available from Amazon Books. You can read the entire Rome Diary series and more about Mike Botula at]

© By Mike Botula 2019

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