Tuesday, January 28, 2020


Wednesday January 29, 2020
Sunny 58°F/14°C in Cedar Park, Texas, USA
Partly Cloudy 60°F/16°C in Roma, Lazio, Italia

And, suddenly, it was over! My more than two months in the City of Echoes (la città degli echi) was behind me, and I was aboard a Delta jetliner headed toward New York’s JFK International Airport on the first leg of my flight home to the Austin, Texas area and my cozy apartment in Cedar Park. During 2019 I had  spent more than four months as a resident of the eternal city. Actually, I hadn’t planned to return to Rome until the late Spring. But, that all changed with Michael and Laura’s announcement that their first child – a boy – would be born in November. Well now! I would HAVE to be back for THAT EVENT! So, even though I had just arrived, I had to begin making plans to come back!
Alexander Botula

And so, I did! After suffering along with millions of other Europeans through a heat wave of epic proportions in the early summer, I returned to my second home city on November 21, 2019 planning to stay through the Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year holidays along with my birthday on January 17th and fly back to Texas on January 22nd. The weather – which had been over 105°F/40°C at times – had turned rainy and cold since I had been gone. Our first stop after Michael picked me up at Fiumicino International Airport was to make a beeline for Michael and Laura’s to meet my new grandson, Alexander Botula. There, I met the little bundle of joy who was to play an important part in my life for the next two months. As I held him in my arms, I could visualize a similar experience 45 years before, when I held Alexander’s father in my arms for the first time. Son, grandson…it was a testimony to the continuing cycle of life!

In our effort to find an apartment for me on short notice, we reached out to everyone that I had rented from in the past, starting with Stefania, my landlady on Viale Oscar Sinigaglia, but that apartment was no longer available for short-term vacation rental. My friend Mohamed’s place on Viale Cesare Pavese was also booked. Then, I called Amina whose cozy little place I had rented several times. Another strikeout – she had reserved it for her family members who were coming from Paris for the holidays. But, Amina had a friend – Maria, who had an apartment a few blocks away. She would check on my behalf as to availability.  Sure enough, word came back about a week later that the apartment would be available at a special rate because I was a friend of Amina’s. Problem solved, I thought, until two weeks before my departure date, when Maria called me to say that the contactors she hired to renovate the apartment would miss their deadline and Maria’s apartment wouldn’t be available after all. Since I had purchased my non-refundable plane ticket, I was suddenly in a very big bind.

Several days later, my son called to tell me that he had put a deposit on a place just off Viale Cesare Pavese – the notorious Vittorini Penthouse – whose shortcomings have been recounted in an earlier Rome Diary! And so, my adventure came full circle with my move to Via Laurentina 605. It was the ideal, if expensive, solution to the problem. The new apartment came complete with an affable pair of new landlords – Cristiano and Delia. Cristiano spoke the better English of the couple, but Delia and I soon made good use of the translators on our IPhones. Soon, we were chattering like magpies. She would come in to clean the apartment every week. The result was that the place was nearly always spotless.   After all the anxiety of getting shut out of one apartment and having to flee another, I had found the perfect place.

I then sent Mohamed a message asking when he would be in Rome. As it turned out, he would not be in Rome until December 24th. Marsha would be traveling back to the States in mid-December. There would be no December Rome Comedy Night this year. So three of my close friends would either be traveling during the holidays or they wouldn’t arrive for several weeks. As a result, I saw an awful lot of Michael and Laura and the baby during my first several weeks in Rome

Amina in Vietnam
Wasting no time after all of the anxiety of my first days in Rome, I called Amina and invited her for coffee. We met in front of my apartment and immediately adjourned to a nearby bar for caffè. She would host her family for the following week, she told me, whereupon she would follow them to Paris for Christmas and the New Year. She would return to Rome briefly, then she would be off for a holiday in Vietnam, of all places. Bottom line: we would probably not be meeting up for coffee after that evening. But, in the next breath, I agreed to be her guest for lunch the following day, at her place of employ – FAO – the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization. FAO is one of the largest employers in Rome – 11,500 scattered throughout the city. Nearly 4,000 people, including my friend work in the massive complex built by Benito Mussolini during the 1930’s as his colonial headquarters. The complex overlooks the Circo Massimo! And so, the following day, I stepped aboard the bus that stops conveniently in front of my building, to be whisked to the Laurentina Metro Station and the subway ride to Circo Massimo and lunch with Amina in the rooftop cafeteria overlooking the oval track where Ben-Hur raced in an epic contest!

Thanksgiving is not an Italian holiday!  But, my son has brought the holiday with him. This year,
Family Birthday Celebration
Michael ordered two turkeys. One to smoke Texas-style in his smoker, and the other one to deep-fry.  The Italian word for turkey is tacchino. Two turkeys are tacchini. We had duè tacchini at our Thanksgiving, primarily because with little Alexander’s arrival, the family has a lot to be thankful for this year! Christmas and the New Year passed in similar fashion, small, intimate gatherings with family and friends. Since Laura and I have birthdays which are two days apart, this was cause for a special celebration. And so, it was back to Tiziana and Pino’s apartment for the celebration. After a hearty Italian lunch – a special birthday cake was brought out and everyone joined together in singing Happy Birthday to Laura and me – in Italian, of course!

A few days later, I would board a plane for the flight back to Texas, and my other home.

[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 more about Mike Botula at www.mikebotula.com...now with Google Translator for our international audience!]

© By Mike Botula 2020

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