“E’ caldo!” My driver from the airport exclaimed this more than once as he took me through the highway and streets of Rome to my home for the next 8 weeks. It was humid outside, very humid, but it seemed to me that it is expected to complain about the weather- as is common in most places, but the difference here is that my driver was complaining while wearing a long sleeved shirt. Wanting to keep the conversation going, I asked if Rome gets a lot of rain this time of year. The driver hemmed and hawed and proceeded to tell me a detailed account of the year round weather patterns, all with the conclusion that all I had to do was look and see how green the trees were! There is rain enough, look and see how green everything is!! I did look, and I did see that the trees were green and that the flowers bloomed. But maybe the dried up leaves fallen to the ground and the crunchy brown grass didn’t matter. Rome is green and flowering.
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It is interesting if not exciting for an Italian when you tell them that you study their history. They are very proud of their Roman Empire, and should be since it was the height of their civilization. So when I say that I studied Classics to whomever asked, their eyes light up and they smile patriotically satisfied that they do not have to convince me of the greatness of Italy. But, as it turns out, Italians love to talk, and their love of speech overrides their memory. It is not a second past that excited gleam in their eye that they start their “tourist talk”, or the tour guide speech they make to anyone who is not Italian, or probably even Roman for that matter. “All roads lead to Rome.” I was told recently after my educational revelation. “You know the saying, yes? Do you know why this is?” Why yes, yes I do. “Because the Roman Empire built roads all over the country and all of them returned back to the capitol city, the best city, Roma.” Thanks, I passed four years of undergraduate without knowing that. But there is no sarcasm intended, these people are just very excited to talk, and talk about the good ‘ol days they do. My Roman interlocutee continued as we passed by a Gypsy beggar. “These gypsies are everywhere, on all streets. 80% of them are criminals, no, seriously! Gypsies come from Romania, you know that? It used to be a part of the Roman Empire. In the center of Roma, Adriana built a tower showing how he conquered them.”
“Yes he did, they were the Dacians back then.”
“They were called Dacians. And today they wander the streets begging.” Right. I just said that. But please, tell me again, you obviously enjoy it so much, I’ll just smile and nod and pretend like I’m hearing it for the very first time.