Rome Diary V -Il Mio Ritorno alla Città degli Echi! 

Museo Capitolini "OUCH!"

My Return to the City of Echoes! .... I'M BACK!

Michael Botula, Mike Botula, Laura Tomei a Pranzo!
My View: Via Oscar Sinigagli 31

When the Moon Hits Your Eye Like-a Big Pizza Pie!

DIARIO DI ROMA V

Wednesday June 19, 2019

Sunny 88°F/31°C in Roma, Latium, Italia

Buonagiornata,

 

My buddy of longstanding – Roger Aldi gets a well-deserved credit for the title of this installment of my Rome Diary. Roger and I toiled long ago in the newsroom at KRLA, Pasadena under our erstwhile News Director Ron Robertson, whom I had known from my San Francisco days at KFOG radio, and he worked for archrival KPEN. So, that means that Roger and I worked together back in 19-ought-71. (I no longer refer to my friends of longstanding as old friends any longer, because, at my advanced age…they keep dropping like flies!) So, here’s the story of how my title came to be.

 

I was having dinner with my once and future Rome landlady, Mia, last Sunday night when I happened to look over the parapet of her top-floor terrace and gazed upon the largest moon I had ever seen in my life. I was so moved by the sight, that I unholstered my IPhone camera, and squeezed off a series of photos, which I posted on Facebook, the minute I returned to my own top-floor apartment. The next evening, I looked out from my own balcony and saw an even BIGGER moon. (They don’t even have moons that size in TEXAS!) I duly snapped another series of photos and duly posted another picture on Facebook under the title Moonlight In Roma II. In response, my buddy of longstanding – Roger - posted When the Moon Hits Your Eye, Like-a Big-a Pizza Pie…that’s Amore! That song was a hit for the late, great Dean Martin many more years ago than I care to remember.

 

Speaking of more years ago than I care to remember, the Città di Roma is fast approaching it’s 3,000th Anniversary! (Put another candle on YOUR birthday cake!) To honor the occasion, my son the tour guide loaned me his personal copy of historian Mary Beard’s scholarly tome, SPQR. (Senatus, Populusque Romanus – The Senate and the People of Rome!) I quickly purchased the Kindle version of the book and downloaded to my IPad so I could avoid lugging the actual book around. To this day, you can see SPQR emblazoned on every manhole cover in Roma. In truth, Benito Mussolini had a lot to do with wanting to restore the Roman Empire to its previous glory days during his heyday back in the 1930s. In fact, massive archaeological excavations dot the city along with massive examples of architettura fascista that still dot the landscape of Rome, especially in the neighborhood known as EUR, which was established specifically for Il Duce’s ill-fated quest for glory – The 1940 Rome World’s Fair. Too bad that Mussolini’s buddy, the German, spoiled everything for Il Duce, by invading Poland and starting World War Two, in September 1939. Mussolini had drained the massive swamp that covered what is now EUR, and everything, to prepare for HIS big show, but Hitler upstaged Mussolini with disastrous consequences, ultimately, for both. But, in terms of the History of Rome, WW2 passed in the flick of an eye.

 

My Italian teacher, Patrizia would be happy to know that I seem to be getting along in the language better on this trip than I have in the past. Since I finished Patrizia’s class last semester, I’ve signed up for Duolingo Plus, which involves a small fee, so I can practice my vocabulary every day. Then, I have the Google Translator on my IPhone, IPad and computer. I have a few key phrases on my IPhone so I can at least alert a stranger that I’m still learning the language. Italians, like Spanish speakers tend to talk faster than me, so I’m still taking baby steps with the language. I can go shopping for groceries, order at a restaurant comfortably now, but when I need to do a specific task at a neighborhood shop, I prepare the appropriate phrases with the translator. Now, I can get tickets for the bus or Metro at the Tabaccaio or buy more time for my internet service. For example, before I had dinner with Mia on Sunday, I stopped at the flower shop on way, as is the European custom, to buy her a plant. Knowing that she likes orchids, I crafted my request orchid, feeling proud.

 

I’ve rented Mia’s apartment several times now through Airbnb. Mia is Moroccan by birth and has now lived a considerable length of time in Italy. She speaks four languages including Arabic, French, Italian and English. She is, by far, one of the most interesting people I’ve met since I’ve been coming to Rome.  I now have a repertoire now of three apartments that I can stay at when I’m in Rome. I like the neighborhood. It’s within walking distance of Michael and Laura and 30 minutes from the center of Rome by Metro. (Just like when I used to live in Queens and would catch a bus or subway into Manhattan). Another apartment is owned by a retired Tunisian diplomat named Mohamed who lives in Rome part of the year and rents his place out when he is not in Rome. Last year I decided at the last minute to stay for another month, but Mia’s place was already booked, so we shopped around and found Mohamed’s apartment right down the street. This year, BOTH places were booked by the time I was ready to travel, but Laura was able to find a place to hang out for two months, close to the other two apartments in the same neighborhood, which I have come like very much. My third apartment – the one I’m staying in this time is owned by a woman who lives in Sweden. She has her brother and sister look after it when she’s not in Rome.

 

I like to stay for extended visits, in a place of my own choosing. I find my hosts to be more welcoming, and I am free to come and go as I please. Mia, for example, is rated as a Super Host by Airbnb. She gets consistently good reviews from renters for her hosting skills and the cleanliness and convenience of her apartment.  On the Airbnb website, her apartment is listed under: ROME, E.U.R. Comfort For Two.

 

A few years ago, I even flew to Amsterdam to visit an old flame. The years had passed, and we were both single again. It was a great visit, and she is gone now, but the days we had together, at that moment in our lives was indeed a treasure. Now, I have a craving to take my son and visit my grandparents’ hometown in the Czech Republic. But it is not to be this trip. Michael is simply too busy with his own work.

 

Too many people visit Italy on their holiday without really experiencing the people or the country. Since my   first visit in 2005, I have been to Florence, Naples, Milan, Pisa, Venice and points in between like Sabina and Pompeii. I have gotten to know some key members of Rome’s expatriate community, like Marsha De Salvatore, the one-woman powerhouse behind Rome’s Comedy Club. Marsha started her brand of ex-pat humor in Rome and is now expanding the concept. As she says, First stop Naples! Look out Firenze and Bologna! Marsha is already on tour with her one-woman comedy show up and down the length of Italy.

 

I am meeting some wonderful and interesting people here in Rome. Each new day is an adventure.

More, in the next exciting chapter of my Rome Diary Cinque (5).

Ciao!

MikeBo

 

[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]

 

© By Mike Botula 2019

My Landlady in EUR - "Mia"

The Week That Was!

DIARIO DI ROMA V

Wednesday June 12, 2019

Sunny 85°F/29°C in Roma, Latium, Italia

Buonagiornata,

 

(Writer’s Note:  I have been senza internet – without internet service since last Friday, hence the delay in posting my Rome Diary. Explanation to follow!)

Prima Domenica (My First Sunday)

I was rather rudely awakened from my jet-lagged induced slumber early on my first Sunday morning in Roma, by the roar of low-flying jet aircraft near to my top floor apartment. Since Fiumicino International Airport is not too far away, I wrote the sound off to some changes in the airport’s take-off pattern and momentarily ignored the sound. It wasn’t until the third or fourth time that the tranquility of my Sunday was interrupted by the jet noise, that I even thought to look through the glass door to my top-floor balcony. There, in precise formation, was a squadron of the Italian Air Force’s precision aerobatic team, the Frecce Tricolori!  The Frecce Tricolori is the Italian Air Force’s equivalent to the U.S. Navy’s Blue Angels, or the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds, both of which I have seen perform. So, I stood transfixed watching the Frecce Tricolori demonstrate the maneuvers that make them one of the top aerobatic teams in the world, over the city of ROMA! Obviously, the pilots were concentrating on their close quarter flying skills on this Sunday morning practice flight. There was not any trace of the colors they normally favor when Frecce Tricolori cast their multi-color smoke across the skies to form the Italian Tricolor flag across the heavens. No. On this recent Sunday morning, the pilots’ thoughts were focused on the basics of close formation flying, and none of their theatrics. But what a show they put on, just with their basics! Later, when I mentioned my early Sunday air show experience, my daughter-in-law, Laura, told me they were probably rehearsing for the Liberation Day festivities in Roma.

 

Please forgive my little side notes in Italiano, but I am in ROMA, and what’s more, I AM attempting to learn the lingo in these here parts.  I am NOT trying to infuriate some yokel whose life’s mission is to exhort all who are living in the US of A to SPEAK AMERICAN! I am, however, trying to learn the language, so that if I move here to live out, what I hope will be my long life, I will be able to chat up my new neighbors. So that is my reason for the occasional sprinkling of Italian in my Rome Diaries. Capisci?

Venerdì Scorso (Last Friday)

I was having a second cup of coffee at my apartment and admiring the view from my balcony when the tranquility of the day was interrupted by the insistent buzz of my cell phone. It was my son, Michael inviting me to join him as he took his dog, Sofia, for a walk. I replied in the affirmative, and moments later, he texted me from downstairs that my chariot awaited. I quickly went through my usual ritual of locking my apartment. (With practice, it takes me only TEN minutes, now). And, off we went for a ride through the countryside, until we came to Parco Regionale Appia Antica, which has the Via Appia, the Apian Way, ancient Rome’s first highway as its centerpiece. La Via Appia once ran from the Roman Forum…350 miles south…to modern day Brindisi. Contrary to popular myth, as my tour guide son delights in telling his guests, the saying is NOT All roads lead TO Rome, but, All roads lead FROM Rome! As the Roman Empire expanded, Roman engineers connected the new colonies with home base through a network of military highways, that quickly became useful for commerce, like Germany’s autobahnen or our own Interstate Highway System.

Narrow by modern standards, roads like the Appian Way were the superhighways of Antiquity, two thousand years ago. Along some parts, the original paving stones can still be seen, complete with the deep grooves worn by countless chariots and wagons over the centuries. Along this stretch of the Appian Way, modern villas share the landscape with the ruins of ancient tombs and towers.

Rome’s Comedy Club

For me, no trip to Rome is complete without a visit to Marsha De Salvatore’s brainchild and gathering place for English-speaking expatriates from around the world. Marsha Cincinnati, as she likes to be called, is the driving force behind Rome’s Comedy Club, which convenes monthly at the Makai Surf and Tiki Bar, which is a short walk from the Piramide Metro Station, (which is how I measure distance in Rome). Among his other talents, Michael has done his stand-up comedy routine several times with Marsha’s troupe of regulars.  In addition to being the motivating force behind Rome’s Comedy Club, Marsha is on tour up and down the Italian peninsula with her own one-woman show. Marsha’s audience is drawn from Rome’s large ex-pat community, but all are welcome at her shows. The routines are always changing, as are the comics who may come and go, depending on their own career tracks, but are always welcome to return to try out a new routine, or simply renew old acquaintances.

Sabato Scorso (Last Saturday)

How have I managed to NOT mention No Funny Stuff! until now?  Well, my son and his three Italian buddies have not performed since my arrival. This night, the Pride of Italy Jug Band, is doing a benefit performance at a symposium on “Saving the Planet Through Recycling.” (My words, not theirs). Since No Funny Stuff builds its own instruments out of life’s leftovers like olive oil cans and old suitcases, not to mention the bells and washboards …. It seemed like a great idea for a symposium on recycling. So, there I was, in the front row snapping pictures, while the dialogue swirled around me … in ITALIAN!

Well, No Funny Stuff! will be performing in Switzerland this weekend, since their van only holds the four of them and their equipment, I will be stay behind in Rome. But I can’t help but wonder how the Swiss customs officials will react when they spot all that recycling that makes up the No Funny Stuff!  instrument collection.

Giovedi (Thursday)

Took the Metro down to Colosseo to meet Michael for lunch during one of his tour breaks. The famous Flavian Amphitheater is just steps away from the Metro Station. I had taken the Metro train down from the Laurentina Metro Station, and I arrived slightly before my son showed up. So, I did what any other tourist would do. I sat on a nearby wall and people-watched until Michael showed up. In front of me, signs on a construction fence informed that the front of the Coliseum would soon host the site of Il Colosseo’s new terminal for the long-awaited Linea C, the Rome Metro’s “C Line.” The new subway line has been delayed for years because the excavation work has unearthed thousand of ancient artifacts. So much so, that any time there is digging, an archaeological team watches closely to assess whatever may be found.

The Coliseum is probably one of Rome’s greatest tourist attraction. It was the first place I headed on my first trip to Rome in 2005, and I’ve been since many times since then.  Each time, Michael has managed to dispel some of the myths that have been woven into the fabric of its history. For instance; while gladiators did fight to the death, and condemned criminals were torn to shreds by wild animals, most of the persecution of early Christians took place at nearby Circo Massimo, the Circus Maximus, the site of Charlton Heston’s great chariot race in the movie Ben-Hur! (Don’t forget the silent film version starring Ramon Navarro). Another tid-bit: A thumbs down by the Emperor did NOT signify the death penalty for the hapless gladiator. That was reserved for thumbs UP. And a thumb displayed to the side meant Ugula. If that sign was displayed, it meant that the hapless combatant would quickly be dispatch by a quick slash to his Jugular!                                                                

Following my briefing on the finer points of gladiatorial combat, we walked over to a restaurant called Propaganda, where we ordered two tasty salads and a bottle of mineral water.  Later on we stopped for an ice cream at a gelateria on our way back to the Metro. My adventure by subway to Roma Centro was complete!

Ci vediamo! (See you soon!)

Ciao,

MikeBo

 

[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]

© By Mike Botula 2019

"No Funny Stuff" Playing A Benefit!
My Front Door!

La Casa di un Uomo ѐ il Suo Castello!

DIARIO DI ROMA V

Wednesday May 29, 2019

Partly Cloudy 64°F/18°C in Roma, Latium, Italia

Buonagiornata,

 

First of all, Tanti Auguri e Buon Compleanno to my daughter Dana Lynne on her completion of another orbit around the sun! Happy Birthday, Mia Cara! May you have many more!

 

And now, on with my Rome Diary! The next time you see a Detective Danny Reagan, or any other TV cop effortlessly break down a door using his shoulder or his leg, allow me to show you MY door to my Rome apartment. Now that’s a real door! There’s no opening my Rome door with a credit card. No sir! There are F-I-V-E…count’em… Cinque …. deadbolts built into this steel entryway portal!  It’s the perfect addition to a masonry wall.  (I guess they’re serious in these parts when they say, a man’s home is his castle! Back home a front door is lucky to boast one dead bolt and a chain lock (flimsy). A movie about New York City, however, always gets a chuckle with the display of multiple deadbolts mounted vertically on the inside of the door. I think Italians are more artistic. They build the deadbolts into the door. And, it’s always a steel door. It takes me the better part of five minutes just to lock and unlock my door as I come and go. And if that weren’t enough, each window is covered by the built-in steel shutters the Germans call Rölladen. Behind this security screen, a guy can feel quite safe in this big city. Add to that, that I live on the top floor of a seven-story building, it feels pretty safe around here. But then, Rome is considered one of the safest cities in the world. The only time I feel nervous in my comings and goings are the inevitable trips in the apartment buildings’ claustrophobic elevator. Snug doesn’t even begin to describe it.

 

I’ve mentioned that I was once a first-time traveler, too. But now, since I will be in Rome a little more than two months, I am going to take advantage of the fact that my son is one of the finest guida turisticas  in the city, to visit some of the high points I missed during those frenzied first days in  Rome.  If you bear in mind that Roma has been functioning as a city, through good times and bad for more than twenty-seven hundred years, then you will appreciate the section known as Testaccio, Rome’s ancient Tiber River trading  center, which is just a short distance upstream from the equally ancient Port of Ostia Antica, which in itself is another jewel in Rome’s treasure chest of places  to see. Laura and Michael took me to lunch at the Mercato Testaccio, an immense open-air food court designed to dazzle the street food aficionado! The   These days, the wine and olive oil that are still traded here are more likely to be brought to market on trucks in glass bottles from around the European Union, than they are shipped by barge from Ostia Antica in large, terra cotta amphorae as they were more than 2,000 years ago.

 

Once they were used, the amphorae were discarded at a dumpsite adjacent to Testaccio. Over the centuries, the amphorae broke apart under the weight until a large, mountainous pile of terra cotta shards was formed. Today, trees cover the terra cotta mountain, and, it has a name – Monte dei Cocci! Instead of recycling as modern-day Romans are expected to do, they were merely tossed on what has become a huge archaeological site. Nestled beneath Monte dei Cocci is Il Mattatoio al Testaccio, a more contemporary slaughterhouse dating back to only the latter 19th and first three-quarters of the 20th centuries. Il Mattatoio is being recycled for use by the University of Rome’s Architecture and Engineering Schools and an exhibition hall for a Museum of Contemporary Art.

 

I think I’ve told you about the Italians and their disdain for dryers among their appliances. The apartment I’m renting through Airbnb has been newly renovated with all new appliances, EXCEPT for a dryer to accompany my new washer and dishwasher and other new appliances. Instead, a folding clothes-drying rack was left in my closet along with a random collection of clothes pins. For guys like me, who are old enough to remember their mom running a load of laundry through the rollers of an old-fashioned agitator washing machine, and then hanging everything on a clothesline in the back yard, this is not a real big deal. BUT, to most Americans, it is. So fair warning, my fellow Americans. Don’t say I didn’t warn you!

 

My language skills are definitely improving, thanks in large part to my tireless insegnante di italiano, Patrizia Papi, at the adult education center at Austin Community College and my daily practice sessions on the on-line app Duolingo Plus. This week, when Laura made an appointment for me at a manicurist for me in my new neighborhood, I was able to communicate well enough to guide the cosmetician through both a manicure and a pedicure. For instance, when she spotted my missing toe, I was able to assure her that I am NOT diabetic, but the missing toe fell victim to an infection after a blister broke following four days of walking all over Venezia! I was able to tell the lady that I now live near my daughter and five grandchildren in Texas. (She really perked up when I mentioned TEXAS, as if there is some special mystique for Italians that Texas has that is not shared by California or New York). I have advanced from total ignorance of the language, as in Io non parlo italiano, (I don’t speak Italian) to Sto appena iniziando a parlare italiano. (I am just beginning to speak Italian). My plea of Dov ѐ il bagno, (where is the bathroom?) has softened into Scusami. Posso avere usare il bagno. (Excuse me. May I use the bathroom?)

 

Last evening after Laura drove Michael and I downtown to Roma Centrale for an informal meet-and-greet with a group of mutual ex-pat friends, we taxied back to my neighborhood for dinner. Along the way, Michael pointed out that the ristorante we were going to was fewer than 300 meters from my apartment. And, so it came to pass that I was able to experience Osterìa Pizzeria NURAGHE! As in any Ristorante, dinner is served in courses. We opted for pasta from the Primi, meat skewers from the Secondi, and the Salate di Polpo (squid) from a selection of Antipasti, along with some salted chips made from Pizza crust. I originally requested the pasta and real clams, but the cameriere told me that that item was very popular and la cucina had just run out of the item. Undaunted, I immediately was persuaded to try pasta di porcini. (Pasta with Porcini mushrooms). The bill for the two of us, including the grande l’acqua frizzante, came to €44.00 ($49 USD).   Il Nuraghe is a small, one-room restaurant with a neighborhood clientele. It was packed with obviously happy diners.  I’ve heard my son tell his tour guide customers at the conclusion of their excursions to get off the tourist track in Rome and go out into the neighborhoods to experience dining out at it’s tastiest! On that, I heartily agree with my son. (Osteria-Pizzeria NURAGHE, via Icilio Bacci 2, Roma).

 

Next time, another small adventure of an American traveler loose in Rome. For now,

Caio,

MikeBo

 

[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]

 

© By Mike Botula 2019

The View From My Apartment - Viale Oscar Sinigaglia

Getting Settled!

DIARIO DI ROMA V

Thursday (Giovedi) May 23, 2019

Sunny 69°F/20°C in Roma, Latium, Italia

Buonagiornata,

 

It always takes me a few days to get over my jet lag on a transatlantic flight! Never mind that I saw Dr. Young twice for what turned out to be a bad cold mixed in with my allergies. Then there is the acclimating that’s needed moving into a new apartment.  I have a top floor apartment that my son found on Airbnb. I’ve had good luck with Airbnb. It’s the third apartment I’ve rented…. In a nice neighborhood close to Michael and Laura. Stefania, the lady that owns the place, just renovated it with all-new appliances and dual-pane windows.

 

Il sesto piano…the sixth floor…sits seven stories above a quiet street lined with those ubiquitous Umbrella Pines that seem to be everywhere around Rome. Respighi immortalized them in his symphonic work The Pines of Rome. The effect for me is overlooking an urban forest from my front door.  The neighborhood is in the EUR district, about 35 minutes by Metro from Roma Centrale, the historical heart of the Eternal City. EUR was developed under Benito Mussolini as the site for the 1940 World’s Fair. But, while Il Duce famously drained the swamp that EUR was best known for at the time, World War Two broke out and Mussolini’s World’s Fair died on the drawing board. EUR itself survived and is now a bustling borough of the city.

 

I’ve metamorphosed from first-time tourist in 2005, when I first arrived in Rome expecting to visit Naples, Pompeii, Florence and Venice in ten days, to the present and my status as a part-time resident. I’m limited only by the 90-day window that comes with a European Union tourist visa. From day one, the kids have lobbied hard to persuade me to move here full time. That’s a tempting thought, and one that was very far from my mind just a few years ago.

 

One thing that I did in settling into my new digs – change out the old, one-cup-at-a-time percolator style coffee pot for a brand-new Nespresso coffee maker. You know, the type that George Clooney touts in those TV commercials. I’ll just leave it with Mike and Laura until I come back to Rome. I did that with my laptop computer and a suitcase full of clothes last year. If you’re Italian, and you grow up with a coffee pot like that, it’s one thing! But if you’re an American who grew up on the likes of Mr. Coffee, then an Italian-style coffee pot is going to be way beyond your abilities.  The same of cultural chasm exists between what most Americans consider a good, full cuppa cawfee, and what most Italians do, and we have G.I. Joe to thank for the course correction. Back during  the latter days of World War Two, when Rome was aswarm with thousands of American soldiers all looking for sex and coffee (not necessarily in THAT order), the GI’s decided that they would have to drink at least eight of the demi-tasse cups that the Italians drank from to get just ONE American-style cuppa cawfee out of the deal.  And so, another wartime compromise was negotiated between the occupiers and the occupied and Caffé Americano was born.  Now when I go into a bar, trattoria or ristorante, I can get a full cup of Joe. Since I drink my coffee black with a little sweetener, I order a Caffѐ Americano nero, con dolcificante.

 

Michael and Laura popped around noon to pick me up for a stroll around my new neighborhood and to have a spot of pranzo (lunch). Since, the sun had decided to make an appearance after several days of thunderstorms, a pleasant stroll was had by all, even Sofia, Mike and Laura’s black Volpino. Knowing that I am good for a few random table scraps, Sofia nestled her muzzle on my leg and looked up at me with her best feed me gaze. Italians bring their dogs with them everywhere. So, it’s not unusual to see the family pooch in a restaurant, at all.  Back home, the mere sight of a pooch in a restaurant would most likely cause a run on torches and pitchforks. We checked the shops restaurants within a few blocks of my  apartment. Laura wanted to orient me to the location of the Elite Mercato, which lies several short streets away from me. This market is not to be confused with the Elite SUPERMercato which lies beyond the junction of Laurentina and Viale dell’Oceano Atlantico on Via Giacomo Debenedetti.

 

Now, my goal with this series of Rome Diaries, is not to dazzle you with a typical travel log. After all, the likes of Rick Steves and Samantha Brown can do that, with much more panache.  Rather, my objective is to target the first-time traveler who has taken the kind of tour that drags a poor tourist through 15 cities in 12 days and leaves him or her wondering, Wow! What a vacation! The castles. The ruins. The museums. The wine. The food. And, the people!  Oh! The people! What a wonderful trip! Oh, how I would love to go back THERE! Wait just a minute, Pilgrim! Do you have any idea where THERE is?  That was ME on my very first trip to Italy. I had just two weeks, during which – I figured – I  could visit Rome and Pompeii, see Naples, hop the high speed train to Florence, with a side trip to Pisa, and wrap it up in Venice, AND be back in Rome in time to catch my flight back to California. PS: I never left Rome! Too many interesting things to do in Rome. Besides, my son is one of the best tour guides in Rome. So, it was a no-brainer. In 2013, I came for Christmas and stayed nearly three months. That was where we started following a pattern where I would rent a place of my own. So. Life in the Big City – Roman Style! It’s designed for the first-time traveler who want to go back. IF he can figure out where THERE is!

Caio,

MikeBo

 

 

[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]

 

© By Mike Botula 2019

Figlio E Padre Al Colosseo!

DIARIO DI ROMA V:

Il Mio Ritorno alla Città degli Echi!

Sunday May 5, 2019

Sunny 61°F/16°C in Roma, Latium, Italia

Sunny 80°F/27°C in Cedar Park, Texas

Buonagiornata,

Rome: City of Echoes!

The complete quote is one of my favorites. It was written about a thousand years ago by the Renaissance painter Giotto di Bondone, on his first journey to the Eternal City. Giotto observed, Roma è la città degli echi, la città delle illusioni e la città dell'anelito. (Rome is the city of echoes, the city of illusions, and the city of yearning).

And, I’m returning to my little corner of it!

Last year, I left one of my suitcases with Michael and Laura along with my fancy walking stick and my laptop computer. Now, I won’t have to pack so much. Going along with Ben Franklin’s wise saying about having company, Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days, I don’t impose on Michael and Laura any more than I have to. We usually book a small place nearby through Airbnb, and I’ve managed to book a couple of gems. They’re both close together in a neighborhood that I’ve gotten to know well. And, my hosts are both jewels. Mia, whose apartment I’ve rented several times now, is a Moroccan lady who speaks several languages. Mohamed, whose apartment I stayed in during a rare Roman snowstorm, is  a retired Tunisian diplomat who speaks French and Italian as well as his native language.

I love the diversity of any great city, and I’ve hung my hat at various times in New  York City (where I was born), San Francisco, Los Angeles, Berlin (on both sides of the wall), Amsterdam and Frankfürt. Since I’ve been traipsing to Italy, I’ve added Rome, Florence, Venice, Milan and Naples to my bucket list.  As Mark Twain once said, Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one's lifetime! Amen to that, Mr. Clemens!

I don’t drive anywhere in Italy. Roman drivers have a hard-earned reputation for being hair-raising behind the wheel, and the city abounds with round-a-bouts, those traffic circles left over from antiquity. And Napolitano drivers are crazier than the Romans. I found drivers in Milan to be the most considerate. The Milanese will actually surrender the right-of-way to pedestrians. In Rome and Naples, it’s always open season on pedestrians. Instead, I rely on Rome’s public transit system. It’s just a 15 minute walk from either apartment to the Laurentina Metro station, last stop on  Linea B, which stops at the Circus Maximus and Coliseum before reaching the major transfer point at Termini, Rome’s central train terminal. For intercity travel, I heartily suggest Italy’s high-speed rail service. Either Trenitalia or Italotreno can whisk you in hours to Naples or Florence, Bologna or Venice at speeds approaching 200 miles an hour.

On my first visit to Italy back in 2005, I thought two-and-a-half weeks would be more than enough time to see all the sights. And so, I sketched out plans to see Rome and Pompeii, and then head north to Florence and Venice, with a side trip to Pisa to see the leaning tower. Wow! Was THAT ever wishful thinking in the extreme! I never got out of Rome. Too much to see and do in Roma. I made another trip in 2009 for two-and-a-half weeks, and this time got to see Pompeii. But, the life changer came late in 2013, when I came in a time of great personal upheaval and spent nearly three months. After a few weeks, my son came to me and said, Pop, you’re welcome to stay forever if you want, but we’re going to give each other some more space. And, that’s how I wound up in a studio apartment in nearby Mostacciano. As soon as I was moved in and comfy-cozy, the kids informed me that they were going on a cruise and wouldn’t be back for ten days. I was on my own, thousands of miles from my stomping grounds in California…in a strange city, where I didn’t even speak the language. I was instantly reminded of how my grandparents must have felt when they landed at Ellis Island in 1903 unable to speak a word of English in their Brave, New World! If my grandfather and grandmother could do it, I muttered to myself, so can I! And, so I did. And, what’s more – I never looked back. My new digs was a one-room studio apartment on the eighth floor of an apartment building overlooking the street below. Outside was a large terrace populated by cactus and other desert plants usually found in North Africa or the Sonora Desert of Mexico. My landlady, who spoke perfect English, asked me to water her plants while she was on a month-long holiday in Argentina. That said, she left me to the tender care of her uncle who lived several floors below and spoke not a word of English.

She had a rather large book collection – all in Italian, of course – with the exception of a lone copy of Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons, which I sat down to read with gusto, since I had just seen the movie. Over the next few days, I nervously ventured out of my new apartment to visit the Bancomat at the Post Office across the street; the trattoria and ristorante cinese next to the Post Office. There was also a news stand across the street where I could purchase biglietti – tickets for the bus or Metro, and a supermarket up the hill to the right of my building, where I could buy my groceries. It was a nice, compact neighborhood with stores offering every creature comfort I could want in easy walking distance of my front door. Once I got over the shock of being a stranger in a strange land, I began to feel right at home. By the time that Michael and Laura returned from their cruise, I felt like a native.

It was on that visit to Rome that I began keeping my Rome Diary. It began simply enough, but now, it has morphed into a series of blogs which are posted on my website http://www.mikebotula.com, and carried on Blogspot, Facebook and Twitter. In terms of individuals chapters of Diario di Roma, this is Chapter Five. That experience launched me on a new career as a writer, which serves to keep me healthy and in control of my mental acuity, if not wealthy.

Since 2013, I prefer to visit for at least a month, preferably two or more, and rent a place near Michael and Laura. So, in spite of the fact that roughly five thousand miles separate my son and my daughter, Grandpa is still able to travel back and forth and keep the remaining family ties well-tended. And, speaking of family ties! I would be terribly remiss if I did not introduce you to Laura’s parents, Sergio and Annamaria. They live just a short drive from Michael and Laura, also have a home in nearby Sabina, about an hour’s drive from Rome. It’s where I spent Christmas in 2013, and helped usher in the New Year, 2014. Last year, we all went to see CirCuba together. That’s the National Circus of Cuba, which I would never have seen at home, given the current political climate. Laura also has a sister, Chiara, who lives in another part of Rome with her hubby Maurizio and young daughter Noemi. So, I feel blessed to have, not just one family … but two.

So then – My passport is up-to-date…I have my ticket…have a new suitcase for my trip and everything I need to put in it. Stay tuned, Diario di Roma Cinque:  Il Mio Ritorno alla Città degli Echi! is right around the corner!

Ciao,

MikeBo

 

[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]

 

© By Mike Botula 2019

 

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LST 920: Charlie Botula's Long, Slow Target!

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