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

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

Museo Capitolini "OUCH!"
MikeBo and Lola, the Wonder Poodle!

“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




 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.


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?)


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, with 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 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

Circo Massimo
Alba and MikeBo

The Language Thing!


Sunday July 14, 2019

Thunderstorms 84°F/29°C in Roma, Latium, Italia



In the grand scheme of life…it was bound to happen, sooner or later!


On Thursday, as I waited by the Metro entrance immediately adjacent to the front of the Palazzo Naidi in Piazza della Repubblica waiting for mia amica, Alba, the hotel doorman approached me and asked me something in Italian. Sensing that he was asking why I was waiting, I reached into my shirt pocket for my cell phone and its Google Translator app and asked him for a moment for my answer. When I had composed my answer, I approached him and read my response.  Sto aspettando per una amica, I told him. (I am waiting for female friend). As luck would have it, Alba arrived and showered me with hugs and kisses to both my cheeks in that time-honored Italian manner that I have come to know and love. (Especially when a beautiful woman is administering the hugs and kisses). Alba spoke to the doorman in Italian. He answered her in perfect English. I’m sorry, ma’am! But I don’t speak Italian, as I was trying to explain to your friend. Alba, who speaks beautiful English, responded, but my friend here is an AMERICAN. He is just learning Italian! That’s when I came back into the conversation. Where are you from? I asked the doorman, who by this time was sporting a smile as big as Texas. I am from Gambia and we don’t speak Italian in Gambia! I later discovered, after Googling Gambia, that our doorman comes from a small, west African country that is almost surrounded by Senegal. His native language may be Mandinka, but it’s certainly NOT Italian! As if to cement our new friendship, the doorman asked if he could do anything for us. We asked him to hail a taxi for us. I tipped him, and Alba and I were soon headed to Campo dѐ Fiori.


Alba works at the gift shop at one of the most popular attractions on one of Michael’s tours, the Capuchin Crypts. In the ten years since Michael has been bringing literally hundreds of tourists to see her in the gift shop, Alba has never heard No Funny Stuff perform in person. I met her on one of Michael’s tours some years ago. (She refers to me as her American friend, and I, in return refer to Alba as la mia bellissima amica Italiana). Or Mia Cara Alba on Facebook, which is how I stay in touch with all my Italian friends in between my visits to Rome. So, after a short taxi ride to Campo dѐ Fiori, we were at the Taba Café, all ready for a night of No Funny Stuff.


No Funny Stuff seems to improve with each performance, and the guys were really on their game at the Taba Café. Hearing all the music coming from the Taba, crowds of people started drifting across the Piazza to get closer to the music. Much to the dismay of the other café owners, who were losing their customers to the Taba and No Funny Stuff! So, about fifteen minutes before the band was supposed to finish, somebody called the cops! La Polizia showed up and the music stopped immediately. Apparently one of the other club managers saw nothing funny about all the attention that No Funny Stuff was drawing.


The next evening Michael and Laura called and invited me to join for dinner at the beach in Ostia. An opportunity for me to dine on the shore of the Mediterranean doesn’t come too frequently in Texas, so I quickly accepted their kind invitation. Of course, they brought along Sofia, their swift, black Volpino, who was more than ready for a romp on the beach. As I’ve said, the Italians bring their dogs everywhere! The Romans called the Mediterranean Mare Nostrum, (Our Sea) and woe betide any interloper (e.g. Carthaginian) who might attempt to wrest control from the mighty Roman Navy. We all went for a walk along the beach before dinner. I love the beach at twilight. The crowds of beachgoers have all left after a day in the sun, and the only people left are strollers like us.  And Sofia, who pursued her Frisby into the surf more than a few times. After our stroll and appropriate number of selfies, we walked back to the restaurant and sat down for dinner.  There is nothing like a fresh seafood dinner on the shores of Mare Nostrum, unless it’s lunch high above the Eternal City overlooking the Circus Maximus with the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica, the Forum and the Coliseum in the distance.


I had invited Amina to join me for the July 4th Celebration at the American University of Rome. The entertainment was being provided by, surprise, my son Michael and his band, No Funny Stuff. I’ve rented Amina’s apartment several times since I’ve been traipsing back and forth from the U.S. and Rome, and we’ve become friends in the process. She is originally from Morocco and speaks four languages, while I struggle with just my Italian. After the Fourth of July celebration, we had plans to meet for dinner, but because of a communication on both our parts, she was leaving for Paris on a trip that would take her out of Rome past my departure date for the states. So, I was surprised to see a text message from her inviting me to come and meet her for lunch where she works. Amina works at FAO, the international food organization of the United Nations. It’s across from the Metro stop at Circo Massimo, the Circus Maximus, where the ancient Romans held their chariot races. (Yes, Charlton Heston fans, THAT Circus Maximus)!


What Amina hadn’t fully prepared me for was the intense security shield at her building. I’ve grown accustomed to the increased military and police presence at the landmarks in Rome since my first trip in 2005. The Italian Army seems to be everywhere in Rome, and I had to walk by squad of troops to check in at the visitors’ lobby.  As I approached the bullet and blast-proof wall that awaited me, I had the unnerving feeling that I had a thousand unseen eyes focused on me. As I passed through the metal detector, I entered a cylindrical chamber which simultaneously scanned every inch of my body and acted as containment chamber for any explosive I might have concealed. I passed through this area only to face a person behind another wall of steel and glass. Do you have your ID? An anonymous voice asked. I slipped my Passport Card and my Texas drivers license into the slot. Both were returned a moment later. She will have to come down and get you. Now, she is not answering her phone, said the anonymous voice. I was instructed to step to one side and call Amina. A few minutes later, she arrived with a big smile on her face. Have any trouble? she giggled.


The view from the top of the building was breathtaking. After a few pictures, we enjoyed our salads on the top floor veranda shaded from the sun beneath an awning. The view and the lunchtime conversation were worth the price of admission.


On Saturday, Michael came over on his scooter to my place for another father and son outing. We walked to the bus stop and boarded a bus for the Laurentina Metro Station where we caught a train for the Coliseum. On the way, the skies opened, and it started raining. By the time we got to the Colosseo Metro stop, the terminal was jammed with tourists who had taken refuge from the terminal from the sudden downpour. We waited for the rain to stop. When it did my son gave his dad his best tour guide’s personal tour of the Coliseum and the Forum. Later, we met Laura for inner in Rome’s ancient Jewish Ghetto. More on that evening in future Rome Diaries.





[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

Arch of Constantine - Roman Forum
No Funny Stuff! at AUR

Giorno dell’Independenza


Sunday July 7, 2019

Sunny 90°F/32°C in Roma, Latium, Italia



To most of us Americans, the July 4th holiday is strictly a party that’s thrown for domestic consumption, within the confines of the continental USA. But, that’s not true. First, if we really want to celebrate the holiday, we should do it on July SECOND!  For it was on July 2, 1776 that the Continental Congress really voted to declare our independence from England.  However, my real point is that our Independence Day Celebration is not strictly a domestic celebration.  For, all around the world, American expatriates take their unique holiday with them. For the United States of America is not just a nation. It is an Idea, whose very future is being challenged on several fronts. But wherever Americans are celebrating on the Fourth of July, they take the celebration with.  And, that is how I came to be at the University of Rome…in Italy… on the Fourth of July this year!


My son Michael earned his degree at A.U.R. in 2005, after doing his undergraduate studies at California State University – Sacramento. Living in Rome has taught him to maintain those old school ties. And so, every year he returns with his band – No Funny Stuff! to provide the music for the celebration. It was a closed affair – reservations were required. But the American faculty and students invited their Italian friends and their families, young and old, to join in the festivities.  It was an old-fashioned, down-home, neighborhood, truly AMERICAN celebration where the people of several nations got together to celebrate an IDEA. But this American picnic definitely had an Italian accent. As it should. The history of Italians in America shows that four million Italians immigrated to the United States between 1880 and 1924.  New York has the largest population of Italian Americans followed by New Jersey and California. Even Texas has more than 360,000 Italians living in the Lone Star State. (That might account for the fact that my favorite Italian restaurant is Mandola’s in Cedar Park, near where I live).


Picnickers munched on hot dogs and hamburgers and drank copious amounts of vino e birra[MB1]  (soft drinks and juice for the bambini). Even the band showed off its international composition. No Funny Stuff! is made up of one American (my son Michael) and three Italian musicians; Giuseppe “Seppe” Cassa, Fabio Gabbianelli, and Giuseppe Petti. NFS is what most Americans call a Jug Band! As the band’s Facebook page states,” No Funny Stuff is a poor man’s hokum – Bluegrass, Ragtime, Blues, Ragtime, Jug Band.” And, I might add, “with a pronounced Italian accent.”   The band played through its jug-band repertoire right until fireworks time and then had to move away from the area where the fireworks were to be set off from the rooftop overlooking the courtyard. The fireworks show was limited to aerial displays. That’s because the crowded buildings of Rome don’t allow for many wide-open spaces for static fireworks displays. Limited in scope, perhaps a little. But, overall, spectacular nonetheless!  Bear in mind, this scene was being played out around the world, as dusk made its appearance in every time zone around our troubled globe. Americans celebrating the Fourth with their friends from all over the international community. As I said earlier, the celebration of American Independence is more of an Idea than just a celebration.


For me, it was a great evening because I realized just how many friends I have among the ex-pat community in Rome and how many connections there are to my life back home in the states.  I am constantly running into people whose families emigrated to the U.S. about the same time as my grandparents did, early in the Twentieth Century, and what we still have in common.  Spending a Fourth of July in a foreign country is an experience that I will treasure forever. The American Dream still shines brightly abroad, even if it has begun to dim back home.


Next time: On the road again with my favorite Jug Band!




[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 see the entire Rome Diary series and  read more about Mike Botula at]

© By Mike Botula 2019


Michael Botula, Mike Botula, Laura Tomei a Pranzo!
Father and Son at an Oasis!

Il Mio Quartiere e Benvenuto!


Wednesday July 3, 2019

Sunny and Hot 93°F/34°C in Roma, Latium, Italia



One of the reasons that I love my forays to Italy is that I get to hang out with my son Michael. After all, as he says, Pop! Just remember. All roads lead FROM Rome! Which is one of the little-known facts that he like to dazzle the folks on his tours.   I like to think that he inherited my love of history, and my appreciation for getting the facts straight. But, his love of music and his creativity, not to mention his performing abilities, he inherited from his mother. Donna was dancing and singing and performing well into her fifties. While she was in the position of marrying a guy with two left feet.


I like to think of my son as a renaissance man.  He’s a tour guide in Rome; he performs in a band; he teaches English; and he is an art aficionado of the first order. So, our conversations are rarely dull, even when we go out for a haircut together. On Tuesday, we walked down the little barbershop on Laurentina for a Taglia e Barba (haircut and beard trim). The barber had no sooner finished shampooing our hair, when Michael struck up a conversation – in Italian – with his barber. He then turned to me and reported; he says this barbershop has been here since 1957. Do you remember where you were in 1957? Sure! I answered that I was a Junior in high school and in my spare time, I was playing Polka records on the local radio station. My dad had just bought a new Dodge Custom Royal, and things were looking good for the Botula clan. Eisenhower was in his second term, and Sputnik had not orbited the earth yet. It was a welcome break in his incredibly busy career, and a chance for padre e figlio to catch up on family stuff.


Loosely translated, Il Mio Quartiere e Benvenuto, means My Neighborhood, and, Welcome to it!  I’m away from the heart of Rome by a fifteen-minute walk to the Laurentina Metro Station, which is the last stop on the system’s Linea “B.”  From Laurentina, all of Rome lies within a 35- or 40-minute Metro ride… at my feet, EXCEPT when the mercury hovers around a blistering 100 degrees!  That’s when it’s more appealing for me to stay comfortably cocooned in in the cool comfort of my air-conditioned Airbnb apartment. I must admit that I am a terrible judge of Rome weather. Last year I arrived in January, which is a terrific month for avoiding the mobs at the Sistine Chapel. But I got cocky and decided to stay an extra month and got caught by a rare March snowstorm which left the city paralyzed for three days. Another time, I arrived in mid-August, a time when most Romans take their vacations and leave their city to hot, sweating tourists. It didn’t start to cool down that year until September. Even this year, I didn’t start my annual trip until mid-May, and by then, it was my son’s busy season…so I haven’t seen much of Michael on this trip, either. So, I’ve accepted the roll of the dice and am exploring my neighborhood, practicing my Italian on DuoLingo and watching a bit of Italian television. Thankfully, RAI News seems to be bereft of the American News Channels’ fixation on everything dealing with THE DONALD! Which is just as well…after I am on vacation, and what’s more I’M RETIRED. All the viewer sees of Mr. 45, is a quick set-up shot, and then the local announcer translates whatever Trump is saying into ITALIAN! At which point I ask you to imagine what that sounds like, especially since what he has to say doesn’t make much sense in English, either!


Last Friday, Michael introduced me to Grazia, an English student who is going to help me learn  Italian through a Language Exchange (cambio di lingua). We are scheduled to meet every week until I return to Texas, and she goes on holiday with her boyfriend. It’s much like two years ago when Michael introduced me to Monica, a career woman who wanted to learn English so she could deal better with her American clients. Grazia’s goal is to secure a position with an American company.


The heat has played Hob with my plans to get around Rome easily. Given a choice between a hot, steaming bus or subway car, not to mention those other sweaty bodies, and I’ll opt for my airconditioned pad every time.  Subways, buses and walking were my main transportation during my New York student days, and a few years later in San Francisco, especially when I got to know the Gripman on the cable cars on a first name basis.  It was approaching 100 degrees when German TV News carried the story that the U.S. was the only country on the face of the earth to decline to endorse the Argentine Climate Change Accords at the G-20 Summit. The Argentine Treaty is the follow-on to the Paris Climate Change Treaty, which the U.S. has already deep-sixed!  Meanwhile, the global temperature keeps going up and up and UP!


Over the past weekend, we went on one of my favorite trips, up to the neighboring Sabina and the village of Selci, where Laura’s parents have a country home. Even in Selci, it was CALDO! No sooner than we had taken lunch, it was time for siesta. And so, we all took naps in the coolness of the house’s three-foot thick masonry walls. It was dusk before Laura, Michael and I went shopping for dinner. By the time my son had worked his magic with the barbecue grill, the sun had set. The next day, Michael headed off with the rest of No Funny Stuff to play at a nearby wedding, and Sergio, Laura’s dad took us all out to a Festa, so we could munch on Cingale, the wild boar that roam the hills of Sabina. Then, Laura drove us back to Rome.


Domani, ѐ Giorno dell indipendenza! I’ll fill you in on how many Americans who are away from home are spending their 4th of July. Tanks! But, No Tanks!




[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

My View: Via Oscar Sinigagli 31

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


Wednesday June 19, 2019

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



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).




[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]


© By Mike Botula 2019

Tre Amici alla Ostia: Michael, Laura, MikeBo

The Week That Was!


Wednesday June 12, 2019

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



(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!)




[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]

© By Mike Botula 2019

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

La Casa di un Uomo ѐ il Suo Castello!


Wednesday May 29, 2019

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



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,




[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]


© By Mike Botula 2019

The View From My Apartment - Viale Oscar Sinigaglia

Getting Settled!


Thursday (Giovedi) May 23, 2019

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



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!





[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]


© By Mike Botula 2019

Figlio E Padre Al Colosseo!


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


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, 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!




[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]


© By Mike Botula 2019


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