Saturday, March 20, 2010

Buon Scribbling on your Neighbour's House

As a child, while other parents were warning their children not to go out of the garden, my father, a former sailor on the H.M.S. Dainty, was warning me never to venture further south than the Rock of Gibraltar. Beyond this point, I would surely encounter civilizations unfamiliar with social manners and rife with scoundrelly men. Obviously his ship had never docked anywhere near Rome otherwise he may have reduced my boundaries a little.  Living in Rome, sometimes I struggle to accept the Roman unwillingness to use "please" and "thank you" when dealing with people they don't know.  They clearly consider me demented when I thank them for my change in shops, or for clearing my plates in a restaurant.  If I'm to cut it as a Roman in this city my automatic English manners will need to become a little more discreet.

There was a time, when I'd punctuate the supermarket cashier's blunt and charmless request for money with a firm "please" and an edifying grin but yesterday, as I buzzed a woman into my building, held the door open as she leisurely swayed in without acknowledging my existence, I quelled the desire to shout "I'm not the bloody portiere (doorman)" as I so often have in the past. Instead I chuckled, remembering an incident in England when a friend of mine, Sir Royston, delivered the "portiere remark" on leaving a Starbucks in well-heeled Royal Tunbridge Wells. A woman entering with a push chair, failed to audibly thank him for holding the door open. She did however overhear our shopping plans so after collecting her double-decaf skinny soya latte, she marched into the Marks and Spencer food hall, tracked us down like a dog and proceeded to shout at him for even daring to suggest she had no manners.

So Romans aren't big on their "Ps" and "Qs", who cares? They do have an endearing way of wishing people they know, the sincerest enjoyment and pleasure in everything they do as after all, pleasure is generally the goal in Rome.  Simply say "Buon" which means "Enjoy-Happy-Good" when added to something which is about to happen, ie: "Buon Appetito!", "Buon looking for a parking space!", "Buon lunch with your hot cousin!", "Buona visita! (Have a great time at the doctors!)", "Buon proseguimento (Enjoy the rest of what you are doing now!)" and my personal favourite "Buon lavoro! (Enjoy your work!)" delivered with irony as a job here is harder to find than a Roman wearing flip-flops in December and many of those who have one bitterly resent doing it.

My father’s warning came to mind this Monday lunchtime as I sat outside a tiny trattoria in Trastevere, taking in this year’s first rays of sun.  As I demolished a plate of "Cacio e Pepe", I was wondering about the origin of a giant masterpiece of graffiti on a wall opposite my table, possibly left by a scoundrelly man, an apology that read:” Ti Prego, Perdonami, Ti amo! (I beg you, forgive me, I love you!)”  Just as Romeo called up to Juliet on her balcony, the Roman man seeks the attention of his loved one as she appears on her apartment balcony, four floors up.  A declaration of love or an apology is delivered either on the pavement below,  or for maximum effect, right along her neighbour’s wall. I can’t imagine the strength of an apology which could warrant scrawling  “Sorry mate” across the pristine magnolia rendering of an Englishman’s castle, somewhere between the leaded bay window and the polished brass numberplate. Maybe a “sorry I smashed your number plate while parking”?  In Rome a written apology of this nature would bring about an epidemic of writer’s cramp. 

Another of my restaurant recommendations: "Da Enzo" in Trastevere is a tiny, very busy trattoria serving typical Roman food. It’s cheap and the chef doesn’t care about your diet so you will get more than the statutory 100g of pasta on offer in most Roman restaurants, great if you just want a first course and no second. Tables are tightly packed so be prepared to make friends with the residents of Trastevere, the oldest residential area in Rome. TripAdvisor reviews are fair. Don't go there to have a leisurely meal at peak times.  Romans believe hungry people standing in a queue need feeding as soon as possible so if you are done eating, be off with you! 
Closed Sundays. Book if you want to sit outside. Fine for daft vegetarians such as myself. Tram 8 or Bus 280 and walk for 5 mins. 

Bookmark and Share

TO POSTS VIA FEED. Ice cream's on me in Rome!

No comments:

Post a Comment