Friday, April 23, 2010

You Can Take the Roman Cat out of the Chariot Race but...

There’s an Australian traffic rule that says “Road sense is the offspring of courtesy and the parent of safety.”  To Roman road sense, courtesy and safety would be the disinherited relative with burgeoning Tourette's.  I’ve heard a rumour, although I believe it to be an urban myth, that driving whilst using a mobile phone is illegal in Rome, or maybe only if your phone is a “mattone”, embarrassingly old, brick-sized handset. Every day on my bike, I watch iphones blazing through red lights, Blackberries gridlocking while receiving income text messages, so I'm looking forward to seeing what the Apple ipad can do.

When Roman friends spot me on my bike, I’m generally met with the kind of admiration, deserved only by one attempting to visit Rome on crutches. Even while landing his car fully on a path, up against a Marine pine in the city centre, a Roman acquaintance congratulated me on my “Bella Figura” meaning in this context, that I was setting an example of proper behaviour, which he clearly admired but had no intention of ever emulating. Doormen and Baristas alike, marvel at my fabulous front light. It’s bog-standard but, as nobody bothers with them, as rare as a cycle lane in Rome and what a shame there aren’t more of those given their runaway success.  They make an ideal place for leisurely sending texts while waiting for a bus. There's loads of space to exercise a grandparent after lunch, ample privacy for heated conversation on a mobile, with room for quintessential gesticulation and of course, they are a perfect location to lay out your must-have selection of fake Louis Vuitton handbags to sell: after all, the red tarmac background really sets them off.  

Today, while cycling down Via del Corso, the shopping equivalent of Oxford Street in London and once a horse racing track in ancient times, I was overtaken by a local on a bike whose special feature even outshone my front light. Now I was the one left marvelling. I gave chase, dodging pedestrians, obsolete over-sized phone in hand, shooting photos randomly.  I must have looked like the getaway penguin in  the Wrong Trousers, speeding along on top of the toy train, firing at  Gromit. As the gap narrowed, I lined up for a final shot of this Roman speeding through lunchtime traffic with a full-size ginger tom clinging to his back, hurtling along like a riderless horse during Carnevale. Once again,they came into frame then the cat leaned forward, dug its claws in deeper and they jumped a red light leaving me for dust. It’s pretty clear at this point that if I wish to get around these streets as effectively as a Roman, I'll either need to update my phone or get a cat.

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


  1. Congratulations! This blog is interesting and witty! But I'm not keeping you a secret. You're going on my blogroll too...

  2. Thanks Scintilla, you are really making me want to visit Positano again at the moment. Great photos.

  3. Love it! If you want to go for the cat option, there are about 100 strays for each inhabitant of my village in Liguria. I've heard tell that you're not running short in Rome either... Laughing out loud at the blog! Am I right in thinking you've only been blogging since Feb? I'm still not very blog-literate, and I don't know if I should be looking for older posts.

  4. Thanks guys. I'm really glad you are enjoying the posts which number 12 now. We do indeed have a large number of cats in Rome but very few currently in training for the Giro D'Italia like the one in the photo.

  5. This is an awesome post... and a wonderful experience too. Thanks for posting. I only just found you but so glad I did.

    If I could live anywhere (no limits on money!) I'd live in Rome. A city where discovery is always just around the corner, down the street, or underfoot. Or in front of me...

  6. Haha...what a hilarious photo! That should have been in a film of you trying to catch up! Enjoyed the amusing reads too of our much loved and hated Roma citta'! Kristy :)