Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Man in the Emperor Purple Shirt Says Yes

What is it about Roman DNA that sends many of them haring around this magnificent city, oblivious to the existence of anyone they don't know by name, driving like rabid dogs frothing at the sight of yet another sparkling fountain?  Could it be that many are suffering from ESS: "Emperor Slave Syndrome"? This condition causes sufferers with a rich heritage of invading, conquering ancestors to emulate the behaviour of their ancient relatives, regardless of their own modern day status.  Those unrelated fall automatically into the role of submissive slave.  That would be you and I. 

Those in possession of a whistle, golfing umbrella or pocket-sized car seem to display the severest symptoms which include: exiting buses and trams with one’s umbrella already fully open into the faces of passengers waiting to board.  Taking one’s good old Valentinian time strolling along narrow paths littered with other emperors’ dumped scooters and finally failing to even acknowledge those who stand aside patiently waiting to get through.  Bunking off from work or striking on a Friday to enjoy 3 days at a Terme-Wellbeing centre (modern day Roman bath). Abandoning one's Smart chariot wherever one sees fit ,whether it be up a slave’s driveway, in the middle of a cycle lane or blocking the exit to an entire car park. 

As a new Roman (rebellious slave), I find the secret to living amongst this epidemic is the recognition of the sufferers’ perspective, ie: all pedestrians are bothersome slaves, cyclists are bothersome slaves running errands and anyone else who dares to block their ancestral highway is part of an invading army and will hear the emperors' battle cry in the form of an insistent car horn, even at 3 in the morning. Commonly, this condition causes queuing, punctuality and seating-plan blindness. I'm sure modern day Caesar wouldn't line up to weigh fruit and veg in GS or let others leave a room or a metro carriage before he entered.  As regards meetings and dates,usually the prospective audience will have already arrived and be losing patience, before the afflicted one finally swoons in , medicinal espresso in hand.  

Many Romans who suffers from this syndrome find they are unable to work in customer service, particularly in clothing retail as the sight of slaves unfolding garments can further aggravate the condition and ensuing action is generally not conducive to high sales.  Many prefer employment which seats them behind a glass divide or requires them to use a whistle.  As yet there is no cure although recent statistics have shown a marked reduction in sufferers' symptoms following a trip to London.  Sufferers’ colleagues and carers will need to top up their pleasure levels regularly to build up their immunity or they will find themselves prone to impromptu bouts of uncontrollable griping about life in Rome.  

The latest of my restaurant recommendations and a perfect pleasure top-up point is Dal Paino, (Dandy's place) an excellent informal pizzeria, run by a man who dresses like an emperor but doesn’t behave like one.  If you want a table, track him down in his emperor purple shirt and give him your name.  Don’t fret about the ESS sufferers clumped around the entrance protesting their right to steal in ahead of you.  When the man in the emperor purple shirt says yes, you are in and they will be on their way to nearby Da Baffetto, (Little Moustache's place) hyped up in guide books but not a patch on Dal Paino. (check review 10 on TripAdvisor) Pizzas are thin crust, cooked in a wood-burning oven, pastas are good too. The service is friendly and efficient (except on Saturday nights, peak season) and the prices are good value.  The location is central, tucked in behind Piazza Navona which Gastro-gnome told me was once known as Pizza Navona due to the high volume of pizzerie nearby. Note to SuperAli: Beware of emperor humour! 
 Dal Paino. Via Parione 34. No Metro. 87 Bus, direction Piazza Cavour.
 Get off in Corso del Rinascimento.
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TO POSTS VIA FEED. Ice cream's on me in Rome!


  1. You do make me laugh! I was chatting to my neighbour the other day, saying that driving in the Ligurian town near our village involved abandoning everything one has ever learnt about road safety or rules. He shook his head and said darkly "you should try Napoli, it's like driving in deepest darkest Africa". I imagine that Rome is much the same... Good luck little errand-running slave girl!

  2. Thanks Status. Yes Roma is crazy but Naples does take the biscuit. I once went up a one way street, into oncoming traffic in Naples, on a scooter, sandwiched between my two friends, Neapolitan couple Marco and Marco. Marco the driver was howling "Sono il re di contra senza unica!" I'm the king of wrong way up a one way street"!

  3. My first attempt at driving in Italy was frustrating for my Italian husband. I was driving the way I do in Houston: obeying the speed limit, leaving room in front of me, etc. Eventually, I learned that in order to conform to the driving habits around me, I had to speed and tailgate, or be run over. Parking and round-abouts still caused conflict but overall it was a great experience and I wouldn't hesitate to drive most places in Italy. I've even managed Roma. But I draw the line at Napoli! :)

  4. Driving like a slave in Rome will get you pushed off the road onto the path in Rome. Salves control the car with the brake, Emperors use the horn. You were very brave driving in Rome, I don't think I'll ever be able to do it. As my Canadian friend said to Gastro-gnome the other night. " I see you drive it like you stole it" and he drives quite safely, although he says speed limits are just a suggestion...