Saturday, September 11, 2010

Blond Ambition

The peaceful vibe in Rome has changed this week and the reason is “il rientro” It’s all Romans can talk about and it’s being blamed for everything from lack of parking to the end of "The Party along the Tiber". Tourists might be forgiven for believing Rome is currently involved in an Italian space program given that “il rientro” sounds like something could be heading, shuttle-shaped in our direction, risking burn-up on re-entrance of the earth’s atmosphere. Romans sound concerned and sincere as they mouth “Buon Rientro” into their mobile phones. In actual fact, Rome is bang in the trajectory of a series of speeding masses, last impact estimated around Sunday teatime tomorrow. These moving constellations are starry clusters of well-heeled Romans who decamped to their beach homes a few months ago.  By the end of this weekend, they will have reluctantly elbowed their way back into the centre of their universe (il rientro) blocking its main arteries and paralysing it once again before shooting back up to their 5th floor apartments, having achieved their common goal:to chill out and become blond. 

Romans love nothing more than to be complimented on how blond they have turned during the summer although the Roman perception of “blond” is at times quite hard to define. It generally covers anything they adore which appears more heavenly and ethereally pale when kissed by the Roman sun.  The combination of pizza and" birra bionda" (lager) is haled as spiritual.  Even the big-mouse infected Tiber is often affectionately dubbed the “il Biondo Tevere ” (The Blond Tiber).  As a new Roman, I totally get that compared to London’s muddy brown Thames the Tiber’s summer murky-green hues are genuinely as blond as Bo-Jo, London’s mayor. 

In Rome, any woman who doesn’t have raven hair and brown eyes should be prepared to answer to “Oow Bionda!” the generally accepted way in which the likes of bus drivers and policemen address women whose hair might once have been described as church-mouse back in their grey home towns.  The Roman man’s obsession with blond is well documented and goes way deeper than chasing Swedish girls around nightclubs in Testaccio. The truth is his secret ambition is to become blond too. Who knows if Michelangelo and Botticelli  ever rubbed lemon juice into their hair while painting golden-maned goddesses and angels but obviously this fixation has been going on for quite a while. Come September, “Chamomile and Honey shampoo” is usually harder to find than a brunette presenter on Italian TV as Roman men buy it all up in the hope that it will preserve their precious sun-bleached hair long after the side-effects of "il rientro" have been forgotten.  On the bright side, if I happen to run out myself, I can always dig into Gastro-gnome's secret stash. He is of course by his calculations not tall, dark and handsome but more blond than I am at the moment, but then so is the Tiber.


  1. The Romans may be ending their vacations, but I am just about to start mine. I am coming back to Rome on Wednesday! Any suggestions per un buon posto per pranzare a Trastevere?? Grazie in anticipo! Non vedo l'ora del mio rientro nella bella città di Roma!?

  2. funny and observant!! ALthough michelangelo and botticelli probably weren't rubbing lemon on their heads, it's because they are men. Botticelli's women certainly did... but pee was also a common ingredient to help blonde come out. Venetian courtesans in the same period developed a silly hat with no top and a large brim onto which to spread ones pee-and-lemon-drenched hair to catch the sun on balconies.
    Take it from an art historian ;-) !

  3. Melissa: Trastevere is full of great places. Piazza de' Renzi has two nice places, Da Augusto (no bookings, you need to steal atable outside, even pre opening) reviews on Trip are mixed as those who don't get Roman mentality don't get the place. Next door, more tourist friendly, nice food there's La Casetta-sit outside not in. Both of these are well priced. More pricey there's Taverno Trilussa-notfar from Piazza Trilussa, not cheap but really lovely food. Great Pizza and meat dishes the other end of Trastevere, near Piazza delle Mercante, there's San Michele which has a lovely in-out walled garden to eat in, just off the Tiber (280 bus going south along the Tiber, beside Trastevere stops right outside the restaurant just before Porta Portese. Check on line for opening times, not sure if all are open at lunchtime. Have a great holiday!

  4. Alexandra: Wonderful story about the Venetians. It seems Blonde Ambition stretches across the whole nation. I know a few Roman men who would have used that hat as well, I can assure you it's not just women who want to be blond in Rome. They seem to think blond means God is shining his torch on you all day long. Please always tell us all when you have info like this about our beloved Rome. Thanks Ali x