In honor of our newest quest, a car, I present a bit from Neither Here Nor There, Travels In Europe by Bill Bryson.
I love the way the Italians park. You turn any street corner in Rome and it looks as if you’ve just missed a parking competition for blind people. Cars are pointed in every direction, half on the sidewalks and half off, facing in, facing sideways, blocking garages and side streets and phone booths, fitted into spaces so tight that the only possible way out would be through the sunroof. Romans park their cars the way I would park if I had just spilled a beaker of hydrocholoric acid on my lap.
I was strolling along Via Sistina one morning when a Fiat Croma shot past and screeched to a smoky halt a hundred feet up the road. Without pause the driver lurched into reverse and came barreling backward down the street in the direction of a parking space that was precisely the length of his Fiat, less two and a half feet. Without slowing even fractionally, he veered the car into the space and crashed resoundingly in to a parked Renault.
Nothing happened for a minute. There was just the hiss of escaping steam. Then the driver leaped from his car, gazed in profound disbelief at the devastation before him–crumpled metal, splintered taillights, the exhaust pipe of his own car limply grazing the pavement–and regarded it with as much mystification as if it had dropped on him from the sky. Then he did what I suppose almost any Italian would do. He kicked the Renault in the side as hard as he could, denting the door, punishing its absent owner for having the gall to park it there, then leaped back in his Fiat and drove off as madly as he had arrived, and peace returned once again to the Via Sistina, apart from the occasional clank of a piece of metal dropping off the stricken Renault. No one but me batted an eye.
It’s really a little truck, just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Carter could ride in the back.
Fact no. 3.
More of a cultural observation than a “fact” but amusing (and true) all the same…
Consider the humble cappuccino. After ten o’clock in the morning, it is unethical, and possibly even unlawful, to order one. You wouldn’t have one in the afternoon unless the weather was very cold. Needless to say, sipping a cappuccino after a meal is something only non-Italians do. Pizzas at midday are for schoolkids. Rice with meat is perfect, but pasta with meat is embarrassing unless it’s cooked in the sauce. Having a starter after your pasta raises no eyebrows, but eating a main meat dish or fish dish instead of a starter looks greedy. Grating Parmesan cheese over clams is an offense against religion, but if a young chef suggests it, express approval. Wine in flasks is for tourists–package tourists if the flask is hanging on the wall. Finally, there is garlic. Like elegance, garlic should be present but not intrude. The bruschetta garlic toast served in some Italian restaurants abroad would be actionable in Italy.
Once an English friend called this sort of thing “food fascism.” I told her she was exaggerating. She had ordered a cappuccino after her evening meal, and the waiter refrained from calling the police.
— From La Bella Figura: A Field Guide to the Italian Mind by Beppe Severgnini
My friends came! Barbra and Jen, girlfriends from New York, flew in last week for a molto-enjoyable visit. We walked, talked and…ate. And thanks to their sherpa-like efforts, baby will have approximately 1 million white onesies (made of organic cotton, thank you very much) and Paul will be set for cinnamon Altoids until he cleans out all 20 tins or turns into one himself. Whichever comes first.
Barbra and the doughnut
When Ryan arrived, everything changed. As an American living in Paris for many years, he had just the right wisdom to boost me out of my post-arrival haze: Don’t put pressure on yourself to figure it all out this week. It’ll come. And with that, he and I set out each morning to see Rome’s magnificent sights…and eat its glorious food. Within one day I was off of my nocturnal schedule and back among the people of daylight. Paul was diligently working for the majority of Ryan’s visit but we had a great weekend together, trapsing, eating, shopping.
Back in Action