It's not the Italians' fault. Their DNA is missing the gene. Here's a quote from The Rise of Rome by Anthony Everitt, page 291: "Go uphill past the arcade by the market, straight along the road. Rattle your way down that. Next there's a little shrine on this side, and there's an alleyway thereabouts...there's also a big fig tree. But you can't get through that alleyway..." From sometime in the middle of the second century!
Take this trip, for example. We began in Rome and spent one morning walking through Trastevere. Then decided we wanted to cross the Tiber to walk through the Roman Portico of Octavia and the Jewish ghetto before lunch in Campo dei Fiori. We knew the trolley tracks crossed the Tiber, and approached a uniformed poliziatype for directions to the bridge. (Note: there are different kinds of "polizia" en Italia, so you have to know that "carbinieri" are a notch above the "polizia" and won't answer if you ask for directions. The "constabulari" fit in there somewhere, so consult your guidebook before asking directions in Italy.)
"Dove (where is) il Ponte Cestio?" I asked. I was always complimented for my pronunciation in the Italian classes I took.
Expecting him to say, "Diretto," meaning "straight along the trolley line," I was surprised when he said, "Come?" ( "What?").
I tried again. And got the same response. "Come?"
I repeated "Ponte Cestio" again. This time I added "Dove?" at the end and changed the accent.
That made all the difference. "Diretto," I heard.
The hotel made a dinner reservation for us at a local trattoria. The splintered-toothed concierge told us, "Just ten meters down this street, then left at La Fontana Barberini. Very easy!" We walked as we were told but at the Fountain, five roads collided. In the center on a pedestal stood a polizio?, carbiniero?, beekeeper? directing traffic. From the back with his white gloves moving rapidly, his white jacket, and his white helmet flapping down his back, he looked as though he were swatting bees away. Of course he was unapproachable. We took a hard left. Wrong! Back to the la fontana to try the middle left. Wrong again! Last try down the soft left. Finally, ecco la! Thirty minutes late for a reservation en Italia means nothing. Your friends will still be waiting for you, after their first bottle of wine.
At our hotel in Trieste I asked to use the guests' computer. "Certo, signora," I heard. "Behind the marble columns next to the bar is a hall. Go down the hall, take the second left, and the computer will be there. You will not need a password, it is free."
I found the bar ok, and the columns. There were two closed doors behind, and in front of the doors was a sign that read, "Non Ingresso" ("no entrance"). I was always good at following orders (Charley would not confirm that!), so turned around and looked for another hall. Nothing. Back to the front desk. "It's the hall where there are two doors," I heard.
I opened the doors marked, "No Entrance," and found the computer room down on the left side. The computer was sleeping. I did what I do at home to wake my laptop up. This Italian was stubborn. Back to the front desk.
The bellhop came and reached down to the floor to switch on a button someone never mentioned. Non problema!
All of this probably explains why the ANTIMAFIA DEPARTMENT in a blocklong building on the Tiber can't rid the country of its gangsters!
TO BE CONTINUED....
- Delray Beach, FL, Westport, MA, United States
- Undergraduate degree, Colby College; MA in teaching, Columbia Teacher's College; former high school English teacher in three states; former owner of interior design co. with advanced degree from R.I. School of Design. Published first book in 2009 titled, MINOR LEAGUE MOM: A MOTHER'S JOURNEY THROUGH THE RED SOX FARM TEAMS. Her humorous manuscript titled ELDERLY PARENTS WITH ALL THEIR MARBLES: A SURVIVAL GUIDE FOR THE KIDS was published in June, 2014. In 2015 A SURVIVAL GUIDE won a gold medal in the self-help category at the Florida Authors & Publishers Association conference. See website By CLICKING HERE.