Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Closed for Ferie

So, Rome. Here’s what you need to know about Rome in August. There are no Italians there.

You know how in America, everything’s closed on Christmas and New Years? This is what Rome is like for the entire month of August. Italian take off the whole month and blow out of town for ferie. I don’t know how this started. Maybe some bar owner was like, “Hey, it’s really freaking hot in this city. I’m going to the beach ‘til it’s not so hot.” And then the bar owner down the via was like, “Well, if he’s blowing off work, I am too.” At a certain point, so many people had left town that the businesses still in operation followed suit simply because with everyone gone, who the hell would patronize them?

I’ll tell you who, Tourists. There may not be any Romans in town but the city is teeming with tourists. Seriously, after a few days, Primo actually told me he was disappointed because he hadn’t heard anybody talking Italian.
The few Romans that remain to hold down the fort, to serve the cafe and make the pizza for the tourists, are not happy campers. I don’t blame them – all their paesanos are out greasing up on the beach or breathing in the fresh mountain air, and they’re stuck reminding dumb Americans for the hundredth time that they have to pay at the register BEFORE they get their cappuccino. Only trouble is, I’m not a dumb American. I’m a savvy American with pretty good Italian, manners and a sunny demeanor, And I didn’t love being lumped in a group with the tour groups wearing matching T shirts and fanny packs. My far-from-impeccable but still respectable Italian was not greeted with smiles but with annoyed phrases in English: “Do you wont SHUGAR in you COOFFEE?” David and I got to feeling apologetic when handing over our Euro, like we were sorry we had tainted the currency with our greasy American hands. Aggravating.

Besides making the Romans sick of tourists, the other unappealing thing about everyone being gone for ferie was that we had about as much choice about establishments to patronize as the pioneers did when they rolled into the prairie in their covered wagons. I had the misfortune of getting my period as soon as the plane landed in Rome -- not just my period by my first-day-of-your-period agonizing cramps -- and I’d neglected to bring Motrin along, assuming incorrectly that if I needed something like Motrin, surely I could find it in one of the biggest cities in the world. Not true, at least not in August. I tried three Farmacias before giving up.

“I hope I don’t break a bone or come down with cholera or need actual medical care,” I told David, “Because I’d just be screwed.”

As my aunt continually reminded us, all the good restaurants, all the good bars and salumerie and pasticcerie were closed. Basically we were dining at the Rome equivalent of Bubba Gump.

Thankfully the best pizzeria in the known world, Forno, was still fighting the good fight and I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say we bought so much pizza there that we probably paid their bills for the month of August. Seriously, it was an embarassing amount of pizza. We’d wake at about 10 or 11am, after having gone to bed at 2, and then since it was already lunchtime but we wanted to get on the road and see shit rather than sit down for an overpriced lunch, we opted for the perfect breakfast/ lunch option – pizza. There is a thing in Italy called breakfast pizza, and this, I think, is reason enough to love the city. Breakfast pizza is just pizza rossa, with red sauce, hold the mozzarella. Pizza rossa is good hot and good cold, it is good after being left in the sun on the top of the stroller for five hours, and good the next morning. There are no circumstances under which breakfast pizza is not good. I discovered this when I stashed some in the stroller basket on day, then folded up the stroller with the pizza still in there, and took it out hours later, when I was starving and remembered about it. It did gross me out to pull out the gnarled lump of dough and sauce but I overcame the disgust and took a bite and it was absolutely divine.

Every day we ambled over to Forno, got pizza rossa, pizza Bianca, pizza con la mozzarella and a wild card pizza (with potatoes and rosemary or mushrooms or zucchini flowers). We’d eat our fill and then carry the rest with us as we traversed the city, seeing the sights. When we got hungry, we’d eat the pizza some more. The next morning, we started it all over again.

After three days of this, Primo said to me, “Mommy, I am getting SICK of pizza!”

To which I replied, “Well get UN-sick of it, because it’s cheap and its perfect and its all we’ve got in this empty city.”

Yeah, Forno saved the day, every day, ferie be damned.