Been noticing the last few days how my road-crossing technique is changing. When I first arrived in Rome, like many stranieri (foreigners – forgive the random Italian words, it helps me learn them), I perched on the pavement, terrified. Now however I’m learning the technique. Some people say you should catch the driver’s eye, but this is nonsense – it’s a sunny country, so the windscreen will be reflecting, and you’ll likely be wearing shades. So instead, just gaze intently at the driver’s location – itself a slightly tricky proposition when in your home country drivers sit on the other side of the vehicle. Make your presence felt, stride out meaningfully.
I’m becoming so used to this technique that I worry when I return to the UK, I’ll absent-mindedly try it with British drivers and get splatted.
On a more serious note – people do of course get killed by traffic frequently, even with the seemingly casual way pedestrials face up to the insane traffic in Rome. Some people even do their bit to encourage more sensible driving. I walk past this graffito most days:
(Avert your eyes if you don’t like sweary swearwords, as it essentially says “Be aware of pedestrians / Dickheads / Slow the fuck down”. Just down the road is a banner that says “Caio Cesare” – I doubt it’s saying bye to a friend who was moving overseas.)
Anyway, the point is that, although my personality will never in a million years become even remotely Roman, I am adapting to the environment. I could say I’m becoming more blasé, but the use of a French word seems inappropriate. I can’t, however, use the equivalent Italian word as there doesn’t seem to be one. Our massive dictionary suggests indifferente or scettico, but they would seem to mean indifferent and sceptical. There’s sangue freddo – which our little dictionary translate as coolness – but that’s not quite right either. The seemingly casual approach to various – but absolutely not all – elements of life is so much a part of the Roman character that maybe there’s just no need for a word. (By the way, I hesitate to say “Italian character”, as a) I’m only intimately experiencing Rome at the moment and b) Italy is a notoriously varied place, of very strong regional identities.)
While walking home from language classes today, I passed through the Campo de’ Fiori, home to the bustling market and the marvellous, belligerently placed statue of Giordano Bruno. At the south end the market, various touts were selling tat – fake designer bags and sunglasses. Suddenly, they all started scattering, grabbing their ware and running towards the river, as various sturdy looking plain clothes polizi arrived. Presumably the touts didn’t have licenses of whatever. The point is, I was right in the middle of this debacle, and it didn’t even occur to me to be all English, step out of the way, stop, stare and say “heavens above!” I just kept on strolling.
The final minor incident of this type occurred as I continued to andare a piedi, through Trastevere. Up one of the many impossibly cute, if grubby and graffitied, cobbled streets, I spotted a group of four men up ahead, one intently moving a table around in the street (more of an alley, or vicolo perhaps). I strolled through this strange group too, only noticing as I passed the ridiculous cheekbones of the best-dressed of the group, the camera wielded by another and the huge pile of stuff marked “Giorgio Amani”. Some kind of fashion shoot thing. Whatever. And on I went.