I’ve been told that I arrived in Italy at the wrong time. For unknown reasons, the weather here has been colder than normal. While the temperatures have been in the 40s at their lowest - a heat wave compared to the frigid New Jersey temperatures I grew used to over winter break - the cold spell has kept Italians indoors for the most part.
When I first got here, I wondered: Where were the bustling street markets and crowded outdoor cafes? For the first few weeks, they were nowhere to be found.
Last Sunday, however, the temperature rose and suddenly Rome came to life. Piazza Santa Maria, the square near John Cabot University, is famous for its ancient church and beautiful fountain. For the first time, vagabonds congregated on the fountain steps, while street vendors pushed cheap jewelry at passersby and men played accordions on the sidewalks. The church bell rang to signal the end of mass, and people poured out in search of lunch before their afternoon siestas.
This scene may already seem too idyllic - but believe it or not, it gets better.
Suddenly, a scuffle broke out between a green-shirted vaga-bond and a well-dressed man. No one knew the exact cause of the fight is unknown, but the man began to attack the vagabond. Just like a scene out of “The Godfather,” the well-dressed man’s family members rushed to his side. His brother tried to burn the vagabond with a cigar, while the well-dressed man’s wife screamed, “Mamma mia!”
Finally, a levelheaded member of the well-dressed man’s family pulled him away from the vagabond, but he continued to shout and make angry faces at the vagabond, who was by that point sitting calmly on the fountain steps.
While the Americans around the piazza seemed scandalized, the townspeople paid little attention to the fight. Even the policemen did not seem to care about the vagabond’s bloodied face and the well-dressed man’s threats toward the vagabond’s family.
Completely shaken by the violence, I walked into a bar to eat some lunch, hoping the atmosphere in there would be calmer.
Right after I had taken a seat at a table near the back of the bar, the owner came and ushered me away. He pulled down a projector screen, turned on a soccer game and dimmed the lights.
Just like the piazza had sprung to life during the fight, the men at the bar stopped eating their paninis and started yelling at the projector screen. Afraid to disturb the excited men, I remained in my seat after I had finished eating and watched part of the game. The atmosphere was much like watching an American football game, but with more chain-smoking and less beer-drinking.
So there’s a typical sunny Sunday afternoon in Rome - complete with church, fights and soccer games.
And what did I do that afternoon? Checked my e-mail and watched the Super Bowl at an Irish Pub. I guess I’m never quite going to be the Italian I hoped to become, but at least I’ve moved on from Big Macs.