End of the World? No, it’s just August in Roma

24 Aug
20 August 2016.   Imagine a street, deserted of humans, cars parked dusty and unused, dead leaves skittering along in the evening breeze. There is an eerie, end-of-the-world-movie, ghost town quality. Think of the film “On the Beach” where New York City is deserted. Like that, but with the occasional bus or car passing. The trams are empty, too.
Usually this street, our neighborhood's main street, is chock-a-block with cars. Lots of horns would be sounding because everyone is in a hurry, and the lanes are often blocked by narcissitic double-parkers. Tonight you could park on the center line and not bother anyone.

Usually this street, our neighborhood’s main street, is chock-a-block with cars. Lots of horns would be sounding because everyone is in a hurry, and the lanes are often blocked by narcissistic double-parkers. Tonight you could park on the center line and not bother anyone.

That describes our “high street” as the Brits would say, Viale dei Parioli on this August Saturday night. The sidewalk markets (le bancarelle) have even disappeared by early evening since there are no prospective clients. We are the only people on foot at 19:30. There is finally shade and relief from the heat. We seek to stretch our legs after self-imposed confinement since 11:00, and we are searching for dinner.
This street merchant closed up super early. No customers walking by. Usually this area is full of merchant tables.

This street merchant closed up super early. No customers walking by. Usually this area is full of merchant tables.

A couple of days prior I made a reservation, as is my practice, but this morning while we walked before the heat came on, the restaurant called. They had made a mistake. Actually, their on-line reservation system had made the mistake, but most likely because they did not bother to update the calendar. They are closed for ferie. Throughout the hours surrounding Italian lunchtime I called three more restaurants whose websites and GoogleMaps purported they were open. I called again between 17:00 and 18:00. No answer. Maybe they did not open for lunch. Perhaps they are too busy to answer the phone. It’s possible that no one answers before 18:00 when they are readying for the evening.
We decided to walk 40 minutes to an area with several good restaurants we have patronized. Surely on this hot August night one will have a table. We pass the place we ate at recently. It was fine, but has a small menu and we do not care to repeat so soon. Then as we approach each familiar restaurant, going farther and farther from home, they are all shuttered. Chiuso per Ferie. 
This is usually an attrative little aperitivo bar with umbrellas and vute tables, candles, etc. Not this month!

This is usually an attractive little aperitivo bar with umbrellas and cute tables, candles, etc. Not this month!

By now we are past the British Embassy and almost to the American Embassy in Via Veneto. Seeing a lively corner we stop to peruse the menu. Looks fine. Nonno (grandpa) is outside asking to seat us. Is there a table within? Air conditioning seems like a good idea after an hour’s walk in 80-degree Fahrenheit temps.
A memorable meal for the wrong reasons. Fish previously frozen, an over-priced wine list, and an 80-year-old-guitar-playing-singer who went from table to table. He skipped us. Might have been the look on Ric’s face.
I pity the tourists lured into such a place that might think this is great food.
We did enjoy the goings-on around us. A couple from South Carolina that could not shake the minstrel as he sang them song-after-song. Three (southern) American women who wanted iced tea (eyss-TAY). The waiter, who could not understand their request, confirming they want te caldo, which is NOT cold tea but hot. A priest seated nearby piping up to correct the waiter. Across the restaurant, a little girl is enchanted by the singing grandpa.
We headed for home in moderating temperatures, luckily finding a bus just when we needed it most. This week, Rome begins to re-awaken. More stores re-open the 29th, and by September 5th we will be in full rientro mode as even the wealthiest people with case al mare (homes by the sea) will need to get back to reality.
And the motorini will once again scream past on the street past our bedroom making sleep difficult.
Before you go, over at Our Weekly Pizza we are on a pizza-eating hiatus and reviewing some of the restaurants we’ve enjoyed lately. Not the unnamed tavern above.


Every year the same thing: One, two, three, even four weeks closed.

Every year the same thing: One, two, three, even four weeks closed.

6 Responses to “End of the World? No, it’s just August in Roma”

  1. Chloe Erkenbrecher August 25, 2016 at 15:17 #

    No sidewalk markets when I lived there, but I would have enjoyed them had there been. I used to love the trams. One went around clockwise and the other counterclockwise and they circled the city. I have no idea where they go now, but know that their route has been cut. We are devastated about the earthquake and the many deaths it caused. It is such a beautiful area of Italy and one that we have always enjoyed visiting. It is easy for the government to say that every house over 100 years old should be retrofitted, but I doubt that many people could afford that; in fact, I am not sure how it could be done, considering the thickness of the walls. It’s always easy for the EU to come up with what they consider easy solutions, but never answer how it is to be accomplished.


    • GoodDayRome August 26, 2016 at 15:47 #

      Hi Chloe. Wow, you were here in the pre-bancarella days! Hard to imagine! It is not my preferred way of shopping, to say the least. Cannot imagine buying shoes or underwear that way!

      There are still two trams that roll out of Parioli. The #3 goes from Valle Giulia near the Etruscan Museum all the way to Ostiense, and the #19 starts at the Vatican and comes around past Villa Borghese and the Zoo, continuing on the a place I’ve not been, Piazza Gerani. But they only meet briefly for maybe 3 or 4 km.

      One of the things coming out about Earthquake-proofing is that even when a building is updated and the codes apply, they do not always do the work. Nor do “they” necessarily adhere to codes on new buildings. Criminal investigations are already underway as some retrofitted “seismic-proofed” buildings failed, including a school upgraded in 2012!


  2. Marcia Kakiuchi August 24, 2016 at 14:48 #

    I think the most charming section of this post was the description of your meal being ‘memorable for all the wrong reasons’. I can just see this lost-in-translation part of your memory as if in a sit-com. It would be funny, perplexing and frustrating all at the same time.

    So how did the big earthquake impact you at all? Probably didn’t except for watching the terrible devastation on TV. I didn’t even know that Italy had earthquakes very often.

    We are still at our Florida house (6 weeks now) and will leave to drive across country with the 5th wheel on Aug 29th. We will take 2 weeks to get back to Reno. My request was to go to New Orleans but this is NOT the time to go there for many reasons. So my 2nd request will be fulfilled and we’ll spend 2 days on the Panama City beach in the FL panhandle and then 2 days at Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

    I always look forward to your interesting and fun posts.


    • GoodDayRome August 24, 2016 at 17:31 #

      Florida in the summer, wow! You must be part-Italian to take that beach heat! Jackson Hole: there’s a place I can appreciate!

      We woke up to the tremor at 4:30AM. Did not know it was a bigger deal until we got u p an hour later and checked the news. Devastating and there are still many people missing.

      It was sit-com-like in some ways, The old guy with the guitar in particular. I think his suit was at least 40 years old!


  3. Bill Walls August 24, 2016 at 12:36 #

    I will always remember arriving in Rome in July and finding that what I had heard about the traffic was nothing like I expected until September rolled around. And I just read that the beautiful town (Norcia) northeast of Rome was hit by an earthquake – that would be devastating in the heat. http://www.bostonglobe.com/news/world/2016/08/23/magnitude-earthquake-reported-italy/FNAiqlxupNvEHFFUW4M8nN/story.html?s_campaign=email_BG_TodaysHeadline&s_campaign= , I hope everyone


    • GoodDayRome August 24, 2016 at 13:25 #

      Hi Bill. It is devastating and I am certain we have not seen the final death toll in Umbria. Italian Army and Civil Patrol have sprung unto action. What they will do to rebuild remains to be seen.


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