Monthly Archives: October 2011

In the Trastevere

I was in Rome on vacation and needed a respite from hustle and bustle of the city. I made my way to the Trastevere, bought a half liter of Peroni, and headed for a public square.

I observed an interesting mix of both tourists and locals. The centuries-old fountain in the middle of the square was surrounded by drifters and their loyal canine companions. Tourists favored the nearby gelato shops and restaurants while I took a seat right next to the have-nots of Rome on the steps of the fountain.

As I took my first refreshing sip, I watched the gang of shabbily dressed nomads enjoy beers of their own. It was a warm Tuesday and a beautiful evening to enjoy the cobblestone square and flowing fountain. While at first I thought it was beginning to rain, I soon discovered that this was only the occasional stray drop from the fountain.

One drifter’s dog wandered away from his master over to my direction.

I resisted the temptation to pat Genie on the head as I didn’t know how her master would react. I watched her wander away from me over to the other side of the square, sniffing. Her owner soon noticed she was missing and a concerned look came upon his face. He sighed what I understood as “Oh not again, Genie!” in sloppy Italian.

We met eyes and with one finger I pointed in the direction where the dog had wandered. A smile came to his face – a stranger had helped to reunite him with his beloved friend. What can I say? All in a day’s work.

As I neared the end of my Peroni, a father and his two young sons came up and sat next to me on the steps of the fountain. In fact, one of the boys was mere inches away. I watched the father light up smoke after smoke and sip on his own cans of beer. He appeared to be relaxing after a hard day of work while I relaxed from a long day of sightseeing just next to him.

I may have imagined it, but I took their sitting so close to me as a sign that “Maybe this tourist isn’t so bad after all.”

The boys had their own fun together catching lightning bugs in the square and making moves with an imaginary soccer ball. As they walked back over to their father, he produced some change from his pocket. The two boys returned smiling, each with a cone of gelato in hand.

I realized that he spent what little money he had on beer, cigarettes, and ice cream.

We sat there for probably an hour, not speaking, but somehow making a connection. The word ‘connection’ is ironic because I hadn’t checked email or Facebook for over a week – quite the feat for me. Only the absence of those things allowed me to enjoy the simple pleasures of life with my new Italian companions.

It was truly a beautiful country, a beautiful city, and I was sitting in a beautiful town square. But I sensed that the people here had the same old problems and the same ways of dealing with them – beer, cigarettes, and ice cream.

When I got up to leave, the father turned to look at me. He probably felt as if he had lost his drinking buddy but, alas, vacation could not last forever and I had places to be.