Thursday, July 28, 2011

When in Rome ...

Not many Romans at the Colosseum, lots of Bangladeshi!

When in Rome do as the Romans do....I could not help thinking about this proverb when I visited my friend Karen in Rome last week. Visiting Rome was like a dream come true. Didn't somenone say 'First see Rome, then die? No that was Napels. The other proverb: 'Rome was not built in one day', yes that is clear from walking around those massive, impressive bridges, fountains, churches and theaters.  But I most like 'When in Rome do as the Romans do'. But what does that mean? What do Romans do, actually? I suppose they do not visit the Colosseum, the Pantheon, the Fontana di Trevi, the Vatican, like us tourists.  Here's my selection of what Romans do after spending five days in the most beautiful city in Europe.

Have coffee all day long: Espresso Lungo, Macchiata, Ristretto. Hot, strong and cheap - sometimes only 50 cents. However: a Roman will NEVER order a Cappuchino after dinner!

Metro and busses: Cheap and easy
Take the metro: Rome has a relatively small but efficient metro  network. The bus is also great and cheap, one Euro for 75 minutes! Romans want to extend their metro network but as soon as they start digging they stumble onto some old foundations of century-old buildings. End of the digging.

Capreza in well known colours

Eat eat eat. Starters, first dish, second dish, sweets, coffee with liqueur. Pizza, pasta of course, but also Carpaccio, Caprese, Bruscheta, Vitello Tonnato, Osso Bucco, Pancetta, Pana Cotta, Limoncello and Grappa.

Drink drink drink.  Wine for lunch and dinner; Italy is still the biggest wine producer in the world. Or drink water the many water fountains.

Drive cars and Vespa's Italian style. Like in any big city traffic is plenty in Rome, Vespas and Motorninos (scooters) are a huge pain for drivers, and parking is limited. Double parking, completely blocking off the right lane of a street seems totally acceptable in Rome.

Over 300 flavoursof  ice cream
Go into the Gelateria. I fully subscribe to that habit! Italian gelato is famous and rightly so. We went in every day, had two favours each (we were three) every day, hence we had 30 flavours. I think we covered maybe only a third of all available flavours, if that.

Via Condotti: unafordable but nice

Buy shoes. Shopping can be done at the famous Via dei Condotti, if you have a big cheque book, or at any shop with saldi (sales) during summer. Lovely, fine Italian shoes in abundance.

Karen and I with our brand new shoes
Get out of the city in the weekend. It was not very hot in Rome when we were there, but the thermometer can easily hit over 40 degrees Celsius during summer. Many Romans have holiday homes at the sea or the lakes surrounding the city. My friend too,in Trevignano Romano.

And if that is not enough to do during a short holiday, do not forget to visit the Fontana di Trevi to make a lucky wish. Then throw in a coin with your right hand over your left shoulder. This guarantees that you will return to Rome...

Making a wish at the Trevi Fountain
We'll be back!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Op de Fiets!

I will share a little secret with you. My daugher is almost seven years old now (six and three quarters as she likes to say) and she can not yet ride a bicycle... What's the big deal, you may ask?

Well, it is a BIG deal for a Dutch girl where children learn to ride a bike when they're three, or four. Everywhere you see mothers with boys and girls much younger than Soleine riding to and from school. Embarrassing really. So why hasn't she learned it? We never have had proper roads where you could learn to ride a bike safely. In Belize we lived on a dirt road, in Madagascar roads are too narrow and dangerous.

When I went to Ireland last week to see my friend Catherine and her daughter Zoe the conditions were perfect. A large enough yard with a concrete path around the house, and a purple bicycle just her size. It took her two and half days to learn how to ride. She was ready for it.

Soleine op de fiets and Tuurtje buurtje

Back in Holland at my brother's house now. The 8-years old neighbor boy Tuurtje het Buurtje kindly lent his bike to this girl who lives in Madagascar, speaks three languages, and who has learned to ride a bike in Ireland. Strange but true!