First, to answer some comment queries:
1) The building behind me in the Forum video is the Rome city hall - still active and the residence of the mayor and city government. It's on Campidoglio, the original Capitoline hill where Rome allegedly began. The building does seem to be a Medieval structure built on top of ancient ruins, but then that's quite common in Rome. You'll see bits of millenia-old masonry sticking out of walls at random.
2) It's not a Hugh Laurie American accent, that's what I sound like at the moment. Since English was not always a primary language for me, I don't have an established accent; if I'm immersed in a culture long enough, I tend to pick up local speech patterns. Disturbingly, this happens not just with native-English regions; stay too long in Scandinavia and I start talking in the Swenglish pidgin. Mind you, I spend much more time writing English than speaking it, so I do have an accent beyond the American that I default to.
3) Hmph. I am against cover charges on philosophical grounds; the assumption is that I have to pay for the privilege of giving the establishment my business, which is a pretty fucking bold statement to be making, and let's face it, even in Rome few restaurants live up to it. I don't have anything against, say, a drinks minimum - if you take up space in a busy spot at rush hour, you shouldn't just be nursing a tap water, that falls under my general "don't be an asshole" policy, but Italian restaurants are a bit too eager to fleece you with auxiliary charges for my liking. Apparently the prices for the same foodstuffs are different not just for in-house or takeaway (which could be justified by the difference in waiters' salaries and cutlery washing costs), but for standing at the counter, sitting at a table, and sitting at a table outside. I have the same motivation for intensely disliking the American sales tax practice: it means that the price I see is not the price I pay, and that goes against my fundamental understanding of what is right and proper. It's not the expense that annoys me (although five Euro for a tin of iced tea is highway robbery); it's the mindfuck.
I've still got most of a day tomorrow, which I will probably spend ambling about and maybe looking at some of the shops - might as well; but I am happy to be heading home. Rome is an intriguing place, but it I haven't felt the same affinity with it as I have with, say, Stockholm. It's not an uncomfortable place for me, like Cologne or Berlin were, and it's a lot more comprehensible than London. My aversion is not just down to the heat either: I felt more at home in Jerusalem than I did here, and that was by far the most culturally alien place I've been yet. But it's not as stifling as Reykjavik either. Even as I am underwhelmed by Rome, it seems to have made every effort to accomodate me. (The quintessential Roman experience: watching an old silent movie being shown on an outdoor screen on the Isola Tiberina, standing on the Ponte Fabricio, while nursing a limone gelato.)
I saw a quote somewhere - I think it was by Verdi - "You can have the universe, if I can have Italy". Well, I understand the sentiment mate, but then again - you're welcome to it.
A tale of two countries
5 weeks ago