Within minutes of passing through the exit doors at Leonardo Da Vinci airport we were making our way to the city centre in the back of a Roman cab. Our cab driver, young, slightly nervous and exhibiting what I can only describe as some sort of strain of turrets’s syndrome. Uncontrollably he’d make rapid and sequential nasal noises. Kind of disturbing while in the back seat of a cab driving 140 km/hour with barely 4 feet from the front of the cab to the Jaguar we were tailing. It’s always amazed me about urban European drivers — they just don’t under stand the concept of a buffer zone. Well, maybe urban American’s too.
The guy in the Jag rolled down his window and flicked a spent cigarette butt out the window. This enraged our cabbie. He drove faster and moved to within two feet of the rear bumper of the jag and honked his horn and started waving his hands. Ah. Forget vehicular safety. Let’s talk litter.
After some idle conversation between us it happened. And I’m not talking about the standstill traffic we hit after about 10 minutes of driving. Rather, the emotion our driver exhibited as he brought the cab to a sudden stop.
“Mama mia!” he said with the expected and perfect inflection. Ah. I was confident now. We were definitely in Rome.
When he found out I was from California the first thing he mentioned was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Then he started making machine gun sounds from his mouth and took both hands off the wheel and mimed the classic position of operating a machine gun while blanketing a target with fire.
I told him I was a bit embarrassed about Schwarzenegger. The polls were probably just closing in California as I made my way into Rome. Sometime later he flipped on his Radio to listen to the Morning news. Of course, it was all Italian. But one word broke through the language barrier: Schwarzenegger. I guess big news here in Europe. Eyes of the world on Arnie. I mentioned to him that Californians were a bit crazy if Arnie actually made his way to Sacramento. In agreeing with me he wanted to make sure that I understood he liked Ronald Reagan; and that Arnie was no Ronald Reagan.
As we chatted his turrets’s seemed to subside as the conversation turned casual, fun and playful. I knew we were of like minds when he explained that there were a lot of good restaurants near the hotel we were staying. When I enquired as for a suggestion he mentioned Macadanno’s. As I repeated the name to make a mental note, I said Macadanno’s. He said it again and started laughing. Yeah. Macadanno’s. I quickly realized that he was referring to McDonald’s. A perfect Italian wise guy.
As we pulled past the gates of Rome I asked him about the new stadium that was just built here. Looking into the rear view mirror at me in the backseat, he raised his eyebrows and said “Stadium?” I said yeah, you know. Didn’t you guys just build a new Stadium here? He shrugged. And I said, yeah. I think you call it the Coliseum.
We all laughed as he pulled the car up to the front of the hotel. Welcome to Rome.
Photos: Italian beer at sunset by Roman Coliseum, Italian Taxi @ night, Ancient Roman Ruins.