Friday, August 17, 2012

Cani and Americani

One of the first few weeks I was in Rome, someone told me that the only thing left in Rome in August were "cani and Americani"- dogs and Americans. This turned out to be true.

The whole summer Rome was crawling with Americans. I overheard American conversations at restaurants, on the bus, waiting in line at museums, and passing by my open window on Via della Scala. After becoming accustomed to hearing lilting Italian and Italians speaking English, the American accent sounded brusque and left a bad taste in my mouth. Extremely hypocritical of me, because I'm sure other Americans who heard me felt the same way. I think the problem was that hearing American accents interrupted the experience of Italy, though in reality the experience of Italy now includes other Americans. But it still felt like everywhere I turned, there was an American or twenty visiting la citta eterna.

When August rolled around, somehow there were even more Americans. I didn't know it was possible, but it happened. Compound this with the fact that many Italians leave Rome during August... and Americani half of the saying was completely correct.

The dog half of the saying I'm not as sure about. Dogs in Italy get special treatment. They are rarely on leashes, they're allowed in most stores and restaurants, and they seem to be doted on consistently. The dogs are also really well behaved! Even though they aren't on leashes I never saw a single dog fight, and there's rarely any barking. I question the second half of the saying because it seems like Italians take their dogs everywhere with them, so why would they stay in Rome while the Italiani are on vacation?

For a few weeks, I had the joy of taking a big dog named Duke on his afternoon walk in the Campo di'Fiori area. Walking a dog showed me a completely different side of Rome! Italians would come up to us to say "Ma che bello!" and fuss over him. People smiled at me. People spoke Italian to me and I floundered to answer. It was a lovely change from being ignored as just another americani in Rome.

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