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Amber Paulen

Ferie a Roma

Rome empties to an exoskeleton every August. The Romans have fled to seaside or mountaintop or further. The greengrocer is gone, so is the butcher, the baker, the cheese seller; the post office is closed, the buses don’t run, the streets are abandoned, there’s loads of parking.

Rome empties to an exoskeleton but for the tourists. They wear hats or carry large bright umbrellas and flood the center. Italian is over-cackled by German, English, Dutch and Spanish. Despite their maps they ask for directions. August is not the best time for a Roman vacation. Their fragile pallor begins to peal pink as they trudge the hot kilometers between the Vatican and the Colosseum.

It’s kind of pleasant, this Roman silence and space; I can almost hear the wind rustling the boughs over at San Clemente, I can hear the gabbiani. If the sea is where they’ve fled to, those subdued azure waters are temporarily not tranquilo. Brazen bodies line every shore from Italy’s knee to toes and islands. Their brown skin bakes orange as if orange was skin’s desired color. For this is how the others will know—when all have returned home—that they’ve had a buon agosto.

Ferragosto, in a way, is bigger than a simple holiday, it is an institution. The Italians hold themselves to its fulfillment; a vacation is dictated by Bella Figura. Most take at least two weeks. Everything will start up again come September. How well-deserved is this imposed break! How great! If every country stopped for at least two weeks, I dare say more people would be happier. Why keep at it like a fool in such heat: the mail can wait! Not like the Romans ever trouble themselves with over-working...

As for me, I’m staying right here. I’m enjoying the view of San Clemente and the apse of Santi Quattro Coronati, enjoying the silence and the zephyr. Maybe I’ll go for a dip in the lake, I’ll surely eat some gelato, if they’re open. If only the greengrocer did not have to close, or the butcher, because I crave string beans and a steak for dinner. Oh well… I’ll wait until September.


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