At 5 PM (17:00), he arrives. Bubble Man! He looks 70, probably is 90 and acts like he is 12. An enthusiastic herd has anticipated his on time entrance, a rarity in Roma, and have pounced with screams of glee. Next comes a ritual of blowing and popping bubbles that turn this crowd of 2-5-year-olds into a voracious pack of soap-soiled predators.
Welcome to Testaccio. It is one of the last authentic Roman neighborhoods in the Centro. And it is filled with authentic Roman families. No electronics. No laptops. No SMS. Just tag and kick and run and laugh and stop for a slurp at the fountain in the center that provides water to the citizens “gratis”. 2500 years of aqueducts can’t be wrong.
Here we must define our terms. An Authentic Roman used to be described as one who can trace seven generations of lineage. You know, great great great… grandpa cleaned up Julius Caesar’s horse poo or some such nonsense. These days, however, an authentic Roman is one who enjoys life, children, food, wine, smoking, strutting and speaking Roman slang.
The piazza is filled with these genuine Eternal City citizens. Sure they sport the appearance of Africa, Pacific Rim, and Nebraska. But, all display the aforementioned tenets with a flare that would put Sophia Loren to shame.
Of course, the rambunctious raggazzi (kids) have more fun and language function than their parents. Gestures and general antics confirm that these joyous jokers are the real deal; bouncing with Bubble Man and behaving like kids should (running-laughing-screaming-smiling-playing and all that jazz).
Ah to be an authentic Roman! Enjoy life, relish where the children play, zoom and be zoomed by competing Bella Figura folks.
Later on, I join my buddy John (he is making great progress at becoming Giovanni) at the “Oasis of Beer” pub. Here we shake off the tendencies of the expat or disgruntled tourist and delve into why we live and love as 21st Century authentic Romans. Cin Cin. One more trip to the buffet. Share a smile with the fellow Eternal City patrons stuffed along our picnic table.
And send well-deserved birra spina suds over to Bubble Man. He earned it.