Manhattan types know all to well the Upper East and Upper West Side. These are bastions of success, wealth, and weirdness. But, what a great place to live! It’s just a stroll to Central Park or the Theatre District. And mass transit possibilities are both reliable and endless.
Welcome to Prati. It harbors Vatican City, boasts upscale living in antique condominiums, and, like NYC, is walkable from the North to Piazza del Popolo and all the goodies the Centro has to offer. And, in tandem with the Big Apple, this Eternal City neighborhood couches the noises and niceties one expects in a modern metropolis.
You can barely see the San Pietro Dome in the bottom left corner
The biggest headache is the horns. You see, Romans have no problem double parking and blocking in drivers who made the mistake of parking legally. This happens in NYC regularly as well. Yet, there is a primary difference. A double-parked Noo Yawker moves quick, has a sense that someone may be inconvenienced, and is mortified when faced with the fact that they have indeed barricaded an ill-tempered fellow citizen. Maybe it’s the thought of a 9-millimeter in the face that keeps them vigilant?
In Prati, thankfully, no one has OR WANTS a gun. Otherwise, the residency would drop 50% overnight. But, the illegal temporary squatters believe their perpetrated hassle is justified until the errand is run, the conversation completed, the café sipped (not slugged /that would be to quick), and the scornful look returned as they mosey back to their “Macchina” and casually PREPARE to leave. This, of course, involves plugging in the smartphone, adjusting the mirrors for mascara or eyebrow plucking (mostly men do this), checking 73 emails, unknotting the seatbelt, and slowly inching away with 3 stops to say ciao to buddies they see on the street. Remarkably, a gesture or harsh word is seldom offered. After all, everyone does this.
Stop signs and yield signs are nonexistent. Transport is a not-so-casual game of chicken. No one knows why mild attention (usually) is paid to the few traffic lights in the Piazza. It is anarchy pure and simple.
However, this lawless mess seems to function. There are few accidents, tire screeches, fights or angry forays in Piazza Mazzini, a residential hub of Prati. People make an eye “contract”, not contact.
“You go. I’ll cross. Next guy can zoom behind my butt as I clear with 3 centimeters to spare”.
No streets signs. No superstore marquis. No glass-lined dens of commerce or commercial enticement. Like the rest of Rome and Italy for that matter, there is a pledge to keep appearances in a warm pastel that boasts beauty while dooming desperate gringos to hopeless disorientation. So, you want to buy groceries or get a haircut or purchase some clothes or…you just have to know, ask, adventure, sojourn or, do what I do, follow a knowing Nona.
There is one exception, the Farmacia. For some reason known only to a retired Marquis somewhere, that big green pulsing pharmacy cross is a dominant glowing icon. Everywhere else, “Meet you at the McDonalds on the corner”. Here, THERE IS NO CORNER. Piazza is a pizza. Pick a meeting slice. A perpendicular intersection is as rare as the vendor who can change your 50 Euro note.
My guess is the Romans are aware of headaches produced by this marvelous mess and want victims to know where the relief options are.
This all pales when looking at the positives. The “boulevard” arteries feeding the piazza have tree-lined centers that offer shade to the stroller, a soccer field for the Ragazzi, and dog dump destination for Fido. Shops and stores and food and wine and fun and frivolity abound once you do the due diligence.
Close to the tourist and heritage sites yet quietly removed from the Pacific Rim Mosh Pit Cattle Drives, Prati is an oasis of relative peace, safety and (occasional) quiet.
The bus or the metro can get you there. But a simple trek along the river is my transportation choice. What’s the rush? Rome is to be casually surveyed and Prati ain’t going anywhere.
Porca Miseria! Someone downstairs isn’t going anywhere either. That horn has been honking during this entire blog composition.
Where’s my gun?