Saturday, 22 August 2009

Autumn knocks at the door - Rome is given over to the tourists.

Autumn is suddenly beating impatiently at the door. At five this morning it was still dark and a torch was needed to safely navigate through the rows of trees in the fields. Only last week I was out with the boyz at five and watching the sun start its leisurely climb into the sky - what a difference a few days make when the seasons are on the point of shifting.
Thankfully, the olive trees are hardy things and most of them seem to be holding up under the onslaught of 40 degree+ temperatures day after day. The older more mature trees with deep root structures are positively thriving and are heavy with olives but some of the younger ones are demonstrating signs of heat stress and needed a helping hand from the irrigation system. Wilf and Digby made it to the front door with me for the walk but took one look at the impenetrable darkness outside and decided instead to snuggle down together by the wall to continue their sleep. They looked so cosy curled up together that I didn't push the issue.
Rome was chock full to the gunnals of tourists.On the surface everything looked as though it was 'business as usual' but it was soon apparent that the locals had fled en masse to the cool hills or the sea. Rome without the Romans is a very different place - a mere shadow of its real self populated by seasonal restaurant and hotel workers who are already thinking about moving to the ski resorts. My favourite fish restaurant by the Pantheon, da Fortunato, was shuttered for the duration and Cafe Sant Eustachio,which according to the the 'font' makes the best cup of coffee in the world, was well and truly boarded up. Faced with the summer closure of all my usual hangouts I had dinner in a restaurant that was strongly recommended by the hotel but which turned out to be,in the most polite of terms,' little more than adequate' . You couldn't help but have the feeling that the heat, coupled to the teeming throngs of 'stranieri' milling around in bermuda shorts were testing the patience of the waiting staff. They demonstrated a bored efficiency bordering on surliness.
My dinner companion was a Polish politician who proved to be surprisingly entertaining with his personal, and sometimes scurrilous, vignettes of Europe and Americas leading parliamentarians. Our conversation was listened to intently by the well mannered predominantly 'BosWash' couples dining alongside us. I always find it interesting to watch married couples on tour - there are broadly two categories. Those who talk to each other and those who sit in abject silence as if dining alone. On this particular night the restaurant was full of the later category - I wonder if they repeated the stories about Mr.Bush to each other when they got back to their ( hopefully airconditioned) hotel?.

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