I am a native in this world And think in it as a native thinks

Friday, April 15, 2011


After the great accomplishment of successfully hauling my luggage over the Grand Canal and onto the train, and a very pleasant ride on the Eurostar through Bologna and Firenze, I arrived in the chaos of Rome.

Chaos, quite literally, as there was a transit strike, and the area in front of the train station was clogged with hundreds of cars and cabs, and thousands of milling pedestrians. Although my hotel was theoretically within walking distance, I couldn't find a street sign so I could orient myself on the map, and I quickly gave up and got a cab. And I didn't even argue over the fare when it turned out that the cab drivers of Rome are even bigger thieves than those in Athens and Warsaw; I just wanted to get to my hotel.

I had been to Rome once before, when I was a college student with a backpack and a railpass, and my friend Ann and I had fled after two days because the Roman men harassed us so unrelentingly. It wasn't just ogling and rude comments; it was grabbing and fondling and kissing. One man sitting at a cafe reached out and pulled me down onto his lap as I walked by; a waiter in a trattoria grabbed my face and stuck his tongue in my mouth when we went in to ask for a table.

So it isn't surprising that I've never had any burning desire to go back. But one of the great benefits of being a middle-aged woman is invisibility; strange men no longer kiss me without my consent. And since my one regret about Rome was that I never got to see the Forum, I thought I should seize the opportunity.

What I didn't expect was that I wouldn't love, or even particularly like, Rome once the predatory men were out of the equation. It was partly the weather -- gray and a little drizzly -- but the streets were drab, and sucked all the drama out of what should have been a big reveal: the Colosseum!

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