Eternally friendly city

16:00, Jan 04 2011
Rome ... where the locals make your day
WONDERFUL RESIDENTS: The people of Rome are just as important in its appeal as the city's history.

On a Sunday spent walking around the city, I ran the gamut.

Setting out in the morning, at the Villa Borghese gardens I saw a little boy approach the merry-go-round with a face full of joy. He was in Sunday best: crisp white shirt and pressed blue shorts, little white socks and dress shoes.


I became aware of another woman watching the carousel. She was drug-ravaged and dressed skimpily and was crying softly.

A trumpeter nearby was busking, playing What a Wonderful World magnificently.

Towards the river end of Via Campo Marzio, I saw a juggler in the shade by the side of the road.


I recognised the Irish wolfhound next to him.

The last time I was in Rome,

I had taken a picture of the dog's peaceful face. I laughed to myself at the coincidence. As I passed the juggler, he called out something to me. I was pretty sure, though

I didn't hear it exactly, that it was in English.

I stopped and returned to him. "Excuse me?"

"I said don't laugh too easily. You might end up on your arse one day yourself."

"I was not laughing at you," I said. "I was laughing because I have a picture of your dog from the last time I was in Rome."

He stopped juggling and walked towards me. We stood facing each other for a while and back-and-forthed with apologies for the misunderstanding.

He had the dreads, beard, tattoos and jewellery of an Englishman who had seen one too many full-moon parties on a beach in Ibiza. He told me stories of how abusive people were, how he had to threaten a woman just that morning to stop her from abusing him about his dog, how five priests chose to ignore his "Buon giorno" to them as they walked by that day. "I can usually not react but when I drink I really abuse them," he said.

I asked him his name, touched his forearm as we spoke and he gave me directions to Trastevere.

I climbed the Gianicolo Hill above Trastevere and saw armed soldiers outside the Spanish embassy there and a fountain far more beautiful than the Trevi.

Then, on my way back to the centre, I came across a handsome young man playing an intricate tune on two recorders at once. On closer inspection, he was playing them through his nostrils.

A young admirer gave him her number when he finished.

An adorable little Italian girl with pigtails came out of the Santa Maria sopra Minerva church and chatted to Bernini's elephant in the Piazza della Minerva. Judging by her reactions, the elephant appeared to be chatting back.

Then, five hours later, as I neared the end of my walk, I passed Joseph the juggler again.

"Thank you, bella!" he called out to me.

"No, thank you!" I responded.

What I meant was thank you and all the other wonderful residents of Rome for making it the city I so love.

The Age