Something funny happens to me when I travel. I get annoyed at all the tourists. Forgetting that, you know, I am one, too. Since I studied the Italian language on flash cards and read history books and studied current events — it made me a local. It made me…okay, I’ll admit it: better then the rest of them. I’m a travel snob. And this righteous indignation smacked me hard while sitting at the restaurant in Piazza Navona.
Our intention was to leave Castle Sant Angelo and rest our feet at the apartment. But Piazza Navona, while a bit of a tourist haven, is too ideal to ignore. It’s shaped like a race track, because two thousand years ago chariots used it for just that. It also has three roaring fountains, its star being Bernini’s Fontana dei Quattro (Four Rivers Fountain). On all sides are old palaces in various shares of apricot and terracotta. In the midst of the history are numerous street artists, performers and expensive restaurants, all catering to hordes of tourists.
We entered the piazza, a waiter in a tux offered us an outside table, and we accepted. The menu was in English with fuzzy pictures of various plates of pastas. Oh, this is embarrassing. This is not authentic Rome. I was no longer worried about Ada disturbing other people; I was mortified to be eating at a restaurant with pictures on the menu. Tourists sat all around us, flipping through their guidebooks – not locals eating at their neighborhood trattoria. I began grumping to Aaron, when the waiter approached and Aaron quickly ordered “vorrei due birra, por favore.”
Really Aaron — two beers? I don’t even like beer. When the waiter returned (along with a pear juice for Ada), I begrudgingly took a sip. Within minutes, the alcohol rushed in and rinsed out my conceit. (I mean really, who do I think I am? Get over yourself.) I melted into my chair, listened to the Four Rivers Fountain and Ada happily played with bread sticks. The sun set; the palaces vibrated in brilliant shades of orange. This was my authentic experience in a Roman piazza. Yes, a bit touristy. And it felt fantastico.