Panini With a Slice of Humble Pie

Various guidebooks warned that crossing a street in Rome can be dangerous. Drivers drive fast and pedestrians don’t have right of way. We had no problems within the narrow streets of the historical center and this made us a little cocky. But this rainy afternoon, we were soon to be humbled.

To return to Via Corso from Victor Emmanuel Monument, we faced five lanes of traffic, all zipping around a blind corner at a ridiculous speed. There was a crosswalk, but no traffic light. No problem, we’ll just wait to cross with the Italian man standing next to us. As a local, he’ll know when it’s safe, right? Wrong. In a lull of traffic, he stepped into the street, began to cross and we followed. Instantly, four cars and a Vespa came at us without any regard to our existence. I guess the man wasn’t a local, because with pure terror, he ran back. Oh shit.

We stood in the crosswalk in the middle of a major street with cars passing in front and behind. We had to act confident and keep going; that’s the Italian way. At least that’s what some guidebook said.  We let the Vespa fly by, then the taxi and began walking forcing the last two cars to stop. Surprisingly, we heard no horns and no yelling. Once we hit the curb I noticed a group of tourists staring at us. I admit, I felt slightly embarrassed, risking my life like that. But because we didn’t panic, I also felt utterly cool.

We decided on a simple picnic dinner, since Ada needed room to run and we wanted another view of the Pantheon at dusk. We entered the Salumeria on the piazza and discovered we only had a few euros left. Aaron asked in Italian if they accepted credit cards. The cashier said no. Okay, no problem; we have 6 euros and 2 ettos of a panini was 5 euro. But when I ordered in Italian, the man behind the counter gave us 2.5 ettos. Total cost: 9.25 euros. Oh shit again.

My face turned red and I felt hot, especially with Ada on my back bumping into people in the narrow store. Aaron went back to the cashier and explained our dilemma. She asked “quante?” Aaron showed her all our coins while I said “seis.” With an annoyed smile, she replied “okay”.

Dumbfounded and grateful, I fumbled out a “mille grazie” instead of a “grazie mille,” and we left. Almost getting creamed by several cars didn’t humble us, but our insufficient funds  and the cashier’s polite understanding did. With a promise to repay, we walked over to the Pantheon and ate our salami, tomato and basil Panini, while Ada happily roamed between the giant granite columns.