One of the more startling things to happen to us in Rome occurred on our last evening. I’d been searching for a good (great) pizzeria for a while, but hadn’t been able to find one yet. I also had to balance the needs to the group (you can read: they were whining about having to walk so much). At last, success. I found it.
In a tiny little side street of the Trastevere neighborhood lies Dar Poeta, an institution legendary for its pizzas. The kids were really excited. They liked the neighborhood and they had begun to embrace the beauty of the Italian pizza.
I’m not a heartless person. The kids had been walking for the entire day in the 40 degree heat (that’s in Celsius and translates to 104 degrees Fahrenheit) and were beat. We opted to take a bus. Once I climbed abroad, I had more proof that the world is a small place. We ran into this mother and daughter pair from NYC. They were also going to Dar Poeta and my kids talked with them about the trip. Maybe the lady’s daughter will do the Experiment the following year!
We followed them because they had eaten at Dar Poeta two nights before. Of course, we got lost. In spite of the delay, it was a beautiful evening and I enjoyed walking around the neighborhood (which I think is the prettiest in Rome). My kids did not appreciate it though.
Finally, we arrived. The kids were ready to mutiny at this point. After bidding goodbye to our American friends, we waited outside while a couple of waiters got the restaurant ready. They took us down to this little prison— err… room. See below.
This is the entire size of the room. You can see both sides of the room easily in the picture. The length was probably 20 feet, if I’m feeling really generous today. Nevertheless, the 13 of us headed down there happily, ready to enjoy a delicious pizza.
Soon after that, a family of 7 Italian people came down. There were two kids that are about 7 years old, two teenagers, two men that are about 50 and one woman who appears to be the matriarch of this group. She noticed us right away and began to give us dirty looks.
I’d like to clarify something. If you put 20 people in a tiny, tiny room it is impossible that it will not sound a bit noisy. We were not speaking loudly. This family looked very unhappy and almost appeared not to be speaking amongst themselves. I’m not sure what was up with them, but the mother continued to get increasingly angry.
I could see her glares getting more and more cold. I asked the kids to keep it down (they were speaking with normal tones of voice). Nevertheless, we quieted down to about a whisper. Again, she gave us the looks of death. As a good faith gesture, I asked the kids to simmer down a bit. She said, “thh-aaaa-nk eww” in her extremely broken English (the family must not have spoken any).
We continued this way for the entire meal. It was a showdown. I got a bit angry at the kids once because I thought they’d been mocking the woman. They weren’t, but were bopping their heads and it looked bad. I felt like we were going to trade blows before the tables, but eventually things ended.
As we walked out, I said to the woman “Lei è così maleducata” (you are extremely rude). She glared at me probably realizing for the first time that I could understand all she said, and we marched off. I felt like I got the last word in.
Then, two of my kids forgot a water bottle and had to return. It was an uncomfortable experience for them, but everyone ultimately survived. It provided the perfect opportunity to demonstrate that crazy and rude people exist in every culture. We had a nice discussion about tolerance and cultural differences on a side street in Trastevere. Not a bad place to have that discussion.