I don't know why, but Rome has been mobbed with Americans the past few days. More so than usual. Maybe it's because Memorial Day weekend is coming up or maybe because May is a nice time to visit Rome, but there they are, in bars and in huge walking tours, eating gelato and having a glass of wine in Piazza Navona. I saw one older gentleman today peering at rows of different types of pizza at a small place near the Campo de Fiori. He ran out to his wife, who asked him what he'd been looking at and he exclaimed, "Oh, we'll be coming back here. Pizza!" Pizza! Such a simple thing. So excited to be in Italy.
When I was younger, I couldn't stand the tourists, especially the Americans, despite being one myself. I remember when I was about 14 or 15, on a family trip to Rome, thinking that I could blend in with the Italians much more successfully than the others. That typical teenage arrogance. I did so by prancing about in outfits like flowered denim overall shorts and straw caps. I know because there are pictures of me dressed like this riding in a gondola in Venice. I'm sure I fooled everyone.
Now, I love the American tourists. For one, it's comforting to see and hear other Americans. I can barely speak any Italian and it's fun catching a conversation in my native tongue...watching family dramas play out, hearing other English-speakers comment on this great country. Plus, I'm over the youthful delusions. I know I'm not passing for Italian, and am happy to be part of the American tourist club.
Part of the reason I don't mind being grouped in with them is my second reason for liking the tourists and that is, simply, that they're here. They've come to Rome! I used to imagine tourists weren't cool enough to understand magnificent works of art and the finer points of European culture. Really. Teenagers! I thought maybe people flocked to St. Peter's because they didn't have anything better to do. Now I realize that they've taken the time to plan an important trip for themselves and their families, one that will expand their world view, one that they will never forget. One that even the sometimes-sullen teenagers will remember so fondly, although probably with a sense of cocky Romanticism...that time I went to Italy and was more European than the Europeans...when only I understood the talent behind the Sistine Chapel. The trip will make such a mark that someday they will have to return and see it again, with new eyes. When being blase is a waste of time and pizza - pizza! - is totally, totally awesome.