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Wednesday 24th July 2019

Uncharacteristically, we lie around in bed for some time. This is probably one of the last chances we’re going to get for a lie-in for many weeks and we are determined to make the most of it. We get up at around 8 and have a sizeable breakfast in the Biancagiulia’s colourful kitchen, before heading to the Basilica di Santa Maria Maggiore for morning Mass. We find it surrounded by armed guards and airport-style security scanners and again I am filled with great sadness. I used to find Rome a liberating and joyful city. It is starting to feel oppressive. It is one of the hottest days on record in the city but the heat does not bother us and we stroll around aimlessly until lunchtime, before making our way back to the B&B to spend the afternoon on the private little terrace until it gets too hot.

I start to worry about two of my students who I know are doing the C1 Cambridge English exam today and I wonder how it is going. We are wondering where to go for dinner when we get a call from family friend Flavio. He has heard that we are in Rome and wants to invite us to Eataly. I have been to one of these places before, in Genova when we were there three years ago; it is basically a huge store, consisting of an aggregation of small food and wine companies, selling an enormous range of quality agricultural products from every part of il bel paese.

There is also a restaurant where you can sample the produce, including some of the best new beers that Italy has to offer. Not so long ago, it was almost impossible to find a good quality beer in Italy, but they are catching up fast! Eataly is near the Piramide stop on Rome’s Line B subway, but we decide to walk as it is such a beautiful evening. We arrive and Flavio roars up on his Harley Davidson. He is with his son. They recommend the hamburgers and so, after a tour of the various sections of Eatlay, that is what we have, along with a glass or two of craft beer; beers and hamburgers are both very good. Flavio and his son moan about the mess that mayor Virginia Raggi is making of the city and reminisce about the good old days when Gianni Alemanno was mayor. “Now there’s a man who knew what he was doing! Raggi is just out of her depth!” Both Flavio and his son believe that the 5-Star Movement has now had its day; they have shown themselves to be incompetent and incapable of government and will soon be consigned to the dustbin of history and Rome will return to her glory days. I hope they are right but I am a little less optimistic. 

Back in the Biancagiulia we are both nervous about what faces us. Flavio and his son had looked at us with a mix of pity and concern when we told them what we had planned and I feared one of them was about to call the men in white coats for our own good. Now alone again, we are pondering on the wisdom of our great adventure. Mrs. Asinello is already missing her cats and becomes tearful. I go outside to the terrace, smoke an aniseed cigar and listen to a little UFO in the cool night air. 

Music: UFO – Covenant

Audiobook: Charles Dickens – Pictures from Italy

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