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Rome in August

“Rome in August is another city, it changes while remaining immobile; it’s still her, but it’s different.”


“Dear diary, there is one thing I like to do most of all” and then, with a delicate change of scene, he appears: a man riding a Vespa wearing a white helmet and a pleased smile. The streets are deserted and Rome appears in its most seductive guise, it is summer.

Thus begins Caro Diario, the autobiographical film by Nanni Moretti which in the year of my birth – 1994 – was awarded at Cannes for best direction. The first time I saw this film I was fifteen and perhaps I was too young to understand its art and genius; but that “splendid forty-year-old” mocking and totally free I never got out of my head anymore, he had left me a visceral gash. I saw myself in Nanni, in his expression, in his blissful intellectual and emotional enjoyment. At a certain point I also began to imitate him: returning home I lengthened the journey a little and enjoyed driving on my Scarabeo 50. I imagined I was him, I drove by spreading my arms and letting my shoulders fall soft, my knees I relaxed them outwards and allowed myself a comfortable but composed seat, with my back slightly curved, just enough to feel relaxed. I looked around as he did, and like him I allowed myself the luxury of thinking. I was reflecting on what had happened just before or imagining my summer vacation; sometimes I thought deep thoughts, other times I repeated the same word over and over until it lost its meaning and appeared new to me.

At a certain point driving the scooter was not only practical, but it was also exciting, full, comforting, poetic. I remember that to go to school I spent every morning at the Pincio, a street from where you have a breathtaking view over the rooftops of Rome. At 7.45 I passed the Spanish Steps, went a little further to the highest point of the climb, slowed down, turned my gaze to the left and saw Rome in its most beautiful aura. There was a slight frost that blurred the silhouettes of the buildings and domes, the sunlight was still cold and delicate. Usually in that short stretch of road there was never anyone, it was like a free zone in a city overwhelmed by commitments and office openings: everything above it was impromptu, private. In the summer I heard some cicada, distant horns and other indefinite noises of a city that, born tired, woke up. But that was my moment, a few seconds a day, my favorites.

But how beautiful is Rome? How nice is it to walk around its deserted streets in the summer? The empty Lungotevere, the tree-lined streets with a few cars parked on either side, a frighteningly light, moderate city buzz. Rome in August is another city, it changes while remaining immobile; it’s still her, but it’s different.

The film continues and while Nanni wanders the neighborhoods, his voiceover shows us the genuine thoughts that, one after the other, come out without any logical sense: “The thing I like most of all is seeing the houses, see the neighborhoods. […] I don’t like to see houses only from the outside, I also like to see how they are made inside. […] Riding a Vespa I also like to stop and look at the attics where I would like to live, I imagine renovating the apartments I see from the street, even if the owners have no intention of selling them. ” Then Nanni passes over the Corso Francia bridge and continues: “I don’t know, I can’t understand, I will be sick but I love this bridge. I have to go there at least twice a day ”.

These words, simple phrases, observations or expressions of a trivial reflection, are an arrow that pierces us all: they are our thoughts put into a film, it is what we say to ourselves when we are on our scooter, in the torrid heat of early August. , when the heat takes our breath away but the sight takes our breath away.

Going around a deserted Rome with a moped means dissociating, it means letting your head laze; it is like escaping the frenzy while remaining inside it. We find it increasingly difficult to stop and think, no one sits on a bench or on the terrace of the house anymore to observe the things that happen. But when the days get longer, when the temperature is warm enough to go out with your legs uncovered, when it is 8 pm and that light wind that passes the windshield of your scooter wraps you lightly, you are on your planet. Rome becomes an unexplored universe and you are in the middle of an introspective, liberating expedition; like a meditation, only more scenographic.

The outside temperature blends perfectly with the breeze that reaches your face, the city is almost a ghost and never as in that moment do you feel that Rome belongs to you, as much as you belong to it.

You hear a natural buzz of the wind blowing on the trees, of some turtledove having its say, of the roaring Tiber. There is no traffic, you are not distracted by a car that wants to overtake you or by a guy who crosses with a red light. You’re not late for something and you don’t have the pressure of countless chores to get done by the end of the day – and if you have them, you don’t care.

Today is July 31, tomorrow is my birthday and August has already arrived, on the news they said that Rome is about to face the hottest weekend of the summer. Most of the Romans are already on vacation, some on vacation and some partying on some island full of music and other fun things. I am on the Tiber on the saddle of my Sh 125, certainly not as romantic as a wasp, but still a faithful travel companion.

It is half past seven in the evening and the atmosphere is relaxed, relaxed, balanced. Everything is in the right place, everything appears extremely natural and the great Rome, the majestic Eternal City, seems to be a small village. It makes me think of one of those inhabited centers of a few souls, one of those “forgotten by God” towns whose name no one remembers. Perhaps this is the charm of Rome in the summer: for a couple of months the year ceases to be the Great Beauty, and returns happy in the guise of a normal urban agglomeration. No expectations of her, no pressure. There is a lot of silence. From time to time a moped comes out, you hear it coming from afar. The noise becomes almost annoying as it approaches. Then it passes in front of you and after a few seconds it is already far away, the echo of its presence is increasingly faint and in a moment you have already forgotten it.

While the hours pass, idle the days, I appear on my scooter and disappear in the eyes of those few other Romans left in the city. I walk the deserted streets and I am forgotten in the distant resonance of my passage. Thus returns the silent symphony of a big city in the middle of summer, which is resting in a torpid state.