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On days like today where there’s nothing big planned, we decide that it’s is a Grotta day and head to have a lazy lunch next door. When I say next door, I mean the front room of the restaurant is in our building. On good days, we can smell the simmering sauces from our garden. The entire family works at the restaurant and lives on the other side of us. Their kitchen window looks out over our garden. Today the special was a pasta with a tomato and prosciutto sauce, and the plates come in heaping portions brought by our neighbor, the owner, from the kitchen.

After we were properly full on pasta typical secondi, and a few glasses of table wine, Rami went to pay and I finished saying goodbye to everyone that was giving pets to Luna (she sat on Rami’s lap for the meal), I walked into a heated discussion between three men, Rami, and the owner. After deciding that no one was actually angry (I still have to do this with many conversations here) I sat back on the counter because I knew this was going to be awhile. The topic of the conversation apparently hit a breaking point at the precise moment of payment, because the man closest to the counter was still holding out a twenty, though now it was just a little flag to accent the dramatic hand gestures as he flailed around to make his point.

The debate? Many things, but when it comes down to it, it was about the news and the chaotic craziness that surrounds soccer (football) here. The rivalries between soccer teams in Italy go to extremes that I rarely see even at New England games at home. Some Florentines, the neighbors included I’m pretty sure, go to most if not all of the home games and many are so involved, we’re talking Fever Pitch-level fans here, that talking ill about Fiorentina will not go over well.

On the news today is a story about a fan being killed after a clash in a game between Inter and Napoli. I don’t know the details on the brawl and now the story of the fan is coming out that he was known in the communities especially for getting a “DASPO” or a ban from the soccer stadium for bad conduct and protests against the soccer leagues, etc. These are more common than I thought and apparently a hot topic. One man believed these bans weren’t a big deal, brushing them off with waves, the others talked over him. Finally, the 20 euros exchanged hands, though the conversation continued.

We were now in it, though we didn’t ask to be, and Rami started in with his opinion. The men looked over at me for mine as well. We were just up waiting to pay our bill, but this is what happens in our neighborhood, and this is why schedules don’t exist here. In the end, the man with the scraggly white hair ended it with a loud booming growl of a voice, saying shame on anyone losing their reputation for a soccer game (for these DASPOs show up on job interviews afterwards) and acting so foolish. “Protest losing your job, protest this damn government, protest the inequality!  “What are we doing?!” France is out there on the streets showing us how it is to have huge balls!” (I might like to mention that this type of talk is normal here and the 90-year-olds I mentioned from the other day also speak like this if not worse) and with that, he shrugged, came to kiss Luna’s head as he called her a little beast, said goodbye to the owner, and walked out the door.

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