I just got in my first moped, or “motorino,” accident.
I’ve been driving the 2003 electric blue Habana for four months now and have been very “lucky,” or perhaps just careful. The first week I was quite terrified, nervous and hesitant. Soon I learned that the constant honking was just another part of the Roman ensemble, along with the chiming bells and “Ciao Bella”s.
Romans are only in a hurry when they’re in a car, or on a motorino. This city moves slow, work starts after 10am and there is a 3-hour lunch/nap break during the day. When I say work starts at 10am, it means that you get to the bar for your cappuccino and cornetto at 10am, wandering into the office at a comfortable 10:30. And that’s cool.
What’s not cool is moving slow on the road, especially if you’re on a scooter. Soon I learned to maneuver through the plugged up traffic, weaving like a coin ricocheting back and forth across the pegs of one of those stupid one-player casino games. Once you make it to the starting line, it’s all about the takeoff. Anticipation, speed, precision. Driving a scooter in Rome is no Gregory Peck and Audrey Hepburn film. It’s no relaxing Roman Holiday, but I must admit, it is fun.
By the end of June I was weaving with the best of them, sweeping elegantly through lines of traffic and flocks of cars. And I loved it. Rome by motorino is another world. Before I relied on my bicycle and public transportation. While I loved, and still love, my bike Leo, there are limitations. No hills, no cold weather, no rain, nothing too far. Public transportation is the worst I have experienced in a metropolitan city (besides Los Angeles). The buses are cramped, the trams stink, and people steal things on the metro. And don’t get me started on the transportation strikes.
A motorino is liberty. As I zoomed down the Lungotevere, past Castel Sant’Angelo, the Vatican, and Trastevere at 3am without any traffic I got tingly all over. This is freedom; the wind in your hair and art from every century swirling around you, hugging you in a tornado of emotion and beauty.
To put things simply, my love affair with the motorino got hotter and steamier as the summer progressed.By August I was addicted. I realized it when the owner of the motorino, a friend who moved away from Rome, came back for a week and asked me for his wheels. I had to oblige, and took the bus (well, 2 buses and a tram) to work for a week. I was miserable. I was so cranky and fed-up and filthy with the sweat of other people by the time I got to the office that I pouted all day. How quick we get spoiled.
By the end of August I had been reunited with my partner in freedom and speed, and I wasn’t giving him up for anything.
I had a lovely dinner with a coworker at a Brazilian sushi joint in Monti, followed by a glass of smooth Nebbiolo at our favorite enoteca, Fafiuchè. Stoked for my private evening tour of Rome on my way home, I hopped on the Habana and headed south. Rome is especially beautiful when the fountains and piazzas are all lit up. As I turned onto my street from Viale Trastevere, the car in front of me turned too. He had no blinker, I assumed he was headed straight, and I hooked his side mirror with my purse as he turned into me.
I got lucky, my purse didn’t. The mirror snagged and split it open all over the road. Wallet, keys, headphones, books, deodorant, planner and a can of tuna splattered all over the asphalt like a stir-fry of office objects. I was shaking as the driver pulled over and took my information. I collected the necessities from the pavement, leaving the can of tuna and several receipts as a sacrifice to the good God of the road. I was fine. My mischievous yet loyal lover was fine. The car had some minor scratches, and the driver took my info.
I’m still quite shaken, even after 2 mugs of Earl Grey with milk and honey. And my shoulder hurts where I smacked it against the window. But I’m okay. I’m alive. But is that luck? Is it a warning? Is all the freedom and convenience of the two wheels worth it?
I’m not sure, for tonight I’m just happy to be alive and in one piece. Folks, especially foreigners, please be careful on those scooters. It’s the best way to see Rome, it’s true. Freedom and romance and beauty all swirled into 2 wheels and a helmet. But beware: Romans don’t use signals. And laws of the road are more like suggestions.
~ by Challis Popkey ~