I love my city and I love evolution, but sometimes that intimate mix can spawn bizarre progeny when in Rome. At the end of spring, I kept stumbling across Coming Soon/Prossimamente signs promoting new gelaterie. Campo de’ Fiori, once known for the flower and fruit market, now for its evening debauchery, used to claim only two gelato shops in its proximity– a double scoop, so to speak, of the ubiquitous, tasteless Blu Ice on a side street leading to Campo. Next thing I know, the multi-chain Flor camped out on a Campo corner, bio-chain Grom down the street on via dei Giubbonari, and finally a follow-up Corona moved in on Corso Vittorio Emanuele. Overnight, Campo became overflowing with more families than ever before, not to mention its gelato-cupped filled trashcans, and then some.
It’s not just Campo and it’s not just gelato, the centro storico has been re-populated with gelaterie, parrucchieri (via dei Coronari, known for its antique shops, has undergone a make over with several stores reinvented as hairdressers), and now paninoteche. Tens of sandwich-focused boutiques (from Subway chains and faux boulangerie to boutique burgers and mod salumerie) have popped up throughout the entire city. Within walking distance of Campo alone, there are at least three new gourmet sandwicherie: Ferrarini, Panepìu, and now Cotto. I am seeing a lot of white tiles, glistening counter-tops, snappy packaging and stylized chalk lettering. Whereas I am not a girl to shy away from a good sandwich, I am trying to figure what this means to a country in crisis.
Is this one of the many side effects of gastro-tourism, where the world expects Rome, and Italy, to put a perennial smile and continuously proffer prosciutto, parmigiano and pasta? Or is this simply the Italian translation of the Lipstick Index? When times get tough, we soothe ourselves with a piega (blow out) and a sandwich with a side of pistachio gelato? As Bob Dylan once said, the times, they are a changin’. In what direction, we can only guess. Though I hope and want for the best, we need group effort, not just good hair and a tasty bite.
Food for thought: Girlfriend in a Coma, the aptly-named document critically inspecting Italy of recent decades, including former PM Silvio Berlusconi and his reign, has had its Italian premiere revoked by MAXXI, as Giovanna Melandri, MAXXI’s newly named presiden explained, ”I said no to the February 13 because I am convinced that it is my duty to keep the national elections outside of the Maxxi, a public museum.”