Rome is not a city for runners. There were no runners, just walkers, as I breezed along Via Nazionale, an old Roman boulevard that pierces through the heart of the government center at 0730 Mon morn.
Perhaps folks in business suits to working suits were just diving back to the work week after a weekend of rest and mass.
But for whatever reason, on this cool, crisp eve of December morning, there were no runners, no, not even joggers out to celebrate the dawn of a new workweek or for me to work off the drunk of a long weekend.
So, I took in early Monday morning Rome all to myself–the Piazza (Venizia) in all its Monday morning grandeur, the Colisseum, which over the last 20 immortal centuries has seen many, perhaps millions of chariot racers, but maybe not nearly as many runners, the Roman Forum where not even my brand new, sparkling running shoes could kick start the Imperial winged-god of Nike to inspire 21st century Romans to participate in man’s most primitive sport.
Rome may not be a city for runners, but it is indeed a city to run in. Well, why not for the scores of foothills that teases my legs to shove through, for the bascilica-studded boulevards that pumps a vibrant heartbeat to my heartstream, for the cafe-coddeled cobblestone streets that feels light, moist, and dense–enticing me to further whip off my shoes and run barefoot under the arch of Constantine, just like the ancient Romans did during their spectator-thronged games–do I need to add more?
And the answer did not come freely as I trounced through historic hills laced with ancient clay. But it did flow more freely along with the double-sized mug of frosty draft that unfailably made my stromboli taste like real Italian, the zesty peppers and spicy sausages as if Michelangelo had painted them himself on the ceiling of my mind.
As I took another slice of pizza, loaded with portabellas and zuchini; and as I washed that morsel down with just one more overflowing mug of beer, I looked out my window and screened a mass of pedestrians–all Italian and my guess all authentic lovers of Italian food. They were young, old, my age, guy and girl–diverse in sex and soul but not really in shape and size. And as I took, really my last bite of anchovy and kissed my last pluck of brown olive wrapped in artichoke heart, I digested the sheer fact that these individuals–all more than likely strangers–shared something completely in common.
There were no buckles busting from the seams of gentlemen’s waistline like Vesuvius erupting at Pompei.
Instead, I gandered at studded shapes adorned on symmetrical frames chiseled with Italian chins and Mediterranean brows — that was the common consensus whether young, medium, or old.
This wholesome look did not discriminate either–old, medium or young–it was the look of fresh tomatoes alongside a healthy serving of creamy cottage cheese, baked fresh on a thin slice of flatbread, then sprinkled freely with arregano and mozarella.
Then as I savored my very last gulp of overchilled Italian fresca it exuded warmth like the realization that I finally found the distant truth that indeed Italians and particularly the Romans simply did not have to run. The god of Janus or the goddess of Minerva had somehow blessed them with the flannel and physique of a Roman warrior, or perhaps it was the fact that they were descendants of Romus and Remus, the founding brothers of Rome: who were abandoned by the Tigres River and raised on the milk of wild wolves.
So here you have it — the answer to life’s puzzle–Romans don’t run because they don’t have to. And the view is just as lovely, and in fact more spectacular if you just go slow.
Boarding plane now to Germany–and yes there’s lots of runners there.