The way I left Rome has something of a movie script, both dramatic and Italian comedy style (Commedia all’Italiana). I was already in Altrove for a year, a nice region of Portugal, much less famous then Algarve and Alantejo, and not to be mistaken by the starting “Al”, since Altrove is from Latin and not from Arab. As I said, it was a mixture of harsh feeling, nasty picturesque facts, and laughable vignettes. More or less a year ago I had my last days in Rome after having lived around 15 years there, mostly continuously. I’ll rapidly cite a handful of anecdotes:
- The rudeness of the cheap hotel receptionist;
- A mysterious Sicilian man who – by phone – accused me to have robbed his baggage in Spain, while the contrary was much more probable according to simple evidence (he exchanged our baggage at Sevilla and I spent days in searching and recovering it);
- The retired professor who – after having ignored you for years – compulsorily asks who you are, having sniffed in the international conference the perfume of the “brain drain”. The retired professor has to know whoever is around to patrol the territory. He is keen to fold you in silence soon by saying “I have still the affiliation [so I’m still ruling my dear!]”. Who am I not to let him think so?
- The detachedness from the flock and the unpleasant feeling of the sights toward you by those who see you as a ghost (the reader must guess whom I am talking about).
- The “hey how u doing Giulio?” (in Roman slang) from the pavements, and the international colleagues acknowledging that this is really your place, whereas the locals may not know you definitely left that place this time.
- The impossibility to meet all the real friends I have over there, and the necessity to attend miserable meetings. What a pity.
- The former Romanian tenants of my house and their story of the death threats: this point never got a clarification, I only acknowledged that she fled with the baby and the husband had to leave the apt.
I’ll talk about one single detail. After having had an unthinkable rebuke that I don’t detail for decency, I finally get my heavy baggage and I figure out to escape by reaching the station and eventually wait a while there. As a matter of fact beneath the office plants and half-open ground floor of the CNR I catch the sight of a familiar face. He can’t be him. He is Giulio, another Giulio. I mean, a former colleague with whom I shared for a year or two the open space. Quite cool since my name – the male version at least – is not so common in Italy. He was inside the building, I was on the pavement. At the turnstile there is a wide space and we can say hello to each other. We are both happy to recognize each other and a “how u doing” is compulsory, a pleasure added with some discretion commanded by the lack of updated information about the current reciprocal issues and destinies. He says he was employed. Recruited. He was rescued! He entered the National Research Council as an employee and no more as a Post-Doc! He did it; “they made for him”, he says with intellectual honesty. The reader has to know, however, that those contracts are not permanent, but much more probable to end with a permanent position. In any case, you become an employee at that stage, following the law. It’s like to say that bread is a full meal since you are used to eat less than that, but the divide is really there: to become an employee of any kind at the edge of one’s 40. Well. I feel suddenly happy for him, but very embarrassed for me. Should I say, “Well, on the contrary last summer I went here to be rejected in a competion…” No, this would have asked for further explanations and an implicit request of solidarity. That’s not the case to annoy people. So how can I escape that final hindrance to the station? How can I tell something about me without making him feel pitiful (what may equal a fixed term contract as employee?)? I don’t know how, but we left in friendship as usual with this funny vision of two Giulios: one inside, the other outside. It was a sort of “sliding door”: instead of an underground, a turnstile, the hard to be accessed gate to the last heaven-style floor of the National Research Council (usually known as “the canteen”). [The canteen: the only institution I may feel some nostalgia about]
All this goes in my mind by reading about the Tarpeian Rock* and figuring that that is still a real place in Rome. I had even a vision: Mr. Marino, mayor of the city, being pushed down by the whole citizens who reject his personality (too honest, too straight, too alien to the mood of the eternal city). I feel very sympathetic to him, but I made something much less astonishing. I took my heavy baggage and I walked to Tiburtina Station, knowing that any step was the last in that place, swearing at any step that I shall not come back again for a huge while, remembering many of the phases I lived there, and that I had to come back to my real place: Florence. I catch one train out of the many to Florence and I look with no nostalgia at all the platform where I used to come back in my flat in Rome (overcrowded as usual). “What quality of life I had here? What did I do to deserve it” I say. I have to run along the same line I made for more than a decade until having the possibility to have a glance to my flat (visible from railway). Thus, after few seconds I was out of the Municipality of Rome and that was a relief.
Let’s say it was a comedy, it was a commiato (leave-taking).
* Neave, G., 2009, ‘The Academic Estate Revisited: Reflections on Academia’s Rapid Progress from the Capitoline Hill to the Tarpeian Rock’, in Enders J. de Weert E. (Eds.) The Changing Face of Academic Life, pp. 15–35, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke