Roviano and me

by Neil

We have been in Roviano for about a month now and it is proving to be quite the interesting experience. The most common reaction we get from Italians we meet who don’t live here is “Roviano?” “Why Roviano?” Good question, difficult to answer. The decision to stay here was based on wifi availability, number of beds in the house and train access to Rome. It makes perfect sense to us, but Italians just look at you and repeat, “Roviano?” Since there is apparently no sane explanation, we just move on in the conversation and occasionally ask ourselves “Why Roviano?” Well, mostly, because it is the kind of Italian experience you would probably never get as typical tourist. This is a small, very old, village perched on a mountain side. There is a rhythm to life here that we haven’t quite figured out; store hours are odd and unusual, there is no regular bus service listed anywhere, although one shows up in the piazza every once in a while, there are days when the place seems deserted or populated only by seniors, sometimes it teems with kids and there is only one restaurant (more about that later).


Here’s what we do know about Roviano; the stores are closed Sunday, Monday, usually Wednesday, or on special occasions we know nothing about. They are usually open in the mornings, close for three hours or so in the afternoon and reopen around 4:30ish until they close again at 6:00 pm, depending on the store. The Tabacchi, however, never seems to be open when the other stores are and has the most unpredictable hours imaginable. This is a challenge, because that’s where you buy train tickets. Ah, Italia! When stores are open, it’s great. We now have reached a point where the proprietors have decided that we are not, a) aliens, b) leaving anytime soon and c) willing to try and speak Italian. The last piece is critical, because it means they are friendly and helpful. It also means they will try and converse entirely in Italian with you, a language that is spoken at light speed. I personally think they enjoy the completely dumbfounded looks on our faces when they finish speaking. Nonetheless, they are speaking to us and that adds to the experience and the mystery. Back to the restaurant….

There is one restaurant here, La vecchia macina and it is very good, although we certainly haven’t figured out quite how everything works. We have discerned that there are four courses to every meal,  dinner is not served before 8:00 pm, hot chocolate or cappuccino are not served after desert and you certainly cannot have after dinner drinks unless you have had both desert and coffee. We learned this our first visit. It was quite traumatic for all parties. Now,  we let the proprietor know that we are coming ahead of time and he usually drafts in someone with a smattering of English to be our personal table servers. What we haven’t figured out is the menu, or if one even exists. Our typical experience is to start with antipasto and a half litre of wine and then see what comes out of the kitchen thereafter. We discovered on our last visit that you can, in fact, order something other than a half litre of wine, because other diners (locals) were having bottles of wine and other things. Clearly, they know something we don’t or have a downloadable menu that we don’t have access to. Despite our culinary limitations, brought on by our language difficulties or lack of membership in the Roviano Diners Club, the food is excellent, the atmosphere is convivial and the price is amazingly reasonable. Between the restaurant and the bar 50 feet from our front door, we are well taken care of. Really, there is nothing to complain about here, except for the weather.

If you are a fan of musicals, you probably know the song from Oklahoma! about the wind dashing down the plains. I sing a different version, ” Roviano! Where the rain comes lashing down…again.” After months of warm sunny weather in Adelaide, sultry sojourns in Sri Lanka, Singapore and Hanoi, Italy has been a bit of an awakening. True, we arrived here in Spring and we anticipated some cooler temperatures and precipitation, but the weather has really been pushing the boundaries. When we arrived it was cool and sunny, but the early morning fog was a novelty and burned off quickly. Being Canadian, we were bemused by people bundled up in the Piazza in the mornings while we nonchalantly strolled around in shorts and tee shirts, all the while thinking “It’s only going to get warmer people”. Nope. Then the rains came and are still with us. We now plan our excursions based on the weather forecast—crappy in Tivoli, go to Rome or somewhere where the forecast calls for a mostly sunny day. Rachel has succumbed to wearing jeans almost exclusively, which is a problem when you only packed two pairs. Fortunately, we are positive that the weather will improve and sunny days are ahead. Just in case, we are off to Crete next week where the forecast is much nicer than Roviano! But enough complaints, travel blogs are supposed to be about singing the praises of the place you are visiting, so here goes.

Roviano is amazing. Everyday, I look out our bedroom window over the Valle Dell’ Aniene, the houses surrounding us have that beautiful Mediterranean style that makes you want to lie on a beach somewhere, our neighbours greet us in the morning as they pass by and the caffe doppio at the bar in the mornings is the best. Roviano has a castle that dates from the 14th century, yet the village itself dates back to the Roman Empire, being on a major trade route to the east. Just below us in the valley are two excellently preserved examples of Roman bridges, one of which is still in use. We can walk to neighbouring villages in under an hour, and get an excellent cardio workout at the same time! Roviano has an absolutely dismal football team which is enthusiastically supported at home games, because who doesn’t like to cheer on the home squad and jeer at the referee at the same time. In all, life in Roviano is an excellent experience for a traveller, giving you the opportunity to explore, learn, engage in communal life and reflect on the things we take for granted at home. Still, Italians ask, “Roviano?”

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