The Daily WORD is PASQUINO
SPQR is the immortal cipher appearing all over Rome, even on sewer lids. It stands for the Latin Senatus Populusque Romanus: the Senate and People of Rome, and sometimes it means Sono poco questi Romani: they are pigs, these Romans.
Most of the pigs I’ve met in Rome are German, which is why the Roman poco I encountered stands out like SPQR on a new sewer cap. He was a waiter at a restaurant (the one by the old well) on Borgo Pio, a street lined with outdoor tables and overflowing with tourists. Any restaurant on Borgo Pio looks popular for it is the most convenient street for refueling after visiting the Sistine Chapel. The poco waiter ignored me relentlessly. Water took 15 minutes, a menu took 30. He deigned to take my order about a week later and served the pasta carbonara after curing the bacon. He dawdled so long over the check, I left a 20 Euro bill and no tip on the table. His squeals of outrage followed me to Piazza Navona.
There, annoyance evaporated. Where in the world is an expanse like Piazza Navona? Three fountains, an obelisk, benches and artists, Romans and tourists, all surrounded by Renaissance palazzos, the white napery of outdoor restaurants, a toy store, and an ATM. Piazza Navona invites one to stroll, maybe several times around, while pondering the weight of history and the lightness of being – of being in Rome. Two thousand years of history at my feet and a freshly made gelato in hand.
Well now, how could I be annoyed by one Roman poco? Particularly when Pasquino, just a few steps from the piazza, was standing by to display my protest. The weathered torso may be more than two thousand years old, but he still takes complaints. My post-it note about the poco on Borgo Pio may have lasted no longer than the next breeze, but as Marcus Tullius Cicero said in the 1st Century B.C. “History is the witness that testifies to the passage of time. It illuminates reality, vitalizes memory, provides guidance in daily life, and brings us tidings of antiquity.”
And my tiny bite of history provides guidance to SPQR and its visitors to stay clear of the poco on Borgo Pio and eat at La Vittoria’s instead.