To spit or not to spit, a wine tours Rome primer

Having a good glass of wine is not a luxury in Rome, but standard. Beer drinkers beware; Rome is in serious need of more pubs. Fortunately, the lack of pubs is compensated by a great deal of wine bars.

Romans care very much about tradition and etiquette. Nasty facial expressions and piercing glances will shoot at you in every direction after ordering a cappuccino in the afternoon. So, if you have never been to a wine tasting, try to embrace the art of etiquette.

To spit or not to spit? Professional wine tasters have discovered that if they swallow all the wine they taste, they become far less thoughtful and capable of evaluating each glass of wine (especially as the day goes on). These wine connoisseurs! So spitting became acceptable. In some wineries (which you are unlikely to find in city center Rome), tasters would sometimes spit right onto the floor or into drains. But in most wine tasting bars, they provide a spittoon, which is usually just a bucket or plastic container for each customer. To some people this is disgusting, and at first, most people are unwilling to spit out wine. Two reasons why spitting can seem impolite; first, most people are taught from mother never to spit in public; it’s rude. Second, it usually costs a fair bit to go wine tasting and it’s a shame to waste the wine…

Well, if you decide to drink all of your wine at one of the many wine tours in Rome, which many people do, you could possibly miss out on other things. At many wine bars, they will advise that you don’t drink all of the wine for a couple reasons. One, evaluating the wines after glass 4-5 will become much more difficult. Wine usually ranges between 11-13% alcohol. The alcohol is masked by sweet fruity of grapes but wine is a creeper, and will sneak up on you before you know it. Second, swallowing isn’t necessary to completely taste the wine. Eight to ten seconds should be enough time to completely taste the wine. Thirdly, and most importantly, (especially in chaotic Rome) if you are driving to the tasting, it would be smart to have one person be the “spitter”.

In the end, the decision is completely the taster’s choice. If you choose to spit out the wine, which may seem strange, it’s not, and has actually become quite customary (it may even make you seem more experienced than you are!). But, if you cannot bring yourself to spit, no matter what reason, make sure you indulge in the cheese, crackers, and snacks provided so that you will make it home happy, safe and sound.


Dirty Naples, dirtier Rome

Leaving rubbish out after dark has led to a huge increase in numbers of the dreaded ‘red’ cockroach in Naples. Really. Naples has been sinking in it’s own stinking filth for a few years now, and as local Mafia types run waste disposal collections in much of Campania, the infestation is unlikely to get any better any time soon. Piles of rubbish still blight the city of thieves.

Here in bella Roma we have a similar problem, but worse. Worse because Romans and all the rest who leave their rubbish on the street 24/7 do not have the Mafia to use as an excuse. They don’t put their rubbish IN the containers, they leave it ON the pavement BESIDE the containers, a dirty, lazy habit which attracts vermin and wafts foul smells into shops and homes. Perhaps an infestation of red cockroaches in Roman apartments would remind the slovenly occupants that how they live is truly disgusting. I saw an Italian mother with young daughter in one hand and two bags of trash in the other dump her load on the pavement a few weeks ago, and experienced fleeting murderous intent.

Understandable if one is English living in Rome.

Monti. The good, the bad, and the brutal.

A year ago, an endearing article about the district of Monti was published in the New York Times. The author, Susan Spano, was resident there for three years between 2007 and 2010 before returning to the states. Her musings about the area are quaint, attractive to those of us who live here and socialize in Monti, and also perhaps to tourists who are considering a vacation rental in one of it’s typical tiny, winding streets. However, unrest in Monti has never been too far away. The NYT article was published on July 1st 2011, a few days after the attempted murder of popular musician Alberto Bonanni by feral local youths with connections to AS Roma. This shocking event, which took place between Piazza Madonna dei Monti and Via dei Serpenti, resulted in nine year jail sentences for two 21 year old Romans. Four alleged accomplices will learn their fate later this year. The courts have set a trial date of Wednesday, September 26th. It’s a beautiful part of Rome during the day, but after hours it pays to be attentive as busy crowds of locals, expats, tourists, giallorosso ultras and skinheads hang out betweeen Cavour metro station and Via dei Serpenti, some of whom drink on the street with an eye for the main chance. ‘Bring to life the bawdy, roiling, red-blooded world of fourth century A.D. Monti’ still rings true in 2012.