I'll be upfront: I am by far not like Danny Wallace. Danny who? You know: the guy who, somewhere in the first half of this decade, said yes to any question or proposition laid before him during six months. Not only did this apparently simple decision put him in rather remarkable situations, it also led to a book and a film with no other than Jim Carrey playing the main character.
To be upfront once more: that alone would keep me far from even remotely trying to imitate the guy. But I did not write this post to vent my lack of enthusiasm when it comes to Jim Carrey (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind seeming to be the exception to this rule). No, I have to confess that during a recent visit to Rome, some unknown urge to say yes simply came up. Which is, need I add, not really my natural state of being.
Was it the heat (35° Celsius is hot when you come from a bit more than half that temperature in rainy Belgium)? Was it the excess of caffeine (I find it hard to resist an espresso from time to time whenever I find myself in Italy)? Was it the equal excess of ice cream (same problem as with the espresso)? Was it the seldom seen freedom you get when travelling without kids mixed with the (sub)conscious wondering how they are? I don't know.
But after having said no in many ways (from friendly to uhm... less friendly) to all kinds of dodgy looking characters selling everything a tourist might or might not need (think cheap-looking sunglasses, dito watches, hats, umbrellas, sjawls, trinkets, cold drinks, not so cold drinks...), I decided to say yes to a nice-looking young girl. Not simply because she looked nice. But because she asked us if we wanted a guided tour through the Collosseum. Just because of that? Well, no. Some more upfrontness: at first I did say no. But after being confronted with the gargantuan queue of people waiting to get into the Amphitheatrum Flavium, as it is known to the better informed visitor, and having received her guarantee that, with a guide, we could get in without queueing for hours, I found a spark of Danny Wallace inside myself.
Was it a good decision? Absolutely. Apart from jumping the queue at the Collosseum, we also ended up with actually getting to know more about what we visited without having to look it up in some tourist guide. It got us a free guided tour (a complimentary extra in the Collosseum package) through the Forum Romanum. And the guide was, apart from well-spoken and even quite funny, so interesting we decided to take him up on his offer (well, since we had to pay, it was not really an offer, but let me keep the illusion) to do a guided walk through some less well-known parts of the city as well as a guided tour of the Vatican museum and the Sistine Chapel. And if that wasn't enough, he was also kind of enough to share his address book of places to eat and drink.
I know: every guide probably does this. If only to lift your spirits and your willingness to tip him at the end of a tour. But still: it got us in at least two really interesting places. Allow me to share them with you. The first is Fa Bio: an organic take away in the Via Germania, not too far from the Vatican. Two sympathetic young Italians, one of whom speaks excellent English, serve you great sandwiches and juices. All organic. Beats the so-manieth slice of pizza, if you ask me. Another address you should really take note of is Magnolia on the Piazza Campo Dei Fiori. Not all that cheap, but worth the walk and the money. And if you mention that Alex (that's the guide's name) sent you, you'll probably get a discount or a coffee for free (just act as if you really know the fellow).
All this good coming from saying yes just once, actually put me in the mood for some more. So when my wife suggested to take an almost abonded side street on one of our evening hunts for a place to eat, I actually found myself doing just that. This led us to discovering Il Pomodorino. I'll admit: a restaurant called 'The Little Tomatoe' is not a place where I'd be normally inclined to go. But being in this positive mood we thought we'd give a try anyway. So we discovered that this family restaurant on Via Campania (on the corner of Via Toscana) serves great traditional dishes in real Italian portions for a more than reasonable price - an excellent place to get away from the many tourist traps that seem to be almost inevitable when visiting a city like Rome.
My point? Well, apart from gladly pointing you to some nice places to go grab a bite whenever you happen to be in Rome, I think I'll try and let the Danny Wallace in me come out a bit more often. Not that you need to try and sell me just about anything you think I might (or might not) be in the market for from now on. I have just about everything I need, thank you very much. But who knows you might catch me taking the unexpected road a bit more often from now on. See you there?