Friends in the UK used to ask me if smoking was a problem in Rome. I always said, nope, not at all – no one smokes in restaurants and it’s not too bad on the street. Well, it turns out that I was living in some sort of fantasy Rome, where I only ever went to ‘naice’ middle-class areas to visit family run trattorias, kiddie friendly pizzerias and modern shopping malls.
We’ve been in Rome for a few days (lots more on that to follow – I need material for the A-Z Challenge from somewhere), catching up with friends and revisiting favourite places (but back tonight, Mr Burglar, if you’re thinking our house in England is going to be empty!) and we had dinner last night in Trastevere.
Trastevere is one of the loveliest areas in Rome, full of tiny lanes just perfect to wander aimlessly. Last night was the first time I’d been there in the evening…I’m less of a social butterfly and more of a miserable moth who wants to be in her pyjamas by 9pm. Actually, that’s a lie – it’s more like 8pm. Or as soon as I get in from work if I’m really being honest. Any nocturnal social life in Rome involved either a quick pizza with the kids before being home and tucked up in bed by 10pm or going to friends’ apartments for dinner, drinks and drunken dancing (as long as I knew them well enough to wear pjs).
Anyway, Trastevere during the day has enough restaurants and shops to satisfy the fussiest of tourist, but at night hundreds of trendy bars and restaurants suddenly appeared from behind unmarked shuttered doors that give no indication that anything more than a lock-up lies behind them. And with the trendy bars, came thousands of trendy hipsters, students and young people – WHO ALL SMOKED LIKE BLOODY CHIMNEYS!
I grew up in the 70s and 80s so I well remember pubs, clubs and people’s homes being full of cigarette smoke. Coming home from a club at 2am (yep, that’s how early they shut in those days!), stinking of smoke and having to have a shower and hair wash before I could go to bed. Eating a meal with the guys next to you blowing smoke all over your meal. Working in an office where everyone smoked and had an ashtray on their desks! But things have moved on from that so I’m just not used to cigarette smoke anymore.
After a couple of drinks outside a bar where we were surrounded by smokers, and a meal just inside a funky restaurant where everyone outside the entrance was smoking, my eyes were streaming and my throat was sore. I came home and actually put used teabags on my eyes to attempt to recover. It kind of worked plus I developed a nice, but very localised tan.
So, no, Rome doesn’t have a problem with smoking – but only if you don’t leave the house after 9pm.