Day Two: Chonk Chong (as you will recall that is my Law and Order sound)
I make it in Rome in one piece and without further aggravation. This was actually the first time I was not pulled to the side and given extra questioning or pat downs due to my traveling while being black. Don’t be surprised folks, before 9/11 black women were the number one group to be profiled in airports (because apparently we don’t travel for pleasure or business but to be drug mules for our boyfriends).
So we stayed at a 2 star hotel (American translation means 1 star hotel). Yes, I understand in other countries with more history a lot of the hotels in the city areas are really old and therefore lose space when they try to update their facilities with things like bathrooms and more than one full sized bed in a room but it was still a bit of a shock and a learning lesson. We also had to turn in the key (not card) with a key chain the weight of a boulder to the front desk every time we left the building. Type A Cosmo girl will do no less than a 3, and preferably 4, star hotel for the future. Having to hold the shower nozzle was a bit of a challenge and made me yearn for the days of college dorm bathrooms. And three women to a hotel room is not desirable. Gotta like the gals you’re with and don’t mind getting flashed a few times!
Anywho, friends and I walked a bit of the Roman streets and were greeted with confidence boosting catcalls. My favorite was a guy who called out the window to us “Spettacolare!” (aka Spectacular) (four black women, take that Psych Today!). Our hotel was in the more diverse area because I passed by two! Black hair salons and a black beauty shop.
Now quick backdrop on my limited knowledge of race relations in Italy. It’s not yet a melting pot but it’s getting there, whether folks are happy with it or not. I encountered loads of Africans and Asians (mostly Chinese and Indian/Middle Eastern). Many aren’t too happy with the Africans there due to the constant and pushy nature of vendors selling goods on the street. Get this: it’s not illegal to sell knockoffs on the street but it is illegal (huge fine) to buy them. Translation: we just want to fine the unknowledgeable tourist so we can get some money for our government. Anywho, the diversity was a welcomed surprise yet Italians could tell the difference between the local African Immigrants and tourists of the African diaspora.
Oddly, but often enough, whenever I travel overseas locals never assume I am African American. I (and my friends) have been considered everything from Puerto Rican, Panamanian, Canadian, British and African but never American. Even the cleaning lady for our hotel in Florence who was African herself thought my friend and I were Brazilian. What’s the deal? Who spread the false rumor that Black American women don’t travel? I’ll just put the blame on BET.
But my loyal sister stayed behind with me and we had a fabulous time on our own. I began my two pound weight gain with pizza (the yummy memories still haunt me), pistachio gelato and wine of course. Always wine…(up next, shopping and Florence and boys, oh my)