“Ai, ai, ai”

Several times during my stay in Rome I came across a couple of countrymen who seemed, in their quaint fustian clothes and peculiar shoes, to have stepped more or less out of the Middle Ages. They were like substantial fauns, haunting the city out of its remote rural past. The medieval figures seemed to me wonderfully exotic, until late one night I encountered the pair of them anxiously consulting a bus timetable beneath a streetlight in the Corso. Then I realized that in fact they piquantly illustrated the matter-of-factness of the city. Nobody took the slightest notice of them, as they huddled there; they looked up and asked me for advice about the best way to get home, but when I told them I was a foreigner, “Ai, ai, ai,” they said theatrically, like Italians in old movies.