Here’s a question – what’s the difference between eating outdoors and spending time in prison?
Nothing – they are both ‘Al Fresco’. Sort of.
Al Fresco is the Italian phrase meaning “in the cool air” .. and for much of the world, the phrase has come to mean “Eating outdoors – particularly on the pavement outside restaurants and cafes”
But apparently NOT in Italy itself – where, I am told, it’s slang for “spending time in prison”. Instead, they talk of eating “all’aperto” – the Italian phrase for ‘outside’.
Now, I can’t tell you about Italian prisons – but I can tell you about ‘Al Fresco’ dining in Rome.
Last time we were in Rome (now doesn’t THAT sounds like name-dropping), we dined a number of times at restaurants on Via Daniele Manin, a lovely narrow street near the Termini, or main train station, in Central Rome.
For example, my wife and I, plus two of my sisters and two of their companions, ate at the Ristorante Il Condor next to the Hotel California. And unlike the song, we could leave – but we didn’t want to 🙂
The food was delicious (as you would expect in Rome), the ambience was excellent … and strolling players would amble their way down the brick road playing their instruments and serenading the diners in the hopes of securing a few Euros.
But they also had to dodge the trams which rattled down the street every few minutes – passing just centimetres from the tables and chairs “all’aperto”.
We could have reached out and touched the light-rail carriages as they passed .. but because they are electric-powered, there were no fumes (or horse-droppings) that might have accompanied other forms of transport going past.
That doesn’t mean that the streets were pollution-free, of course … more than 20% of Italian adults are smokers, and it’s perfectly acceptable to smoke all’aperto – and that includes outdoor eateries.
But don’t let it stress you too much (unless you have severe asthma, of course) .. because part of the joy of travelling is that things are different from ‘back home’.
And the entertainment and rich Italian pasta sauces make up for it 🙂