On Sunday Pope Francis blessed 800 Harley Davidson riders and their bikes in St. Peter’s Square. Say what?
When most people think of Rome, they think of motorini (motorized scooters) weaving in and out of traffic and causing chaos. That’s true, although people in Rome seldom ride Harley Davidsons, and most motorcycles in Rome have mufflers, so the noise level here is perfectly fine for a busy city with lots of traffic. Having said that, before I cross a one-way street, I look both ways, because motorcycle riders believe, as do most Italian drivers, that traffic signals are merely suggestions, and they zip up and down the streets with little regard for whether a street is one-way or not. Drivers who wish to make right turns in Rome can avoid accidents if they pull as close as possible to the right curb so when it’s time to make the turn, a sneaky motorcycle rider is unable to surprise the driver and cause an accident. Of course that assumes that the bikers won’t drive on the sidewalks, which they sometimes do when traffic is particularly bad.
But Harley Davidsons are another story. They’re big, and they’re noisy, and their drivers blissfully ignore the feelings of others. We don’t see Harley Davidsons (and more importantly, don’t hear them) too often in Rome, thank goodness. Last weekend Harley Davidson celebrated its 110th anniversary here, and about 35,000 riders from around the world hogged the streets. The reactions of the Romans tickled me. One called the bikers “un’invasione” (an invasion), another lamented, “Caos!” (chaos), and my Italian teacher (who rides a motorino to work) simply shook her head in disgust. For three days Rome was “molto rumeroso” (very noisy), and I don’t believe the bikers ever rested, because I heard them all night Saturday night!
Stores were thrilled that the bikers were in town and posted signs to welcome and entice them. On Saturday we ate lunch at a restaurant near Piazza Navona, and Harley Davidson riders packed two large tables there. I hope the bikers spent lots of money on hotels, in restaurants, and in shops in Rome, because the economy here can use a boost. Pope Francis must have been thrilled as well, because Harley Davidson representatives gave him two motorcycles and a jacket.
Here in Rome, it’s always something. I can’t wait to see what’s next!